The other day, I wrote about an unfortunate young woman named Desiree Jennings, who claimed to have had a rare neurological disorder known as dystonia as a complication of being vaccinated for seasonal flu, when it appears that her condition is likely to have at least a strong psychogenic component and is unlikely to be due to the vaccine. Despicably, the anti-vaccine group Generation Rescue tripped over itself to exploit Jennings’ case and use it as “proof” that vaccines are dangerous and, by extension, that their fantastical claims that vaccines cause autism are plausible. Even after questions were raised about Jennings’, yesterday Generation Rescue announced that it’s still supporting her and has even issued a press release saying so. They’ve even provided a link to a search of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) database for dystonia reported after vaccination.
That gave a blogger named Rene Najera at the Baltimore Disease Prevention Examiner an idea. Indeed, he may have found Jennings’ entry in the VAERS database, and, if it is indeed Jennings, it strongly suggests that her dystonia was not related to the flu vaccine. How did he do it? It was ridiculously simple. He noted that, as Generation Rescue claims, there are indeed 67 entries for dystonia in the VAERS database. However, only five of them since 1990 occurred after the flu vaccine. That’s a small enough number that allowed easy perusal of individual records after the initial search. One record appears to fit Jennings’ case. It described someone aged 18-29 who was vaccinated for seasonal flu in August and developed problems in September that led him or her to be admitted to rule out Guillan-Barré syndrome, lupus, or MS:
Pt. began experiencing difficulty walking, chills, sweats, tremors and vivid dreams with difficulty sleeping. She began having headaches described as a “”cold spot”" on the back of her head, had subsequently developed a stutter, but was able to speak clearly if she whispered. Her symptoms persisted and progressed to erratic movements of the toe, intermittent uncontrolled blinking, difficulty focusing, uncontrolled shaking, cold feet and sharp pains in the legs. Upon this admission the plan was to rule out GBS, MS, malignancy, Lyme and MG. Pt. noted to have dystonia, speech dysfunction, gait dysfunction, anxiety, SOB, photophobia, tinnitus in the left ear, and increase in appetite, a 2 lb. weight loss. It was also noted that the symptoms were worsened by warm water, especially at the knees. The admitting neurologist felt that there was a strong psychogenic component to the symptomology, and made a final diagnosis of weakness.
Is this Desiree Jennings’ VAERS database entry? It’s the only one that fits the timeline of what has been reported in the press about her. It is also the only entry in 2009 reporting dystonia after a vaccine. If it is, it’s seeming more and more likely that Jennings probably doesn’t have a “true” dystonia, but rather one with a significant psychogenic overlay. Once again, I have to emphasize that “psychogenic” does not mean “mentally ill” or “crazy.” Nor does it mean that she can control her movements or that she is not deserving of sympathy for her condition, even if she deserves criticism for how she is allowing her condition to be used by a band of ideologues who want to undermine our vaccination program based on their quasi-religious fervor that vaccines are evil.