No, "vaccine reactions" didn't kill several children in Mexico

As much time and effort as I spend deconstructing, refuting, and otherwise demolishing the misinformation that is routinely promulgated about vaccines by the antivaccine movement, it's important never just to reflexly dismiss a claim or news story that gains traction among antivaccinationists. After all, it is always possible that the story is as the antivaccinationists represent it; possible, but not likely. Still, one must be careful not to be so close-minded that one leaps to dismiss a story just because of its source. That is skepticism, and it's a big difference—or at least should be—between skeptics and cranks.

A few days ago, I saw a story starting to bubble up from the antivaccine underground that was highly concerning. It started showing up on Facebook and Twitter, and then, as these stories nearly always do, ended up on that wretched hive of antivaccine scum and quackery, Age of Autism with a suitably alarming headline, albeit restrained for AoA: Two Mexican Infants Die 29 Hospitalized With Vaccine Adverse Reaction:

Below is a story that is a somber reminder of why we fight for vaccination choice. Vaccines carry serious risks. Regardless of the reason for this medical tragedy - if we ever know, was it tainted product, a deadly combination or something else, we believe parents should have the right to say no to a vaccine for their child. And that pharmaceutical companies should bear liability.

AoA is referring to this story, which was being reported by CNN Mexico and various other news outlets. The English version reports:

Two babies Simojovel rural communities, Chiapas, were killed and about 30 required medical attention after receiving vaccines, according to the evidence, triggered an allergic reaction.

The Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) and launched an investigation to identify the cause of the facts, and sent a delegation of officials, experts and representatives of other government agencies such as the Federal Commission for Protection Against Health Risks (COFEPRIS) and the National Center for Health of Children and Adolescents (CeNSIA).

The federal agency has suspended the application of preventive vaccine batches that have caused the damage.

Residents of the towns of La Pimienta, San Jose and San Antonio del Monte, in the municipality, said Friday morning went to the premises of the Rural Hospital of IMSS-Prosper program of the town, where the doctor Roberto Calvo León applied to vaccines under age basic picture.

Each child, in total 52, received three doses: BCG (Tuberculosis), Rotavirus and Hepatitis B.

According to these testimonies, after being vaccinated, at least 25 infants fell asleep and did not wake up until 12 hours later.

Two others died and no longer reacted. This is a child of 28 days old, and a girl 30 days old.

It sounds pretty bad, doesn't it? And, make no mistake, it is. Any time children become ill or die, it's bad, regardless of the cause. However, as I read these news stories, I couldn't help but get the nagging feeling that there was something wrong here. It would be odd indeed for so many infants to be sickened from the same batch of vaccine if there was nothing wrong with the vaccine and it was causing an "allergic reaction," as the news story reported. Not surprisingly, though, "natural health" and antivaccine websites were all over this. For instance, NaturalBlaze asked why there was so little media attention to the story (a curious question given that there have been quite a few news stories about this incident) and engaged in—what else?—JAQing off:

Is this lack of media coverage because vaccines are promoted as “safe and effective” and no one wants to tarnish that image?

Is the lack of media coverage because it would negatively impact efforts to make vaccines mandatory and affect the profits of vaccine manufacturers and various other stakeholders?

It is crucial that the international community be informed of these deaths and of the fact that these vaccines have as of now been suspended in Mexico. It is an essential part of the universal right to informed consent.

As always, the ever-reliable Mike Adams cranks the crazy up to 11, as he is so good at doing, asking Depopulation test run? 75% of children who received vaccines in Mexican town now dead or hospitalized? and declaring:

As globalists now fully realize, vaccines are by far the best way to cull the human population because most people can be tricked into lining up and asking for them. Thus, there's no need to resort to all the difficulties used by the Nazis to commit genocide in World War II, involving complex logistics of railroad cars, gas chambers, construction of mass graves, prisoner tracking via IBM computing technology, and so on. (Yes, Nazi genocide and prisoner tracking was powered by early IBM computers. See IBM and the Holocaust, the strategic alliance between Nazi Germany and America's most powerful corporation...)

As the vaccine industry has now come to realize, it's so much easier to kill people when they voluntarily comply with the injections. Hence the aggressive media propaganda push to achieve absolute blind obedience to vaccines so that no one will ask questions when sterilization or euthanasia chemicals are used. That's no doubt why vaccines have been routinely tested for depopulation programs via two primary methods:

# 1) Achieve covert sterilizations of targeted populations by combining sterilization chemicals with vaccines. (The "slow kill.")

# 2) Directly kill vaccine recipients by intentionally lacing vaccines with euthanasia chemicals that cause death. (The "fast kill.")

Yes, Mike Adams is a such a lovely man, isn't he? The great thing about his various conspiracy ramblings is that they don't have to make any sense or even be internally self-consistent. For example, one thing that never made sense to me is why vaccine manufacturers would want, in essence, to kill their customers. I've discussed why the various conspiracy theories claiming that vaccines are laced with chemicals that cause infertility before more times that I can remember. Such conspiracy theories were ridiculous when they first emerged in the Phillipines in the 1990s; they were just as ridiculous when Muslim clerics insinuated that the polio vaccine was a plot to sterilize their women, and remain ridiculous in their most recent incarnation in Africa, where Kenyan Catholic bishops and doctors have promoted the idea that the tetanus vaccine is really a contraceptive designed to sterilize their young women.

It makes even less sense that vaccine manufacturers would make vaccines laced with euthanasia chemicals. I mean, seriously. How stupid does Adams think his readers are? (Plenty stupid, I bet.) How long would people keep letting their children be vaccinated if they died in large numbers after being vaccinated? Think about it. It's going to be a hard, painful slog to regain the trust of the parents in Chiapas to allow their children to be vaccinated after this incident. As I said, though, internal consistency and logic were never among Mike Adam's strong suits.

