Very few patients or physicians that I come across can really articulate the “vaccines for children” debate.
You see, it’s not about “vaccination” versus “no vaccination.” If only it were that simple. This boiled down topic creates some of the most heated discussions across the Internet that I’ve ever seen, and the arguments are always completely polar:
–You’ve either swallowed the Kool-Aid and given all the vaccines for children that your pediatrician was told by the drug companies to give you so they can make as much profit as possible while giving children autism and cancer…
–Or, you’re a self-centered, granola-eating, flannel-wearing kook who is single-handedly starting epidemics at theme parks across the globe infecting chemotherapy-treated toddlers with suppressed immune systems and you should be locked up in prison.
You don’t really hear much logical discourse between the groups. And what you NEVER hear is a topic about each individual vaccine for children and the pros and cons. As an example, in the fall the pro-influenza vaccine groups and the CDC come out of the woodwork to urge you to drop what you’re doing and run to your doctor, pharmacist, minute-clinic or fast food drive thru to get your entire family vaccinated.
But then you never hear the Cochran Collaboration’s review of influenza vaccine effectiveness discussed by the CDC. The public message is more along the lines of how you should get the flu vaccine—even in the years that the vaccine makers missed the strains leaving the vaccine worthless for that years’ dominant strain.
The ONLY way to have an intelligent discussion on the vaccines for children debate is to look at each childhood vaccination individually. Despite the hype, there is no such thing as “pro” or “anti” vaccination as a general approach. It’s not the right discussion / argument to have.
It’s like saying you’re against prescription drugs. This may be a good argument for treating a viral infection with antibiotics, but what about a bacterial infection raging through your bloodstream? That’s not the time to argue that all medications are bad.
The “Do Vaccines for Children Cause Autism Debate”
You can’t have a discussion about whether or not vaccination is good without addressing the autism connection with vaccines for children. Much of this centers around the mercury found in the preservative thimerosal used to keep bacteria from growing inside of the large-dose vaccine vials.
One thing that no one can argue about is that mercury is one of the most potent neurotoxins on the planet. Period. The idea that we would inject this compound directly into the blood of our infants and children seems like a pretty bad idea from the get-go, whether it causes autism or not.
The research studies that have been done looking at the links between mercury exposure from thimerosal in vaccines and autism have not found a link.
Personally, I believe that the vaccination is the trigger for the development of autism and not the only factor. There are too many stories of parents who noted a direct link between a healthy child getting a childhood vaccination and the development of autism almost immediately after. These stories are heartbreaking and too numerous to discount.
In all likelihood, there is some type of exposure that occurs in the womb. Maybe it’s BPA from plastics (known to produce epigenetic changes in mice). Maybe it’s pesticides or flame retardants. While I could not tell you exactly what it might be, an environmental exposure is highly likely. This exposure “primes” the genetics of the child to the assault of the vaccination or the mercury in the thimerosal, damaging the delicate nervous system in the infant and producing the condition known as autism.
The problem with this, from a research standpoint, is that it would be almost impossible to design a study that could take all of these factors into account. Looking at chemical exposures in the womb is a monumental task. Looking at vaccination / thimerosal exposure and autism is a massive task. The two together? Not something I’d want to have to design.
Until the time that these studies are done, I’d err on the side that mercury is NOT a good thing to inject directly into an infant’s bloodstream.
And you can add to the discussion by pointing out research that finds a direct link between the number of vaccines an infant gets in a particular country and the infant mortality rate. There has also been research within the US linking vaccination number with hospitalization and death in children. This should open your eyes a little further.
In the Delivery Room – Hepatitis B Vaccine in Newborn Infants
Even before your newborn baby is done crying, the nurses in the delivery room are starting your infant on his or her journey of some 69 doses of 16 vaccines over the next 18 years. Which would be great, if the vaccination used as a springboard in the delivery room actually did anything.
