Website editor’s note:  This article was written in 2011 for issue 2 of The NZ Journal of Natural Medicine. This issue may be purchased from this link or in PDF form from our online shop at this link .  All links were active at the time that this article was posted on the site but some may no longer be active.  In cases in which references are made to the NZ Ministry of Health’s “Immunisation Handbook”, these refer to the version that was available in 2011.

Editor’s Introduction

In the light of the recent temporary exclusions of unvaccinated and “partially” vaccinated children from some New Zealand schools due to other children who attended the same schools having cases of measles, I thought than an article about the measles and MMR vaccine was appropriate for this issue.  This article will look at the risks and benefits of natural measles infections, the MMR vaccine and the medical politics surrounding measles and measles vaccination.

What is measles?

Measles (also known as English measles or rubeola) is a disease caused by a virus.  Its first symptoms are a fever, often a cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis.  The rash usually appears about 3-4 days after the initial symptoms. Measles mostly affects children, although adults who missed out on getting measles in childhood can sometimes get measles as adults. In children in developed  countries measles is usually a mild to moderate illness, although some children do develop complications.  While the death rate from measles in developed countries is very low, the disease is, however, a significant cause of death in countries where poverty deprives children of adequate food and medical care.

Measles used to be an almost universal rite of passage of a New Zealand childhood, however, many children now miss out on having a natural measles infection during childhood because they are either vaccinated themselves, or are in an area where high vaccination rates, combined with quarantining of children who do develop the measles reduces the opportunities for children to contract measles in childhood.  As a result, there is a new generation of parents who have had little personal experience with measles who may be unfamiliar and fearful of this normal childhood illness, especially given the relentless, often factually inaccurate, propaganda from the Ministry of Health and other agencies that create and exploit parental anxiety about their children’s health as a way to increase vaccination rates.  (A good idea of the sort of mendacity of some statements made by paid vaccination advocates is a claim by the “Communications Manager” of the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) regarding the risk of death due to a measles infection. Theo Brandt made an attempt to rebut the press release “Coerced Vaccination Unacceptable” published on on June 13.  In his piece, titled “Response to No Forced Vaccines” Mr Brandt claims that in 1991 in NZ there were seven deaths from measles among the 7000 people who developed measles.  Actually, in that measles epidemic, according to the Ministry of Health’s own Immunisation Handbook (2006) there were an estimate 40-60,000 cases and seven deaths – but it appears that Mr Brandt does not want inconvenient facts to get in the way of his perpetrating the myth that measles would kill “one in a thousand” NZ children.)

The push to prevent measles

Measles has been targeted for elimination by the World Health Organisation, and the effect of this edict has been for countries in the Western Pacific, including NZ, to attempt to achieve high vaccination rates in a bid to eliminate the disease.  Whether measles elimination is achievable is questionable.  (Whether attempts should be made to eliminate is another question that deserves serious consideration, given that for children who have an adequate standard of living, the disease is usually benign – and infection in childhood usually confers lifelong immunity.  The obvious exceptions to this statement is the case of people who are at risk of complications and death due to immune deficiency, regardless of whether this is caused by malnutrition or because they are suffering from some sort of other life threatening problem such as AIDS, congenital immunodeficiencies or have cancer and are receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments.)

Measles vaccination appears causes most recipients to develop an antibody response that is sufficiently high that they are considered to be immune to the disease.  In practice, vaccination against the measles does appear to prevent the disease in many recipients.  However, over time, the level of antibodies gradually declines.  Based on projections that assume a progressive reduction in antibody levels over time, there are concerns that by the time vaccine recipients reach middle age, they will no longer be immune to the virus.  This could cause serious personal and public health consequences since adults who develop the measles are often more seriously ill than children.

The NZ Ministry of Health booklet “Immunisation Choices” (ISBN 978-0-478-19201-8) claims that “The duration of protection is lifelong in more than 96% of those vaccinated”.  This statement is completely unverifiable given that the MMR-II vaccine (to which this claim refers) has only been on the market since the late 1980s. Therefore, the duration of protection from measles infections following MMR vaccination is unknown.

In the shorter term, there have been plenty of cases in which teenagers and adults who were vaccinated as babies or young children have developed measles infections as their vaccine induced immunity has waned.

Herd Immunity?

According to the theory of herd immunity, vaccinating a sufficiently high proportion of the population will result in the extinction of a disease because the very few people who are unvaccinated (and are therefore considered to be susceptible to the disease) will be such a small minority in the community that they will not get the infection because virtually everyone else they know will be vaccinated and therefore immune – so there will be no one from whom they can catch the disease.

