Paediatrician condemns vaccine alert

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 May, 2001, 12:00am

One of Hong Kong's top child-health specialists has condemned fitness club owner Tom Turk for spreading a 'dangerous and irresponsible' message that could put youngsters at risk.

In a newspaper advert seeking new members for his clubs, Mr Turk issues a 'health alert' urging people to 'say no to all vaccines'. He quotes a doctor as saying chemicals in vaccines cause serious side effects.

Mr Turk said he issued the alert after extensive reading on vaccines and after his son, now 13, began suffering from asthma following immunisations as a baby.

However, Professor Lau Yu-lung, head of the University of Hong Kong's department of paediatrics, said it was a 'totally irresponsible statement and the company should apologise'.

'We have a duty to tell the public that this is totally incorrect and would result in epidemics of various diseases that haven't been seen in Hong Kong for many years,' he said.

Professor Lau said polio would soon return if immunity in the community dropped. Similarly, there would be an epidemic of potentially fatal measles, and a return of illnesses such as whooping cough and diphtheria, which vaccinations now control.

The advert points to a Web site that lists chemicals and products its says are used in vaccines, including mercury, pig blood, chick embryo, monkey kidney and a range of antibiotics.

Professor Lau said it was possible those products were found in some vaccines as animal cells sometimes held a vaccine.

Tiny amounts of mercury were sometimes used as a preservative, but the practice - which he described as safe - was being phased out.

'The kind of amount we're talking about in these vaccines is still far less than what's recommended by authorities. Every day we're exposed to mercury, when we eat seafood, for example. People need to put it into context.'

Hong Kong Medical Association chairman Dr Lo Wing-lok also said for people to refuse all vaccines would lead to outbreaks of disease.

Mr Turk made headlines three years ago when he promoted a book that promised a cancer cure through a herbal potion and a home-made nine-volt 'zapper'. The book was banned in the US.

Asked to respond to Professor Lau's concerns, Mr Turk said: 'I think the public should do all the reading then make up their mind.'

He said many books and scientific studies described case histories of children who had come down with 'quite horrific' side effects after vaccinations.

Mr Turk faxed the South China Morning Post a series of magazine articles that describe reactions to childhood injections as common and severe and suggest a government cover-up of the problem.

Called Nexus, the magazine's Web site says it examines alternative health, suppressed science and UFOs. Among the articles it has published is one that says an increase in deaths from so-called 'shaken-baby syndrome' may actually be caused by vaccinations, not violent handling of babies.