Helen Petousis Harris

Dr Helen Petousis-Harris blogs about vaccines and vaccination. Her background is predominantly biological sciences, and she did her PhD in Vaccinology, specifically around vaccine reactions. She has worked at the Immunisation Advisory Centre at the University of Auckland since 1998 where she has developed a passion for all things vaccine. Currently Helen has an appointment as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care and her teaching is largely around vaccination.

WHO VigiBase study does not find HPV vaccine unsafe. - Diplomatic Immunity

Mar 03, 2017

A new study used the World health Organization’s global database of reports of adverse events associated with the use of a medicine (VigiBase), including vaccines, to look at reporting patterns after HPV vaccine. The cases in VigiBase are collected for 125 member states, including NZ, who participate in the WHOs International Drug Monitoring Programme. The data from all the member states are pooled together. The pooled database is extensive (it is really bigly 14.468 million reports as of yesterday, although the paper mentions that in 2010 it was 10.3 million. The ‘cases’ in the database are reports of events that have occurred either in association with, or following, the use or administration of a medicine. These cases may or may not have been caused by the medicine. What did this study do? The authors wanted to test a novel computer algorithm … Read More

Was the Gardasil vaccine ever compared with a placebo? - Diplomatic Immunity

Feb 20, 2017

Gardasil was assessed in Double Blind Randomised Placebo Controlled Trials that used the fully formulated vaccine and compared it with two different placebos, the aluminium adjuvant and a saline solution. What is a placebo? A placebo is a substance as similar as possible to the active drug except it has no therapeutic effect. It does not need to be ‘inert’. The best placebo is one that mimics the active therapy as much as possible. This is because the ‘placebo effect’ is a powerful phenomenon and to truly measure the effect of an active product it important that all recipients are equally as likely to think they received the “real deal’. What is an adjuvant? “Adjuvant” is derived from the Latin “adjuvare” which means to help. Adjuvants are added to vaccines in order to help the immune … Read More

HPV vaccine does not destroy fertility, it helps protect it - Diplomatic Immunity

Feb 14, 2017

As we enter a new year and school-based vaccination programmes get cracking the recycled crazy myths raise their ill-founded serpent heads again. This week it is the notion that Gardasil causes infertility by inducing Primary Ovarian Failure/insufficient (POF). It is popping up on social media – again. The fact is that Gardasil does not cause infertility. By infertility I refer to the claims of POF, which is a loss of normal ovarian function at a young age and can result in infertility. The condition affects about 1 percent of women before age 40. If you have heard scary stuff and are a bit worried that Gardasil may put fertility at risk but you can’t be bothered reading further for the science, let me give you the short answer. No it does not. In contrast, it may just SAVE their fertility by preventing … Read More

If only there had been a vaccine… - Diplomatic Immunity

Nov 23, 2016

“Only clean water and antibiotics have had an impact on childhood death and disease that is equal to that of vaccines” – World Health Organization (WHO) In the 20th century, when most of you reading this were born, nearly 1.7 billion people died from infectious diseases. Most of the diseases in the sobering infographic linked above are now vaccine preventable through the creative collective brilliance of many scientists. Smallpox, influenza, diarrhoea (rotavirus), whooping cough, meningitis, tetanus, Hepatitis B, rabies, and measles are the diseases responsible for carrying off most of those 1.7 billion people. While the First World War raged for over four years and took the lives of 16,697 New Zealanders, in 1918 influenza took about half as many in the space of just two months (8600 New Zealanders died). So how many lives have vaccines … Read More

PHARMAC changes to vaccines – people are the winners - Diplomatic Immunity

Jul 28, 2016

Today PHARMAC announced their changes to funded vaccines. Basically they did what PHARMAC do, and within their given budget they negotiated the best deal they could with the suppliers to prevent as much disease as possible. After all, that is what we want them to do on our behalf. So who wins and who loses? The reality is, that like most of us, there is a budget and we can’t have everything we want. However, the other reality is that PHARMAC are pretty good at cracking deals and they encourage competition between pharmaceutical companies. While commercial matters are waaaay outside my expertise there are winners and losers in this year’s vaccine deal. On the winning team commercially have been GSK, who have secured the contract to supply most infant and childhood vaccines; and Sequris (previously CSL), who now have a … Read More