Herd immunity sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t work so well in practice.  (From my assessment of pro-vaccination articles and advertisements in the NZ media, herd immunity is gradually being re-branded as “community immunity” or “community protection”.  Perhaps the authorities have cottoned on to the fact that intelligent people don’t like think of themselves as being one of a herd.)

Regardless of the term used, the fact of the matter is that high vaccination rates do not necessarily create “herd immunity”.

Even very high measles vaccination rates do not appear to be able to prevent measles cases, thus eroding evidence for the existence of herd immunity, as these reports illustrates.

“An outbreak of measles occurred in a high school with a documented vaccination level of 98 per cent.”
– Nkowane BM, Bart SW, Orenstein WA, Baltier M. Measles outbreak in a vaccinated school population: epidemiology, chains of transmission and the role of vaccine failures.  Am J Public Health 1987 Apr;77(4):434-8

“This outbreak demonstrates that transmission of measles can occur within a school population with a documented immunization level of 100%.”
– Measles outbreak among vaccinated high school students–Illinois.  MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 1984 Jun 22;33(24):349-51

“Eighty-seven laboratory-confirmed or clinically confirmed cases of measles were identified…The measles vaccination rate was 94.2%, and 10% of the students had received two doses of measles vaccine before the outbreak.”
– Sutcliffe PA, Rea E.  Outbreak of measles in a highly vaccinated secondary school population.  CMAJ 1996 Nov 15;155(10):1407-13.

One study in the 1990s that found that an average of “77% of all measles cases in these outbreaks occurred in previously immunized students”.

The authors wryly concluded:

“The apparent paradox is that as measles immunization rates rise to high levels in a population, measles becomes a disease of immunized persons. Because of the failure rate of the vaccine and the unique transmissibility of the measles virus, the currently available measles vaccine, used in a single-dose strategy, is unlikely to completely eliminate measles. The longterm success of a two-dose strategy to eliminate measles remains to be determined.”

For what it’s worth, I might add that in my opinion, that a two dose MMR schedule is not likely to be any better than one dose of MMR vaccine in preventing measles long term. The reason that I say this is that  if you google the following link and open the graph   http://archpedi.ama  you will see that

– The first graph at this link show that 75% children in kindergarten (this is an American study, so the children would have been aged 5-6 years) who have had one dose of MMR vaccine have a a sufficiently high measles antibody titre to be considered immune to measles, while another 24% or so percent have an antibody titre considered to be at a “medium” level that means that they are deemed to be “potentially susceptible to infection but not to disease”.

The series of graphs also illustrates that after a second dose of MMR vaccine, mean antibody titres rise higher, and some of the children who had been classified as having a “medium” antibody titre had now developed a “high” titre.  However, to quote from the study:

“beyond 6 months [after the second dose of MMR vaccine] titers were not significantly different from pre-MMR2 levels (Figure 1).”

The study also states that even with routinely using two dose of MMR vaccine, 33% of the children in the study were expected to have antibody levels sufficiently low that they could be susceptible to the measles twenty years after the second dose of MMR vaccine.

If results from a two dose schedule are similar in NZ, this could mean that by their mid-20s, about a third of adults who have been vaccinated according to the current recommendations of the Ministry of Health (one dose of MMR vaccine at  age 15 months and a second at 4 years of age) could be vulnerable to measles infections.  Considering that mid-late twenties is around the time that many women begin having babies, the thought that such a large proportion of those who were vaccinated as children would be vulnerable to measles during pregnancy is not very comforting.

Nonetheless, radio advertisements are currently playing in NZ urging people to get their children vaccinated because only 16 out of 20 children are vaccinated against measles – the text of the ad implying that those who are unvaccinated are putting everyone else at risk.

Mothers and babies at risk

An unintended consequence of measles vaccination programmes have been to create a new generation of infants who are vulnerable to the measles.  In the pre-vaccination era, most  mothers had a natural infection in childhood, and developed lifelong immunity.  Periodic contact with other people with measles in regular epidemic years helped to maintain a high antibody level into adulthood.  This meant that pregnant women were almost always immune to measles and were not susceptible to developing the disease during pregnancy, when measles infections can cause miscarriage, premature labour or stillbirth.