The hepatitis B vaccine really does protect an exposed infant from developing hepatitis B. If this particular infant is going to be exposed to hepatitis B from an infected parent or other family member, the hepatitis B vaccine is a really good idea.
But, given that the number of hepatitis B infected parents is pretty small, it’s pretty hard for a drug company producing the hepatitis B vaccine to make billions of dollars on just a small group of infants.
But you CAN make billions by changing the recommendations from the CDC to include a series of 3 hepatitis B vaccines into the list of vaccines for children and infants.
Sounds like a good idea, until you consider that hepatitis B is transferred mainly through IV drug use and unprotected sex. If your infant just so happens to engage in either of these two activities, then the hepatitis B vaccine is probably a good idea. But, in general, I think most toddlers avoid IV drug use.
But maybe it’s still a good idea if the Hepatitis B vaccination lasts a lifetime, right? AND, if there were no risks associated with the vaccination.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
A study done in 2004 found that the Hepatitis B vaccine is been linked to a 310% higher risk for the development of multiple sclerosis. More recently (2014), a very in-depth review of this same topic as it relates to a dramatic increase in Hepatitis B vaccine in France found the same association between the Hepatitis B vaccination and the development of MS. In this study, the argument was also laid out for the Hep B vaccine actually causing the MS, and not just being related.
So, in summary for the Hepatitis B vaccine, if your baby has the potential for being exposed from yourself or a family member who your baby will have close contact with, the Hep B vaccination is a probably a great idea. But if this is not the case, it just does not make any sense to me. Just wait until your little one grows up to get vaccinated.
Hepatitis A Vaccination: Using our Children
Most of probably think that the whole point of all the vaccines for children is to protect our children from childhood illnesses. Not so.
In some cases, we USE OUR CHILDREN to protect adults from getting sick. In other words, since we can’t force adults to get vaccinated and it would be a challenge to corral them all together, we just use our kids.
They’re easy to corral (they go to school and we can use this as a “carrot”) and we can easily convince gullible parents that it’s for the kid’s own benefit.
For one in particular, the Hepatitis A vaccine, we absolutely use the children in an attempt to protect the adults. As far back as 2002, the World Health Organization understood that to include the Hepatitis A vaccine on the list of vaccines for children was worthless.
Hepatitis A infection in children is typically not a big deal. It may be passed off as a minor stomach bug. And it’s really common. So much so that, by age 10, almost every child shows immunity against the Hepatitis A infection, whether or not the child had the Hepatitis A vaccine.
So there really is NO reason to give the Hepatitis A vaccine to children—they’re already going to be protected! So when the CDC puts the Hepatitis A vaccine on that long list of vaccines for children, it’s to protect the adults from catching it when the children get sick and bring the virus into the household.
I don’t know about you, but I have an ethical problem with sticking our children with needles and injecting them with questionable preservatives and stimulants for the immune system to protect ME. It’s my job to protect myself and I’m not going to use my son as a crutch. Period.
Polio vaccination – the Crippling Disease
Many of us alive do not remember the fear that surrounded polio epidemics. The quarantines, the closing of schools, the virtual shutdowns of communities. It was a bad thing.
With poliomyelitis, we are not talking about something simple that you can give your child a little extra vitamin C and he or she will recover. The viral infection can damage the spinal cord and lead to paralysis. There was a reason the iron lung was created.
There are many in the anti-vaccination camps that believe that the polio vaccine does not actually protect against polio infection and that improvements in sanitation were what was really responsible for the near-eradication of polio from the developed world.
I can’t honestly say that I lie with one camp or the other. The answer likely lies somewhere in between.
A few things are clear. There have been no cases of wild-type polio from inside the United States since 1979, when an outbreak occurred among the Amish in several Midwestern states. Over the next 20 years, there were 162 confirmed cases of paralytic polio cases reported. Of the 162 cases, 8 came from outside the US, but the remaining 154 cases were caused by the vaccine itself (called vaccine-associated paralytic polio—VAPP–caused by live oral poliovirus vaccine).
