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 worked at the Immunisation Advisory Centre at the University of Auckland between 1998 and 2018 where she has developed a passion for all things vaccine. Currently Helen has an appointment as an associate professor in the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care and her teaching is largely around vaccination. Her research focuses on a number of aspects of vaccines and vaccination but in particular vaccine effectiveness and vaccine safety. She was previously the chair of the World Health Organization Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS). Of course all opinions in this blog are her own. Disclosures: Helen has led a number of industry funded studies. These have all been investigator conceived and led. She does not receive honorarium from industry personally. She has received industry support to attend some conferences and has contributed to Expert Advisory meetings for GSK, Merck, and Pfizer. Helen is a member of the Covid vaccine Science and Technical Advisory Group to MBIE and the MoH and the Covid Immunisation Implementation Advisory groups to the MoH.

HPV vaccination syndrome. A questionnaire based ‘study’. Lack of any evidence. Pt 2. - Diplomatic Immunity

Sep 24, 2015

Continued from HPV vaccination syndrome: Surely extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Pt 1. The questionnaire based ‘study’ is even worse than the hypothesis. Following on from yesterday’s blog about “HPV vaccination syndrome” I want to address a few issues about the accompanying report “HPV vaccination syndrome. A questionnaire-based study.” First, the introductory text is identical to the accompanying article. Could they not at least paraphrase? You are not actually allowed to plagiarise yourself in the scientific literature. The second, which I did not mention in Part 1 of this topic, is that the author does not understand the difference between “Adverse Event” and “Adverse Reaction”. All reports are Adverse Events, some will be reactions to the vaccine, and others will be coincidental. This is a very fundamental misunderstanding and one that is central … Read More

HPV vaccination syndrome: Surely extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Pt 1. - Diplomatic Immunity

Sep 23, 2015

I really do think that the latest proposed “HPV vaccination syndrome” is an extraordinary claim that requires some evidence proportionate to its absurdity. Actually some evidence would be a start. However a piece in the journal Clinical Rheumatology appears to have escaped what normally passes as scientific peer review and got received, revised and accepted in less than a month to be published just a couple of weeks later. The reason I say this is that the piece is devoid of science. Let me explain. The claims in question (both here and in other articles) centre on reports of vague syndromes involving fatigue and pain manifesting in varying temporal association with administration of HPV vaccine. The bottom dwelling scientific literature is becoming littered with case reports of young women exhibiting vague symptoms with variable temporal onset to a … Read More

HPV vaccine Gardasil – seriously good data reinforce its safety - Diplomatic Immunity

Aug 29, 2015

The quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine called Gardasil is putting on a bloody good show and NO, it doesn’t cause THAT! Despite strong evidence demonstrating effectiveness against a range of cancers and genital warts and robust data supporting its safety a bunch of silly rumours threaten to derail efforts to get our young women vaccinated. By the way boys should also be vaccinated but in NZ funding has not yet been provided for all our young blokes so most have to pay for it privately, inequitable yes – but that is another story. So where does the evidence on effectiveness and safety stand in August 2015? Gardasil is a very effective vaccine As we know Gardasil performed extremely well in clinical trials, effectively preventing pre-invasive cervical lesions, and the results suggested it would have a dramatic effect on cervical … Read More

Aussie ‘no jab, no pay’ unlikely to make disease go away. - Diplomatic Immunity

Apr 15, 2015

The Australian proposal to remove financial benefits from families who fail to immunise their children seems like a politically motivated point-scoring move based on emotive lobbying by media, namely the Sunday Telegraph.  It would appear to have arisen from the outcry about anti-vaccination parents putting others at risk following the deaths of two infants too young to be vaccinated. I am not entirely sure what the problem to this rather draconian solution is. Australia has had reasonably high immunisation coverage (~93%) for many years now. In fact the Australian Government consider that Australia has an excellent record in national immunisation coverage. Here is a link to their coverage information. One of their strategies has involved a carrot, which has worked quite well – under this system parents need to produce evidence of their kids’ vaccination status in order to … Read More

Tenpenny’s vaccine advice is worth ten a penny and is certainly a dime a dozen - Diplomatic Immunity