Now, many younger mothers have missed out on a natural measles infection during childhood, and their vaccine-induced immunity may have waned.  This may leave them vulnerable to developing measles during pregnancy.  Moreover, mothers who have only low levels of measles antibodies themselves cannot pass high levels of measles antibodies to their babies via the placenta.   They are therefore unable to give their babies the same benefits of passive immunity to the measles for the first year of life as can mothers who have had a natural measles infection.  Lacking this passive immunity, young babies are now vulnerable to the measles at the age at which the disease can be most serious.…-a013468542



According to the NZ Ministry of Health about 30% of people who develop the measles develop some sort of complication.  For the most part these are not serious, such as diarrhoea and ear infections that can be treated at home given appropriate professional advice.  According to IMAC, about 6% of people with measles develop pneumonia.  This is certainly a serious complication, and in the rare (in developed countries) occasions when complications from measles cause death, the death is usually the result of pneumonia. Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) is very serious possible complication, as it can result in death in about 15% of those affected and about half of those who survive may have lasting brain damage.  The NZ Ministry of Health states that the risk of encephalitis from measles is one in one thousand; however the risk may be lower than that for New Zealand children.  In the 1997 measles epidemic there was one measles  (disease-related) case of encephalitis while there were over 2000 reported cases, and in the 1991 epidemic when there were an estimated 40 – 60,000 cases of measles there were ten cases of “hospitalised measles encephalitis”, according to the Immunisation Handbook.  Regardless of the actual risk, encephalitis is a condition that should not be trifled with, but treated promptly if there is any suspicion that it may be developing.   Other possible complications listed in the Immunisation Handbook include bronchiolitis, sinusitis, myocarditis, mesenteric adenitis, hepatitis and immune thrombocytopenic purpura. (No frequency is given for these.)

Another potential complications of measles is SSPE (subacute sclerosising panencephalitis).  This is fortunately very rare  – the Ministry of Health booklet Immunisation Choices puts the frequency at 1-4 cases per 100,000, IMAC puts the risk at 1 in 100,000.  This disease develops slowly in the years following a measles infection and destroys brain tissue, resulting in death.  (SSPE can also follow measles vaccination, although the stated risk of SSPE after vaccination, according to one MMR vaccine manufacturer, is lower at one in one million.)

Treatments for measles

The NZ Ministry of Health likes to create the impression that there are no treatments for measles other than supportive treatments such as rest, fluids and paracetamol.

Parents of children at Oratia School in West Auckland were advised in a letter from the Auckland Region Public Health Service that “There is no specific treatment for measles.  Supportive treatments include rest, plenty of fluids and paracetamol for fever.”

This is unfortunate because  while rest and plenty of fluids are very important there are other treatments for measles – in fact, vitamin A is a standard treatment for measles given at Auckland’s Starship Hospital.

Moreover using paracetamol to reduce the temperature of a child suffering from measles is poor advice that may  increase the risk of complications. This is because reducing the fever can reduce the efficiency of the immune response to the virus. (Aspirin should never be given to children since there is a risk of Reyes syndrome which is potentially fatal.)

A recent review of the use of antipyretics (fever-lowering drugs) stated:

“Antipyretics may be harmful…

Too many parents and health workers think that infection is bad, infection causes fever, and that therefore fever is bad. In fact, fever is often a beneficial host response to infection, and moderate fever improves immunity. Therefore, it may not be a good idea to give drugs that reduce temperature to patients with severe infection. I have recently reviewed the results of 9 controlled trials in mammals of the effect of paracetamol or aspirin on mortality or virus excretion. Four trials found that aspirin increased mortality in bacterial or viral infection. Viral shedding was increased by paracetamol or aspirin in 3 studies, possibly increased in one, and not affected in two (one used only pharyngeal washings, and one had only 9 subjects in the aspirin and placebo groups). One study found that antibody production was impaired by both paracetamol and aspirin, but no effect on antibody production was detected in the study with only 9 subjects in the aspirin and placebo groups. This evidence suggests that aspirin and paracetamol increase mortality in severe infection, and that they may prolong the infection and reduce the antibody response in mild disease.“  [Emphasis added]

NB:  If you have paracetamol in the house it is also important to be mindful of the fact that paracetamol can be fatal in overdose and to keep all products containing paracetamol (especially the attractively flavoured syrups) out of reach of children.  (In the event of accidental overdose, prompt treatment in hospital with the antidote n-acetyl cysteine is usually lifesaving.  The patient requires treatment as soon as possible after the poisoning event – even if s/he does not yet appear to be unwell.)

Orthomolecular (Nutritional) Treatments for Measles

Vitamins A and D

It was reported in the British Medical Journal as early as 1932 that a cod liver oil concentrate containing vitamins A and D reduced mortality in children who had been hospitalised due to measles.

