Dr Paul “for profit” Offit, measles and the BBC

While parents in Wales worry about their children’s health during a measles outbreak, an American “measles expert” is given masses of publicity by the BBC and other British media outlets with his claims the MMR vaccine jab should be made compulsory in Britain. Who is Dr Offit?

The BBC reported “As a measles epidemic in south Wales continues to spread at an alarming rate an expert has said mandatory vaccinations should be considered. Dr Paul Offit, a US-based measles expert, told the BBC that mandatory vaccinations in America had prevented similar outbreaks”.

But we must ask, before giving Dr Paul Offit airtime and credence, what checks have the BBC actually undertaken into the person they claim is an American “measles expert” and what checks into the current status of MMR vaccinations have the BBC made? Where do American Dr Paul Offit’s interests lie?

The BBC’s ‘measles expert’ Offit has already been labelled as Dr Paul “For Proft” Offit and he has stated he believes “an infant can safely receive up to 10,000 vaccines at once”. The BBC don’t tell us their measles expert Offit has already made “millions” of dollars profit from his ties to vaccines and the measles MMR vaccine maker Merck, nor do they tell us about the second court case filed last year in America regarding Merck’s MMR II vaccine.

In June last year it was reported that Dr Paul Offit’s friends at Merck are being taken to court for the second time over alleged fraudulent claims they make regarding their MMR II vaccine. Susan Humphries MD reported on the International Medical Council On Vaccination’s website:

“This is the story of the MMR vaccine and two Merck scientists who filed a lawsuit in 2010 over Merck’s efforts to allegedly ‘defraud the United States through Merck’s ongoing scheme to sell the government a mumps vaccine that is mislabeled, misbranded, adulterated and falsely certified as having an efficacy rate that is significantly higher than it actually is.’ Merck allegedly did this from 2000 onwards in order to maintain its exclusive license to sell the MMR vaccine and keep its monopoly of the US market.”

The Natural News website gives a concise summary of the vaccine business conducted by Merck and GSK in their article entitled “Big Pharma criminality no longer a conspiracy theory: Bribery, fraud, price fixing now a matter of public record”. So what are the BBC measles expert Dr Paul Offit’s ties to Merck and GSK?

In 2009 it was reported:

Offit, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, earned millions of dollars as part of a $182m sale by the hospital of its worldwide royalty interest in the Merck RotaTeq vaccine. The amount of income distributed to Offit could be as high as $46 million. Offit has refused to say how much he made from the vaccine.

The high price placed on the patents raises concerns over Offit’s use of his former position on the American CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to help create the “market” for rotavirus vaccine - effectively, to vote himself rich.”

Coincidentally, the Department of Health has just successfully created a £25m market for a rotavirus vaccine in Britain, to be used on babies within weeks of them being born. It was reported last November that the government hopes to roll out GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) new Rotarix vaccine program. Rotovirus is not known to cause deaths in British infants but to cause sickness and diarrhoea. From this September GSK’s Rotarix vaccine is to be given to 840,000 babies every year in Britain, which will cost around £25m. The Department of Health claim they “believe” it will save the NHS £20million.

But what the BBC did not report in their current measles stories is that Dr Offit, in his position of authority on the American Advisory Commitee on Immunization Practices, voted in 1998 for drug manufacturer Wyeth's ‘Rotashield’ rotavirus vaccine to be approved to be given to babies. Just a year after the approval of Rotashield, the vaccine was linked to an increased risk of a serious bowel complication called intussusception. It was quickly taken off the market. 

Dr Paul “For Profit” Offit was one of the members who voted yes three times to introduce this Rotashield vaccine (despite it not having FDA approval) and then abstained from the vote to suspend the use of the Rotashield vaccine despite the links to serious complications for babies.

