Both Doctors and the Media Misinform the Public About Tetanus

Over the years, I have heard lots of medical practitioners and government health officials say some unbelievably stupid things about vaccination. No, really – there have been some corkers!

Vaccines don’t need to be tested…

Way back in the 1990s, I did a double-take when Dr Gavin Frost, Chairman of the National Childhood Immunisation Committee, told me that since vaccines were assumed to be safe and effective, it would be unethical to leave one group ‘unprotected’ in order to test them. So, we are basing a multi-billion dollar medical procedure on guesswork? That’s modern science for you!

Ignorance about MMR in pregnancy

A couple of years ago, I thought I’d heard it all when Dr Richard Kidd, head of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) in QLD told a parliamentarian at a hearing into legislative changes to vaccination requirements, that the next time she was pregnant, she should ask her doctor to give her an MMR vaccine – something that is absolutely contraindicated during pregnancy. Whoopsie!

Why did the Northern Star misquote me?

But last night, an article came out in the Northern Star newspaper (Anti-vaxxer questions medical treatment of tetanus patient), our local pro-pharma rag, that quotes a paediatrician, Dr Chris Ingall, and NSW Health as saying several things which I believe are verifiably incorrect.

Fake News, Lying Media
Can you trust what you read, see or hear in the media?

The Northern Star based their piece on an article I published on this blog a couple of days ago (without citing the blog by name, of course) regarding a local child who was ill and hospitalised with a tetanus infection. They never contacted me (they never do), but they did misquote my statement. Below is their incorrect citation:

“Controversial anti-vaxxer, Meryl Dorey claimed in a blog post the diagnosis was “case of medical negligence based on ignorance of the symptoms … and potentially incorrect or incomplete cleaning of the child’s wound in the first instance”.”

And here is what I actually said:

“Rather than being a story of irresponsible parenting, one could possibly make a case that this is instead a case of medical negligence based on ignorance of the symptoms of tetanus infections and potentially incorrect or incomplete cleaning of the child’s wound in the first instance.”

I see what they did there, do you?

Limited value in cleaning wounds? Dr Semmelweiss would be rolling in his grave!

Cleaning wounds, tetanus prevention
The importance of proper wound hygiene

The next paragraph quotes Dr Ingall, a paediatrician with many years’ experience stating:

“…there was “limited value” in wound cleaning and “vaccination is key” to preventing tetanus.”

This statement directly contradicts the Australian Government’s recommendation (and common sense) which says that:

“Whatever the immune status of a person with a tetanus-prone wound, local disinfection and, where appropriate, surgical treatment of tetanus-prone wounds, must never be omitted.”

The world-famous Mayo Clinic states under the treatment protocols for tetanus:

Wound care

Cleaning the wound is essential to preventing growth of tetanus spores. This involves removing dirt, foreign objects and dead tissue from the wound.

Dr Ingall then goes on to say that:

“There is no amount of antibiotic or cleansing that will rid (the body) of the (tetanus) infection.”

But the Mayo Clinic disagrees, saying:

Your doctor may also give you antibiotics, either orally or by injection, to fight tetanus bacteria.

Are Dr Ingall’s statements an admission that this child’s wound was not cleaned properly and that antibiotics were neither administered nor offered as a means of treating this bacterial illness?

It is my personal belief the answer to this question is most likely yes since the next line in the article states that:

“Despite repeated requests, NSW Heath declined to comment whether the girl was offered either treatment when her wound was initially treated at Nimbin hospital.”

Do doctors know what tetanus looks like?

And despite the fact this child’s family say that the doctors and staff who saw their daughter did not recognise tetanus infections, and even consulted with a paediatrician who likewise didn’t know what the condition looked like, NSW Health issued a statement saying:

“…clinicians and nursing staff were trained in, and had access to, the latest clinical protocols for treatment and control of vaccine-preventable diseases, including tetanus.”

How then to explain the delay in diagnosing this child with tetanus – a delay which could potentially have led to her death?

From the research, lack of recognition of the symptoms of tetanus is neither rare nor risk-free. This study from the UK describes two cases of tetanus that were not recognised by the treating physicians, leading to the death of both patients. The importance of tetanus risk assessment during wound management

Where is the evidence that vaccination prevents tetanus?


Lastly, Dr Ingall, as stated above, claimed that ““vaccination is key” to preventing tetanus.””

I would like to know how that statement can be made when tetanus is a disease for which natural immunity may not exist. In other words, you can develop a tetanus infection, recover from it and then, get another tetanus prone wound weeks or months down the track and get tetanus all over again.

The QLD Department of Health states on their website that:

“As recovery from tetanus may not result in immunity, an important part of the treatment is to ensure that the person starts a course of vaccination to prevent them from contracting tetanus in the future.”

Now, I will ask you all the question I have asked medicos for nearly two decades without any answer at all – if natural infection cannot convey immunity, how can vaccination do what the disease cannot?

Lastly, the treatment this child was given, Tetanus Immunoglobulin (TIG) is yet more guesswork since, an authoritative source on pharmaceutical products states:

“Evidence of effectiveness of TIG in the treatment of active tetanus infection is limited and optimum dosage not established.”

Once again, the medical community and the media blame the victim

This family has been pilloried in the court of public opinion for not subjecting their child to a vaccination which nearly killed one of her close relatives. Their family history most likely predisposes her to a serious reaction to tetanus vaccines. At one time,when individual health was considered to be more important than the protection of government vaccine policies, this would have been a contraindication to being vaccinated

In my opinion, this family acted responsibly and with all due care. I believe they may have been badly let down by the medical community who might have failed to diagnose or treat their daughter’s illness in a timely or appropriate manner.

And lastly, we have all been let down by the media which has done its best to incite hatred, misinform and outright lie as well as lying by omission about all aspects of this case.









Israel to pay $6 million compensation to anthrax vaccine trial subjects — RT News

Israeli SoldiersYet another reason why those who the government considers to be ‘experts’ and whom we are told to trust, can’t necessarily be trusted:

“A government statement said that administering scientists “did not expect any dangerous side effects,” and that “the vaccine used in the research contains materials that exist in many vaccines given to babies on a regular basis, such as for tetanus and hepatitis.”

Israel to pay $6 million compensation to anthrax vaccine trial subjects — RT News.