Neither is patience. Antivaccine activists were so anxious to proclaim these deaths as being due to adverse reactions to vaccines that they didn't take the prudent course, which is to wait until the investigation has been done. Had they done that, they would now know that these hospitalizations and deaths were not due to adverse reactions for vaccines. Rather, as has been reported in the Mexican press, they were due to bacterial contamination. In other words, these babies died of sepsis or were hospitalized for sepsis, not adverse reactions from a vaccine, and their symptoms were entirely consistent with an overwhelming bacterial infection.

What I wonder now is this: How did this happen? Was there a problem with refrigeration after a multiuse vial had been used? It seems unlikely that this would account for so many babies being infected, because there aren't enough doses in a multidose vial to infect so many children. It seems more likely that the fault occurred at the manufacturing plant, although it's also possible it was a local storage issue that allowed bacterial colonization and overgrowth. Of course, this is all speculation on my part, given that we do not yet have any definitive evidence telling us what happened. Indeed, we don't even know yet (as of my writing this last night) which species of bacteria contaminated the vials.

Don't get me wrong here. I am not in any way minimizing the tragedy that has occurred. Children are dead. Many more were hospitalized, some requiring mechanical ventilation. A full and complete investigation is required urgently to determine what went wrong and how these vaccines became contaminated with bacteria. That was the problem, not some general problem with vaccines inherent in their design that led to severe adverse reactions. It is a distinction that will be lost on people who so fear and distrust vaccines that they view them as inherently dangerous and useless, who are so eager to blame vaccines for every ill suffered by children that they will gladly leap on any story that they think they can use to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt about vaccines.


More like this

Reminds me of when the anti-vaccine community erupted over alleged vaccine deaths in Syria. It turned out that there was nothing wrong with the vaccines. Rather, it was "user error"; the vaccinators mixed up vials.

Right but AoA commenters are shrieking about corporate executives as per usual.

And Mikey's tiresome resort to de-population plots by lord-know-who : seriously if, for some uncanny reason**, governments-corporations- evil doers- whomsoever really WANTED to decrease populations in poorer regions wouldn't an easier alternative to child murder be donating free birth control, free education or other less messy options?

Because we know that women who use birth control and/ or have more education have less children as a matter of course.

Visible dead babies as a planned effect certainly will not win
many ardent followers in your quest for world domination while setting up schools might.

** I'm sure one of the anti-vax braintrust would counter with, " OH yeah! But what if Gates wants them to have less children so the parents could be better off financially and then able to buy his products and still eat?"

Like that would be a bad thing.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

Isn't this the complication that thiomersal was supposed to prevent?

I wonder if Thimerosal could have reduced the bacterial contamination? Not sure if that would have helped but if so, there is some sad irony in there.

@MikeMa - yes, that would be terribly ironic.

I'm about an hour away from my last final exam. Though I carry with me a lot of sadness over "lilady", I'm going to grab that exam and knock it out of the park.

That said, I've been in contact with two people in Mexico (one a friend and another a colleague). It seems that the part of Mexico where this happened (Chiapas, on the border with Guatemala) is the kind of place where power is not on 24/7. Here's the Google Map of the county seat:

There seems to have been issues with the cold chain. Three vaccines were given: BCG (against TB), rotavirus, and Hep B. Their initial assessment is bacterial growth with toxin contamination in the Hep B shot. That is, bacteria grew and produced toxin, then they died from overgrowth. The signs and symptoms are compatible with either sepsis (an overwhelming bacterial infection), toxic shock (from the toxins in the vials), or a severe allergic reaction to the bacterial antigens and or the toxin... Or a combination of all these things.

To make matters worse, the families of the dead children do not want autopsies, as it is their custom to bury their dead almost immediately after they die and there are no good facilities where they died to perform a proper autopsy.

I'd like to blame the antivaxxers for pushing so hard to take out thimerosal from the vaccine, thus requiring the need for refrigeration, especially in the most isolated parts of the world. The common American antivaxxer sits comfortably in an air conditioned home with an overflowing refrigerator. To them, these situations of no 24/7 electricity are not their problem. To them, these dead and injured children are better off than being autistic, as has been their continuous campaign that autistics are dead or missing or stolen or gone.

But take it all with a grain of salt, as these are communications from colleagues in the field with very limited resources. We'll never really know the counterfactual to all this.

And now, an "A" in Geostatistics for Public Health, for "lilady", and, in a way, for these kids.


Thanks for the update. It's very hard to investigate these things sometimes.

Good luck on the final!

Another way that the anti-vaxx conspiracy mongers contradict themselves is to simultaneous claim a cover-up, when in fact every major news organization covered this.

And consider this: is there any other way these 2 babies could have died that would have gained any media attention at all? Unlikely. This shows how rare serious vaccine reactions are that merely the possibility the occurred is international news.

I wonder if any of the many wackos who said that this deaths were the fault of Dr. Paul Offit will now apologize. Actually, I don't wonder that for one second. Being an anti-vaxxer means never having to say, "I was wrong."

Of course it was problem with the cold chain or with simple (careless) contamination of a multi-dose vial. As you and I discussed briefly, Rene and as I mentioned on Twitter, this is an aberration and not a problem with "vaccination." And this is also not worthy of thousands of words of anti-vaccine essays.

Suggesting that thimerosal is the only adequate preservative abrogates your responsibility as scientists and absolves the manufacturers of making certain they are making their medicines and vaccine to be the safest that they can be.

