Question #3: Do I Have to Vaccinate My Child?
Vaccines are a very sensitive topic for many people, especially as the information available surrounding autism spectrum disorder (ASD) increases and vocal anti-vaccine advocates are spotlighted and criticized. I will be the first to say that if the pro-vaccination community thinks the only reason there is hype about vaccines is autism, then they are way off the mark. Do I think vaccines cause autism? Absolutely not. There are a multitude of environmental factors that are coming into play, and I do believe vaccines could be part of it in certain cases. Humans are not linear equations. We are a complex interrelated organized system that is living, breathing matter. To think there is only one single cause of autism or any modern disease is very shortsighted.
With that said, the simple answer to the question is no. Vaccination is a choice; it is a parent’s responsibility to make an informed choice based on what is best for their family’s health. While some organizations and travel require certain vaccines, there are often exemptions available if you decide to forgo the shots.
How Do We Build Immunity?
There are two distinct ways to build immunity within our bodies. We can do it artificially through man-made vaccinations. Or we can do it naturally (the way we have done for all of human history BV – Before Vaccines.) Natural immunity may be acquired actively through exposure to a disease. This is the only way the body has the capacity to maintain a lifetime of immunity against a disease. Think Chicken Pox Party: When one youngster had chicken pox, everyone came over to play – a few days of itching and immunity for life! We also participate in natural immunity passively by obtaining antibodies from an outside source such as breast feeding. This does not offer long term immunity, but will provide safety for children with developing immune systems, which is especially important in the first 6 months of life.
Artificial immunity is built through vaccination. The exposure of our immune system to a live or weakened virus in order to “trick” the body into believing it has been exposed to the disease. Studies have shown that this type of immunity is limited; it is not effective long-term, leading to the need for “booster” shots. The recent Whooping Cough (Pertussis) outbreaks have been attributed to vaccine effectiveness decreasing over time and another booster has been suggested for teens (that makes 6+ recommended pertussis boosters). This type of immunity also bypasses primary and secondary immune defenses by injecting these diseases directly into the blood stream.
I’ll pause here to say that I do believe there is a time and place for artificial immunity, especially in children who are not able to breastfeed or who have weakened immune systems for whatever reason. I feel that natural immunity is more beneficial in the majority of cases because, although the theoretical idea of vaccination is an evolutionary breakthrough, the current implementation falls gravely short of success. My three biggest concerns with the current vaccine regiment are simple: Contents, Volume and Accountability.
There is a massive amount of ingredients that accompany any vaccine. These ingredients include but are not limited to formaldehyde (used for embalming a corpse), aluminum and Thimerosal (heavy metal neurotoxins), and detergents ( A full list can be found on the Center for Disease Control’s website ). These are additives we avoid like the plague (excuse the pun) and slap Mr. Yuck stickers on. As parents, we are diligent about checking food labels for MSG, dyes, and preservatives like Polysorbate 80 (found in half the vaccines on the market). We lock the cleaning supplies away. Why then is it okay to use them as stabilizers and inject them directly into our children? We know the ingredients are bad news individually; nothing changes when we package them together.
Another shortcoming in more recent vaccine history is the increase in sheer number. If my son were to follow the current recommended vaccine schedule, then he would receive three times as many vaccines by 6 years of age than my wife and I received when we were children.
Why is this a problem? Let’s take Aluminum as an example. Studies show that a safe range of Aluminum for premature babies and those with impaired kidney function to receive intravenously is 4-5 mcg per kg of body weight per day. We can assume that a healthy baby should be able to handle more than that, but no safety studies have been done to substantiate that claim. We'll use 5 mcg/kg/day as a conservative estimate because, well, we like to be conservative when talking about toxicity and children's health. Doing a little tedious math, you can find the level of aluminum a healthy baby should be able to handle in a day.
12 pound, healthy baby: about 30 mcg of aluminum
25 pound, healthy toddler: about 63 mcg of aluminum
50 pound, healthy child: 125 mcg of aluminum
Now how much Aluminum is found in a vaccine? Each is different, but we’ll keep it simple and look at just one. DTaP (for Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus) contains 170 to 625mcg depending on the manufacturer. Looking at our calculation, 170 mcg is more Aluminum than a 50 pound healthy toddler should receive in a day. But this vaccine is given at 2, 4, 6, and 18 months…with other vaccines on the same visit (CDC proposed schedule). That’s a lot for a little (or any) immune system to handle. (Dr. Sears carries out a more detailed example here with links to related studies.)
Many parents are now spreading out their children’s vaccinations through delayed schedules or choosing only certain vaccines to administer. These are perfectly responsible parenting decisions.
If the ingredients themselves do not concern you as a parent, then perhaps $2 Billion might. That is the amount of money awarded to vaccine injured parties, since the inception of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 and estimates believe these injuries are grossly under-reported (Details). What’s more, the Act prevents vaccine manufacturers from being held liable for those injuries. That $2 Billion is paid for through TAXES! If a toy company sold a toy that injured a child they would be sued right out of business. This act prevents pharmaceutical companies from baring that responsibility. Without accountability, there’s little reason to maintain highest standards that should be demanded of this industry. (And frankly, I am more than a little irritated that my tax dollars pay for their mistakes. Especially when those mistakes are negatively impacting the lives of children and their families.)
More vaccines are being created every year, adding to the artificial immunity. My question as a parent and health care practitioner is what is the limit? We already know that artificial immunity does not provide the lifetime effectiveness that natural immunity does. I wonder if there will ever be a shift back towards building immunity naturally, the way we were designed. All I hope for is that parents make the best decision for their families based on all the information that is currently available. Get informed and then decide.
For more information on vaccines, I recommend the following resources:
- National Vaccine Information Center (www.nvic.org)
- International Medical Council on Vaccination (http://www.vaccinationcouncil.org/)
- The Greater Good Movie (http://www.greatergoodmovie.org/)
- The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child by Dr. Robert Sears, M.D.
How do we as parents provide the best opportunity for health in our children? Ask questions. Understand the answers. Make the decisions that are right for you and your family. In the end, the best advice that can be given is to lead by example. Strive for health in your life; in turn, they will learn by example. Give them the opportunity to grow in health! This is question 3 of 5 – Check back later this week for the next installment.