Jan 08, 2015

Sherri Tenpenny is an American anti-vaccination protagonist causing some disturbance across the ditch, and somehow this issue has crawled into the NZ Herald.  Australian lobby group Stop the Australian Anti Vaccination Network would like to see Sherri’s visa declined so that she may not spread her gospel in their country (The AntiAVN exist to hold the anti vaxers accountable for their dangerous information). Great to see such strength in the AntiAVN, but in this case I really don’t think denying her a visa is a very good idea – free speech and all that, it is likely to make a martyr out of her. Her claims are so pedestrian they would probably fall relatively horizontal without the extra attention. I sincerely hope the strategy does not boomerang. Just one of Tenpenny’s ‘facts’ is cited in the … Read More

Shingles is much worse than Leukemia – Guest Blog by Lynley Hood - Diplomatic Immunity

Dec 23, 2014

By Dr Lynley Hood For the first three years following his diagnosis in December 2002, Jim’s chronic lymphocytic leukemia was a non-event. Then from late 2005 the complications – the anaemia and the chest infections – began to recur with tedious regularity. My husband endured them all, and the consultations and treatments they necessitated, with good-natured stoicism.   On 10 September 2007 the complication was a sore throat. To Jim and me, and to his GP, the tiny blister that appeared on his forehead that day seemed inconsequential. So the treatment he received was for a sore throat.  Next day, an oncologist phoned to call him into hospital.  A serratia infection had been found in his sputum. He needed urgent inpatient treatment. In the course of that conversation Jim mentioned his sore throat and the red, … Read More

What do chickens astronauts and St Anthony’s Fire have in common? Varicella policy at odds with science - Unsorted

Dec 18, 2014

Angelina Jolie has come down with chickenpox, missing the Premier of Unbroken Update since published: NZ introduced varicella vaccine for children on 1st July 2017. I have just listened to an excellent series of interviews on Radio NZ about the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine. NZ does not fund this vaccine for all children although over the years the various incarnations of the technical advisory group to the Ministry of Health, and now PHARMAC, have been recommending it be introduced. Why would this be I wonder? Perhaps it is a good idea! Below are the reasons for using this vaccine: Chickenpox can be a miserable disease, sometimes it can be very serious and occasionally it can be fatal. Each year in NZ there are around 55,000 cases and 450 hospitalisations due to chickenpox. Between 2001 … Read More

NZ Immuniation Conference 2015 – The Rock and Roll of Infectious Diseases - Diplomatic Immunity

Dec 12, 2014

What do Foot Twitch, Glowing Toes, Prosthetic Foot , Toe Jam Brothers, Moldy Toe and Toe Nail Fungus have in common? (Answer. They are all little known rock bands we have rejected as acts for our conference dinner) However, in all seriousness, a few of us have been considering suitable acts for our conference dinner (NZ Immunisation Conference 2015, webpage coming soon). We have come up with some great options that are sure to be crowd pleasers. The Conference venue is Wintec in Hamilton. With this in mind we channelled our inner bogan and came up with suitable entainment options for the ‘Tron. A good option may be a live band called The Vaccines, an English indie rock band based in West London. Their first studio album “What Did You Expect from The Vaccines” was released in … Read More

Amazing new cure for Ebola - Diplomatic Immunity

Oct 06, 2014

  Stop press! Thai scientists claim to have a treatment against ebola that is more effective that any other treatment! Is this possible? “Researchers at Siriraj Hospital claimed that the new antibody is “more effective” than those that now exist.” This is an astounding claim, especially as they haven’t actually tested it in animals or humans. What is also really awesome is that is safe in humans! Dr Wanpen said the Thai antibody was inherently safe and has no side effects because it was developed from human genes. A striking claim since it hasn’t been tested it in humans yet. Just saying… Oh, and how does it actually work? Here are comments, mainly from Udom Kachintorn, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital. It is a new antibody structure, a new mechanism to kill the Ebola … Read More

Kelly Brogan denies germ theory and the value of HIV drugs - Diplomatic Immunity

Sep 23, 2014

HIV causes AIDS and modern antiretroviral drugs extend quality of life and reduce AIDS related mortality. Kelly Brogan MD does not believe that HIV is the cause of AIDS because it does not satisfy Koch’s Postulates of infectious disease according to her website.* These postulates are four criteria refined and published in 1890 by a chap called Robert Koch. The idea is that they can be used to establish a causative relationship between a microorganism and a disease. Their application and generalisation for disease is scientifically controversial. Gosh, Koch himself abandoned the first one as soon as he found asymptomatic carriers of cholera existed. It is useful to point out that 1890 is before we had the same understanding of infection and disease as we do now – yes believe it or not we have learnt … Read More