Most parents don’t think twice about immunizing their children. Yet one-third of the four million babies born in this country every year are not vaccinated by age two. A couple of years ago, a New York couple was even accused of child neglect because they refused a measles shot for their three year old (1). Is failure to vaccinate children due to ignorance, poverty, or worse yet, abuse, as the government claims? Perhaps, in some cases. But many parents are consciously choosing to forgo or modify how immunizations are given to their children based on research and concern.
These sentiments smack in the face of President Clinton’s Childhood Immunization Initiative–a mission to vaccinate 90 percent of all children against six ailments by 1996. Besides offering free shots to those who qualify, tracking systems exist in various states (including California) to shadow both immunized and non-immunized children (1).
There was a time when childhood illnesses were deadly. The introduction of vaccinations beginning with smallpox in 1902 (2) brought a sigh of relief to many parents’ lips. Health caregivers watched as the incidence of polio and other ailments declined, and once frequent diseases became rare.
Vaccines, intended to protect the individual and community against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus (lock jaw), polio, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), Haemophilus influenzae type b, and hepatitis B, are hailed by many as one of the most efficacious and safest therapies available. Vaccines defend children against contagious bugs, when parents cannot (3). Rashes, fever or sore arms, and the occasional severe reaction caused by shots are viewed as small prices to pay for promised immunity (4).
Most states require all vaccines be given to children in order to attend school and, frequently, daycare. The Supreme Court ruled compulsory vaccinations to be constitutional (1). All states offer exemptions to this requirement based on medical reasons (requiring a doctor’s signature), religious beliefs, personal or philosophical judgment. However, these exemptions are not guaranteed. During the last four years, at least three states lost their philosophical exemption. A resolution opposing religious exemptions was passed by the American Medical Association because this exemption violates standard medical practice (5). Immunizations are not mandatory in every country. Switzerland, the Netherlands, England, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Spain offer vaccines as an option not a law (6).
Don’t Vaccinate My Child!
The greatest threat of childhood diseases lies in the dangerous and ineffectual efforts made to prevent them through mass immunization” was the opinion of the late Robert Mendelsohn, MD (7). While pushing for higher immunization rates, the US government has set up the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, funded by a federal tax applied to each vaccine. As of February 1995, VICP has paid over half a billion dollars for vaccine related injuries and deaths. The federal government admits that less than 10 percent of doctors even report vaccine problems (8). So without adequate data, do we really know if the benefits of immunization outweigh its risks?
Opponents feel there are too many unanswered questions surrounding vaccines to warrant blanket use. Even the word “immunization” is frowned upon as it implies support of the immune system when in fact the opposite may be true (6). Some are concerned that vaccines may ignite AIDS infections, cause allergies, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and immune related conditions such as multiple sclerosis later in life. Of the 145 children who died of SIDS or crib death in Los Angeles County from 1979 to 1980, more than one-third had received a DPT shot less than a month earlier. The investigators that reported this acknowledged these SIDS cases were “significantly more than expected” (9).
Immunization adversaries feel immunity gained from an inoculation is a far cry from the natural immunity acquired from exposure or development of the disease itself. Even vaccine advocates admit shots are not 100 percent effective (10). Three years ago Cincinnati experienced a pertussis epidemic among primarily immunized children (11). In 1989, 40 percent of measles cases were blamed on vaccine failure (12).
Most diseases vaccinated against are contracted through respiration. Vaccine injections bypass important natural defense systems in the body which are never activated. The timing and amount of vaccine used may be too soon or too much, overpowering the immune system–particularly the undeveloped defenses of an infant (6). Consider too the formaldehyde, thimerosal (mercury derivative) and other hazardous chemicals added to a vaccine brew (13).
Even though immunizations for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and polio began at two months of age, a young infant is usually protected by measles, polio and tetanus antibodies from its mother for the first six months of life (10). Breastfed children are protected by immunity factors contained in breast milk (14).
The incidence and severity of measles, polio, diphtheria, and whooping cough began sliding dramatically before widespread vaccination programs or antibiotics were introduced (15). Better nutrition and hygiene, as well as the natural cyclical nature of disease, probably explain this decline. One needs only to look at Europe where polio disappeared at the same time as the United States–without aggressive immunizations–to dismiss mass inoculations’ responsibility in eradicating illness (7).