While Health Ministers Fiddle, Australians Are Harmed

MadnessTwo months after initiating a campaign to vaccinate school girls against the Human Papillomavirus, the Japanese Government has suspended the active promotion of both Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines. Japanese health authorities have found these shots to be associated with rates of serious reactions which are more than twice that of other vaccines introduced at the same time.

Gardasil and Cervarix are currently administered to Australian women, girls and more recently, boys – to purportedly prevent cervical and other cancers thought to be associated with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

The Japanese experience mimics that of Australia where, after the introduction of the Gardasil vaccine, Australia experienced an 85% increase in the rate of reported reactions – a situation noted by the Commonwealth Department of Health in their Annual Report (CDI Vol 32 No 4 2008). In contrast to Japan however, whose government has acted quickly and responsibly to protect the health of its citizens, Australian health authorities have not taken any action to ensure the safety of its young people in regards to these vaccines.

Why is it that Japan will suspend promotion of a vaccination which has been shown to be harmful while Australia will ignore this evidence and push ahead with its attempts to force, coerce, threaten and penalise those who would like the freedom to choose what is best for their children? When will our health ministers realise that they are there to safeguard the health of Australians – not the health of our vaccination programme?

The AVN would like to call on the government to investigate how the Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines were approved by the TGA without the basic tests necessary to confirm or refute the contents of the shot, their safety profiles or any evidence that HPV vaccination would reduce the risk of cervical or other cancers in humans.

In addition, we would like the Australian government to demonstrate that it takes its duty of care seriously by following the example of Japan and immediately suspending the use of both Gardasil and Cervarix until the necessary safety and effectiveness studies are performed.

Japanese References:

Cervix vaccine issues trigger health notice

Japan not to promote cervical cancer vaccination

Other nations suspend HPV vaccines:

India Suspends Gardasil Program After Four Deaths and Complications in 120 Girls

Spain suspends batch of Gardasil following illness

Experts question HPV vaccination:

Experts cast doubt on claim for ‘wonder’ cancer jabs

Call to review cancer vaccine after Germany demands more medical proof

HPV Vaccine Questions Cannot Be Answered Without Further Research

Websites for further research

SaneVax, Inc

Canadian Gardasil Awareness Group

Let’s Talk About Gardasil

Vaccination Decisions

Reducing the incidence of grand claims

This is the second post in our series critiquing the new booklet “The Science of Immunisation”, from the Australian Academy of Science. Here Greg Beattie takes a look at the opening statement from the summary.

“The widespread use of vaccines globally has been highly effective in reducing the incidence of infectious diseases and their associated complications, including death.”

– The Science of Immunisation (Australian Academy of Science)
The claim here is that vaccines reduced cases of infectious disease, and therefore, associated death and disability. This sounds good. It may or may not be true, but it certainly sounds good. One would expect it to be backed with solid evidence. Let’s have a look.

A good part of this has already been dealt with in a recent post by Meryl Dorey. Death-rates in Australia from some of the diseases we vaccinate against were discussed in the post, however, much more Australian data can be viewed in the following four posts I made to a debate on the issue:





Death graphs for USA and England can be found HERE, as well as HERE.

But what about developing nations? Well, it’s a bit trickier. Where Australia, USA, England, and Europe have meticulously recorded all deaths (and their causes) since the mid 1800s, the story was entirely different in the developing world. Deaths were rarely recorded. Even when they were there was virtually no information on what caused them. The World Bank overcame this missing data to an extent by conducting sample surveys over the past half century. These surveys estimate the infant mortality rate and the under-5 mortality rate. Here’s what they show in Africa and India:

Child death rates versus vaccination, Africa.
Child death rates versus vaccination, India

As we can see, the big push for vaccines from the 1980s onward (the finer lines shooting upward) appears to have had little if any effect on the trend in death rates in children (the two thick lines running from left to right). After viewing all the above my guess is you’ll feel we have little reason to credit vaccines with any role in saving lives. You’re free, however, to come to your own conclusions about that.

But what about incidence? That is, the number of cases of the illness, regardless of whether the affected person died. Did vaccines reduce this? The answer is… who knows? It’s actually impossible to tell: at least, not statistically. To explain, I’ll start by taking you back, almost 70 years, to a special book written by Darrell Huff. Regarded as one of the biggest selling books on statistics ever, “How to Lie with Statistics” was commonly used as an introductory textbook for statistics students.

It covers most of the pitfalls that await us when confronted with claims based on sample statistics. And what are ‘sample statistics’? Well, that’s what we work with when we don’t have the resources to measure the whole population. We take a sample and extrapolate our findings to the wider population. With deaths, we don’t use ‘samples’ because we are working with the whole set. As mentioned above, all are recorded (except in developing countries). With ‘cases’ of illness, however, it’s impossible to work with the whole set. No one knows how many cases of illness occur. We can only take a sample. Of course it’s important that our sample is representative: that is, it represents the whole population. We’ll have a look at this shortly, but first, let’s see what Huff had to say about sample statistics:

“The ‘population’ of a large area in China was 28 million. Five years later it was 105 million. Very little of that increase was real; the great difference could be explained only by taking into account the purposes of the two enumerations and the way people would be inclined to feel about being counted in each instance. The first census was for tax and military purposes, the second for famine relief.”

This was one of many examples he used to illustrate problems frequently lurking behind grand statistical claims. Huff takes us through the things we need to keep in mind, including non-representative samples and biased or poorly collected data, all of which lead to erroneous conclusions. He urges us to take a close look. Is the sample a true representation of the population, or is it skewed? Are the measurements free of bias? Are the investigators free of bias? Regarding ‘incidence’ data, he tells us:

“Many statistics, including medical ones that are pretty important to everybody, are distorted by inconsistent reporting at the source. There are startlingly contradictory figures on such delicate matters as abortions, illegitimate births, and syphilis. If you should look up the latest available figures on infuenza and pneumonia, you might come to the strange conclusion that these ailments are practically confined to three southern states, which account for about 80% of the reported cases. What actually explains this percentage is the fact that these three states required reporting of the ailments after other states had stopped doing so.

Some malaria figures mean as little. Where before 1940 there were hundreds of thousands of cases a year in the American South there are now only a handful, a salubrious and apparently important change that took place in just a few years. But all that has happened in actuality is that cases are now recorded only when proved to be malaria, where formerly the word was used in much of the South as a colloquialism for a cold or chill.”

