The Physics Police

The Physics Police

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tetanus Vaccine in Kenya

Neonatal tetanus is a preventable and often fatal infection among infants in Kenya. Vaccinating women of child-bearing age is effective at preventing this disease. Antibodies pass from the mother through the placenta to the fetus. This protects both mother and child from tetanus infection as a result of injury during childbirth. Sadly, this results in 110,000 deaths per year in Africa.

A vaccination campaign lead by the Kenyan Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization was undertaken last week. This program aimed to vaccinate two million women of reproductive age in sixty high-risk Kenyan districts.

Meanwhile, head of the Catholic Church in Kenya John Cardinal Njue was busy sewing deadly paranoia. During his xenophobic rant to news reporters, he had this caution for his congragation.
Let us be very careful, and weight very carefully the agendas -- I mean the proposals -- that come or be sent by people from elsewhere. (Source)
Nice Freudian slip, there, Cardinal. Seemingly unbeknownst to this feckless monster, that agenda had by people from elsewhere is to save babies from dying.

This media circus seems to have started when Catholic Health Commission of Kenya Chairman Paul Kariuki Njiru sent a letter to Kenyan newsrooms asking these frantic, leading questions.
Is there a tetanus crisis on women of child-bearing age in Kenya? If this is so, why has it not been declared? Why does the campaign target women of 14 - 49 years? Why has the campaign left out young girls, boys and men even if they are all prone to tetanus? In the midst of so many life-threatening diseases in Kenya, why has tetanus been prioritized? (Source)
My readers should already know the banal answer to all these foolish questions. Cabinet Secretary for Health Mr James Macharia met church leaders to explain, you know, why all those babies have been dying, and how the vaccination campaign is designed to stop all those babies from dying.

Njue has since expressed he is not opposed to the tetanus vaccine program, he just wanted a clarification on why it was taking place. I don't believe this excuse for a damn second. He sent his letter to Kenyan newsrooms, not the ministry of health! The questions he asked in that letter were dripping with distrust and ignorance on a topic that, if he was truly curious, could be resolved by five minutes searching on the Internet.

Not only that, but check out this excerpt from the same letter.
Information in the public domain indicates that Tetanus Toxoid vaccine (TT) laced with Beta human chorionic gonadotropin (b-HCG) sub unit has been used in Philippines, Nicaragua and Mexico to vaccinate women against future pregnancy. Beta HCG sub unit is a hormone necessary for pregnancy ... The ongoing tetanus vaccination campaign bears the hallmarks of the programmes that were carried out in Philippines, Mexico and Nicaragua. We are not certain that the vaccines being administered in Kenya are free of this hormone.
This pernicious myth about forced-sterilization was dreamed up by pro-lifers back in 1995 and was roundly refuted at the time. No HCG vaccine was ever tested on humans without their consent.

The idea that HCG is being secretly tested in Kenya is easily dispelled by Professor Gursaran Prasad Talwar of the Indian National Science Academy. In 1992 he worked to develop an HCG-based family planning vaccine, and flatly rejects the despicable conflation of his work with the WHO tetanus vaccination program.
It had some sort of similarity with the tetanus vaccine. The birth control vaccine I developed was the beta sub-unit of hCG that generated anti-bodies that prevented pregnancy in women, but also, protected them against tetanus...

In our new vaccine, we have replaced tetanus toxoid by another carrier LTB, which would avoid the misinformation that has been associated with the valuable tetanus vaccination. (Source)
Clearly, some "information in the public domain" should not be blindly trusted.


  1. Thank you for this summary, and for the link to the 1995 Milstien paper.

    I found a Catholic leader's questions in the Philippines from 2010 -- they are almost identical. Don't these people learn, or something?

    Representing the Archdiocese of Davao, Judge Jesus Quitain questioned the order, which required the list of female students to be vaccinated to be submitted by August 23, 2010.

    "If the main purpose of the vaccination is for anti-tetanus, then why did they limit it to only 14 year-old and above females when even males are actually more prone to tetanus infection?" Quitain was quoted by the Philippine Information Agency in its report.

  2. Thanks so much for writing this. The story has since blown up in the US anti-vaccine outlets. Stand by for more.