There are parents and practitioners who balk at being part of a “big experiment” that does not allow much room for personal options. Sacrificing the few for the group is founded on the idea of herd immunity. Herd immunity assumes that if the entire population is vaccinated against a particular disease then epidemics can be avoided. However, this sentiment fails to consider vaccines’ mediocre track record, mild and serious side effects, and the medically exempt whose health or allergy to something in shots prevents vaccine treatment. Also many people choose not to be vaccinated based on religious or person reasons (3).
Give Me Choice, or Give Me Death
When a child’s health is at stake, it is very difficult to choose between a potentially serious disease and a possibly harmful treatment. Do you vaccinate just in case or abstain until science knows more? To place immunizations is the proper light, consider this. Why aren’t vaccines forced on adults? (We get sick too.) What other medical treatment is mandated for everyone regardless of health and situation? (I can’t think of any.)
If the medical side doesn’t concern you, think of the freedom to choose issue. Privacy is another matter. Confidentiality of vaccination information doesn’t exist. In fact in several states, including California, immunization records are open to scrutiny by select individuals like the Health Department without parental consent (1).
I don’t recommend you avoid or use shots for your children. I do offer several options.
- Routine Immunization. If you choose to fully vaccinate your child, ask your doctor about the risks and possible side effects of immunizations. Educate yourself about situations where inoculations should be avoided or delayed.
- No Immunization. Some parents choose not to immunize their children at all. They try to guard their children’s immune systems with healthy practices such as prolonged breast-feeding, and later a nutritious diet.
- Homeopathic Immunization. As a compromise, some parents choose to use homeopathic immunization instead of or together with conventional vaccinations. Individuals selecting this treatment should be aware that this form of vaccination is not proven and is not a legal substitute for state-mandated requirements (16). If you decide to go this route, seek guidance from a professionally trained homeopath.
- Selective Immunization-Type and Timing. Others selectively pick vaccines for their children. In a similar vein, some parents delay vaccinating their children until they are older.
Heightened awareness may turn your once sparkling clear decision to immunize your children into mud. Vaccination is a subject still bubbling with many questions. Read what various experts have to say and formulate your own opinions. The final choice is up to you.
Gostin LO & Z Lazzarini. Childhood immunization registries. Journal of the American Medical Association 1995;274(22): 1793-99.
- Leviton R. Who calls the shots? East West 1988 November: 43-56.
- Anon. Immunizations Mothering Special Edition. Santa Fe: Mothering Magazine, 1987.
- US Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service. Parents Guide to Childhood Immunization (revised). Atlanta: Center for Disease Control, 1988.
- Severyn, KM. News from other states: vaccine exemptions in danger. Vaccine News (Ohio Parents for Vaccine Safety), Autumn 1995, pg 34.
- Buttram HE, Hoffman JC. Vaccinations and immune malfunction from Pizzorno J, Murray M. A Textbook of Natural Medicine. Seattle: Bastyr College Publications, 1986.
- Mendelsohn RS. How to Raise a Healthy Child…in Spite of your Doctor. New York: Ballantine Books, 1984.
- Severyn, Kristine M., RPh, PhD. Director of Ohio Parents for Vaccine Safety. Oral testimony to the health policy committee Michigan house of representatives in opposition to House Bill 4395. Wednesday, September 13, 1995, Michigan statehouse, Lansing, Michigan.
- Scheibner, Viera PhD. Vaccination: 100 years of Orthodox Research show that Vaccines Represent a Medical Assault on the Immune System. Australia; US Distributor: New Atlantean Press, 1993, pg 62.
STUDY CITED: Baraff L, Ablon W & Weiss P. Possible temporal association between diphtheria-tentanus toxoid-pertussis vaccination in sudden infant death syndrome. Peditaric Infectious Diseases 1983;2:7.
- Kaye R, Oski FA, Barness LA. Core Textbook of Pediatrics (second edition). Philadelphia: JB Lippincott Co., 1982.
- Christie CDC et al. The 1993 epidemic of pertussis Cincinnati. The New England Journal of Medicine 1994;331: 16-21.
- Marwick C. Secretary of health, human services to hear recommendations for improving immunization. Journal of the American Medical Association 1990; 264(15): 1925-6.
- Miller NZ. Immunization Theory vs Reality. Santa Fe: New Atlantean Press, 1996.
- Lawton JWM, Shortridge KF. Protective factors in human breast milk and colostrum (letter). The Lancet 1977; 1: 253.
- Miller, NZ. Vaccines: Are they really safe and effective? Santa Fe: New Atlantean Press, 1992.
- Traub M. Homeopathy Position Paper-First Draft (letter). April 29, 1992