Another study in the 1930s found that children hospitalised for measles who given vitamin D or a combination of vitamin A and D did not have a lower death rate than children given the standard treatment.  However, those given vitamin D were less likely to develop pneumonia than the children given both vitamins A and D  or standard treatment.  (Most of the deaths among hospitalised children occurred in those who already had pneumonia at the time of their admission to hospital.)

The lower rate of pneumonia among children who were given vitamin D supplements may possibly be able to be explained by new research that shows that vitamin D can increase production in white blood cells of one of the antimicrobial compounds that help to defend the body against viruses and bacteria.

More recent research has focused on giving large doses of vitamin A. High doses of vitamin A have been shown to reduce the risk of death in children aged less than two years who have this illness. (Measles is usually a mild-moderate illness in otherwise healthy children in developed countries; however, in countries where children often suffer from malnutrition, measles can be a significant cause of death.  Children in developing countries who survive measles may become blind due to acute vitamin A deficiency.  Acute vitamin A deficiency can result in blindness because without vitamin A the body cannot synthesise the pigments necessary for vision.   (Over the years I have spoken to two adults – who would have had had the measles as children in the 1960s (in NZ) –  who told me about how terrified they were when they temporarily lost their vision while they had the measles. Fortunately their vision returned in a couple of days or so.)  Children who are vitamin A deficient can develop corneal lesions following the measles that have the potential to cause permanent blindness if their vitamin A deficiency is not treated.

Vitamin C

Measles is listed in Curing the Incurable by Thomas Levy, MD (ISBN 1-4010-6963-0 ) as being “Curable and Preventable” with vitamin C.  The book includes some of Dr Klenner’s case histories including that of an quick and permanent recovery of a child suffering from measles encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).  Dr Klenner gave his patients very high doses of vitamin C by injection.   Prompt treatment of encephalitis, regardless of the cause is important since the condition may result in death or survivors may be brain damaged.  Giving vitamin C supplements orally is a common home treatment for infections and is very safe for people with normal kidney function as any excess can be safely excreted.  However people who have certain rare genetic conditions such as glucose-6-dehydrogenase deficiency, thassalemia or sickle cell anaemia who cannot tolerate high doses of vitamin C – and are at risk of serious, potentially fatal side effects. (Blood tests can be used to determine whether or not someone has these or similar conditions.)  High doses of oral vitamin C in anyone can in some cases cause osmotic diarrhoea which can be managed by reducing the dose until the bowel movements are better formed.

Parents who are interested in their children being treated with nutritional medicine should consult a health professional such as a naturopath or doctor who has training in nutritional medicine so that doses of nutrients can be tailored to their child’s age and weight.  While vitamin C (with the exceptions mentioned above) is very safe even at very high doses (as any excess can be safely excreted) some vitamin C products may contain excipients such as aspartame (additive 951) which is carcinogenic can cause other adverse reactions in many people.   Moreover vitamins A and D are fat soluble and stored in the liver and excessive dosages have the potential to cause toxicity.

Vitamin deficiencies are not limited to children in impoverished countries; a study carried out by Starship paediatrician Cameron Grant found that “12 per cent of Auckland toddlers aged from six months to two years do not have enough vitamin A” and ten percent were vitamin D deficient.  Twenty-five percent of young children in the study were found to be iron deficient which is also a concern given that low iron levels can increase susceptibility to infections and adversely affect a child’s cognitive development.

NB:  While iron is important, supplementation should not be given without professional advice as too much iron is toxic and giving iron supplements during an acute infection may increase the risk of developing a bacterial secondary infection.

The article at this link by Hilary Butler contains more information about measles and vitamin A.


MMR vaccination

The MMR vaccine usually used in NZ is MMR-II manufactured by MSD, however according to IMAC there was a temporary change over to GSK’s Priorix from March 28, 2011 until  31 July 2011, or earlier if GSK vaccine stocks are used up earlier.  The GSK Priorix MMR vaccine has a different strain of mumps virus from the MSD’s MMR-II.

Update added July 14, 2018:  According to Pharmac, the MMR vaccine now used in NZ is GSK’s Priorix.  (See:

Regardless of the manufacturer, MMR vaccines contain live “attenuated” (weakened) measles, mumps and rubella viruses.  They are not recommended in pregnancy and MSD warns that MMR vaccination of breast feeding mothers may result  in their excreting  live rubella viruses into their breast milk that could cause infection in a nursing infant.

