“every silver bullet leaves a cloudy trail”
Before I broach this difficult, almost holy topic, I’d like to review what the layman understands about immunisation or vaccination and also what the current schedule is for South Africa. I’d also like to add a disclaimer and say that there is no one true way when it comes to vaccinating choices, and that my opinion, like everyone else’s, is just that, an opinion. As usual, I will relate to you what I did with my child and why, but as usual, you still are left to make the choice for your own baby at the end of the day. Health practitioners tend to become highly emotional about their views on this topic, and I find it increasingly difficult to engage anyone objectively regarding it. I’m sorry that I can’t tell you the absolute right way of doing things, but maybe this is a little like religion… to each his own, and may each find his own way to heaven. Do what feels right, but don’t do it because someone told you it was the only way, and always hear both sides of the story before making a well-informed, empowered decision.
WHAT IS A VACCINE, HOW DOES IT WORK?
Vaccines are made of either weakened or “killed” versions of the bacteria or virus that cause a particular disease. When these altered germs are introduced into the body, the immune system recognises it as foreign and mounts an attack that stimulates the body to produce antibodies. The stimulus for these antibodies remain in the body, ready to fight these germs when they invade the body. The general idea is that the body is now immune to that illness and will not suffer symptoms of the potentially fatal illness. It is designed to attempt to mimic the process that occurs when the immune system is faced with the actual germ for the first time, readying it for the next encounter with the same illness.
THE CURRENT SOUTH AFRICAN IMMUNISATION SCHEDULE
||BCG Bacilles Calmette Guerin (Tuberculosis)
OPV (0) Oral Polio Vaccine
||RV (1) Rotavirus Vaccine
DTaP-IPV//Hib (1) Diphtheria, Tetanus, accellular Pertussis (Whooping cough), Inactivated Polio Vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type b Combined
Hep B (1) Hepatitis B Vaccine
PCV7 (1) Pneumococcal Conjugated Vaccine
||DTaP-IPV//Hib (2) Diphtheria, Tetanus, accellular Pertussis, Inactivated Polio Vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type b Combined
Hep B (2) Hepatitis B Vaccine
RV (2) Rotavirus Vaccine
PCV7 (2) Pneumococcal Conjugated Vaccine
||DTaP-IPV//Hib (3) Diphtheria, Tetanus, accellular Pertussis, Inactivated Polio Vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type b Combined
Hep B (3) Hepatitis B Vaccine
PCV7 (3) Pneumococcal Conjugated Vaccine
||Measles Vaccine (1)
||PCV7 (4) Pneumococcal Conjugated Vaccine
*Hep A Hepatitis A
*Varicella Vaccine Chickepox
||MMR Measles, Mumps, Rubella (german measels)
||DTaP-IPV//Hib (4) Diphtheria, Tetanus, accellular Pertussis, Inactivated Polio Vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type b Combined
*Hep A Hepatitis A
||MMR Measles, Mumps, Rubella
||DTaP-IPV Diphtheria, Tetanus, accellular Pertussis, Inactivated Polio Vaccine Combined
||MMR Measles, Mumps, Rubella (IF MISSED AT 5/6 YEARS)
DTaP-IPV Diphtheria, Tetanus, accellular Pertussis, Inactivated Polio Vaccine Combined (IF MISSED AT 5/6 YEARS)
HPV Human Papilloma Virus (the vaccine for genital warts and cervical cancer), Influenza virus vaccine and Meningococcal virus (for meningitis) are among extras also available if your doctor feels your child needs these.
Vaccinations have prevented many fatalities from childhood (and other) illnesses since the Smallpox era, and continue to reduce the number of clinical cases of these diseases.
SO WHATS THE PROBLEM?
1) SIDE EFFECTS
Like most medical therapies, vaccinations are not without risk and like with every other medication you give your child, it is important that you know what the potential harmful side effects are. Each vaccine has its own side effect profile and it is important that you know the possible effects of a vaccine before giving each one.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but does give an overview of side effects previously recorded to have been a result of vaccine administration. It is important to note that the more severe side effects have been more ‘rare’ phenomena than the minor ones. An interesting point to consider however, is that the reported side effects are only a reflection of those reported to have been linked to vaccinations, and that many more were either unreported or not known to have been linked to the vaccine when they occurred.The Center for Disease Control have compiled a list of side effects for most vaccines
Minor side effects
Fever, fatigue, soreness or swelling at injection site, nausea, muscle ache, headache, tummy ache, rash
Moderately severe side effects
Vomitting, diarrhoea, fainting, tight chest, allergic reactions, temporary bleeding disorders
Severe side effects
Life threatening allergic reactions, severe seizures, pneumonia, colitis (inflammation of the bowel)
Permanent side effects
Brain damage, deafness, epilepsy, death
Then there are the other less widely known, though severe, allegedly more common… and still debatable effects of vaccines.