Then there’s polio. Here’s what Huff had to say about polio figures BEFORE the first polio vaccine came into use:

“You may have heard the discouraging news that 1952 was the worst polio year in medical history. This conclusion was based on what might seem all the evidence anyone could ask for: There were far more cases reported in that year than ever before.

But when experts went back of these figures they found a few things that were more encouraging. One was that there were so many children at the most susceptible ages in 1952 that cases were bound to be at a record number if the rate remained level. Another was that a general consciousness of polio was leading to more frequent diagnosis and recording of mild cases. Finally, there was an increased financial incentive, there being more polio insurance and more aid available from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. All this threw considerable doubt on the notion that polio had reached a new high, and the total number of deaths confirmed the doubt.”

Of course Huff couldn’t know the fate that awaited polio notifications afterward. The first polio vaccine was introduced in the same year the book was published, and after a few years in which polio numbers rose (yes, you read that correctly) the case definition for the illness was changed. It became more restrictive. This was the first of a series of revisions which led to a drop in cases being notified. This rendered the data gathered prior to the changes totally irreconcilable with that gathered after.

Huff’s conclusion:

“It is an interesting fact that the death rate or number of deaths often is a better measure of the incidence of an ailment than direct incidence figures — simply because the quality of reporting and record-keeping is so much higher on fatalities. In this instance, the obviously semiattached figure is better than the one that on the face of it seems fully attached.”

So what exactly are ‘incidence’ figures? How did we collect them, and why were there so many problems with them? Well, all good questions. Basically, we don’t have true incidence data. Instead we use something quite different, called notifications. We asked doctors to ‘notify’ certain illnesses when they saw them, so we could track cases. In other words, we asked them to send a record to their local health authority whenever one of their patients turned up with what looked like one of the diseases. But for a start, one obvious problem is these ‘notifications’ only included cases which visited a doctor. In the USA it’s been estimated only 3% of adult whooping cough cases are reported to the system. But even more concerning, doctors didn’t always consider it important to report cases they did see. One study in the USA, where reporting is mandated by law, found the rate ranged from 9% to 99%. The likelihood of a case being reported to the system depended largely on publicity.

Notifications had one purpose only: to enable a quick response to outbreaks. They were never meant to be used for retrospective assessment the impact of vaccination programs. One only needs to look at the history of whooping cough notification in Australia to confirm this. When mass vaccination for whooping cough commenced in the 1950s ALL STATES except South Australia stopped collecting notifications. Why would health authorities stop collecting figures which were supposed to record the great change?

But there are other major problems with the data. Some of these also apply to deaths figures, although to a lesser extent. First there was the problem of diagnosis. Doctors could seldom be sure which illness their patients had. Often it was a choice between whooping cough and bronchiolitis, croup or whatnot. Or between measles and roseola, rubella, rocky mountain spotted fever, and a host of others.

To complicate matters doctors were taught to use the vaccination status of a patient to help them make the decision. Textbooks would encourage them to diagnose other illnesses if the patient had been vaccinated. Governments (through their health bureaucracies) also encouraged this, and continue to do so. In this example the UK National Health Service exhorts doctors to check the patient’s vaccination history before diagnosing measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough.

This is a no-no in statistics. It’s a cut and dried example of bias, obviously slanting the data and supporting the notion that vaccines reduced case numbers. How much did it slant the data? We’ll never know. All we know is it’s one of those big problems Huff warned us about.

Finally there was the problem of changing case definitions, as mentioned above with polio. We hear a lot about laboratory confirmation nowadays, but it wasn’t always so. For example, prior to the 1990s measles was diagnosed clinically: that is, it was decided after physical examination by a doctor. Since then, however, a measles case needed to be tested in a laboratory to ‘prove’ it was measles. When inexpensive testing first became available during the 1990s it was found that only a few percent of the cases initially diagnosed as measles passed the test ( link ). Again this led to the impression something had brought about a ‘real’ decline in measles.

In summary, it is perhaps impossible to know how much, if at all, vaccination influenced the rates of infectious disease. However the claim that it has substantially done so forms the backbone of the whole case for vaccination. Death trends appear to offer no support for this claim, and we have no properly collected incidence data. Without good evidence we’re left with little reason to vaccinate our children or ourselves.

Greg Beattie is author of “Vaccination: a Parent’s Dilemma” and “Fooling Ourselves on the Fundamental Value of Vaccines”. He can be contacted via his website:  

Child Administered 4 Vaccines Without Parental Consent — The Healthy Home Economist

Child Administered 4 Vaccines Without Parental Consent — The Healthy Home Economist.

When children receive vaccines without the parent’s permission or against parental instructions, it is a crime and those who perpetrate it should be held legally and financially accountable.

This is one of the reasons why the AVN opposes the administration of any vaccines in the school setting. Vaccination is a medical procedure. It carries with it a risk of harm or death and school based vaccination campaigns do not allow fully informed consent as required by the NH&MRC.

1- Parents must be able to ask a health professional all relevant questions regarding the vaccines their children are being targeted with.

2- A full medical history should be obtained prior to vaccination to ensure that each child is not at a risk of known reactions to any vaccines or vaccine ingredients due to sensitivities, allergies or previous reactions.

3- The child must be examined by a health professional prior to receiving a vaccine to ensure they are not suffering from an acute condition which would preclude their vaccination since only well children should be vaccinated.

4- It can be traumatic for a child to receive a painful medical procedure such as vaccination without their parents being present to comfort and reassure them.

Get vaccines out of schools. Education belongs in the classroom – not vaccination.

Woodford Vaccination Forum

I am just writing a very brief post here because I want to relax a bit this evening but I promised to get these slides up on the website so here goes.

The Woodfordia Vaccination Forum went according to schedule this afternoon. It was standing room only with people sitting in the aisles and standing up all around the back and sides. Stop the AVN paid a lot of money to get an airplane to fly over the venue during the talk towing a banner that said Vaccines Save Lives. I thanked them as soon as I got on stage for the great publicity that led to such a wonderful turn-out. In fact, one person said that they hadn’t known anything about the forum but had seen the plane and came along to find out what all the fuss was about. Good job, SAVN!

The talk went very well. Everyone was polite, there was no heckling and I think that everyone – even the immunologist, agreed that vaccinations should not be compulsory. The audience asked some great questions and the vaccination forum was an example of how this issue can and should be aired – in public and with fairness to both sides.

There was a video tape of the whole talk I’m not sure yet how that will be distributed, but I will let you know when I know.