By Jay Gordon (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

@Jay Gordon

Of course, it doesn't help matters at all when anti-vaxxers protest any and all preservatives and do not offer solutions to the problem they perceive.

Thimerosal was safe, by all the evidence that we have. To argue otherwise is counterfactual.

@Jay - no one is saying that Thimerosal is the "answer." Only that it is a known and safe preservative that might have prevented this from happening.

"Suggesting that thimerosal is the only adequate preservative abrogates your responsibility as scientists and absolves the manufacturers of making certain they are making their medicines and vaccine to be the safest that they can be."

Dr. Jay, please let us know who has suggested that it is the "only" adequate preservative. Anyone who deals in absolutes in matters of science has questionable scientific credentials.

(I'm so rocking an "A" on this course.)

Given that thimerosal in vaccinations has not actually been demonstrated to be problem, why devote large sums of money to find a replacement? I mean, I think there *are* alternatives, but they are no better or worse and I don't think unreasonable fear is a good selection basis. That's like why I have to pay so much more for my inhalers now that patent-expired CFCs are no longer allowed, so I have to fork over a bunch of cash for brand-name HFC inhalers that gum up after a few dozen uses and need regular cleaning just to function properly.

Can you tell I just refilled my prescription? :-/

All that aside, I think rotavirus is a live vaccine. If so, preservatives would be inappropriate; you have to rely on refrigeration then.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

Suggesting that thimerosal is the only adequate preservative abrogates your responsibility as scientists and absolves the manufacturers of making certain they are making their medicines and vaccine to be the safest that they can be.

That would only be true if the presence of Thimerosal represented an actual problem. Since it does not, your point has no merit.

In fact, since Thimerosal was only removed due to the fear-mongering of anti-vax crusaders, it would easier to say that you, and others of your ilk, have abrogated your responsibilities as a doctor and a scientist.

By Daniel Welch (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

Their initial assessment is bacterial growth with toxin contamination in the Hep B shot. That is, bacteria grew and produced toxin, then they died from overgrowth.

Indeed, the hepatitis B vaccines themselves contain purified proteins that cannot possibly be infectious, and the vaccines are thimerosal-free.

Isn't it still just speculation that they actually got those three vaccines and not some other drug in some type of mix up? It sounds like they got sick fast, which would be more unusual for an infectious process.

By Vincent Iannelli, MD (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

Let's not forget that there have been mixups before with these vaccines, including a mixup between the diluent for the BCG vaccine and pancuronium, which killed an infant in the past. The hepB vaccine doesn't use a diluent, but at least one rotavirus vaccine does. Is a mixup still more likely than contamination?

By Vincent Iannelli, MD (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

I agree with the value of preservatives to prevent this kind of thing.

However, it seems like a serious problem if the cold chain is broken down or known to be inadequate, and vaccines requiring refrigeration are being delivered to these areas anyway. Would there be any good reason to proceed if the vaccines were likely to have been improperly stored?

By Sara Lucy (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink


The article Orac linked to notes that bacterial contamination was detected, but the type of bacterium has not been determined.

"Suggesting that thimerosal is the only adequate preservative abrogates your responsibility as scientists and absolves the manufacturers of making certain they are making their medicines and vaccine to be the safest that they can be."

So what, exactly, is unsafe about thimerosal, Jay?

Quite a few major news outlets did report on the initial story, as has been said. What's sad is that I've seen none of them update or follow-up on the story now some actual facts are known.

This is always the problem with science and the media: real science necessarily moves too slow to be interesting

By (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

It was not some anti-vaccine "woomeister" who insisted that thimerosal be removed from vaccines.

It was "Dr. Vaccine" himself Dr. Neal Halsey "[C]hairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on infectious diseases from 1995 through June 1999"

Thimerosal in the quantities we used to use was dangerous and remains a relatively risky component of a very few vaccines. The drug companies could do better…

By Jay Gordon (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

Don't rule out plain 'ol murder. People in this region have been at odds with the Mexican government and with corporate interests for a very long time.
It is also possible that the children received counterfeit drugs, which are common in Latin America. Check W.H.O stats on this.

Thimerosal in the quantities we used to use was dangerous and remains a relatively risky component of a very few vaccines.

DR. Gordon, your evidence that at expousre levels achievable as a consequence of routine vaccination, thimerosal engenders greater risk than remaining vulnerable to the infectious diseases vaccines protect against would be...what, exactly? Be specific.

For anyone interested in reading about Dr. Halsey's role in the removal of thimerosal, it's covered extensively in Paul Offit's "Autism's False Prophets." Specifically, in the chapter entitled "A Precautionary Tale."

Thanks for the info. That makes sense and certainly has biologic plausibility. Maintaining the cold chain takes vigilance - sometimes going into you office late at night to check on a power alarm - and careful documentation.

I'm wearing my vaccine tie in honor of Lilady today.

BTW "Only a sith deals in absolutes"

By Rob Cordes, DO (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

Re #23
The New York Times also solemnly informed us that KAL 007 was shot down over Soviet territory by mistake, stating that the world-famous outline of the 747 aka Queen Of The Skies was easily mistaken for a military aircraft.

The pilot of the fighter stated that he know it was a civilian 747 and had been ordered to shoot it down. They hastened the shoot-down because it was just barely over the former Japanese territory which FDR ceded to the Soviets, but did not hasten quite enough. When the 747 was hit, it was in international airspace.

The New York Times is not credible within its core competency, news/politics. I doubt they have suddenly become a reliable sourced regarding science.

By Spectator (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

*knew it was.

Pleeez, can we have an edit function...

By Spectator (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

Has anyone bothered to check whether Mexico itself has eliminated thimerosal from its vaccine formulations? I'm a bit busy at the moment.