The last imported case caused by wild poliovirus into the United States was reported in 1993. The World Health Organization has made it a mission to eradicate Polio worldwide and has done a near-perfect job, with 416 cases in 2013, 359 in 2014 and indications of a pretty substantial drop so far in 2015.
That being said, I elected to have my son vaccinated for polio for two reasons.
First, as I mentioned, polio infection is not something to be taken lightly. There is no scenario where I would be comfortable with a child of mine developing a polio infection. I’m not willing to risk the outcomes.
Second, we happen to love to travel to Mexico and do quite a bit of exploring every time we go. Although Mexico has not had a case of polio for as many years as the US, I guess I’m just a little wary.
Just like all the other vaccines for children that we will cover in this article, you’ll have to make a personal decision based on the unique circumstances upon which you raise your children.
Influenza Vaccination: aka The Flu Jab
Few vaccines have garnered as much press and marketing efforts as the flu vaccine. The amount of money spent pushing the masses to get vaccinated year after year is staggering. This was aided with the increased number of providers out there that can now administer vaccinations; pharmacists as well as the proliferation of “minute-type-clinics” in retail stores across the country.
The problem with the influenza is that very few people, physicians and patients alike, understand the realities and have been largely influenced by the media. We will address those here.
Deaths from Influenza
Do people really die from the flu? Yes, but the numbers are far smaller than you have been led to believe. That being said, any deaths from the flu are a tragedy, especially from the family that experiences a loss. But we cannot protect against every disease known to man. It’s just not possible. Mother Nature is a powerful force and the best we can do is protect ourselves and our family from her wrath. Sometimes we’re effective, sometimes we’re not.
With this in mind, the true number of deaths associated with influenza infection per year is surprisingly small. In children, the number that we lose to influenza infection is around 100 per year. Most of these children we not previously healthy. Asthmatics, cerebral palsy and other chronic conditions are among the list of chronic conditions that increase the risk of dying from an influenza infection.
The number of previously healthy children that die from the flu is in the handfuls per year (45 / year). To put this in perspective, we lose FAR more children to improperly restrained children in car seats every year. How many children’s lives could be saved if we spent vaccination marketing dollars on buying car seats for parents who could not afford them?
In adults, the numbers are just as unspectacular. While this may seem a little surprising given what you’ve been brainwashed with over the decades, he’s the factor that makes the difference. There are influenza-confirmed deaths and then there are influenza-like-illnesses (ILI).
Many of the deaths that are reported are NOT influenza-confirmed deaths, but rather influenza-related-illnesses. If someone dies during “flu season” and it was from some type of respiratory infection it is chalked up to the flu.
THAT is how the numbers get jacked up to statistics scary enough to drive you to run to the gas station and get an influenza vacation from the guy who asks if you’d like that chip fixed in your windshield (vaccine cross-training…).
Flu Vaccine Effectiveness
So you were convinced by all the hype, marketing, your PCP and the 10% discount on groceries at your drug store (which I always thought was an illegal inducement under Medicare…) and got your vaccination at work. And it may have helped that your workplace pretty much threw your civil rights to the wind and forced you to get a vaccination.
But does it work??
That answer, despite nearly a century of use, is not all that clear. You’d think that we could look at 100 years of use, stand up and say, “YES—it works!!” Instead, we stand up and proudly proclaim that, ‘Maybe…it kind of sort of works…sometimes???”
Here’s the most recent hard data on its effectiveness based on age groups, keeping in mind that there are two types of vaccines in use—the trivalent inactivated virus (TIV) and the live-attenuated influenza (LAIV). The LAIV is not used as much because the side effects are greater (the vaccine contains the live virus, although in a weakened state).
Use of the TIV produces:
- Moderate protection (about 59%) for healthy adults 18 to 64 years of age.
- Inconsistent evidence of protection in children age 2 to 17 years.