Nordic Cochrane, the medical regulator and anti-vax hypocrisy - Diplomatic Immunity

Jun 23, 2016

Last month members of the Nordic Cochrane posted a letter of complaint to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on their website. Does this mean that members of the Nordic Cochrane have uncovered previously undiscovered evidence about the HPV vaccine? No! The vaccine has an excellent safety profile and as of todays date the scientific community are unanimous about that fact. But what is ironic is that anti-vaxxers, generally resolute in their ignorance of Cochrane-level evidence are, in contrast, zealous about a letter from a few members of the Cochrane’s Nordic faction, one complainant appears miffed that her case reports have not been interpreted as evidence for causality. This behaviour is called hypocrisy. The anti vaxxers have elected to ignore systematic reviews and meta-analysis under the name of the Cochrane but when a bellyaching letter of complaint by a few individuals gets sent … Read More

Cost of civil liberty and what The Australian Sex Party said - Diplomatic Immunity

Jun 03, 2016

Today is sunny and the measles outbreak is still reigning. I wonder how many tax dollars have now been spent on this little plague thus far. New Zealand has an estimated 400,000 young people susceptible to measles, mainly the 80s and 90s kids that didn’t get immunised and are still unimmunised. Schools have had to close. I whinged about the misconceptions about MMR vaccine last week  but today I want to mention civil liberty, or the state of being subject to laws established for the good of the community. There is no law that says you have to be vaccinated in NZ but surely choices should have consequences? One person’s civil liberty should not take precedence over the health and safety of others. I do think we need more open discussion about the accountability when ‘informed choice’ results in pain, suffering … Read More

NZ on the measles merry-go-round. Why? - Diplomatic Immunity

May 27, 2016

It is raining and we are having another measles outbreak because a non-immune someone went overseas, picked up the most contagious virus known to infect man and brought it back home to the Waikato. They then spread it to others who were not immune to measles (generally unvaccinated). Controlling spread of measles takes enormous public health resources, every case must be followed up along with all their contacts. Too bad if some infectious person went to a netball game, because all those people in the stadium may need to be traced and their immune status verified. On the occasion of this recent outbreak a particularly large number of zombie memes have crawled out of the grave. Perhaps Venus is in Uranus or something this month. Here are the top memes doing the rounds on social media, where a large proportion … Read More

Whimsical witchcraft not immunisation - Diplomatic Immunity

May 23, 2016

There is a measles outbreak in the Waikato and folks are presenting certificates of homeopathic prophylaxis against measles as proof of immunity, to avoid exclusion from school. It is frightening to think that the holder of the certificate below is under the impression they have protection against the listed epidemic diseases.   Certificate of immunity to infectious diseases Homeopathic products do not immunise against disease, nor do they treat it. They are no substitute for vaccines. Even the British Homeopathic Association recommends immunisation should be carried out in the usual way. The same cannot be said for the NZ Council of Homeopaths who appear blatantly antivax, evidenced by their erroneous assertions about vaccine safety, as would appear the NZ Homeopathic Society. The principals of homeopathy defy the laws of physics, chemistry, biology and common sense, yet there … Read More

Wilyman’s ‘thesis’ from a relativistic viewpoint? - Diplomatic Immunity

Jan 15, 2016

“It’s rather like a sociologist who insists that jet aircraft remain aloft only because of a conspiracy between aeronautical engineers and greedy airlines. Perhaps Wollongong already has someone working on such a thesis.” (Editorial, The Australian) The antivax rant accepted as a PhD thesis by University of Wollongong is defended by the student’s supervisor Professor Brian Martin. The statements given in this justification serve to illustrate that perhaps Martin is unaware of the facts about infectious diseases, vaccines and immunisation programmes. He argues that Wilyman has revealed four critical points about infectious diseases and immunisation. First, deaths from infectious diseases had dramatically declined in Australia before the mass introduction of most vaccines, suggesting that vaccination is not the only factor in controlling these diseases. Strawman argument. It is a well-established fact that clean water and antibiotics have … Read More