WATCH: Shocking film shows journalist's psychotic episode which he claims was caused by vaccine
PUBLISHED: 17:29 21 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:50 25 January 2019
An award-winning journalist from Suffolk is calling for an investigation into a vaccine which he claims caused his "meltdown" into insanity.
Malcolm Brabant, who grew up in Ipswich and worked for this newspaper before travelling the world as a foreign correspondent, has released a film documenting his descent into madness.
The film, Malcolm is a Little Unwell, features footage of him ranting about the messiah, the devil and the Second Coming, much of it shot by his wife Trine Villemann over more than a year.
Now recovered, he is seeking a review into yellow fever vaccine Stamaril, which he took in 2011. He has written to prime minster Theresa May calling for a meeting.
“Millions of people in some of the poorest countries on earth depend on the yellow fever vaccine to save their lives,” he said. “And they deserve to be assured that it’s not going to send some of them mad.”
Mr Brabant said he rejected the “evangelical” anti-vaccine movement but claims Stamaril warranted specific attention.
It has been in the spotlight recently following the death of Martin Gore, a leading British scientist who suffered organ failure earlier this month shortly after being given a dose.
Stamaril’s side-effects include inflammation of the brain, as well as liver and kidney failure, but are said to be “extremely rare”.
Experts who treated Mr Brabant believe his illness was also caused by the vaccine. Thomas Middleboe, former president of the Danish Psychiatric Association, confirmed in Mr Brabant’s discharge notice the illness was an “organic reaction to a yellow fever vaccine”.
Psychiatrist Diana Kristensen said the vaccine was like a rolling stone causing an “avalanche”.
Vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur said it did a full review into the batch given to Mr Brabant and found no “causal relationship” with his medical conditions. The company also said it was seeking information about Prof Gore’s death.
People are advised to take the vaccine before visiting areas where yellow fever is prevalent – Africa and South America.
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said adverse reactions were “generally mild and not everyone will experience them”.
“However, there is a very rare risk of serious, life-threatening reactions in around 1 in 100,000 vaccinees,” it said. “These risks can be higher in those aged over 60 years and those with a poorly functioning immune system.”
Mr Brabant took the vaccine in April 2011, before a work visit to Africa. Within 18 hours, he said he was “burning up”, shaking violently, and hallucinating.
The film shows Mr Brabant detained in psychiatric wards in Greece, Denmark and the UK. It features psychotic episodes including footage he recorded believing he was documenting the Second Coming and when he thought intelligence services were targeting his family.
In Ipswich, Mr Brabant tried to “prove his sanity” by making a documentary about a group of bikers he met at the Railway pub. He was sectioned soon after.
Molecular biologist, Lauri-Ann Robertson, said in the film it was concerning to see the extent of Mr Brabant’s mental deterioration.
“I was scared by the thought that it could happen so easily to anyone of us,” she said.
Mr Brabant left hospital in July 2012 and was confirmed to have made a complete recovery in 2014. He returned to work and received America’s Peabody award for his coverage of the refugee crisis.
But despite his recovery, Mr Brabant said he needed to tell his story. “I want to be clear this is not an anti-vaccine rant, but an attempt to raise the issue of corporate responsibility and to ensure nobody else has to suffer like my family and I did,” he said.
Mr Brabant claimed Sanofi tried to brush aside his concerns and has called for a more detailed review into the vaccine.
The World Health Organisation recently changed its guidance around Stamaril, which now requires people to have just one dose in their lifetime, as opposed to every ten years, as it had been.
Heidi Larsen from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the change meant some people, including Mr Brabant, could have taken too much of the vaccine and at the wrong time. These changes, Mr Brabant claims, warrant a full examination of what went on. He claims others contacted him to say they suffered similar symptoms.
Lawyer Peter Todd claims Stamaril should be added to government’s compensation scheme. “Malcolm represents the hope, by raising the issue, it will lead to justice for others,” he said.
•The film is available via iTunes.
Vaccine manufacturer’s statement
Vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur offered its sympathies to Mr Brabant but denied responsibility for his illness.
“After carefully examining all the medical information that was disclosed to us up to April 2013, no evidence was found for a causal relationship between the administration of the yellow fever vaccine Stamaril and Mr Brabant’s reported medical conditions,” it said.
“Follow-up was also conducted in 2015 with the same conclusion.
“Vaccines are easily suspected of causing adverse events without any firm evidence other than the fact the event was observed following vaccination. Without yellow fever vaccines, travellers could not safely visit countries where the disease is being actively transmitted.”
The company said it will continue to monitor the safety profile of the vaccine and to invest to ensure the quality, effectiveness and safety of all its vaccines.
Vaccine ‘essential’ for travellers visiting parts of Africa and South America
Regulators say the risks of the yellow fever vaccine Stamaril have to be balanced against the potentially fatal consequences of being infected with the disease.
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said protection against the disease was “essential” for anyone travelling to areas where it is known to exist, and vaccination is the best form of protection.
MHRA said live vaccines, including Stamaril, were based on an “attenuated” version of the virus, meaning it is weakened and cannot cause the disease.
By closely mimicking the natural infection,live viruses are said to be highly effective.
The MHRA added, however that some live vaccines can very rarely cause serious adverse reactions as a consequence of the vaccine virus replicating too much.
“This is a particular risk in people who have a severe immunodeficiency, and the vaccines are not recommended for such people,” the MHRA said.