An American government report, “Conflicts of Interest in Vaccine Policy Making”, was critical of the decision to introduce this vaccine in the first place “as it had not even been approved by the FDA” and noted that It is clear that the VRBPAC and the ACIP (the American body that approves vaccines) are dominated by individuals with close working relationships with the manufacturers of vaccines”. It went on to say “The end result was that a product was placed on the market that had to be withdrawn within one year because it was injuring the children it was meant to protect.”

Because of Offit’s and others’ votes to introduce Rotashield, this helped other rotavirus vaccines to be approved for use in America, one of which was GSK’s Rotarix.  This was suspended from the market when it was found to be contaminated with pig virus DNA. The American Food and Drug Agency found Merck’s RotaTeq vaccine, from which Offit had made considerable profit, was also contaminated.

The FDA stated when they announced the reinstatement of the Rotarix vaccine that they would continue to monitor both vaccines for continued problems with contamination

Did our MPs or the BBC do their homework on the rotavirus vaccines being monitored by the FDA in America?  Did the Department of Health read the latest update on Glaxo’s Rotarix announced by the FDA on 12Th September 2012, issued not long before the DoH announced the rollout of the Rotarix vaccine in Britain from this September? Because the FDA concluded from a GlaxoSmithKline Rotarix study in Mexico that, “as expected, because of the routine use of Rotarix in Mexico, most (698) of the 750 babies studied who developed intussusception had been vaccinated with 1 or 2 doses of Rotarix.” Intussusception is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the intestine gets blocked or twisted.  

This large scale study in Mexico did not include Merck and Dr Paul Offit’s RotaTeq vaccine. So far, studies into RotaTeq have not been large enough to rule out the level of risk of intussusception observed in the Mexican study into Glaxo’s Rotarix.  America’s Post Licensure Rapid Immunization Monitoring system (PRISM) is still evaluating Rotarix and RotaTeq to further evaluate the risk of intussusception following the administration of these vaccines. As it stands there is no evidence of RotaTeq being linked to intussusception, to be clear.

Despite the possible link to babies developing serious health problems and contamination of the major rotavirus vaccines the Department of Health has just approved Rotarix to be given to 840,000 British babies every year in Britain, with the vaccination programme due to be promoted by doctors in Britain within the next few months. 

What do the FDA now recommend regarding GSK’s Rotarix vaccine  on the back of the results of the Mexican study?

 “Parents should closely watch their infants for signs of intussusception, especially within the first 7 days after vaccination with Rotarix. These include, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, blood in the stool or change in bowel movements. It is important to contact the child's healthcare provider if the child has any of these signs at any time after vaccination, even if it has been several weeks since the last dose of vaccine.”

With the addition of Rotarix vaccine from this September, babies and children in Britain will now subjected to ten jabs and two oral doses of vaccine drops before the age of five with Department of Health claims that this is to protect them against 11 different diseases.

Should we consider this man, widely known as Dr. Paul “For Profit” Offit, to be an “expert” in vaccine safety when he champions contaminated vaccines and abstains from voting to remove a vaccine linked to a life threatening condition?

Should we trust Offit’s claims on the BBC that MMR vaccines should be made compulsory, especially when he has consulted for the MMR vaccine manufacturer Merck and has personally made considerable profit from Merck and vaccines? This is aside from the current court cases in America regarding Merck’s allegedly fraudulent claims about their MMR II vaccines.

Vaccine programmes are big business for Glaxo and Merck and make small fortunes for doctors like Dr Paul Offit. And with the British government and Offit now trying to expand the vaccine business in Britain while the Coalition has just removed all legal aid for medical negligence claims, this denies us recourse if they all get it badly wrong. British people will be denied access to justice of the type even America provides when vaccines cause harm.

It is important not to overstate the risks of vaccines and panics over immunisation can themselves lead to serious health problems for unprotected children. But equally, in such a delicate area it would be hoped that both the BBC and the Department of Health are doing their homework and presenting the public with the best possible options, information and disclosures. The BBC may wish to consider once again its choice of sources. But then again, on past evidence, it may not.

About the author

Mel Kelly is a systems analyst/programmer and mother of two.