Do you get flu shots? Is your tetanus shot up-to-date? Should you give all of the recommended vaccinations to your children? 98% of doctors will probably tell you yes. End of story. Did you even know that this was a controversial topic? I didn’t. At least not until a few weeks ago, when Frontline: The Vaccine War showed up in our Netflix queue.
The program purported to present both sides of the debate. On the one side were public health officials and mainstream doctors who touted the successes of vaccines in eradicating many serious illnesses, like polio and smallpox. They explained that in order to be effective, nearly everyone needs to receive the vaccination (the herd theory), which is why it’s in the public’s best interest for vaccines to be mandated, like seatbelts. On the other side were activists, such as actress Jenny McCarthy and parents of children who have witnessed serious adverse reactions to vaccines, including autism – reactions that they claim were caused by vaccinations. The “experts” argued that there’s no scientific evidence showing that vaccines actually cause adverse reactions and that it just so happens that many of the childhood vaccines are administered right around the time that neurological disorders become noticeable in children. Both my husband and I walked away from the program thinking that the people that don’t vaccinate their children are uninformed conspiracy theorists who are endangering the rest of the population. That was, until I learned the rest of the story…
Two weeks after seeing the Frontline program, I attended the Wise Traditions conference in Dallas (I blogged about this) where the vaccine topic came up in two sessions I attended. The first was a presentation entitled, “Autism, Vaccines, and Cholesterol Sulfate,” presented by Stephanie Seneff, PhD of MIT. You can download her entire powerpoint here, complete with links to many research papers. The second was a screening of the film The Greater Good. Both sessions were eye opening and inspired me to read The Vaccine Book, by Robert W. Sears, MD. Based on all of this, here are some of the more surprising things that I learned.
While vaccines are usually effective at protecting against infection, they don’t always work. This article cites several cases of outbreaks of Measles, Mumps, Smallpox, Polio, Pertussis and Hib among vaccinated populations.
For example, in 2006, there was an outbreak of Mumps that affected college students in Iowa. Most of them had been vaccinated against Mumps, but it had worn off. Why didn’t they get booster shots later in life? That’s not typical because, like many vaccine-preventable illnesses, Mumps is only worrisome for children and infants.
Another thing to consider about vaccine effectiveness is that they don’t enable your body to build the same type of immunity that is built when contracting an infection naturally. I recently heard a talk given by Dr. Thomas Cowan in which he stated that the problem with vaccines is that they “only affect the cell’s mediated response, but not the humoral response…which has led to an epidemic of people with compromised cell mediated response.” I suspect he’s explaining what has been observed in studies like this one, which show that measles vaccination “produces immune suppression which contributes to an increased susceptibility to other infections.” In other words, people who contract illnesses like the flu and chickenpox as children may be less susceptible to sickness later in life.
Vaccine Safety & Risks
There are no controlled experiments that study the health outcomes of unvaccinated versus vaccinated people even though there are an estimated 50,000 totally unvaccinated people living in the US. In The Greater Good, our government officials state that they don’t think these studies would be worthwhile and that a better use of our limited research dollars should go to developing the next vaccine. Hearing that really disturbed me. Especially considering the following:
- Most vaccines contain controversial ingredients, such as polysorbate, formaldehyde, monkey kidney cells, aluminum and mercury. Some of these ingredients are especially dangerous to babies. For example:
- Mercury is known to be toxic to the brain and body tissues. The manufacturers claim that the dosage in vaccines is small, but when combined with the mercury that we’re getting from environmental sources, it may very well be enough to push our bodies (especially the fragile body of an infant) over the limit. While most manufacturers have cut back on the level of mercury in their vaccines, some brands of the flu shot and a few older versions of the plain tetanus and diphtheria/tetanus shots still contain high levels of mercury, so it’s best to ask for a mercury-free brand if you plan to get those vaccinations.
- Aluminum is replacing mercury as the main adjuvant in many vaccines today, including Hib, Hepatitis B, DTaP and the new HPV vaccine. The injectable form of aluminum that’s used in vaccines is different from dietary aluminum. These studies, conducted by Dr. Chris Shaw, showed that when mice are injected with aluminum in a way that mimics the doses one would get by following the US’s recommended vaccine schedule, they have cognitive and behavioral problems and damage to the part of the brains that control motor function. According to Hugh Fudenberg, MD, the world’s leading immunogeneticist and 13th most quoted biologist of our times: “If an individual has had 5 consecutive flu shots between 1970 and 1980 (the years studied) his/her chances of getting Alzheimer’s Disease is 10 times higher than if he/she had one, two or no shots. ..due to mercury and aluminum that is in every flu shot.“ What does Alzheimers have to do with babies? It’s a cognitive disorder for one. Secondly, more and more people now believe that Alzheimers and Autism are the same problem, but just manifest in different age groups. Dr. Robert Sears also talks here about why he’s concerned about the levels of aluminum in the recommended vaccine doses.
- The number of severe reactions that have been reported following vaccinations is quite large. In The Vaccine Book, Dr. Sears provides some statistical analysis of data from the publicly accessible VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System) database, which the CDC collects. By dividing the total number of vaccine doses administered in the US by the number of adverse reactions reported in this database, he concludes that the chances of having at least one severe reaction after following the recommended vaccine schedule from birth to age 12 is 1 in 2600. In other words, you’re at least 10-100 times more likely to have a severe reaction to a vaccine than you are likely to contract the illness it’s protecting you against (see the illness likelihood data below). It’s important to note a few things about this data. First of all, not all reactions are reported, for a variety of reasons. So the chances of having a severe reaction are probably much higher than this. Secondly, chronic problems like ADHD, asthma, allergies, autism and other learning disorders are probably significantly underreported because the public doesn’t generally make the association with vaccines and therefore, most of these cases aren’t reported to VAERS. And finally, a disclaimer, which is that this database relies on self-reporting of serious reactions to vaccines. What we don’t know for certain is if the vaccine specifically caused the reaction.