@Dr. Ianelli

I got the info from someone on the ground. They're going with sepsis/toxicshock/allergy because they've checked other things. That's not to say anything has been ruled out, but the theory of bacterial growth in the vials is gaining strength.


"The article Orac linked to notes that bacterial contamination was detected, but the type of bacterium has not been determined."

IK and I have read some others. Guess I am just not convinced yet. And as much as folks are talking about thimerosal, there is a good chance, I would think, that they were still using multidose vials with thimerosal for the hepB vaccine.

By Vincent Iannelli, MD (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

I used to work in a public health location that had a very high percentage of immigrants from Chiapas. Wonderful people, who cared very much about taking every advantage of the health care available to them. They were on time to every appointment and made sure their children got all their vaccines on schedule, much more so than the native English speaking parental population, and this despite their obvious economic and educational disadvantages (Spanish wasn't even their first language).

I am sure that nobody was forcing this population to get vaccinated, rather, this is a group of people who, in my experience, *want* the opportunity to get immunized. It is terrible that the resources were there enough to get the vaccines to them, but not sufficient to keep them at a safe temperature throughout their transport and administration. I am also waiting to see if this batch had any preservatives or if they were getting the Thimerisol-free first world imports to their detriment.

Claiming government murder is outrageous and stands in the way of advancing real beneficial progress in administering public health to rural areas of the world. I hope we can get to the bottom of this and learn some things that will save other children from encountering a similar problem in the future.

@ren #7

I would like to amplify your remark about people sitting in air conditioned comfort with well stocked refrigerators vice desperately poor people without such luxuries.

Time and again, smug little busybodies gloat over the suffering of poor people safely far away. They may weep crocodile tears, pretending sympathy, but in fact they care only that they have a fresh set of pawns to sacrifice towards achieving their goals.

By Robert L Bell (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

News flash: _Science_ magazine 2015 May 08 reports that immunosuppression from "natural" measles is broad-spectrum and lasts 2-3 years. Thereby making kids more susceptible to other infections, some of them life-threatening. Vaccinated kids suffer no such immune suppression.

"Our data provide an explanation for the long-term benefits of measles vaccination in preventing all-cause infectious disease. By preventing measles-associated immune memory loss, vaccination protects polymicrobial herd immunity."

The implications of this are profound. Parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids against measles, and who think that "natural measles" confers "natural immunity," are setting up their kids for further disease risk in addition to measles. And they are also setting up their communities at-large for greater disease risk via their own kids as vectors.

Next up: someone needs to do similar research on the effects of "natural" chicken pox, mumps, etc.

As Orac said: poison ivy is "all natural" too.

By Gray Squirrel (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

#35 "Vaccinated kids suffer no such immune suppression." This is no where stated in the study,
Citation please

#35 My children and grandchildren had the MMR.
My children and grandchildren are fine but I still would not advise anyone about vaccines. It's between them and their pediatrician.
Here is another summary of the report.

#35 “Vaccinated kids suffer no such immune suppression.” This is no where stated in the study,

...Except where the authors conclude that

MV infection and vaccination produce strong and durable herd immunity against subsequent epidemics (40). Our results thus suggest an extra dynamical twist: MV infections could also reduce population immunity against other infections in which MV immunomodulation could be envisioned as a measles-induced immune amnesia (17); hence, measles vaccination might also be preserving herd protection against nonmeasles infections. [my emphasis]

Perhaps we are not reading the same study.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

As was suggested above, I also suspect it was the dilutant.
Dilutants, such as sterile water, come in a vial that can be easily contaminated under less than optimal conditions and moderately easily be contaminated under optimal conditions via incorrect practices.
Unlike vaccines, dilutants aren't usually refrigerated and outside of a clinic are essentially culture mediums awaiting an inoculation of spores. Once contaminated, one is incubating that culture while moving from location to location in a rather warm environment, which is ideal for bacterial growth.

So, questions to be asked was, were dilutants utilized, if so where and how?
Are disposable needles and syringes used? If not, what is the treatment protocol for used needles and syringes? Are they segregated from clean needles and syringes? What processes are utilized to sterilize and clean the reusable needles and syringes?*

*I go on about reusable, as when I started in military medicine, we still utilized glass syringes and reusable needles. It's quite easy to make an error that results in a contaminated syringe or needle entering use.
One can improperly clean the reusable products, one can utilize improper procedures (such as time, water quantity in the autoclave and one can improperly handle the now sterile needles and syringes.

The first rule that the antivaxers forget is, never attribute malice to that which is more easily explained as incompetence.
For, malice is actually rare, screw-ups are regrettably common.

Of course, this is also true.
Once I thought I was in error, but I was merely mistaken.

Thimerosal in the quantities we used to use was dangerous and remains a relatively risky component of a very few vaccines.

Jay, I'll see your NYT and raise you a Clarkson. Make a meaningful toxicological case or blow it out your ass.

Jay Gordon,

Thimerosal in the quantities we used to use was dangerous and remains a relatively risky component of a very few vaccines.

You're a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, aren't you? Perhaps you missed this paper (PDF) published by the AAP last year:

Overwhelmingly, the evidence collected over the past 15 years has failed to yield any evidence of significant harm, including serious neurodevelopmental disorders, from use of thimerosal in vaccines. Dozens of studies from countries around the world have supported the safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines. Specifically, the Institute of Medicine, and others have concluded that the evidence favors rejection of a link between thimerosal and autism.