- Almost no evidence for protection in adults 65 years of age and older
For LAIV, the results weren’t too much better:
- High protection (about 83%) for young children 6 months to 7 years of age.
- Inconsistent evidence of protection in adults 60 years of age and older.
- No evidence for protection in individuals between 8 and 59 years of age.
You can see that the flu vaccine has not been shown to work effectively in the age groups that we really need it to work in. Put this into perspective for the family of the woman killed in a stampede to get the flu vaccine several years ago during a “shortage” of flu vaccines. Her death was directly related to trying to access a vaccination that would not help.
Another thing I found interesting was a report by the CDC on how long the effectiveness of the influenza vaccination lasted. Keep in mind that your body’s own protection against a flu virus will last for decades, thereby protecting you against that particular strain of the virus for almost a lifetime.
The CDC’s determination? The protection that you get from the vaccine lasts for months. Yes—months. In other words, your body will never develop any lasting immunity to individual strains of the flu and every year, year after year after year, you will never be able to fight off a recurring strain on your own.
Flu Vaccine Dangers
All of this worthlessness would not mean much if there were no downsides. Sure, it’s a waste of time. Sure, it’s a MASSIVE waste of heath care dollars that could be spent elsewhere on things that actually helped to boost your immunity. And sure mercury used as a preservative is not exactly good for your brain.
But what if getting the flu vaccine actually INCREASED your risk of getting a respiratory infection??
Sounds crazy, right? Not if you understand how the immune system works. There has been concern that vaccination for influenza could lead to a short term reduction in non-specific immunity to other respiratory viruses.
To test this, one group of researchers gave 115 children the trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV) or a fake vaccination. Over the next 9 months, those kids who got the vaccination had a 440% higher risk of being diagnosed with a lab-confirmed viral infection that was not influenza.
And ironically, the vaccine did NOT protect these same kids from getting the flu.
You read that correctly—these kids were not only NOT helped by the flu vaccine jab, they were absolutely harmed by the use of this vaccination.
Whooping Cough Vaccination / Pertussis Vaccination
Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis and this childhood vaccination has been available since the 1930’s in the US and is now included as the “P” portion of the DPT shot. Since that time, due to high vaccination rates among our children, whooping cough has been considered a thing of the past, only present in isolated outbreaks.
“HAS BEEN considered” is the key phrase here. Our understanding of pertussis and pertussis vaccination has grown in the past few years due to a variety of studies that have increased our understanding of whooping cough.
Effectiveness of the Pertussis Vaccine
The story of the pertussis vaccine has to start with whether or not it’s even effective. Medicine used to consider the vaccination as a long term thing, offering protection that would last at least a decade, if not longer. For this reason, doctors never even put whooping cough on the list of differential diagnosis when a pediatric patient came in with a persistent cough.
The vaccine was protecting everyone, so the lingering cough couldn’t possibly be pertussis.
But recent research has proven this to be a pretty big error. Turns out that the vaccine’s effectiveness is far, far shorter then we ever thought, and begins to weaken in as early as 1-2 years. The press has called the increase in whooping cough as a resurgence, even a pandemic. But they are wrong—it’s been right under our noses the entire time because the vaccine has been very short-lived.
This short-lived vaccine effectiveness has been because there was a move in the 1980s to use the version of the childhood vaccine that didn’t have any live cells in it. This was done because the rates of fever and febrile seizures after the whole cell pertussis vaccination was unacceptably high. But this leads to a weaker strength of the vaccine. Just for comparison, the protection against pertussis from actually contracting whooping cough lasts for decades.
Could the Vaccine Be Making Things Worse?
Animal research has raised some pretty significant concerns over the use of the whooping cough vaccine. There have been two studies in particular that should make even vaccine-diehards think twice.