- There are strong correlations between certain vaccines and people reporting neurological disorders, like autism: Stephanie Seneff, PhD. did some analysis of more recent VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System) data. Her findings are included in the above-referenced presentation. For instance, she found that autism rates among vaccinated children started to skyrocket after 2000 – right around the time that aluminum replaced mercury as the main adjuvant in vaccines. Overall, many adverse reactions reported after 2000 occur much more frequently in those vaccines that contain aluminum. She also found that autism rates are 2.7 times higher among those given the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. She also found a strong correlation between autism and the Hepatitis B vaccine.
- The safety trials are rigged. The so-called “placebos” contain some of the vaccine additives, such as aluminum! Yes, you read that right. This way, should any adverse reactions to the additive appear during a safety trial, it won’t be linked to the vaccine because it should show up equally in the “control” group. How on Earth this is permitted is a mystery to me.
What’s the risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable illness?
Dr. Sears has done a pretty good job of addressing this very question in The Vaccine Book. As you might imagine, it depends on a number of factors, each of which are described in the book. I’ve tabulated the approximate total number of reported cases in the US (up to 2007, which the book was published) of the main vaccine-preventable diseases for your reference below. Please bear in mind that there’s much more information in the book that you should be considering, which *isn’t* listed here. For example:
- Unless noted otherwise, I’m listed the number of reported cases each year – actual cases may be higher.
- Some are diseases that will stay with you for the rest of your life, such as HPV. In those cases, just be aware that the probability of ever contracting the illness in a lifetime is quite a bit higher than the numbers shown in the 3rd column, which is the number of newly reported cases each year.
- Many of these illnesses are only serious during certain periods of life (e.g. infancy), so the numbers as a percentage of the population may be misleading if you don’t consider this. For instance, the average infant’s chance of contracting a serious case of Pertussis is quite a bit higher than 1 in 200,000. If we assume that there are 1.88M infants under 6 months old in the US, and 75% of the 200,000 reported cases of Pertussis are for infants in this age group, then the actual odds of an infant contracting it are more like 1 in 13.
- An individual’s actual chances of contracting an illness depends on many factors, which are not considered in the numbers below, such as age, whether they are breast fed or put into day care, or how strong their immune system is.
Should you take your doctor’s advice?
I’ll let you decide for yourself, but keep in mind that most doctors don’t learn a lot about vaccines in medical school. They have little to no idea how they’re made or how the body processes some of the additives that are in vaccines. They also are probably not very adept at identifying reactions resulting from vaccines unless they happen immediately. Finally, doctors typically don’t know how vaccines are evaluated for safety or effectiveness. I’m generalizing, of course, so you should ask your own doctor or pediatrician these questions and then decide how much you want to rely on her or his advice.
According to The Greater Good, Vaccine makers are poised to generate $21.5B in sales annually. Over the past decade, pharmaceutical companies have spent more money lobbying in Washington than any other industry, including oil and insurance. The ACIP, which is the organization that decides which vaccines should be recommended to Americans, has doctors on their board who have a financial interest in, say, a vaccine like Guardasil (for HPV) making it on to the recommendation schedule. That’s a major conflict of interest.
A huge lobbying success for the pharmaceutical industry came in 1986 when they convinced congress to create The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. This program conveniently protects the vaccine manufacturers from being sued due to injury or death resulting from a vaccine. That means that in most US states, a portion of what you pay for the vaccine goes into a fund to pay for vaccine injury claims. Those claims are limited to $250,000 in payout. The fund has already paid out $2B. That translates into at *least* 8000 payouts – probably much more since I’m sure not every one was awarded the $250,000 maximum.
What are your options?
With schools and daycares mandating proof of vaccination before enrollment and doctors who refuse to work with patients who decline vaccines, it’s no wonder people assume they have no choice. But the fact is that most Americans *do* have a choice – it’s just not easy. A good source of information on the options in your state is the NVIC (the National Vaccine Information Center).Most states have various exemptions, like the religious exemption. That means that you can’t be denied access to a public school or day care if you have declined vaccinations for religious reasons. But that doesn’t mean that the schools and daycares won’t constantly nag you to get your children vaccinated – their systems aren’t set up to handle exceptions well.
To find a doctor that supports vaccination choice, I recommend asking around. I’ve personally received some great recommendations from a yahoo group that I’m a member of, called NoVa Families for Natural Living. The fact that so many doctors refuse to take on patients who want to create non-standard vaccination schedules or just not vaccinate their children is a mystery to me. Is it because unvaccinated patients are less profitable? Is it because the doctor is traumatized from witnessing a bad case of a vaccine-preventable illnesses? If it’s the latter, then I fail to understand why they don’t also fire patients who feed their children junk food. Diabetes is a terrible way to die.
If, like me, you’re trying to create a vaccine plan for your child (or yourself), here are some other important things you you should consider:
- How long your baby will be breast-fed
- Whether you plan to put your child in daycare
- Your diet, health and lifestyle, which all impact your and your child’s immune system
- How much and what kind of international travel you plan to do
- Your personal level of anxiety about the risks of particular illnesses versus the risk of reactions to the vaccines
I hope that this article doesn’t come across as “anti-vaccine.” It’s not meant to be. It’s merely meant to help those who, like me just a few weeks ago, had only ever heard one side of the vaccine debate. I hope that this additional information inspires you to do your own research and make whatever decision you feel is best for yourself and your family rather than letting others make the decision for you.