“Immunisation Choices” claims that there are five “severe risks associated with MMR vaccine”: Febrile convulsions (said to occur at a rate of one convulsion per 3000 vaccinations); thrombocytopaenia (low platelets); encephalitis (stated to occur in one in a million); joint symptoms (said to occur in 0-3 per 100 children); and aseptic mumps meningitis (said to occur in one in 800,000).

These are some of the side effects of the MMR vaccine (MMR-II brand) according to its manufacturer  (Merck & Co/MSD).


Burning and/or stinging of short duration at the injection site.”


“Body as a whole: Fever (101°F [38.3°C] or higher).”

“Skin”: Rash, or measles-like rash, usually minimal but may be generalised. Generally, fever, rash, or both appear between the 5th and the 12th days.”

Adverse events following MMR vaccination classified as “rare” by MSD include:

Sore throat, malaise, atypical measles, syncope, irritability, vasculitis, parotitis, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, regional lymphadenopathy, Pneumonia, pneumonitis, cough, rhinitis. thrombocytopaenia, purpura, Erythema multiforme, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, vesiculation at injection site, swelling, pruritis. allergic reactions such as wheal and flare at injection site, anaphylaxis and anaphylactoid reactions, arthralgia and/or arthritis (usually transient and rarely chronic [see below]), myalgia, Febrile convulsions in children, afebrile convulsions or seizures, headache, dizziness, paresthesia, polyneuritis, polyneuropathy, Guillain-Barré syndrome, ataxia, aseptic meningitis (see below) measles inclusion body encephalitis (MIBE) Forms of optic neuritis, including retrobulbar neuritis, papillitis, and retinitis; ocular palsies, otitis media, nerve deafness, conjunctivitis, epididymitis, orchitis, panniculitis.

“Encephalitis/encephalopathy have been reported approximately once for every 3 million doses. In no case has it been shown that reactions were actually caused by vaccine. The risk of such serious neurological disorders following live measles virus vaccine administration remains far less than that for encephalitis and encephalopathy with wild-type measles (one per two thousand reported cases).”

MSD does not define “rare” in the datasheet.

This link has the side effects that the MMR’s manufacturer admits may follow vaccination with the MMR vaccine.  If there are terms that are unfamiliar to you, you may wish to look them up in this free on-line medical dictionary

NB:  The MMR vaccine currently (2018) used in NZ is GSK’s Priorix and the data sheet for this vaccine may be accessed via the following link on Medsafe’s website:

MMR and Anaphylaxis

“Immunisation Choices” does not give a specific figure for anaphylaxis following MMR vaccination.  However, on the page of this booklet where anaphylaxis is discussed, the risk is stated to occur only on very rare occasions.  This appears to be true for a first MMR shot.  For primary MMR vaccination, according to the British Medical Journal, the risk of anaphylaxis no higher than one in 20,000 and may be lower.  (See: Cuts F. Revaccination against measles and rubella. BMJ 1996: 312:589-590 )

For children receiving a booster dose of the vaccine, the risk of anaphylaxis appears to be much higher again. School age children vaccinated in  New York reported that five children of 2,789 who had received an MMR booster shot developed anaphylaxis. (Fortunately all survived thanks to the timely administration of epinephrine and diphenylhydramine.)  This equates to an anaphylaxis rate of 1 in 558 children. This is a far cry from less than 1 in 1,00,000. (See:  Kalet A, Berger, DK, Bateman WB, Dubitsky J, Covitz K Allerigc reactions to MMR vaccine Pediatrics 1992; 89: 168-9 )


Is a second dose of MMR vaccine necessary?

Parents who want their children to be vaccinated against measles with the MMR vaccine may want to consider their child having only one of the two MMR shots recommended by the Ministry of Health.  According to the IMAC “Protection following a single dose [of MMR vaccine] occurs in 95% of vaccine recipients and is durable in most people”

Assuming that this is correct, it means that 95% of people who have a second MMR shot don’t actually need it and therefore are risking the side effects of a second shot for no apparent benefit.

This has implications beyond anaphylaxis, as children who have had a bad reaction to a first MMR shot may have their injuries compounded by a second shot. This was the case for British boy Josh Edwards who reacted to his first MMR injection with diarrhoea, followed by constipation (moving his bowels only once a week) and regression into autism.  Following his second shot at the age of four years, Josh again developed diarrhoea followed by even worse problems with constipation and his autism worsened significantly.  Over the next few years he developed such severe bowel disease to the point that he had to have his entire colon removed.  (Josh’s story, as told by his mother Heather, may be read in Silenced Witnesses  edited by Martin J Walker, available from  An article by Josh’s mother, Heather, may also be read at this link )


MMR vaccination for people who have anaphylaxis to eggs

MSD which makes the MMR-II states that in the case of people who have an anaphylactic reactions to eggs may be at risk of having an anaphylactic reaction to its MMR vaccine, given that embryonated hens eggs are used in its manufacture. To quote from its datasheet:

“The potential risk to benefit ratio should be carefully evaluated before considering vaccination in such cases.  Such individuals may be vaccinated with extreme caution, having adequate treatment on hand should a reaction occur.” [emphasis added]

However, Immunisation Choices states that “recent research states that the vaccine can be given the vaccine under close supervision.”