In the meantime, thanks to all of our AVN members who came along to support this forum. I can’t tell you how heartening it was to look down into the audience and see your smiling faces looking up during the talk.

Here are the slides – I hope you enjoy them. The references should be clickable too!

Woodford Debate 2011 SML

Why are we still using the influenza vaccine?

The pseudo-skeptics say it – we have proof that vaccines work and anyone who says we don’t is simply not using science – they are too stupid, too innumerate, to understand the literature which is perfectly clear. Vaccines work. End of story.

Except, it isn’t the end of the story and more and more evidence is emerging – from the scientific literature itself – to show that vaccines are not working the way we’ve been told they should.

Here is an article from the Cochrane Collaboration – the largest database of medical literature in the English Language. You can download the entire artilce for free by clicking here and I seriously urge you to do so and to bring this information with you when you next go to see your doctor. Ask them if they would take a flu shot after reading this. Below are some of the important points from the article along with some comments from me.

Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults (Review)

Jefferson T, Di Pietrantonj C, Rivetti A, Bawazeer GA, Al-Ansary LA, Ferroni E

…”In the relatively uncommon circumstance of vaccine matching the viral circulating strain and high circulation, 4% of unvaccinated people versus 1% of vaccinated people developed influenza symptoms.”


OK, let’s look at that sentence carefully because there are a couple of very important factors to consider.

  1. the admission that a vaccine actually matching the viral strain circulating in any particular year is uncommon. In other words, medicine doesn’t get it right very often when they check their crystal ball to try and find out which strains of the flu virus will be circulating during any given year. And if there is not a match, there is no protection according to medical experts. So most years, the flu vaccine is a complete waste of time, money and makes vaccine recipients take an unnecessary risk for no benefit at all.
  2. 4% of the unvaccinated people get the flu vs 1% of the vaccinated. Hang on there! Are we really pushing a vaccine that has a list of side effects as long as your arm, won’t work most years on the population because of poor matching of the circulating strains at a cost of tens of millions of dollars in Australia alone simply to reduce the risk of getting flu from 4% to 1%? And are we even talking about the flu? According to the sentence, we are discussing ‘influenza symptoms’. Since the vast majority of ‘influenza-like illness (ILI)’ is not caused by flu viruses, is it possible that a significant portion of the people in both of these small groups (1% and 4% remember) might not have had flu infections anyway?

“Vaccination had a modest effect on time off work and had no effect on hospital admissions or complication rates. Inactivated vaccines caused local harms and an estimated 1.6 additional cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome per million vaccinations. The harms evidence base is limited.”

So we are vaccinating the entire population, including infants, children and pregnant women for an increased risk of harm from the vaccine but only a modest effect on the amount of time off of work because for the two things we really DO want the vaccines to help with – reducing hospital admissions and complication rates from influenza – there is no effect at all. Is this medical policy by best practice and best evidence or medical policy by what is best for Big Pharma and hang the population?

Authors’ conclusions

Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.

Hang on a minute! we have read now that the only ‘benefit’ to flu vaccines is that people who get vaccinated may miss fewer days and the symptoms may be reduced and we know that they won’t affect your chances of being hospitalised or having serious complications such as pneumonia. But read what the author concludes carefully because here is the kicker! Influenza vaccines have no effect on transmission. That means that if you are vaccinated, you are just as likely to spread influenza to those around you as if you were unvaccinated. This is what the AVN has been saying – backed by the medical literature – for years now! So much for the myth of ‘herd immunity’. So much for all the finger pointing and angst caused by those who are too ruled by fear to think logically about this subject. The unvaccinated do NOT place the community at risk because being vaccinated does NOT stop you from spreading the disease. In fact, for those who are receiving live-virus vaccines, the community will be placed at greater risk because they can and do spread the virus to those they are in contact with who can then contract the disease.


This review includes 15 out of 36 trials funded by industry (four had no funding declaration). An earlier systematic review of 274 influenza vaccine studies published up to 2007 found industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size. Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines. The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.

To all those medical apologists who continually insist that ‘money doesn’t influence science’ and ‘we can trust what is published in medical journals because it is above question’, I say that this study demonstrates what so many previous studies have demonstrated though the pseudo-skeptics continue to ignore this proof (I will pull out the points below because they bear repeating over and over again):
  1. “…industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size.” There you have it. If you do a study that has been funded by a drug company, you are more likely to get that study published in a large, mainstream medical journal than if you publish a study that has been funded independently – even if the independent study is larger and better-designed. This is how incorrect and corrupt information that we constantly hear about drugs and vaccines gets published. Medical journals have lost the plot and sold out to pharmaceutical companies – they can no longer be considered credible sources of information on health.
  2. “Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines.” Hmmmm – again, something we have been saying for years and years and which is constantly downplayed by the defenders of the church of science. Only when you have studies that are completely free of financial ties to the companies whose products you are supposed to be testing will you get results that can be trusted. If you have financial ties, you will be much more likely to emphasise the good and downplay the bad – that’s if you even put any of the bad into the final report – a rare event in medicine.
  3. “…reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies.” This requires no further comment – it speaks for itself.
  4. “The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.” So, even the 4% figure of protection might be too high since that is based on drug company-funded studies.
When the AVN calls for independence in science, we are shouted down and told that the science has already been done so why do we want to waste time and money on doing it again.
Those who say that the science has been done are either not aware of what science is or are involved in the obvious, open and shocking corruption that makes up most of medical research today. It is time for that to end and for real, independent scientific studies to be performed on drugs, vaccines and all medical products.


Diphtheria in QLD

About a month ago, a friend’s husband died at the age of 59. He had been a fairly healthy man though his diet left a bit to be desired and his stress levels were through the roof. Despite this, he had no obvious health problems until approximately 4 weeks before his death.

He had a gastric bleed that was very severe – so severe that he was having chest pains from loss of blood and required 5 units of blood on admission to the emergency department of his local hospital.

He was kept in for 5 days of testing but the doctors could not find why he had been bleeding or where the blood was coming from so on the 5th day, they sent him home.

Approximately 10 days later, he had severe pains in his shoulder and was readmitted to hospital where an x-ray discovered a blood clot in his lung.