Careful studies of the risk of other serious neurodevelopmental disorders have failed to support a causal link with thimerosal. In May 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics retired its 1999 statement on thimerosal after evaluating new studies. [...] Had the evidence that is available now been available in 1999, the policy reducing thimerosal use would likely have not been implemented. Furthermore, in 2008 the World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed the use of thimerosal in vaccines.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink


Jay's just a fellow of the AAP so he can puff up his credentials. He doesn't actually read or listen to what they have to say.

Wzrd1, I doubt very much if syringes or needles intended to be reused were involved. Outside of products for veterinary use, reusables have become scarce and remarkably expensive. Disposables, unless they have added safety features, are remarkably cheap (under 20 cents for a syringe with needle). However, most disposables are capable of withstanding autoclaving, so re-use is certainly possible. (I think sometime in the sixties, BD sold a package of disposable needles, intended for insulin injection, along with a single plastic syringe, essentially the same as a disposable but with durable markings, that the user would boil to sterilize between uses.)

Ordinary diluents, like water or saline, don't provide nutrients necessary for prolific bacterial growth, though the certainly can become contaminated. The vaccines themselves are probably sufficiently soupy to make them pretty hospitable to bacteria unless bacteriostatic preservatives are used. I looked at a couple of Hep B vaccine monographs. The one from Merck said that multidose vials should be discarded within 24 hours of first use, though the same monograph made no mention of the actual existence of multidose vials. For comparison, multidose vials of saline or water with preservative should be discarded 4 weeks after first use.

Vaccines are probably quite difficult to deal with in terms of bacterial or viral contamination. Some are suspensions, so visual inspection for cloudiness is a problem. You can't autoclave or irradiate them, leaving only filtration, which cannot guarantee sterility. The bulk batches can be sampled and cultured, but individual vials can only be "destructively" tested.

Pending further info, I think Orac's assessment that the problem likely originated with the manufacturer is most plausible. Manufacturing problems do occur. For example, Hospira, a major supplier of "general purpose" parenterals, has had all sorts of manufacturing problems requiring recalls over the past few years. I think they were all related to things like particulate contamination, rather than sterility issues, but I don't really know for sure.

I suspect it is going to be very difficult to "prove" exactly what happened, since the vaccine vials and syringes were likely long gone before any investigation could start. I don't think that problems with the "cold chain" are sufficient explanation. The vaccines cannot be frozen, so bacterial replication can't be stopped, just slowed. In order for there to have been bacterial toxins in the vials, there must have been bacteria there initially, or multiple multidose vials must have been contaminated after opening and then stored poorly for too long.

Genetic analysis is becoming a really useful tool for tracking origins of infections, but samples are necessary.

"News flash: _Science_ magazine 2015 May 08 reports that immunosuppression from “natural” measles is broad-spectrum and lasts 2-3 years." brownswizzel

What a load of medical peer review. I had mumps chicken pox rubella and measles as child and have never had them again!

Next they will be telling us that vaccines are good for us and have a healthy effect.

"In May 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics retired its 1999 statement on thimerosal after evaluating new studies" krebbypants

Yes someone had a 'quiet word' and back to business as usual

As a Medical Doctor in México, with close relationship with the doctors who are undergoing the investigation regarding this medical tragedy, I have information that in wasn't the complete batch of the vaccine the cause of the problem, it was just a single vial.
Also, the analysis has revealed that the children are infected with enterococcus, the same bacteria found in the vial used to vaccine them. This reveals that the problem is a mishandling of the vial, not the content of the vaccine itself.

It is a real tragedy, but this shows that it was a human error, not a reaction to the vaccine.

By Edgar Ramírez (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

ANOTHER BLINDER from a man with the wit of a three-legged chair.

By Eddie Unwind (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

(...meaning the author of this post.)

By Eddie Unwind (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

(...Master Orac.)

By Eddie Unwind (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink


Explain in detail. Please present what the error was and provide verifiable documentation to support your answer.

'BLINDER' is simply a euphemism for astonishment, and may be taken one way or the other.

By Eddie Unwind (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

Sorry, since you used all caps it was hard to read "blinder", I saw "blunder."

You seem to be easily surprised. Why is that? Do you find yourself getting excited when someone dangles string in front of you?

Apology accepted, my friend.

By Eddie Unwind (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

Ren, Robert Bell, where I work, we call that "the tyranny of the healthy."

I understand that there were some deaths from bacterially contaminated vaccines many years ago, when Thimerosal was removed due to public protest.
I cannot help but wonder if this /these vaccines were thimerosal free??

By Evelyn Haskins (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

‘BLINDER’ is simply a euphemism for astonishment

I'm somehow disinclined to take usage advice from someone who doesn't know what "euphemism" means.

It's ok that you don't know what it means. A euphemism is an indirect expression substituting something considered too direct or not quite appropriate for the point being made. Hence it is frequently employed as a form of irony.

By Eddie Unwind (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

It (a euphemism) is more commonly recognized as something pertaining to situations that are too horrible to put into words, hence for example English soldiers using the term 'Gerry' (or 'Jerry' if you prefer) to substitute 'Germans' during WWI and II. But literally speaking, the definition for euphemism allows for a degree of poetic license that exceeds these circumstantial parameters.

By Eddie Unwind (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

What's the first law of holes, Eddie?

Dig 'em and wait...

By Eddie Unwind (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink


Thanks for that information, Doctor Ramirez.

I suppose the vanishingly low S/N is the reason I failed to note the affront to Fowler that leads this one off.

Have you managed to work out the site's de facto IQ test yet?

Thanks for that information, Doctor Ramirez.

What Brian said.

^ Except for the question how many doses are in a vial.

How do we even know the bacteria was in the vaccine? How do we know it wasn't contaminated needles, or poor procedures in the hospital?

Yes, how many doses in one vial?