The first was a study looking at the risk of catching whooping cough within a short period of time after getting the vaccination. In this study, researchers found that, after vaccination, the vaccinated individuals were contagious. Yes—there is the potential that giving the vaccine for pertussis may actually increase the spread of the disease.
Just in case this wasn’t bad enough, another animal study found that the B. pertussis vaccination increased the risk FORTY TIMES of being infected by B. pertussis’ cousin–B. parapertussis. Could this be why we have been seeing pockets of increased infection with B. parapertussis infection in those areas that routinely check for it? You bet.
What Happens if My Child Gets Whooping Cough?
I can actually answer this question from firsthand knowledge since my son (who was 8 at the time) caught pertussis (not lab-confirmed, but met the CDC’s case definition) from his brother, a high school student. The problem, as I mentioned earlier in this section, is that despite a similar type of infection running rampant through the high school, not a single child was diagnosed with whooping cough.
Yep—you can’t diagnose it if you’re not looking for it.
As with all communicable diseases that we have vaccinations for, there is always a risk of bad things, including death, happening from infection. In pertussis, these bad effects have much to do with your age. Infants are the worst hit because they do not go through the typical severe coughing fits. Instead, they stop breathing, which can lead to death in some cases (deaths from pertussis before the vaccination was introduced—9,000 and after the vaccination was introduced—a very commendable 16).
In older children and adults, the biggest concern with pertussis is the secondary bacterial pneumonia that can develop. While antibiotic use does not help against the underlying pertussis infection, it CAN help prevent the secondary pneumonia.
But so can probiotics, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, rest and an overall good quality diet. Which is exactly how my son’s case was managed. If you are not willing to do everything natural possible to boost your child’s immune system during a suspected whooping cough infection, this is not the route for you to take. In Keegan’s case, he missed 30% LESS school than would have been expected had he been vaccinated and taken antibiotics.
And here’s the bonus—Keegan is now left with an immunity that will last many times longer than had he gotten the vaccination. And I’m sure his immune system is stronger for it.
In summary, when it comes to whooping cough vaccination, you’re going to have to decide how you would manage whooping cough if your child contracts it, which he or she very likely will, whether it is properly diagnosed or not. If you feel you’ve got the knowledge to manage these conditions without vaccination and without antibiotics, then you may be better off skipping this one.
Rotavirus is a gastrointestinal virus that can lead to a severe case of diarrhea. While rarely fatal in the US (20-40 infants per year), in developing nations rotavirus claims over 450,000 young lives per year and can be quite debilitating.
Out of the goodness of their hearts and to serve the underprivileged nations, the vaccine manufacturer Wyeth got the vaccine RotaShield approved in 1998. Somehow, though, they managed to get it onto the CDC’s list of vaccines for children in the US.
I’m sure it had nothing to do with increasing profits.
So where’s the problem?
Infants were dying from a condition known as intusseption. Their little tiny GI tracts essentially telescoped inside itself, leading to the deaths of infants before the vaccination was pulled off the market just 9 months later.
But have no fear of this massive killer-of-children-in-the-United-States because in 2006 another vaccine was developed that had a lower (although still present) risk of intesuseption called Rotateq. This vaccine remains on the market here in the US and is on the CDC’s recommendation list of vaccines for children.
One little tidbit your pediatrician may have neglected to mention…probiotic supplementation has been shown to lower the risk of rotavirus as well as reducing the severity of the infection if it occurs. Without those nasty little side effects like death.
On the same side of the coin, this may also mean that antibiotic use, which absolutely destroys the normal, protective flora normally found in the gut, may actually increase the risk of rotavirus infection. And if this isn’t quite the case, at the very least it’s not going to help.
The varicella vaccination is another on the list of vaccines for children that is hard for me to understand in developed nations. Yes—there is a risk of death (especially in children, of whom we lost some 13-16 per year prior to vaccination and less than a handful after introduction of the vaccine; across all age categories in the US we lost 100-150 / year prior to vaccination) but this risk is very low in countries with access to decent healthcare.