Now, keep in mind that this is a man who had only just had an unidentified bleed and who, for all the hospital knew, might have still had internal bleeding. Despite this, the hospital put him on a course of Warfarin, a blood thinner, a medication which is contraindicated (not recommended) for, amongst other things, anyone who has a history of gastric bleeding. Not only did this man have such a history – the history was very recent and of unknown origin. In addition, neither he nor his family were given any information about the risks of this treatment or about symptoms they should be on the lookout for that would indicate any problems. It was just another drug – just another patient.

As the family discovered later, when someone is first prescribed Warfarin, they are supposed to be closely monitored so that the levels of the drug can be adjusted and uncontrolled bleeding or gangrene don’t ensue (both known side effects of this and similar drugs). Instead, this man was never given a blood test to determine his blood levels of Warfarin. Had this simple step been done, perhaps a tragedy would have been avoided.

Instead, about one and a half weeks after starting the course of warfarin, he was admitted to hospital with a cerebral haemorrhage, was comatose within hours and his family had to make the difficult decision to turn off his life-support system. A wife was left without her husband; children were left without their father; a man was cheated out of his twilight years – all because of medical error or negligence.

In fact, as the family discovered later, these problems were so common that in 2006, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) forced the manufacturer of Warfarin to add a black box warning to this product (emphasis added):

The new black box notes that warfarin can cause major or fatal bleeding. It says that bleeding is more likely to occur during the starting period and with a higher dose (resulting in a higher INR). Risk factors for bleeding are listed as: high intensity of anticoagulation (INR greater than 4.0), age 65 or over, highly variable INRs, history of gastrointestinal bleeding, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, serious heart disease, anemia, malignancy, trauma, renal insufficiency, concomitant drugs, and long duration of warfarin therapy.

The black box also contains the recommendations that regular monitoring of INR should be performed on all treated patients; those at high risk for bleeding may benefit from more frequent INR monitoring, careful dose adjustment to desired INR, and a shorter duration of therapy; and patients should be instructed about prevention measures to minimize risk of bleeding and to report immediately to physicians signs and symptoms of bleeding.

The FDA Medwatch announcement also notes that warfarin prescriptions will also be issued with a new patient medication guide warning about potentially serious bleeding with the drug. FDA regulations state that such medication guides are to be provided with each prescription that is dispensed for products that the FDA determines pose a serious and significant public health concern.

And the really, really sick thing is that this death wasn’t even put down to medical error. There was no internal investigation in the hospital; no doctors or medical staff were held responsible; and no newspapers ran front page headlines stating – Father of Two Mistreated Leading to His Death – read more on page 2.

No, this was just business as usual in the hospital system – you win some, you lose more.

Last week, I received a phone call from a woman who had recently given birth to identical twins at 36 weeks’ gestation.

She had gone to the hospital for a routine ante-natal visit and was told that she needed to have an emergency caesarean delivery because her placenta was not functioning properly.

Healthy twins were delivered – one weighing 1.8kg and the other was 2.2kg at birth.

This woman, who has an older child, does not believe in vaccinating. She didn’t have her birth plan with her because of the emergency nature of the admission, but as they were wheeling her into the delivery suite, she told the nurses that her babies were not to receive the Hep B vaccine which is scheduled to be administered within 72 hours of birth. When the doctor came into the room, she repeated this to him. When her husband went to the nursery with the babies while they were checked out and his wife was stitched up, he repeated the instructions that there were to be no vaccinations. And when the mother was taken to her room with the larger of the twins (the smaller was kept in the nursery for observation), she asked again if they were aware that there were to be no vaccinations of these babies.

At every step of the way, the staff stated that they understood and that the children would not be vaccinated.

Something ‘went wrong’ however and the baby who was in the nursery for observation was given the Hep B vaccine without any written permission form from either parent and against the wishes of this family.

This baby developed problems sucking, was not sleeping well and was cranky and unsettled for the entire 3 weeks it had to stay in the nursery. The other baby was able to go home within a matter of days.

Again, there were no front page headlines – Child in Hospital Vaccinated Against Parent’s Wishes – Suffers Adverse Reactions – Investigation Ordered.

Investigation? Again, this is business as usual. Either this was an ‘honest’ mistake or, as has happened countless times before, some staff member decided that parents who don’t vaccinate obviously don’t know what they are doing and decided to take matters into their own hands.

Who is responsible for these problems and deaths? Nobody.

And these are just 2 of the more than 18,000 cases of death from medical error in Australia and more than 240,000 injuries annually from the same cause.

Front page news? Not a bar of it! This is so common, you just yawn when you hear about it – unless, of course, it is your loved one who has been harmed.

But this week, we have had a huge front-page story reported out of Queensland.

You see, a 22 year old woman died from diphtheria and the entire country is being urged to ensure they are vaccinated. On the surface, it looks like a valid warning. But wait!

The last case of diphtheria in QLD was in 1993 so where did this unlucky woman get the disease from?

It seems that she contracted diphtheria from her fully-vaccinated friend who had just returned from overseas.

Did the headline read: Fully Vaccinated Person Gives Friend Fatal Case of Diphtheria – Vaccine Effectiveness Checks Urgently Needed

Of course it didn’t! Instead of being a factual story of a fully-vaccinated individual transmitting the first Australian case of diphtheria for almost 20 years – a case that had fatal consequences, this story was used to – you guessed it – try to push people to get vaccinated. And even though the person who had the disease was vaccinated against it and the vaccination status of the person who died is unknown, more vaccinations were being urged.

When the Herald Sun reported on this case, they said of the woman who died, “It’s believed she wasn’t immunised.” Trust me, if there was proof that this woman was unvaccinated, that would have been shouted from the mountain tops. But there is no evidence that she was or was not vaccinated and so, they assumed that she wasn’t. Quite an assumption!

Even more interesting was this report from ABC News:

Queensland Health says there is no risk for those who are fully vaccinated against the disease.

Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young says a diphtheria outbreak is unlikely because the vast majority of Australians are immunised.

Well, if there is truly no risk for those who are fully vaccinated, how did a fully vaccinated person contract and then, transmit the disease? And again, if the vast majority of Australians being vaccinated against diphtheria means that an outbreak is unlikely, how did this vaccinated person get sick? This was such an illogical thing for QLD Health to say.

The outcome is that one (possibly vaccinated) person has died from a so-called vaccine-preventable illness and this is front page news across the country. Yet the eighteen thousand people who die every year at the hands of hospital doctors as a result of medical error or adverse reactions to properly prescribed medications don’t even rate a mention in the media. It does make one wonder who or what is driving the press in Australia.