Most have heard of the study linking the MMR vaccine with Autism in 1998, and some may even have heard of the study later being retracted and of the author, Andrew Wakefield losing his licence for dishonest falsification of information.
What most don’t know is that the debate about autism began in 1985 with a book ‘A Shot in the Dark’, about the DPT vaccine causing autism, immune system dysfunction and inflammation in the brain. And that there have been many reputable studies, old and new, around the link between vaccines and chronic diseases like diabetes, developmental delay, learning disabilities and cancer.
There were a few studies published around the world after that, bringing up issues surrounding the “hygiene hypothesis”. Saying basically that children who have infections in childhood are less prone to having chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes. In a study in Guinea-Bissau, researchers found that children who had not had measles disease were significantly more likely to suffer from allergies including asthma, eczema and hay-fever. In Italy, they found that children who were exposed to hepatitis A disease were less likely to suffer from allergies. And in England they showed that predisposed children who had suffered a severe respiratory infection in childhood were less likely to acquire Type 1 diabetes. Another study also showed that girls who did not have mumps were more likely to develop ovarian cancer as women.
A theory as to why this happens is that the immune system behaves in a much more complex way than we understand, and that each major infection is a huge lesson in the system’s development. Basically, if we deprive the body of the lesson it eventually behaves erratically, like in autoimmune diseases like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, where the body starts to attack itself. A theory has been placed, saying that undetectable parts of vaccine viruses are remaining in the tissues, causing the body to “fight itself”
A few studies showed also that unvaccinated children had significantly less asthma than those who were vaccinated, with one study in Britain reporting that out of 446 children, only one out of the 91 who had not been vaccinated developed asthma.
This is the article published in The Economist, citing many of these studies along with expert opinion http://www.economist.com/node/106632?story_id=E1_TDGGPN
‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’ SIDS or ‘cot death’ has also been shown to be linked to vaccination, specifically 3 weeks after administration. There have however been following studies showing no relationship between the 2. Allegedly these studies were sponsored by the vaccine-manufacturing pharmaceutical companies however.
We must remember however, that the difficulty comes in weighing the risk. Most would rather suffer the inconvenience of diabetes than death, the worst case scenario of a severe a childhood illness. But each child is different, and it is of paramount importance that we can place a child in the correct context. A little boy from rural Transkei, who is one of 5 babies in a hut, being care for by a grandmother and no doctor for at least a day’s walk is much more likely to die of measles than a young girl from Cape Town, whose parents are educated professionals on medical aid. Not to mention the effect of the disparities between those children’s nutritive states and living conditions. It is clear that depriving that boy of a vaccine is negligent and that the benefit far outweighs the possible risks, but how clear is it that forcing the young girl to be subjected to a vaccine can also be viewed as negligence? Surely the potential harmful side effects far outweigh the benefit of the vaccine?
The truth is that most childhood diseases have few serious consequences in today’s modern world.
A common misconception I’m faced with in practice is the idea that children who have been immunised will never get that disease. Mommies often say “she has a rash but it can’t be Measles, she had all her shots” This is of course untrue, but it does decrease your child’s risk of getting the disease or getting a severe form of the disease. Vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing disease. The issue of ‘herd immunity’ arises here, saying that the risk of getting the disease is further reduced if your child never comes into contact with anyone with measles, ie if the whole world was immunised.
3) DELAYING ILLNESS
Natural immunity after developing a disease is lifelong, whereas vaccine induced immunity can be only temporary. This can then result in a situation where a person develops the disease as an adult, resulting in a much more dangerous even fatal form of the disease. There has even been some question as to whether the chicken pox vaccine increases the risk of shingles later in life.
4) VACCINE INGREDIENTS
Ingredients like Mercury, Aluminium and formaldehyde are commonplace in vaccines, all of these being known toxicants and carcinogens. The dosage is very low, but have been proven to cause delayed complications in almost every system in the body, especially the brain tissue, at even chemically undetectable doses. There are entire fields of medicine being developed to remove these low levels of metals from the body, showing huge health benefits for those who suffered chronic symptoms before. Most of us have encountered the drive to removing Mercury fillings from our teeth, for exactly this reason.
There is also a large movement toward administering vaccines in combination. MMR is for example measels, mumps and rubella and DPT is diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. In nature a human will never experience all of these disease at the same time and there is evidence to show that the body cannot cope with too many stimuli at once.
5) UNDERDEVELOPED IMMUNE SYSTEM
Another misconception is that the vaccination schedule is designed so that vaccines are given when babies need it. The schedule is in fact designed to ensure that babies come for their immunisations when they will be at the clinic anyway, there is no other reason why injections have to begin on day 1 of your baby’s life, other than simply because you happen to be at the hospital anyway. In nature babies do not develop the diseases at the time their vaccines are given, they usually only appear much later, when the immune system is more mature and able to correctly respond to the virus or bacteria. If a baby is breastfed he is protected by his mother’s antibodies anyway. Who can say what price we pay by introducing these vaccines so early.
