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Worries about side effects afflict vaccine sales

Alameda Times-Star (CA) - Monday, April 29, 2002
Author: Staff Writer

A steep drop in sales, attributed to worries about side effects, led the only manufacturer of Lyme vaccine recently to cease production of the inoculation.

While health experts in California said the preventive tool was used infrequently locally, the vaccine's demise may also be a sign of escalating, but unwarranted concerns, over the health effects of vaccines, said Dr. Henry Shinefield, the co-director of Kaiser Permanente's Vaccine Study Center in Oakland.

"What we've done with vaccines is so remarkable. There's nothing in medicine that we've come up with that's been so beneficial as a preventative (tool)," he said.

"We don't want to get into an 'analysis paralysis' where we're not using vaccines that are very effective and very protective," Shinefield added.

Some individuals reported that they experienced joint aches and muscle pain after getting the Lyme disease vaccine, and numerous lawsuits were filed against manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline. But large-scale studies found no untoward health effects from the vaccine, Shinefield said.

"We've got to be very careful about indicting vaccines erroneously when they're very usable," he said. Currently in Britain, he noted, fewer children are receiving their measles, mumps and rubella shots since one investigator asserted that he found in 12 patients a connection between the childhood vaccines and autism. Yet the vaccine prevents "terrible" diseases , Shinefield said.

Reconstructing Aphrodite

The work of an Oakland photographer who tackled the sensitive job of photographing breast cancer survivors after reconstructive surgery appears in a new pictorial book called "Reconstructing Aphrodite."

Photographer Terry Lorant said the idea for the book came from watching a close friend, pictured in the book, contend with the anguish of reconstructing her body after breast cancer surgery.

"She said there was nothing to look at that was helpful. She was looking at medical mug shots and they're really scary and horrible," Lorant said. "So she was the person who said 'this is something you can do something about.'"

Lorant teamed up with her friend's reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Loren Eskenazi, a plastic surgeon in Sausalito. Eskenazi, who founded the Institute for Transformational Surgery, was an artist before becoming a surgeon.

"So her sensibility is that of an artist," Lorant said. Eskenazi and her associate, Dr. Katherine Young, performed the reconstructive surgeries shown in the women photographed, most of whom live in the Bay Area.

The book retails for $19.95, although is currently only available on It will be available in bookstores next year, Lorant said. For more information, visit

Bad genes in my cooking oil

Earlier this month, Monsanto admitted to the federal government that canola containing genetic material not approved by the Food and Drug Administration may be growing in the United States.

While the Environmental Protection Agency cleared the crop plant for human consumption, the USDA hasn't yet approved it for field planting.

But assurances about the health safety of the altered crop doesn't mollify Anuradha Mittal, the co-director of Food First in Oakland. The nonprofit group, founded by Frances Moore Lappe, the author of "Diet for a Small Planet," is calling for a moratorium on the planting of genetically engineered crops until more studies are conducted on the environmental and health effects of the novel genes.

"One of the biggest problems is you have a breakdown regarding regulation of GE foods, and not enough funds have been set aside to study health concerns," she said.

Dave Ryan, a spokesman for the EPA, responded the agency is "committed to working with other federal agencies to ensure that the products developed with biotechnology do not pose unreasonable risks to human health and the environment."

Contact Suzanne Bohan at the Oakland Tribune/ANG Newspapers, 410 13th St., Oakland, 94612 or by e-mail at . In Copyright since 2000