I haven't looked at the subject extensively, but most of the vaccines for which I have seen info have no more than ten doses in a vial, so I am a bit dubious about the claim that a single vial was involved.

For a vial to be seriously contaminated after manufacture, it would need to be "opened" with a contaminated needle, then "incubated" for some time to allow sufficient bacterial multiplication.

It is customary to wipe the closure of the vial with an alcohol swab before entry with the needle. From several videos I've seen, standard practice is horrible - just a perfunctory swipe. Alcohol is not all that great as a bactericide and some exposure time is required. Even with fully sterile needles and syringes, there is opportunity to contaminate the vial contents.

I'm really surprised that the vial in question was still available for testing by the time the kids became ill.

Duran, you're incorrect in your belief that no one here is aware that there are adverse consequences associated with routinely scheduled childhood or seasonal flu vaccination.

It's just that we are also aware that those which are common are both transient and minor (e.g., low grade fever, soreness at the site of injection while those that are serious (e.g., encephalopathy) are all but vanishingly rare, such that the risks associated with vaccination are far, far less than the risk associated with remaining vulnerable to infection.

For example, the absolute risk of narcolepsy associated with Pandremix--a seasonal flu vaccine no longer used and never used in the US--is about 3 excess cases of narcolepsy in every 100,000 adolescents/children vaccinated. (see…)

"Yes, how many doses in one vial?"

Many of the children that were taken to the hospital were taken there because their parents freaked out after seeing the ones that got very sick. We call this the "worried well." They were released soon after being admitted. I don't blame the parents, though. They see a few children get sick after getting the same vaccines that their children got, and they would also freak out.

I don't know if it was the translation or what but there's some really awkward phrasing in there. Especially this: "Two others died and no longer reacted."

So, please explain again why the antivaxxers and Adams are so far in the wrong for speculating about the causr, but it's perfectly acceptable for you to do the same?

Wait........... I thought big pharma wasn't curing cancer because it wanted to leave lots of customers sick all the time to make all the money, but now I read they are trying to kill the customers with one short injection. Make up your minds people.

Sanofi Pasteur BCG vaccine, as available in Canada, is in vials of up to 30 doses for infants, 15 doses for persons 1 year or older. Since a dose is 0.05 mL or 0.1 mL and 1.5 mL of diluent is supplied, the actual number of doses would be smaller, due to dead-space loss in syringes and needles (can be very low with some designs).
The vaccine is freeze-dried and must be used within 8 hours of mixing. No preservative is listed in the diluent. Contamination at time of mixing could certainly lead to problems, but unless the contamination was quite gross, anyone vaccinated very soon after mixing would probably be OK while those vaccinated hours later would be at considerably greater risk.

A PDF from WHO has some interesting info on vaccine packing and cost comparisons.

As far as I can tell, the requirements for cold storage prior to first-opening are entirely for maintenance of potency, and not for control of bacterial growth. The storage temperatures, typically about 2-8°C, simply are not adequately low to limit bacterial multiplication to "safe" levels for more than a few days, at most, except for very temperature-sensitive species.

its true! some one must be lying
A) Big pharma wasn’t curing cancer because it wanted to leave lots of customers sick all the time to make all the money.
B) Big pharma is trying to kill the customers with one short injection.
. . . . . . Make up your minds people.
the next one will be saying that alien mastermind kill babies brain with shots to take their internal organs or some bullshit like that..
.oh wait they already said that one!

By renansoria (not verified) on 16 May 2015 #permalink

I don’t know if it was the translation or what but there’s some really awkward phrasing in there. Especially this: “Two others died and no longer reacted.”

Yah. The actual text* is "De acuerdo con dichos testimonios, luego de ser vacunados, al menos 25 recién nacidos se adormecieron y no despertaron hasta 12 horas después. Otros dos ya no reaccionaron y fallecieron." I'd put that closer to "two others were nonresponsive and passed away."

So, please explain again why the antivaxxers and Adams are so far in the wrong for speculating about the causr, but it’s perfectly acceptable for you to do the same?

There's a certain difference between screaming Vaccines Kill Again!!! and trying to sort out what actually happened based on the available information. AoA also seems to be under the impression that the NCVIA extends to Mexico.

* The Spanish and English links in the post are different stories.

Duran, you’re incorrect in your belief that no one here is aware that there are adverse consequences associated with routinely scheduled childhood or seasonal flu vaccination.

One might note that the link is simply a reposting of another Adams piece, which carries an incorrect headline and is a year out of date (likely explaining why he didn't link to the source).

The decision was reversed on appeal* and is still in the courts.

* Yeah, yeah, find your own source, then.

"Sanofi Pasteur BCG vaccine, as available in Canada, is in vials of up to 30 doses for infants, " are you kiddin

Why on earth is anyone still using the BCG? Of all the vaccines out there, this one scored minus on its efficacy big time.

"Duran, you’re incorrect in your belief that no one here is aware that there are adverse consequences associated with routinely scheduled childhood or seasonal flu vaccination." Nobred

Well in a way, - they are totally in denial about their evidence base failure, field failure and also their ability to engage in any discussions that demolish their poorly held fallacies.

The article and post are just a circle jerk of propaganda. Have fun boys while you can, since nobody believes your lies anymore. Do you feel oh so clever that you are assisting in the death and harm of innocent lives? What type of depraved humans enjoy depopulation?

By Eric McKillop (not verified) on 16 May 2015 #permalink

I see that Philip Hills* still can't figure out who the fυck he's "quoting." And that he has slunk right away from his moronic "challenge."

Have another quart or two of scrumpy, Phildo.