MMR vaccines:  The abortion connection

The MMR vaccines used in NZ are MMR-II (Merck/MSD) and Priorix (GSK).

In both MMR-II and Priorix the rubella viruses in the vaccine are cultured in a cell line derived from tissue from aborted foetuses.  The MMR-II uses “WI-38 human diploid lung fibroblasts” while in Priorix “MRC5 human diploid cells” are used as the culture medium.  This is not advertised by the Ministry of Health even though the use of these cell lines in vaccine manufacture should be included in information materials so that parents (and adults) can decide whether they find it acceptable to use a product which uses abortion-derived materials.

This issue also highlights the importance of being able to make free and informed choices regarding vaccination, since in the case of this vaccine, refusal to use it may be due to religious and/or personal opposition to abortion.  Freedom of religion is an important right and one that we need to cherish.


MMR vaccine as a possible cause of cancer

To quote from the 2006 version of the Immunisation Handbook produced by the NZ Ministry of Health:

“Some vaccines (eg, rubella) are grown in cells of human origin. The source of some of these cells was a fetus aborted for medical reasons in the 1960s*. By a process of repeated cultivation it is possible to produce an ‘immortal’ self replicating group of cells known as a ‘cell line’. A cell line is similar but not identical to the original cell, and apart from the origin of the cell there is no connection to any fetus. The cell line can be maintained indefinitely in the laboratory and provides a safe and standardised medium for growing vaccine viruses. Whether vaccines are grown on cells of human or animal origin, whole cells are not in the final vaccine. Once the virus has been cultivated in cells, it is separated from all cellular material. It is possible that minute traces of cellular material might remain in a vaccine, but not whole cells.”

(*There is some question as to whether this statement is correct.  The foetus concerned was apparently aborted for social reasons according to )$File/2006-immunisation-handbook-all.pdf  (Page 369)

Leaving aside the ethics of using tissue from aborted foetuses to create cell lines for vaccine production, the use of “immortal” cells in vaccine production is risky because these cells share one of the characteristics of cancer cells; namely that they continue replicating indefinitely.  According to Leonard Hayflick, PhD “cultured normal human diploid cells have a finite capacity for division”.

Hayflick’s discovery that normal foetal cells in culture divided between 40 and 60 times (the “Hayflick limit”) before entering a senescence phase overturned a previously held biological dogma that normal cells in culture were immortal.

Hayflick later went on to discover that there were some human cells that were immortal in culture; however, they were not normal cells:

“We showed that the only immortal cultured cells are those that are abnormal and frequently have the properties of cancer cells.”

The US FDA is currently investigating whether residual DNA (in vaccines that use neoplastic cell lines as culture media) could cause cancer, so the fact that the human diploid cell cultures may share “the properties of cancer cells” is not just of academic interest, but has profound public health implications.

To quote from the FDA’s wbesite, the agency conducting research to find out whether  DNA from neoplastic cell lines used in vaccine production “can be a source of cancer-causing activity and infectious microorganisms”.

DNA sequences from the neoplastic human diploid cells used to produce the rubella viruses in the MMR vaccines are likely to be present in the MMR vaccines used in NZ.  Most parents making decisions about whether or not to have their child vaccinated with the MMR probably have no idea that the the FDA is conducting research as to whether or not residual DNA present in viral vaccines that are cultivated in neoplastic cell lines can cause cancer or is a potential source of infection.

If it does turn out that the MMR vaccines do contain carcinogenic DNA sequences, the current government goal of vaccinating 95% of children with this vaccine will be seen to have been misguided, to put it nicely.


MMR vaccination and autism

One of the reasons that many parents decide against MMR vaccination for their children is the link between this vaccine and autism. Although there are many other potential causes of autism other than the MMR vaccine, there was a dramatic increase in the frequency of this condition since the introduction of MMR vaccines. (See April 2010 newsletter of the Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute available from

Autism is now estimated to affect 1 in 100 New Zealanders.  Not everyone who is diagnosed as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will have been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.

