Years ago I had an adverse event from a vaccination. But at the time I never connected the two.
Although what happened to me took place after I completed a graduate level course in Immunology, my education had never informed me that vaccines EVER caused harm to anyone. (If you don't want to hear my story and just wish to see the published NEJM article -- simply scroll down to the bottom of this article.)
So in spite of the fact that I happen to have a brain that is probably more inclined to connect cause and effect than almost everyone else I know, at the time I never connected my own adverse event to the vaccine that caused it.
While in graduate school, I did some independent study projects in Australia and New Zealand. Over the course of six months I traveled extensively in both countries. I bike toured across the South Island of New Zealand, traveled across Australia by train, snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef, bartered my violin playing for meals and lodging in Queensland, worked on a sheep shearing team in Western Australia and interned on an organic farm in Nelson, NZ. It was on that farm that I met a couple of Canadian nurses on holiday and we became friends. When they learned of my plans to spend time in Fiji en route back to the US -- they told me to be sure and get a tetanus booster right away --which I did. Exactly two weeks following that shot (and still long before I would going to Fiji) I developed the most horrific yeast infection I have ever had. It was so bad, the first doctor I went to, didn't even recognize it as such. It took a second doctor and nearly six weeks with treatment to finally get over it...a disturbing experience to have, especially so far from home.
It was about eight years later, when I came upon mention of a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine that supposedly documented a fall in T-cells after vaccination:
Reading about this made a light-bulb go off in my head. Here's why.
I was a college freshman when I first heard about a new terrifying and mysterious disease called, AIDS. Week after week as news reports brought more and more facts to light, one of the things etched most deeply in my memory was the fact that often the very first presenting symptom in people who would go on to be diagnosed with AIDS was thrush -- an oral type of a yeast infection. As you may know -- AIDS is a disease characterized by significant drops in T-cells. Could a yeast infection be one of the first obvious symptoms of reduced numbers of T-cells?
As soon as I read about T-cells and Tetanus, I realized it was probable that the worst yeast infection of my entire life was probably a result of my getting a tetanus shot. Might I have been at increased vulnerability to more dangerous infections following that booster shot? (Had I been unlucky enough to be exposed to them at that time.) Thankfully nothing worse happened.
Recently I wanted to share this data with others -- but no matter how hard I looked, I could not find the original published entry -- until I located a paper I had in a file, that referenced the NEJM letter. Once I had the actual reference I was able to track down the article.
Because I think this is such important data -- and virtually no doctor I know has any idea that this data exists -- I decided to put screen shots of it on my website -- and hopefully this will make it more accessible to others.
Here are a few more screen shots -- allowing you to read all of it...
Surprisingly --- about ten years after this paper was published I mentioned to a friend who worked in a lab for a major pharmaceutical company that I had heard that tetanus shots could induce a temporary AIDS-like state in the blood...and her jaw about hit the floor. Then she proceeded to tell me how a co-worker of hers who had routinely given blood for years, was recently turned away as a donor. Their reason? She was told it looked like she was in the late stages of AIDS. Obviously shocked by this information, she went for follow up medical care only to discover that in fact she showed no evidence of having ever been exposed to HIV. No one could explain why the blood bank had thought she might have AIDS. My friend and her co-worker had wracked their brains trying to figure out how this all could have happened, and the only thing they could come up with was wondering if her recent tetanus booster might have had anything to do with it...but they had no idea how or IF the two could actually be linked.