Evidence based medicine? Think again!

While the following article, a review of the book Demand Better by Sanjaya Kumar, mainly involves the American health system, most of this information applies to Australia and every other country where mainstream medicine means pharmaceutically-based treatments.

“In America, there is no guarantee that any individual will receive high-quality care for any particular health problem. The healthcare industry is plagued with overutilization of  services, underutilization of services and errors in  healthcare practice.” – Elizabeth A. McGlynn, PhD, Rand Corporation researcher, and colleagues. (Elizabeth A. McGlynn, PhD; Steven M. Asch, MD, MPH; et al. “The Quality of Healthcare Delivered to Adults in the United States,” New England Journal of Medicine 2003;348:2635-2645.)

Most of us are confident that the quality of our healthcare is the finest, the most technologically sophisticated and the most scientifically advanced in the world. And for good reason—thousands of clinical research studies are published every year that indicate such findings. Hospitals advertise the latest, most dazzling techniques to peer into the human body and perform amazing lifesaving surgeries with the aid of high-tech devices. There is no question that modern medical practices are remarkable, often effective and occasionally miraculous.

But there is a wrinkle in our confidence. We believe that the vast majority of what physicians do is backed by solid science. Their diagnostic and treatment decisions must reflect the latest and best research. Their clinical judgment must certainly be well beyond any reasonable doubt. To seriously question these assumptions would seem jaundiced and cynical.

But we must question them because these beliefs are based more on faith than on facts for at least three reasons, each of which we will explore in detail in this section. Only a fraction of what physicians do is based on solid evidence from Grade-A randomized, controlled trials; the rest is based instead on weak or no evidence and on subjective judgment. When scientific consensus exists on which clinical practices work effectively, physicians only sporadically follow that evidence correctly.

…We could accurately say, “Half of what physicians do is wrong,” or “Less than 20 percent of what physicians do has solid research to support it.” Although these claims sound absurd, they are solidly supported by research that is largely agreed upon by experts. Yet these claims are rarely discussed publicly. It would be political suicide for our public leaders to admit these truths and risk being branded as reactionary or radical. Most Americans wouldn’t believe them anyway. Dozens of stakeholders are continuously jockeying to promote their vested interests, making it difficult for anyone to summarize a complex and nuanced body of research in a way that cuts through the partisan fog and satisfies everyone’s agendas. That, too, is part of the problem.

Questioning the unquestionable
The problem is that physicians don’t know what they’re doing. That is how David Eddy, MD, PhD, a healthcare economist and senior advisor for health policy and management for Kaiser Permanente, put the problem in a Business Week cover story about how much of healthcare delivery is not based on science. Plenty of proof backs up Eddy’s glib-sounding remark.

The plain fact is that many clinical decisions made by physicians appear to be arbitrary, uncertain and variable. Reams of research point to the same finding: physicians looking at the same thing will disagree with each other, or even with themselves, from 10 percent to 50 percent of the time during virtually every aspect of the medical-care process—from taking a medical history to doing a physical examination, reading a laboratory test, performing a pathological diagnosis and recommending a treatment. Physician judgment is highly variable.

The Story Too Important Not to Repeat –



Property of The Sunday Times. First published in STM magazine April 3, 2010

The flu vaccine crisis that gripped the country last year left one innocent Perth toddler with debilitating brain damage. Now, 12 months on, Saba Button’s parents break their silence and tell how things went horribly wrong. Billy Rule reports.
At the main entrance of Princess Margaret Hospital, there are five children frozen in time. Cast in bronze and hauntingly dressed in crinkled Victorian outfits, the statues watch silently as visitors pass by. One still boy lugs a teddy bear, another child sleeps in an iron cot, a third toddler drags his home made wagon, while an older girl with flowing hair tries to run away. All of them are lifelike, yet cursed never to move again. The last child near the northern sliding door is a small girl kneeling respectfully. Look at her sad eyes long enough and you can almost hear her whisper: “Please Mum, take me home to the life I once knew.’’

This time last year Mick Button would be hard up knowing where to park his car at PMH. He’d only ever been there once and that was a false alarm. He and his family were a picture of health and he’d been blessed with a lucky life riding waves all over the world.

After leaving school in the northern suburbs, he set up Santosha surfboards, before becoming instrumental in bringing the Rusty Surfwear label to Australia. As the brand boomed in the late ’90s, Mick had plenty of opportunities to travel the world searching for that ultimate swell.

“Good waves and good weather somewhere I could surf in my boardies,” he quips with an infectious laugh.

For years he bobbed through life much like he did as he sat silhouetted against the horizon waiting for that next big set  – if he missed an opportunity, another one would come along sooner or later. No dramas.

It was an unbreakable bond. He was happy being Mick Button. Sun, surf, sand, saltwater, single.

Then nine years ago a happy girl living in Scarborough took Mick’s mind off the waves for a while. Kirsten Carty’s sandy hair and sparkling eyes soon had Mick sliding off his board and slipping into a more serious relationship. The polite, well spoken primary school teacher taught Mick there was more to life then a south-westerly swell.

In 2005 they were married on Rottnest Island by Monsignor O’Shea at the little Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity. With 180 family and friends squeezing out of the side doors, they exchanged vows as the sun shone on their lives ahead.

Two years later a son, Cooper, was born and on April 26, 2009, Kirst and Mick welcomed a daughter, Saba, into their happy house.

“She looked so much like her brother,” Kirst recalls. “A nice easy birth. Just a 3½ hour labour. When she was born I looked at her and put her on my chest. My daughter.

“And when she came home she was such a good little girl. Happy, healthy and she made it so easy for us. She slept twice a day and would hardly stir at night apart from when I picked her up for a breastfeed. We were very lucky.”

Mick thought he’d been living the dream as he grew up chasing the endless summers, but it didn’t come close to how content he felt as a new father and family man, sitting in the shallows splashing with his kids. As young surfers ran past him on their way to the waves, Mick smiled in the sparkle of the shore wash with Cooper “born on my birthday, best birthday present ever” and Saba “she’s daddy’s girl, you know”.

But he still loved a wave and when an invitation to a friend’s Bali wedding arrived in March last year the couple thought it would be a good chance for an overseas family holiday by the beach with the kids.

Around the same time Kirst also received another letter in the mail, a warning from the WA Department of Health about the upcoming influenza season.