* Hope Osteopathic Clinic Essex, Rotary Club Thurrock Gateway, Brentwood Catenians.

johnny @79:

In case that's a serious question, they are still using BCG in limited contexts because, flawed though it is, it is the best TB vaccine out there. The choice isn't between BCG and some better but possibly more expensive vaccine, it's between BCG and nothing at all.

Health authorities in Mex confirmed bacterial contamination which was consistent with sepsis.

#81: "What type of depraved humans enjoy depopulation?"


Adventitious Agents and Vaccines

What, pray tell, do you "think" that abstract has to do with the topic at hand?

Eric McKillop: "Do you feel oh so clever that you are assisting in the death and harm of innocent lives?"

Prove it. Provide that it was not bad handling of the vaccines. Give us the documented details that the cold chain was not broken.

#87 Off topic on vaccine safety.
It appears that the cause was exogenous in the Mexican tragedy.

In the deepest, darkest corner of the internet I came across this.

Don't worry, it is safe for work, but not necessarily safe for your reason.

After doing a whole bunch of WTF's, I LOLled.

Mexican health authorities say bacterial infections, and not contaminated vaccines, were responsible for the deaths of two infants and the sickening of 31 other babies earlier this month in the southern state of Chiapas.

I'm sure Age of Autism will get around to featuring this news as a follow-up to their May 12 article on the deaths of those children that served as "a somber reminder of why we fight for vaccination choice" once they get around to showcasing the fact that Hewitson's latest primate study from the former Thoughtful House shows that the 1990s vaccine schedule, an accelerated and rather high dose version of the current schedule, MMR, and thimerosal do not cause adverse neurodevelopmental issues. (They did, after all, prominently feature earlier articles related to Hewitson's failed earlier primate work.) There's just so much to cover, like, um, oh, "Disease-Mongering as Militarized Trojan Horse for Globalization and Surveillance."…

The NYT report still leaves several questions. It is not at all clear to me just exactly what was contaminated. I am still very inclined to reject any claims about problems with cold storage except as may have occurred after opening of the vial(s), if indeed that is where the contamination existed.

Anyone who reads Spanish up for looking for some better details?

Sorry, SquallMX, I didn't see your post at 91. The Wikipedia article seems to suggest that the culprit was bacteria on the kids' skin. "External" is still too vague. Perhaps more rigorous skin prep is warranted.

The IMSS press release is here.

'[E]l análisis de COFEPRIS determinó que la vacuna no estaba defectuosa y no perdió su cadena de frío. Por lo tanto, la contaminación bacteriana se dio durante el procedimiento de manejo y aplicación de la vacuna.... Los estudios moleculares realizados demostraron que el Staphylococcus hominis aislado en los diferentes pacientes fue el mismo, es decir, que la bacteria provino de una sola fuente de contaminación."

There was no issue with the cold chain, and they conclude that there was a single point of contamination.

^ It doesn't look there's a whole lot of intraspecies variability to be had in the first place, though.

So tell me , If you question the safety of a car are you anti car?

By Joan Campbell (not verified) on 08 Jul 2015 #permalink

If you can provide valid criticism of the car or its components, that's fine....if you are fear-mongering based on faulty information, then you are an idiot.

@Joan Campbell

If you claim that there is no such thing as a safe car, that they are all death traps waiting to steal your children away, and that they cause all manner of implausible health problems, then yeah, you might be anti-car.

Ms. Campbell, I question the safety of measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hib, hepatitis, polio and a few other diseases. Do you disagree?

If you claim that cars don't work and that magic carpets are actually a safer and more reliable mode of transport, you might possibly be considered anti-car.

Also a nut.

Ms. Campbell, to finish the car-safety analogy to antivaccinationism, you'd need to question the safety of a car and then insist that you thus have a right to walk in the traffic lanes of busy freeways.

This article ends by saying that fear is the tactic used by anti-vaccs, but isn't fear the same thing used by pro-vaccs? Just sayin'... either way, it's valid fear on both sides. I made sure my kids got their vaccs according to the recommended schedules for their time because I was literally afraid they'd be susceptible to those diseases and I believe they do more good than harm. But, I did so knowing full well that there is risk, but I believe the risk of death and severely-injured-risk to be rare (this is not exactly a clear cut number, now that I've tried to find the answers to what "rare" means)... but, I gotta say, I did fret over it. It's fearful no matter what you do. It's like getting on an airplane... there's a really good chance you'll make it to your destination safely, but if the plane goes down, there's a really good chance you won't live. I would never judge anyone negatively for not wanting to fly, nor would I judge those who are willing to fly... so why would anyone dis the critcs of vaccinations or those who don't vaccinate and why so vehemently support their usage? Either way it's a chance... that's life. And yeah, those administering & manufacturing the vaccs could f it up, maybe they really should be administered separately (spaced apart over time), maybe the kids immune systems were already weak from something else... so many speculative scenarios with questions that really are not really answered. Concerns ignored.

And if it is true that these babies died from bacterial infections, or sepsis, could it have been that their immune systems did not respond properly to the possible TB bacteria in the immunization for that particular one? It's really speculation, as some of the other possibilities pointed out in this post are, by the author's admission... But, the debate will go on and anti vaccers will feel vindicated and pro-vaccers will remain in denial and defensive every time there is a problem with a vaccine. Either way, and no matter what the real root cause is in any of these occurences, each side will have it's own interpretation and it just all sucks for the poor kids and their families. At this point, the truth in the whole debate won't really matter. It is what it is, but each side will just go on believing whatever it wants to believe.
I think the anti vaccs have valid concerns and it's good that they are there acting as watch dogs to keep the vaccine makers & the med industry somewhat accountable, while the watch dogs on the pro vacc side are doing everthing they can to get people to go ahead and vaccinate, likely preventing all kinds of disease outbreaks.
Is it a turbulent balance with a middle ground that no one will ever be happy with, or is one side really right? I just don't know on this one... it's not so black and white to me.
But, I am sick of postings full of accusations charged with anger written by people on a mission to tear apart the other side... I have doubts that either side can step away from their beliefs and look at this thing objectively. I wish there were more objective articles on this topic. It's fine to take a stance, but everyone needs to look at this objectively rather than just go with the side they've chosen as this author has obviously done and will, by admittance, continue to do so no matter what happens and as the other side will do as well.