There are a number of theories why many previously healthy children who have been developing normally regress into autism following MMR vaccinations.

1)  Chronic infection of the bowel with the measles vaccine virus from the MMR vaccine

The most famous research in this area has been carried out by Dr Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues who were the first to publish  a case series of children who developed regressive autism.  In most of the children in the case series, their behaviour had been normal prior to MMR vaccination. Their subsequent research found that the measles vaccine virus could be recovered from the bowel of children suffering from post-MMR regressive autism, as well as inflammatory bowel disease that they called “autistic enterocolitis”.  The inflammation caused by the chronic infection caused by the measles vaccine virus and associated immune response can result in both malabsorption of nutrients necessary for normal growth and development as well as damage to the gut wall that may allow access to the bloodstream of greater levels of partially digested foods, particularly peptides derived from gluten-containing grains and from casein from dairy products.  In turn these  petides may be transported to the brain where they can interact with opiate receptors in the brain, thus possibly causing some of the peculiar features of autism – such as self-injurious behaviours.  (In this situation commonly eaten foods have a drug-like effect on the brain.)

2)  Encephalitis caused by infection by the vaccine-strain of the measles virus

The viruses in the MMR vaccine are capable of causing infection in an immuno-compromised person. In some cases, the vaccine viruses may cause chronic infection in the brain that cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) that may result in autism.

The link below is to a study titled “Detection of Measles Virus Genomic RNA in Cerebrospinal Fluid of Children with Regressive Autism: a Report of Three Cases”

This study reports on how  measles virus was recovered from the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) of three children who had been developing normally prior to being vaccinated with the MMR.  Following this vaccine, they developed symptoms of autism. None of the children had ever had the measles so the measles virus found in their CSF probably came from the MMR vaccine.

3) Encephalitis caused by immunological mechanisms

US physician Harold Buttram notes that the chick embryos in which the measles and mumps viruses for the MMR vaccines are cultured contain basic myelin protein.   He writes:

“Merck Pharmaceuticals, which produces MMR vaccine, claims that all traces of the chick embryo are removed before the vaccine is released for use. This may be true, but it is probably irrelevant as it does not take into account the process of mobile genetic elements, more commonly referred to as ‘jumping genes.’ Viruses being made up entirely of genetic material, they are highly susceptible to this process. It has been shown that viruses are genetically changed by accepting genetic material from cell cultures. The genetic imprint of the chick myelin basic protein, which is foreign to the human system because of its chick origin, may be programmed to induce antibodies against human myelin basic protein, once injected into the human system.”

He also writes that the “measles virus carries protein similar to those found in myelin sheaths so that antibodies induced by the measles vaccine may cross-react harmfully with myelin.”

According to Dr Buttram, it is possible that the injection of the viruses into the body by needle during the MMR vaccination may carry a greater risk of inducing auto antibodies due to the fact that the mucosal immune system of the respiratory (secretory IGA) is by-passed through vaccination.

Lending support to theory that immunological mechanisms could cause autism is the fact that some autistic children have antibodies to basic myelin protein as well as abnormal MMR antibodies.

See: Singh VJ et al., Antibodies to myelin basic protein in children with autistic behavior, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Vol. 7, 97-1203, 1993.

Another possible trigger for autoimmunity is the residual human DNA derived from the aborted-foetus derived human diploid cells in the MMR vaccine.   This possibility is discussed in the June 2009 newsletter of the Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute which may be downloaded from the organisation’s website

According to Helen Ratajczak, formerly a researcher with Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, remnants of the DNA have been discovered on the X chromosome in eight genes associated with autism.  This may also help to explain why boys are more likely to develop autism than girls.

In my opinion it is possible that a combination of the above mechanisms might contribute to autism in a single patient.  It is also important to realise that other potential causes of autism have also been identified.  These range from genetic conditions such as Fragile X, exposure to certain drugs while in utero, viral infections during pregnancy affecting the unborn child, heavy metal poisoning, adverse reactions to other vaccines such as the DPT, and the toxins produced as a by-product of the metabolism of a variety of microorganisms such ascandida species and bacteria such as clostridrium difficile.

More articles on the biological basis of regressive autism (following MMR vaccination) may be read at the following links:


The CHAT test for autism

The CHAT test for autism is a simple five minute test of children’s social competence that was developed by a British child psychiatrist. It can identify children who will later be diagnosed as having autism (or some sort of autism spectrum disorder) with an accuracy exceeding 80%.  The CHAT test is given to children when they are 18 months old.