6) CHEATING THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
The normal process of contracting and recovering from an illness like
the measles involves a general mobilization of the entire immune system,
1) Inflammation of the area where the vaccine comes into contact with the body.
2) Activation of white blood cells and macrophages (scavenger cells) that
find and destroy the foreign elements;
3) Release of special proteins to assist these operations
and numerous other mechanisms, of which the production of specific
antibodies (which is what the vaccine does) is only one.
When vaccines are injected directly into a baby, the virus bypasses the normal portal of entry and thereby is only able to stimulate a small immune response at the site of the injection. It also avoids the usual incubation period and avoids most of the generalised immune response. The argument is that we are doing exactly what the body is built to prevent, introducing the virus directly, avoiding many of the body’s usual defense mechanisms, allowing easier access to the major organs.
The World Health Organization maintains that “the best vaccine against common
infectious diseases is an adequate diet”. Adequate, balanced nutrition with the correct supplementation of vitamins and minerals has always been the body’s greatest defense against disease. This is not to say you can prevent childhood illnesses with a good diet, but you can certainly minimise the chances of severe complications.
If you do prefer to prevent disease altogether there are alternatives to vaccines in the form of oral homeopathic vaccinations. Because homeopathy is as yet difficult to prove in the form of studies we use to prove allopathic medicine, its success rate is hard to measure. It is best to discuss this with your homeopath, and if possible to find a homeopath who is also trained in allopathic medicine.
If you are still convinced that vaccination is the way to go, but would like to limit the dangers of vaccinations you may want to consider some of the following suggestions:
a. Start vaccinations later in life
The immune system is maturing very quickly over the first months of life. Possible damage from vaccines will therefore decrease if the application is postponed. Even postponing vaccines so that they are taken only after the age of 6 months can be of benefit. Speak to your doctor about which vaccines can safely be delayed.
b. Avoid using combination vaccines
This decreases the load on the system. There’s also evidence that the immune system cannot cope with too many stimuli at once, so the level of protection offered by combination vaccines is lower. It is hard to find single dose vaccines in South Africa, but your baby clinic should be able to source most of them if you insist.
c. Choose only specific vaccines
Avoiding combination vaccines allows the parent to weigh risk to benefit ratios for every disease, and to choose only specific vaccines. This does require some knowledge of each disease and of the side effects of each vaccine. I have included a short, summarised list at the end of this document, but you may want to consult websites like www.nvic.org or www.cdc.gov for further information.
d. Re-consider vaccination in specific cases
Parents should be very careful in cases where there is likely to be an adverse reaction, namely:
• In times of acute illness or fever
• Hypersensitivity, history of previous adverse reaction or allergic conditions
• Strong family history of adverse reaction to any vaccine
• Having any chronic disease
• Current treatment with any drug that depletes the immune system, including
e. Take steps to undo some of the damage
Homeopathy has done wonders in reversing some of the harmful effects of vaccines, especially when a child deteriorates clearly after vaccination. It is important that you do not buy over the counter remedies for this, a remedy must be carefully chosen for your child and his specific set of symptoms by a trained homeopath. Some interesting reading http://www.thevaccinealternative.com/ and http://vaccinefree.wordpress.com/
Metal chelation can help to detect levels of metals in your child’s body and remove them before they do any damage in the tissues.
In 2007, Dr. Robert Sears published The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, which seeks to address the biggest concerns of parents who are looking for a middle ground between the official vaccine schedule and avoiding them altogether. It is a worthwhile book to read before deciding.
WHAT I DID
Before becoming pregnant I had already decided that I would not follow the vaccination schedule blindly. I did lots of reading about the pros and cons and spoke to many healthcare professionals with differing opinions. When baby was born all I knew was that I did not want to be vaccinated in hospital. Refusing the vaccination there did prove to be harder than saying ‘no thank you’ however. I was looked at with almost hateful condemnation and had to undergo a few probing questions from the nurse about why I didn’t want it and where I planned to go to get it before she handed me my baby.
The next decision I made was to delay all vaccinations until at least 6 months. I did lots of reading on each illness and the benefit and risk of each vaccine and started compiling a list of vaccines I would consider then. 6 months came and went, and I still couldn’t decide on exactly which vaccines I wanted to give and when. Polio was certainly high on my list, as was Diphtheria and Hib (for meningitis), but the more research I did on homeopathic alternatives, the more I feel that I would prefer to use that as prophylaxis.
Baby is now 7 months old and so far has never been sick. She had a runny nose once for about 3 days and a mild fever of about 37.3 when she was teething. I don’t know if this is because of avoiding vaccinations or because she’s breastfed still, or because we’re just lucky with her, but I do know that most babies at my practice have been quite ill at least once by this age.
I have an appointment to see my paediatrician and my homeopath next week to discuss vaccine alternatives again. Hopefully by then we will have reached a clearer decision, but rest assured, you will be among the first to know.