Is there anyone else out there who feels this way, or is everyone on one side or the other?

Science-based vaccine supporters admit there is risk and there are vaccine injuries. Vaccines are continually monitored after administration for efficacy and any bad outcomes (i.e., a contaminated batch to recall or immunity waning before expected). If you follow research you will read about them changing disease strains, etc., etc.

I am a layperson. This is just what I am learning from what read. Yes, vaccines are not perfect. There are reactions to them very rarely. The most common ones are not dangerous and are self-limiting (pain and redness at the injection site, maybe low grade temperature). Doctors offices are prepared for a bad allergic reaction to a vaccine. The other very rare ones are tragic and why the vaccine court exists.

Recently in the Kansas City area, a woman was severely vaccine injured. The vaccine caused encephalitis and left her needing round-the-clock care. She and her husband had been planning to go on a several month foreign adventure. The husband went public with it not to frighten people, but to educate them. He calmly gave them the statistics of the likelihood of her reaction, the number of vaccines they had received without incident, and said they were and remained strong supporters of vaccines as one of the most economical, safest medical procedures available to modern man.

The problem with vaccines is that we don't see the diseases they prevent often enough to fear the diseases anymore, and the internet and even credulous journalists and entertainers have made sure that we hear their speculation regarding vaccines and autism/Aspergers/learningd disabilities or vaccines and autoimmune disorders (including asthma, diabetes, etc.). Better yet, when they put every single disease out there (I have seen advocates include ADD/ADHD as vaccine injury, and cancer, MS, CP, Lou Gherig's, etc.) in the list as caused by vaccines, suddenly the world and vaccines really are a very scary place.

The risk of harm from a vaccine, as far as I know, is always less than the risk of harm from the illness it is vaccinating against. I know meningitis scares me to death, and when they offered me that for my son I couldn't say yes fast enough. Not sure if it was required or optional. Chicken pox had just come out after he was born and even his pediatrician wasn't totally excited about it, but it was required by kindergarten and he hadn't gotten it yet, so we got the shot.

Is that "real" enough for you?

Good Lord: the antivaxxer goons are still dead-threading this one? Keep flogging that horse, guys, it may yet leap to its feet and win the Preakness,

By Robert L Bell (not verified) on 16 Jul 2015 #permalink

But, I did so knowing full well that there is risk, but I believe the risk of death and severely-injured-risk to be rare (this is not exactly a clear cut number, now that I’ve tried to find the answers to what “rare” means)…

Actually, the numbers are pretty clear cut, with clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance allowing us to characterizwe the incidence of adverse events associated with vaccination. This in turn allows us to dtermine relative risk--the risk associated with being vaccinated versus the risks associated with remaining vulnerable to infection.

For example, encephalopathy is one adverse event associated with MMR vaccination: the vaccine is seen to be associated with one excess case of encphalopathy for every 1 million people vaccinated. Measles itself, on the other hand, is associated with one excess case for every 1 thousand people infected.

That's a difference of three orders of magnitude: clearly ifyou're concerned about your risk of developing encephalopathy, you want to make sure your up-to-date with respect to MMR vaccination.

Regardless of how bad the vaccine lot was the fact remains that the vaccine caused the death. People are deceased and died a horrific death. The hepatitis b vaccine is contaminated with DNA polymerase. It has been for decades. The vaccine manufacturer has no incentive to create a safe, effective, or uncontaminated vaccine. They can't be sued when the child dies or is permanently disabled from the bad vaccine product.

By Tammy Martino … (not verified) on 17 Jul 2015 #permalink

Regardless of how bad the vaccine lot was the fact remains that the vaccine caused the death.

Let's have some fun.
Regardless of how bad the [beef mince] was the fact remains that the [spaghetti bolognaise] caused the death.

The hepatitis b vaccine is contaminated with DNA polymerase. It has been for decades.

Citation needed.

The vaccine manufacturer has no incentive to create a safe, effective, or uncontaminated vaccine. They can’t be sued when the child dies or is permanently disabled from the bad vaccine product.

Wrong on both counts. Rotashield was withdrawn after a possible increased risk of intusucception (I hope that's correctly spelt). Manufacturers can be sued for failures in the manufacturing process.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 21 Jul 2015 #permalink

"Tammy Martino dpm, rph"

We certainly do attract antivaxers with degrees, but what do they mean? Defender of Phony Medicine? Rationalizer of Pseudoscientific Hooey?

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 21 Jul 2015 #permalink

They can’t be sued when the child dies or is permanently disabled from the bad vaccine product.

If the death or disability is claimed to be the result of a manufacturing defect, they can still be sued.

And if not thre.s no need to sue the manufacturer to receive compensation: the plaintif can instead seek redress through the NVICP, a much, much more plaintif friendly environment than are civil courts (all the plaintif's legal fees win or lose will be covered by the court, they'll have to prove their case to a much lower standard of evidence, and in fact in better than 90% of all compensated cases plaintiffs have not had to prove their case at all since damages were awarded for table injuries where there is no necessity the claimed injuries be proven to have been caused by vaccination).