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.

Aluminium adjuvants, immune dysfunction, and the AV syndrome scammers - Diplomatic Immunity

Sep 15, 2017

Vaccine scammers I call them. They prey on people with a sick kid. Perhaps they want to flog dietary supplements or bleach enemas but today I refer to the proponents of a variety of fake syndromes, which they claim have been induced by vaccines and/or vaccine adjuvants*. The most infamous vaccine scammer in this case is Andrew Wakefield, but this is not about him. In Confessions of a Confidence Man (pub 1923) Edward H Smith laid out six steps in the confidence (aka con) game. I thought it would be fun to use these six steps to explore the history of “Autoimmune/Autoinflammatory Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants (ASIA)” which is a sort of catch all for nebulous chronic illnesses that include fatigue. Of course behind any scam are the con men and women. The idea of newly discovered syndromes seems to be … Read More

Mumps outbreak – add fire and watch it burn - Diplomatic Immunity

Sep 06, 2017

The inevitable mumps outbreak is upon us. Inescapable because we have a significant proportion of the community who are not immune, dry tinder to a flame. NZ has high immunisation coverage right? So why has this happened? Here is the story. Back in the early 1990’s NZ had a terrible measles epidemic and seven people died. Waking up to the fact that there could be a problem a study was conducted to see what proportion of children had received all their vaccines. The results were a national embarrassment. Overall less than 60% of NZ infants had received all their vaccines by the age of two years. For Maori and Pacific kids this was 42% and 45% respectively. The problem went even deeper than that with some communities, such as Glen Innes in Auckland, having rates below 20%. Read More

In defence of the tamariki - Diplomatic Immunity

May 24, 2017

Dr Lance O’Sullivan I salute you. Kaitaia is a town in the far north of NZ, warm people, lovely beaches. Sadly immunisation coverage is low, infectious disease rates are high. Doctors like Lance O’Sullivan work their guts out to improve the health of the people they serve, including treating kids for illnesses that they should never have to suffer. The community need screenings of the manipulative pro-disease film Vaxxed like a kick in the guts. At the local screening Dr O’Sullivan got up and defended his community against the anti-vaccination lobby with an open, honest message. You can watch it on TVNZ: Dr Lance O’Sullivan stuns guests at anti-vax doco by leaping on stage to explain why their message is a killer. The film in question has as much scientific fact in it as a B-grade zombie film yet is … Read More

How vaccines are controlled and by whom - Diplomatic Immunity

May 05, 2017

A couple of people asked me the same questions yesterday. How do vaccines end up on a schedule, how are they regulated, and by whom? Reckon those are great questions, some answers ensue. How does a vaccine end up on the schedule? This is based on need, or other words the burden of a disease. It could be rare but highly fatal and leave horrific disabilities in survivors, like meningococcal disease. Or perhaps common and less serious in most people, but because so many people get it there are many deaths and hospitalisations, like measles.  If there is a safe and effective vaccine available and the country can afford it (the cost/benefit numbers work) then there is a good chance it will end up on the schedule. So, basically adding a vaccine to a schedule is based on … Read More

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