Years ago, chicken pox was one of those conditions that warranted a “chicken pox party” where all of the parents would bring kids to play at the house of someone with a child who had chicken pox. This is because chicken pox infection is much less severe in children than it is in adults.
But somewhere along the way, medicine decided that it would be much better just to immunize it away and not have to worry about it any longer.
But, as we’ve seen over and over again, you cannot best Mother Nature.
How Long Does the Varicalla Vaccination Last?
Our immune system is designed to maintain a longer duration of immunity by getting “reminders” over time. If you get the chicken pox as a child, your immune system will quickly remember the same infection at another time and act quickly to destroy it. Over time, however, this memory fades, but luckily, you are exposed to chicken pox occasionally. Maybe it was passing that sneezing preschooler at Walmart. Maybe it was your own child. Maybe it was that moist shopping cart handle.
Regardless, the result is the same—your immune system gets a reminder that it needs to stay alert for this particular infection. That’s the way it is supposed to work.
But with vaccination, most of the evidence suggests that the immunity begins to wane within a few years; within 3 to 5 years kids are at a much greater risk of catching chicken pox despite being fully vaccinated (case study in Oregon and a case study in New Hampshire).
In a study done over 15 years ago, researchers looked at how many NON-vaccinated 10 year-old kids were immune to varicella (to see if they would need to be vaccinated). The result? A whopping 92% of kids demonstrated antibodies. Based on this information, only 8% of kids would need vaccination. This also demonstrates that the immunity from being exposed to the chicken pox in the community leads to a much stronger protection than does the vaccine.
Chickenpox Vaccination and the Link to the Shingles Vaccine
So where does this leave us? Natural immunity is much stronger and vaccination immunity begins to weaken within a few years. But due to the mass-vaccination of the childhood population with the varicella vaccination, it’s hard to find cases of chicken pox in the community.
Without the infection floating around in the community your immune system will no longer get it’s “reminders” and your own resistance starts to weaken. And what happens when your immune memory weakens to the point where your body cannot effectively fight off the varicella virus?
Yes, shingles. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the mass-vaccination of the population for chicken pox has led to increasing numbers of shingles cases. To the tune of about an extra 14.6 million cases of shingles per year in the US alone, costing in excess of $80 MILLION annually.
The vaccine-devotee would proudly stand up and state that we are still ahead of the game because of the cost savings associated with vaccinating everyone for chickenpox. Not so.
Just in case you think I’m making this stuff up, a study published in 2008 examined this exact issue. Researchers looked for a diagnosis of herpes zoster that was severe enough to result in hospitalization from 1993-2004. Here’s what they found:
- Rates of shingles hospitalizations did not change over the prevaccination years (1993–1995).
- However, beginning in 2001, and by 2004 the overall rate of hospitalizations spiked 250%.
- Hospital costs went up by more than $700 million annually by 2004.
- Here’s the kicker: the annual rate of chicken pox and the associated hospital costs decreased from 1993 through 2004, but the decrease in hospitalizations and charges for chicken pox was less than the increase in hospitalizations and charges for shingles.
This research should hopefully silence the chickenpox vaccine-devotee.
On the flip side, the drug companies are wringing their hands at the implications. An entire generation was going to need a new vaccine! And the Zostavax vaccine for shingles is over 14 times as potent as the Varivax for kids, allowing Merck to charge even more.
How many of you are in an industry where the money you make creates a harmful situation that allows you to make even more money? How long would you keep your plumber around if, every time he fixed a leak it got worse? Or your auto mechanic if your car ran worse after you got it back?
You get the idea.
But somehow, in the drug industry and “health” care, this relationship is well-accepted and even promoted.
Here ends part one of this article. It turned out to be far more lengthy than I had anticipated when I started writing it. In part 2 of Vaccines for Children, we’ll cover the much heated MMR vaccination debate as well as the “cervical cancer” vaccine. Stay tuned!