India has a surge of children with paralysis. The causes are not hard to identify: the oral polio vaccine and redefinition of polio-induced paralysis to “acute flaccid paralysis”. The result of this fiasco is a plan to give non-live polio vaccines—and it comes at huge cost, negating the reason for using the oral vaccine.
Polio, often thought of as synonymous with paralysis and disability, has been given a new name in India. It is now known as AFP or acute flaccid paralysis. This and the fact that cases of polio caused by the oral polio vaccine (OPV) are not being reflected as polio have ensured that India is into its second year of “polio free” status. After this charade is maintained for one more year, India will be certified by the WHO as “polio free” and will be showcased as a success story of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative that was launched in 1988 by the World Health Assembly.
Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980. According to medical researcher Professor William Muraskin, the experts involved in this exercise were looking for another opportunity to flaunt their skills. When they chose polio many eyebrows were raised. Polio was not on the priority radar of the countries where this exercise was to be launched. These developing nations were struggling to provide basic health needs. India, for example, is incapable of providing clean water, sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition for a majority of its population even 65 years after Independence. [Please see HEEALS for an on-the-ground organization in India dealing with this issue. –Editor]
Furthermore OPV was chosen to be the only weapon to eradicate polio. Dr T Jacob John pointed out that this vaccine, consisting of live viruses, is notorious for causing vaccine induced polio. Because those vaccinated tend to shed the virus in their stool, it can mutate into a virulent form, causing paralytic polio in others, even leading to polio epidemics.
Dr. Anant Phadke and C. Sathyamala argued that it is not possible to eradicate polio, a disease primarily of poor sanitation and nutrition, with a vaccine. Polio-like paralysis can also be caused caused by other factors. DDT and other pesticides, exposure to lead and arsenic, and vaccinations can trigger paralysis. Thus a holistic approach was needed to tackle the disease.
Medical textbooks reveal that exposure to polio viruses rarely results in paralysis. More than 95% of those exposed will show no symptoms at all. Of the rest, many will exhibit symptoms resembling a common cold, a few will suffer temporary lameness, and fewer than 1% will exhibit permanent paralysis. Exposure to the polio virus is actually the best immunity against viral polio. It offers permanent immunity to more than 99% exposed to it. According to Dr Yash Paul, those who become permanently paralyzed may have some inherent susceptibility that should be investigated.
Dr. Phadke pointed out that smallpox and polio eradication are two entirely different things. Polio viruses can infect children without causing any external symptoms and thus remain in circulation. He alleged that it was for the benefit of the developed nations, who could stop their vaccination programs once the wild polio virus was eradicated worldwide, and for the manufacturers, who were promoting the program because the OPV was discontinued in the developed countries due to its risks, that the polio eradication strategy was launched. This eradication effort, costing over 1.2 billion rupees, has broken the back of the Indian health system.
The National Polio Surveillance Project data show that the polio eradication program has increased paralysis among children—from 3,047 cases yearly in 1997 to 61,038 cases in 2012, most now being classified as AFP instead of polio. The Government does not reveal how many of these cases are due to the vaccine. It was observed in 2005 that, against 66 cases of polio caused by the wild polio virus that year, 1,645 were caused by the vaccine. Data reveals that those vaccinated are 6.26 times more likely to be paralyzed.
Many mutated virus strains are running loose in India. In Japan, after three months of use, 16 extremely virulent strains of the vaccine viruses and 78 strains in total were found in sewage and in its rivers. India has been using the vaccine since 1978, intensively since 1997, and one cannot even imagine how many virulent strains could be circulating in this country that is devoid of basic sewerage disposal and sanitation facilities.
Why are more than 60,000 children in India becoming paralyzed every year? Dr Neetu Vashisht has analyzed that the cases of AFP in India are directly proportionate to the number of doses of OPV given, implying a relationship. Taking into consideration the normal AFP rate, it has been deduced that in 2011, India has suffered 47,500 extra cases of paralysis. Studies have shown that death rates in children with AFP are twice as high as the death rate among children with polio paralysis.In Brazil, a study has implicated this vaccine in cases of Guillain Barré Syndrome, transverse myelitis, and facial palsy. Thus the claim of the Government that these cases of paralysis have no relation to the vaccine merits extensive investigation.
In April 2004 a memorandum was submitted to the WHO, UNICEF and the Government of India by Prof. Debabar Bannerjee and other eminent doctors pointing out that the WHO inflated 32,419 cases of polio to 350,000 to justify the program. The definition of polio has been changed repeatedly since the program was launched, thus automatically leading to a drastic fall in the number of cases. A significant number of children declared polio-affected by the polio virus were sufficiently vaccinated, and that children were being rendered paralytic directly due to the vaccine.
The memorandum also pointed out that polio eradication was not possible in India, as the vaccine viruses had mutated into virulent strains and were circulating. In August 2006, the Indian Medical Association reiterated the above and called for identifying the unfortunate victims and compensating them.
Today, throwing all caution to the wind, children are being given an unprecedented 50 doses of the vaccine and even those who should be medically exempt are being vaccinated. Dr Puliyel reveals that a synthetic version of the polio virus with a formula called ‘CHNOPS’ makes a mockery of the eradication effort.
Dr Pushpa Bhargava points out that polio was already on the decline even before the eradication effort began. Polio in India was concentrated in a few pockets of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which accounted for 96% of the cases reported. Improving sanitation and nutrition in these areas, along with routine rounds of the relatively safer inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), would have drastically reduced polio without taking resorting to the chicanery that has resulted in an unprecedented toll of disability in children in all parts of the country.
Hidden in the packet inserts of the OPV is an ominous statement saying that the vaccine has not been tested for causing cancer or infertility. The presence of untested monkey viruses, and phenol and polysorbate 80, both of which are endocrine disruptors, in the vaccine raises concerns. It is also known that the vaccine virus strains can lie latent in the body and cause polio decades after administration.
India is now preparing to launch the much costlier IPV all over the country, which will require money and trained manpower at a scale that it currently does not have, to counter the vaccine viruses in circulation. The wild polio viruses, which actually conferred immunity to children, are now no longer widely prevalent, leaving future children exposed to unexpected epidemics. The so called benefits of polio eradication have eluded this indebted country and its children face an uncertain future. It is important that lessons from this misadventure be learnt to oppose future assaults on the children of our country.
Editor’s Note: One must also ask how much these expenditures in vaccination have taken from true life and health preserving practices, such as bringing clean water and sanitation to people.