Parents want to have their children vaccinated with the MMR vaccine, may wish to consider delaying the first shot until their toddler is 18 months old and has had a CHAT test that shows his/her development is normal.  In the event that a child subsequently developed autism following the MMR vaccine there might then be a better chance of getting compensation through ACC, in the case of NZ children.  (This being said, ACC payments to people who have been injured by vaccination are often only a fraction of what it actually costs to give vaccine-damaged children the care that they need.)

Parental Choice Versus Government Coercion

Parents in NZ are currently able to make decisions about their children’s vaccinations that they consider are in the best interests of their children. This basic right was threatened by a 2011 Health Select Committee report on increasing vaccination completion rates making a variety of coercive recommendations. The government responded to the report and did not rule out instituting the most coercive of these recommendations including linking children’s vaccinations to “existing parental benefits” and requiring parents to produce information about children’s vaccinations when enrolling their child at an early childhood centre or school.  Such information “should consist of either a certificate demonstrating hat a child has received all the appropriate vaccinations, or a written statement that the parents have declined to immunise their child.”  It appeared to be designed to force parents to make a choice between their child having all recommended vaccinations or none in order to be able to supply the documentation neccessary to enrol their child in a early childhood education centre or school.   Continuing eligibility for 20 Hours Free Early Childhood Education also appeared to be made dependent on parents supplying the same documentation.

The organisation No Forced Vaccines has been set up to oppose the erosion of human rights represented by the Health Select Committee report.  The organisation has a site and anyone who supports to organisation’s goal of maintaining freedom of choice regarding vaccination can join the organisation by emailing the site coordinator through the Contact form. Membership is free.

Editor’s note:  Vaccination remains voluntary in NZ.  The move to tie children’s vaccinations to welfare benefits and early childhood education was defeated.

Children who have had only one dose of MMR vaccine or none have also recently been excluded from school on the basis that other children in their school have the measles.  Ostensibly, this has been done to “protect” other children from contracting the measles.  However considering that parents who don’t vaccinate normally want their child to contract measles so that they get the infection over and done with in childhood (when it is usually less serious than in adulthood) and go on to enjoy lifelong immunity, this seems a poor excuse to inconvenience parents who have jobs outside the home for whom finding alternative child care for children  can be difficult.  In the case of the vaccinated children at school, with the stated effectiveness of MMR vaccine in preventing measles at 99% following two doses (see ), excluding unvaccinated children appears to be more about punishing their parents for not vaccinating them than stopping the spread of measles.  At Oratia school, children who had one dose of MMR vaccine – and therefore, according to IMAC had a 95% chance of being immune to measles were also excluded from school.  Parents were not told by school or public health authorities that blood tests could be used to check immunity to allow excluded children to return to school quickly – assuming the blood test result showed their antibody level was considered sufficiently high.

The NZ government  accepted the recommendation of the Health Select Committee to increase vaccination completion rates to 95% in the hope that this will prevent children from developing childhood infections such as measles.  Parents are likely to come under increasing pressure to vaccinate their children in order to meet this bureaucratic target – especially if bonus payments to medical practices that offer vaccinations are increased.  More than ever, parents need sound information about the risks and benefits of both measles and MMR vaccination so that they can make an informed decision about this vaccine for their children.

Editor’s note:  Information about other factors that can contribute to autism will be added at a later date – please check back.


Postscript:   The following comment came in through our Contact page:

“Really informative site, thanks. I had a terrible experience with the Ministry of Health recently and my daughter’s severe reaction to the MMR was very obviously covered up on purpose. I was pro-vacination until this happened and I realised just how covert it all is.  They hope I will just go away but I was horrified by how I was treated and then I was told not to worry about the booster shot as she is sure not to react like that again.  I am now concerned about my 5 month old who is starting his scheduled vaccinations and regularly hassled. I don’t know who to believe as I’m sure I don’t trust the Ministry now, who conveniently lost my daughter’s nasal swab taken at the house which was supposed to be further tested to see whether it was wild measles or a reaction as it was 8 days after the MMR. It was so bad that my family were quarantined and doctors visited my rural property daily.”


Editor’s note:  If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy other articles about vaccination and children’s health in The NZ Journal of Natural Medicine, a high quality quarterly available in print or PDF editions. You can browse the first 20 pages of all of our issues at this link or purchase issues at this link.

You may also find other articles in our Children’s Health and Development section to be of interest.  This section may be accessed through this link.

Links to more information about MMR vaccination and other vaccines may be found on our Facebook page at this link: