This is a very sensitive topic, and before I go further, let me first point out that the title of this post is not “8 Reasons Why You Should Not Vaccinate Your Child.” This is my personal decision based on research, and I am glad to live in a country where some choice is still afforded to those who wish to abstain.
A real conversation about vaccines is almost nonexistent in the media, where people are often segregated into either the “pro” or “anti” camps. When I speak to people about this directly, on the other hand, the conversation is always more nuanced and complex. While I certainly acknowledge the historical data that back up vaccine effectiveness, it might be time to have a fresh discussion.
My hope in writing this post is to promote honest and mutually respectful discourse, not to further polarize this topic. My daughter is only six months old right now, and I may consider changing my mind. I only hope you, the reader, are as open. I invite you to share your thinking in the comments section.
1. I fear the risk of complications from vaccines more than I fear the risk of complications from infection.
I am not fearful of short-term infections that come and go, like chicken pox. I had it growing up, and it would leave my daughter with lifetime natural immunity. Furthermore, the “long-term consequences of preventing natural exposure to agents covered by vaccine are not known.”
I am much more fearful of what comes through that needle, because the risks of vaccine side effects are real. Additionally, vaccine side effects are largely underreported because the passive nature of the legal system puts the onus on the victim to make the connection, file extensive paperwork, and report the issue.
Here is just a small list of potential side effects:
- Increased risk of respiratory infections after receiving the flu vaccine
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome
- Febrile seizures
- Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (brain damage)
- Ovarian failure
- Autism or multiple sclerosis
- Seizure, temporary pain, deafness, coma, or death (although the CDC states that coma, deafness, and death, "are so rare that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine")
Please know, I am not saying that vaccines cause ALL these chronic diseases, but we are getting precious few answers as to what is causing them. Until we really understand the mechanisms of this issue, I am not willing to take that risk.
2. I can vaccinate my daughter, but she can contract the infection anyway.
No vaccine is 100% effective. Some tout 95% effectiveness, others less than that. Last year’s flu vaccine was 56% effective in adults and children and only 9% effective in the elderly.
Furthermore, it has been repeatedly determined that fully vaccinated children (and adults) can still get the infection the vaccines are designed to prevent. In fact, in recent outbreaks of whooping cough, the majority of those affected were fully vaccinated. Researchers have also speculated that some forms of whooping cough are becoming resistant to vaccines. Either way, with suboptimal efficacy and proven risks, this is not a chance I am willing to take.
3. I don’t trust drug companies.
In theory, scientific studies help us to separate fact from fiction. However, this recent review of scientific literature caught my attention. It warns about drug companies’ heavy influence on all aspects of health care research and strategy. The industry “masterfully influences evidence base production, evidence synthesis … and professional decisions. [sic]” Given that, how can I be sure I am getting science, not marketing?
My faith in pharmaceutical companies isn’t helped by the fact that they’ve paid more than $11 billion in fines from 2009 to 2012 for criminal wrongdoing. Admittedly this wasn’t because of vaccines, but the point is that these companies have a track record of not being trustworthy. What’s worse is that these huge sums are just considered “the cost of doing business,” as they pale in comparison to the profits they make.
4. I cannot sue the doctor, the nurse, or the drug company if there are serious side effects.
Unlike other drugs or products on the market, if my daughter has a serious, or even deadly, reaction to a vaccine, I cannot go all "Erin Brokovich" and sue the doctor, the nurse, the drug company, or form a class action lawsuit with others.
Thanks to the passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in 1986, the “Vaccine Court” was established within the Court of Federal Claims. By 2010, this program had paid nearly $2 billion in compensation to injured parties who said their health issues were caused by vaccines.
5. We don’t know enough about the human microbiome to understand how it could be affected by vaccines.
In the last two years, we've learned a lot more about our interaction with microbes. We now know we have 10 times as many germs as cells in the body (collectively called the human microbiome), and that more than 99% of them are mutually beneficial, supporting our digestion, immunity and metabolism. We need them and they need us, and the quicker we learn this lesson, the better.
How does this relate to vaccines? First, new research from Stanford University shows that adults can develop immunity to microbes they've never encountered, which goes against the traditional immunity dogma that you have to be exposed to the germ itself. Could there be a less risky way of gaining broad-spectrum immunity?
Secondly, we have precious little understanding of how vaccines affect microbial balance, but we do have a history of making interventions that seem like a good idea at the time, but backfire spectacularly. Just this week, the CDC Deputy Director said we have reached the end of the antibiotics era.
There are some obvious parallels here. For the majority of the 20th century, antibiotics were seen as our best tool for dealing with all bacterial infections. Now, after generations of killing off bacteria with antibiotics, we’re starting to see the negative side effects of this strategy. Not only are we breeding antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but the destruction of our microbiome is linked to many chronic diseases which have no known cure. It seems clear to me that vaccines at least have the same potential.
6. The mechanism of herd immunity is not fully understood, and some believe it's over-hyped.
Up until this point, I have focused on those factors that directly affect my daughter. Unlike any other medical intervention, population-based vaccine strategy also relies on the "herd" to protect weaker members, providing the rationale for forcing everyone to vaccinate their children.
However, there are some reasons to question the notion of vaccine-induced herd immunity. First, the mechanism of herd immunity is not fully understood. Second, it is failing, and third, certain vaccines are proving to provide less durable immunity than previously thought, meaning our current assumptions about herd immunity rates are likely overestimated. Furthermore, disease can spread in fully vaccinated populations, with examples both in measles and mumps.
7. I have researched the ingredients in vaccines. They are toxic, I do not want them injected into my daughter.
This study says it better than I can: “According to the US Food and Drug Administration, safety assessments for vaccines have often not included appropriate toxicity studies because vaccines have not been viewed as inherently toxic.” However, according to the CDC, the following toxins are commonly found in vaccines: Aluminum, egg protein, antibiotics, formaldehyde, MSG and thimerosal. I have serious objections to injecting any of these into my daughter.
With one in six kids in America now having a developmental delay, and one in 88 kids in America with autism, surely it is as much my responsibility to help protect my kids from these issues as it is to protect them from an acute infection? It is more and more clear that autism is a disease born of environmental causes, not genetics, and aluminum, among others, is being fingered as a possible culprit.
Also, several new vaccines, like Gardasil, were fast-tracked through the evaluation process which is worrying when even drugs that have been shown to be safe in initial studies have subsequently proved to be toxic or carcinogenic, like birth control pills or the Vioxx debacle.
8. I’m a new dad. I’ve seen scientists get it wrong before, and I don’t want my daughter to be a statistic.
Between the 1920s and 1960s, the same groups that are used to sell vaccines today (doctors, industry marketing, etc.) were used to sell cigarettes, and this has become known as "tobacco science." As we all know, "those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
Until we see a clear distinction between science and marketing, it’s likely that these same forces are still at work. Drug companies have a lot of work to do to regain my trust, and until that happens, I have to take full responsibility for my daughter’s health, even if it includes breaking cultural norms.
Speaking of full responsibility, I am actively engaged in improving her health and immunity through natural methods. It started with a natural birth, continued with exclusive breast feeding, and getting outdoors as much as possible. We have an amazing pediatrician and chiropractor who support our choices.
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