“We believed at the time in immunisation and we saw the flu vaccination as part of that,” she says. “The letter said flu vaccination was the right thing to do to protect our children.”

The 2010 seasonal influenza strain would also protect against the human swine flu, which had emerged in 2009. These details were all explained in the letter.

What wasn’t in the document was that one of the vaccines, CSL’s Fluvax, had shown side effects during its clinical trials. Almost 300 children from six months to nine years old were tested by CSL. Adverse reactions included high irritability, rhinitis, fever and temperatures above 37.5C. More than a fifth of them reported vomiting and diarrhoea. All these reactions were higher than previous years. Vomiting and diarrhoea had never been noted before.

As the Buttons enjoyed WA’s warm autumn weather by the beach, the 2010 vaccination program was officially launched on Friday, March 19. That weekend the State Government began an advertising campaign encouraging parents to vaccinate their children.

And so they did. But within days there were problems.

On Wednesday, March 31, in the tiny Wheatbelt town of Wickepin, nine children were vaccinated and six of them suffered reactions. One child was taken to Narrogin Hospital.

Wickepin Health Service reported the issue to the Wheatbelt public health nurse who, the next day, emailed the State Government’s Communicable Disease Control Directorate (CDCD) with her concerns. She was told not to worry.

A week later the senior nurse from the Central Immunisation Clinic in Rheola St, West Perth, contacted the CDCD. She reported “getting phone calls from parents regarding adverse reactions to the free flu vaccine. High fever and vomiting approximately five hours post vaccination”. This was different to previous years when the Rheola St clinic had very few “adverse events following immunisation”.

The next day, on Friday, April 9, tragedy struck in Queensland. Two year old twin Ashley Epapara died a day after having the flu vaccination. Over the next week SA and Victorian authorities reported cases of adverse vaccine reactions to the Therapeutic Goods Authority (TGA) – Australia’s regulatory agency for medical drugs and devices – and WA’s CDCD.

Meanwhile, spot fires continued to ignite locally. On Monday, April 12, nurses in PMH’s Emergency Department reported six suspected reactions, including seizures, to the seasonal vaccine.

Panicked parents in Geraldton called the CDCD after their children had febrile reactions to the vaccine and the Rheola St clinic again contacted the CDCD, reporting three more phone calls from worried parents with sick children, post Fluvax. The CDCD contacted the TGA.

Over the next five days those spot fires formed a fire front. By Saturday, April 17, there had been 101 presentations of babies, toddlers and children to PMH’s ED suffering adverse reactions.

Despite the chaotic scenes at PMH and worried parents reporting their concerns to state health departments, no official communication had filtered into the suburbs, so Perth GPs were still administering the vaccine.

And at 12.30pm on Monday, April 19, protective mum Kirst Button held 11 month old Saba as her GP’s nurse gave the healthy toddler 0.25ml of CSL’s Fluvax in her left arm.

“In the car on the way home, Saba cried and seemed upset, which was unusual for her,” Kirst says. “But once we got home she was happy. She went to bed at 2pm and slept for two hours, which was normal. It was a relaxed afternoon. She ate all her dinner, we gave her a light shower and I dressed her for bed before heading out for pilates.”

Mick gave Saba a bottle at 6pm and soon his angel was asleep. About 7.30pm he heard a moaning sound crackle through the baby monitor so he went upstairs to check.

“She was lying on her stomach, so I put her on her side just in case she was uncomfortable,” Mick says. “Then I went back downstairs and five minutes later she was moaning again. This time I thought I’d pick her up and give her a cuddle. That’s when I knew there was a problem.”

Saba slumped in his arms like a doll and her little body was boiling. Mick called his wife, who had popped in to see her parents on the way home from pilates. When her daughter’s moans made it through the speaker phone, Kirst broke down. “I was hysterical,” she says. She had never heard Saba sound so helpless.

Mick called an ambulance “I just knew something was wrong” while Kirst hurried home.

When she arrived, she scooped her limp baby girl into her arms. “Sabi, Sabi, Mamma’s here, Mamma’s here.” No response. She took her temperature _ 40.2C. It should be 36.5C.

Five minutes later the ambulance arrived and after some routine checks Saba was on her way to PMH. Kirst sat in the back with Saba _-who now had diarrhoea – on her chest. And there was this strange sound that wouldn’t stop: “Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.”

Mick looked around from the passenger seat.”

“What the hell’s that?” he quizzed.

“It’s her heart rate,” one ambulance officer said, gravely. Almost 238 beats a minute – three times the 70-80 beats of a healthy 11 month old.

A decision was made to alert PMH and when they arrived there was a team of doctors and nurses waiting. Mick and Kirst heard someone say, “Oh, it’s another Fluvax baby”, which was confusing because they knew nothing about other immunisation problems.

Saba was given fluids, Panadol and placed in an Emergency Department cubicle where her symptoms changed for the worse. She vomited twice and was twitching and restless. Kirst also noted Saba wouldn’t respond to her and was going cross-eyed.

“Something’s not right,” she thought, so she rang for a nurse. After two hours it was decided Saba should stay overnight and she was transferred to Ward 9A.

“Saba was still shaking and twitching,” says Kirst. “And in the ward she started doing a slow rhythmic movement with both her arms and legs. The arms flicked up and the legs rolled out. The movements were all in unison.”

A doctor arrived and suspected these were unusual seizures.

Over the next three hours Saba was given two different doses of seizure medication. At about 1.30am she started to settle, so Mick went home to relieve Kirst’s parents who were looking after Cooper. Kirst stayed beside her baby girl hoping she was healing.

Even though she was totally fixated on her daughter, Kirst was aware of how alone she felt. The ward was quiet and dark. She had always thought she would do anything to protect Saba, yet the most she could do right now was just be with her as she slept – whispered promises and prayers from a mother to her child in a ward of woe.

Within the hour, the silence was broken as Saba started having more intense seizures. And this time she was struggling to breathe. The doctor and nurses decided Saba needed to be in the Intensive Care Unit.

“I was scared as things began to get worse,” Kirst recalls. “I rang Mick and told him to come back.”

At 4.30am Saba was transferred to ICU. This seemed unbelievable how had it come to this? Less than 10 hours ago their cheeky-eyed daughter was laughing with her brother. Now she was hooked up to machines to keep her alive.

She was intubated and hooked up to a ventilator to help her breathe. A naso-gastric tube to prevent vomiting and a catheter to empty her bladder were inserted. Saba was given a variety of drugs to control the seizures. Blood tests revealed damage to her liver, kidneys and bone marrow and an MRI and CAT scan later showed the enormity of her brain damage.

The following morning, Wednesday, April 21, Mick and Kirst’s world slipped off its axis as they were given a deathly diagnosis.

From the moment they had stepped into the ambulance with Saba, they felt safe. They were going to hospital, they would be with doctors who could look after their precious daughter. The public perception of doctors is they will calm you, cure you, heal you. But there are times when the 3531 full time doctors in WA have to deliver bad news as well. And on that Wednesday morning, paediatric neurologist, Dr Simon Williams, had to take on a job for Judas.

He had been on call for both neurology and the Acquired Brain Injury Team when Saba arrived at PMH. After examining her, he feared the worst. In a small windowless room near ICU, Dr Williams and another doctor and two nurses explained that Saba had suffered multi-organ failure and global brain injury. They didn’t expect her to live. If she did survive, she might never walk or talk again.

It was at that moment Kirst cracked. After two days of silent, private hope, she finally broke down and fell to the floor howling, as Mick and her brother, Adam, tried to comfort her. But soon her sobs of surrender turned to cries of disbelief.

“No, no, no, NO! They won’t take my baby. They won’t take her!”

Even though Mick and Kirst were both distraught, the words “if she does survive” gave them a glimmer of hope. They were determined to do everything possible to keep Saba alive.

“These people in ICU are amazing,” Mick says. “I can’t say enough good things about them, especially Dr Williams. They deal with radical stuff every day and part of what they do is to prepare you for things you may not want to face. But they didn’t realise we are fighters and so is Saba.”

And their fragile baby would need to punch above her weight because no matter how much belief Mick and Kirst had in her, only Saba could keep herself alive.

“When they sat us down in that room, Saba was on full life support because the level of drugs she needed to control the seizures were smashing her kidneys and liver,” Mick explains.

“When we said we were up for the fight they said, ‘OK, there are three things that are worrying us her kidneys, her liver and her breathing. We can help her kidneys and liver with medication but we can’t make her breathe. She has to do it herself’.”

So “Operation Save Saba” began. A decision was made that Saba was never to be left alone in hospital. Never. Ever.

Kirst and Mick alternated night shifts so the other could spend time with Cooper at home, and there was a queue of family and friends who offered to jump in and stay by her bedside.

“A roster was set up by a friend for people to sit with Saba overnight,” recalls Kirst. “Everyone agreed. Saba was never to be left alone. In the first few days, all the girls sitting with her would sing, talk or read to try to stimulate her and bring her back to us.

“We felt so loved and supported by family and friends throughout this really lonely, sad, empty, weird time of disbelief.”

Soon the walls around her bed were covered in messages of hope and visitors had to wait at reception to see her, such were the numbers who wanted to sing, read or just talk to the silent little girl.

Saba was not only surrounded by love but also by specialists. As well as her doctors in PMH, Mick and Kirst were given clearance from the hospital to invite alternative therapists into the ICU.

“The kids have visited a naturopath and chiropractor since they were born,” Kirst says. “So from the third day in ICU, Saba’s acupuncturist, chiropractor and other healers came in and they began working with her. We truly believe this lifted Saba.”

On Friday, April 23, Saba showed some strength. She was able to take a few soft breaths in tandem with the breathing machine. It may not have been time to celebrate but three days later there was an excuse to feel good. It was Saba’s first birthday.

“We decorated her rooms with balloons,” Kirst recalls. “One of my friends made cupcakes and everyone came in to give her a kiss. We also had a little party with friends at PMH it was a bit of a weird feeling, but we just wanted to celebrate that Saba was still with us.

“My sister, Shannon, asked everyone to make a cardboard heart with a message or a prayer that we could put up all over her room in ICU. This ended up being amazing. People brought all sorts of things to put close to her and it ended up looking like a shrine.”
Saba spent 11 days in ICU and almost eight weeks in hospital. She has been back to PMH 11 times in the past year because she continues to suffer seizures and respiratory problems. Three times Mick and Kirst have been forced to call an ambulance to make sure she gets to hospital in time. The longest stretch she has been home is seven weeks.

Saba’s brain injury is from prolonged seizures. She can’t eat by mouth at the moment and it’s not certain whether she will have much movement or be able to talk again. Despite their ordeal, Mick and Kirst continually emphasise theirs is not a sob story but rather a long slow journey.

“We are very positive people,” says Mick. “So we just try to surround Saba with lots of love and positive energy. She feeds off that, I can see it when I’m with her. The two things your kids need are love and security. If you give them that, then they’ll do the rest. We’re just trying to do that.”

Just after 5.30pm, on Thursday, April 22 _ three days after Saba was rushed to hospital _ then WA Health Minister Kim Hames announced the suspension of the flu vaccination program for children under five. Next day the Federal Government extended the halt across Australia.

An independent inquiry was ordered by the State Government last May. In August, former WA chief medical officer Bryant Stokes handed down his report that found “serious deficiency” in reporting processes and slow responses by both state and federal authorities. Recommendations were made, but not all of them have been followed through.

The TGA dismissed the Stokes report. Its own review failed to identify why there was a spike in febrile convulsions and why the adverse reactions occurred.

CSL, the manufacturer of Fluvax, released a statement last month, which said: “Despite extensive scientific investigations involving Australia’s TGA, the US Food and Drug Administration and other international experts, CSL is yet to establish the root cause of the association between its 2010 Fluvax vaccine and the unexpected increase in febrile reactions. Investigations are continuing.”

The Fluvax brand is no longer being used in Australia for vaccinating children under five.

Last week, Saba was back in hospital again. Ward 9a, Room 12. Lying next to her on a single pull-out plastic mattress was her dad. Whenever she’s in PMH, Mick Button does the night shift and then heads off to work in the morning, for Kirst to take over.

Mick reckons he gets some sleep but it’s doubtful. For almost 10 minutes, unbeknown to Mick, I look through the door at father and vacant-eyed daughter. If she dribbles he gets up and wipes her face. If she slips down the bed, he gets up and makes her comfortable again. Even if she’s lying peacefully, he still gets up and nuzzles her face, kisses her cheeks and whispers in her ear, to remind her that she’s NEVER alone. Never, ever. And she never will be.