I vowed to myself that there would be a few topics I would not address on this blog, one of them being The Vaccine Debate. There are too many emotions, variables, and conflicts involved with it and I will honestly say that I am staunchly in the middle on this one. However, an inflammatory conversation, recently, on a message board I belong to prompted me to think about a bit more about my feelings and opinions of the subject.
If you haven’t been keeping up, take some time to view PBS Frontline’s “The Vaccine War”. While I feel that this program leans a little more toward providing vaccination information and focuses less on reasons not to vaccinate, it is worthwhile.
A Couple of Things:
-Because my husband and I were both teachers (read: in close contact with all sectors of the population), our son got vaccinated. However, he did not receive vaccinations until he was three months old and he was on a delayed schedule. We also refused a few vaccines. I will note that my gut always told me that the number of vaccines given to kids is wrong; this type of intervention goes against all of my philosophies about health. Fear won out, though, and Bear got his shots. In the meantime, I did more reading, and became fearful (again) that vaccines aren’t all they’re made out to be. At his 15-month appointment, I decided to refuse all vaccines. We are up in the air about where to go next: whether to finish out the doses he has received or discontinue altogether.
-Our pediatrician has always taken this stance, “I chose to vaccinate my daughter. However, my job is to provide you with information and my professional opinion. The decision, however, is ultimately up to you.”
-I do not judge parents who choose to vaccinate nor do I judge or admire those who choose not to. As I said, I’m staunchly in the middle. I understand the good of each decision.
I mentioned a message-board discussion is what prompted this post. The day the subject came to light, someone posted this article about an outbreak of measles in Utah which has been attributed to a non-vaccinated teen traveling to Europe, gaining exposure to the disease, and spreading it upon arrival to the U.S. This is not an isolated incident, as measles outbreaks have been reported in the past year.* The woman who posted the article accompanied it with a very inflammatory argument, asserting that those who choose not vaccinate are uneducated and irresponsible for endangering the health of the community/the population. Her response, like disease outbreak, is not uncommon; I have had many friends receive similar reactions from doctors.
I responded with a few arguments of my own and with a few links that were either scoffed at or ignored. I was tired of the discussion and didn’t have any research to back up my gut feeling. How can anyone do research on the effects of not vaccinating a child? There are too many variables, thus, there are no good statistics. Pro-vaxers like this. (I should mention that I am a non-believer in statistics. They are generally never accurate and can be skewed any number of ways. Statistics are like clay: pliable to shape as you see fit. Humans can never be accurately represented by numbers.)
The message-board discussion was abandoned by me. However, the emotions I have about the subject were still coursing through my (vaccinated) veins. Why was I so fired up about one person’s opinion?
*Measles seems to be the only disease that is having unusual outbreak patterns. If you investigate the CDC website, you will find that outbreaks of all other diseases are “common” and it is admitted that vaccines aren’t “perfect” and not always effective.
It Comes Down to Personal Choice
Here’s why I was so angered by this person on a message board: IT’S MY CHOICE. I don’t care about “herd immunity,” especially not now when the doses of vaccines given to children has reached an astounding number.
I tend to stay away from any activity involving “herd;” it’s never a good outcome: herd stampede, following the herd (which leads to mob mentality). I also tend to shy from situations that resemble the novel 1984, which is why we do not get flu shots/H1N1 shots/Gardasil or any of the other number of marketed, and sometimes mandatory, “health” strategies in this country. Speaking of which, aren’t childhood vaccines essentially mandatory at this point? Unless, of course, you lie about a religious or health reason, and fill out the appropriate paperwork, your child will not be admitted to public schools or other federally-funded programs. I’m just uncomfortable with deeming something “good” for my child’s well-being when 1)someone else gets to decide the ingredients and 2)the number of vaccines and doses keeps increasing. One could argue that the questionable ingredients in vaccines are administered in such small doses that their effects are negligible. But what happens when children are given multiple doses of these small amounts of potentially dangerous ingredients? That is the question that scares most non-vaxers and delayed-schedule vaxers, I would ascertain.
Technology is Never Without Consequence
Whenever one seeks to improve upon the natural world, it is met with consequences. For a small example, take acetaminophen. You might pop one or two if you have a headache. Voila! Headache gone. But what happened to the acetaminophen? Ingredients placed in the body don’t just disappear. Acetaminophen has been known to cause liver failure. I’m not suggesting that a little white pill could lead to major health problems, only that acetaminophen is considered a “safe” drug, administered to children often, and it clearly has side effects. There are no substances that are foreign to the natural world that are “safe” to allow into the body.
One of the largest debates concerning vaccines is whether foreign ingredients in and the increased doses of vaccines are leading to rising levels of autism. I can’t say I’m completely on board with that argument, but it has been proven that artificial coloring has a direct link to ADHD, so why wouldn’t it be possible that other substances given at critical developmental periods might cause a different neurological disorder? I’m not a lab researcher so I don’t know have the answer. But these are the types of questions that revolve through my mind.
My philosophy about health is simple: put in good; get good output. Put in unrecognizables (chemicals, GMO’s, artificial substances, etc.), expect a bad output now or later down the road of life. Use only naturally-derived interventions when an intervention is necessary (like drinking more water or using essential oils for a headache). Modern, western medicine only to be used in extreme or emergency cases.
You can see that vaccines (unnatural, chemical-laden interventions despite being preventative) are a clash of my beliefs, especially when vaccines have oftentimes failed or caused negative effects on their hosts when they were originally deemed effective and safe.
Beliefs & Ethics
The pro-vaxer from my message board stated outright that she would not let her child play with any child who has not been vaccinated, due to the health risk. I understand that sentiment, I suppose. What I don’t understand is the animosity many have towards those who choose not to vaccinate. Here’s what it comes down to: vaccinations (as well as any other medical advances like prescription drugs) are just a suit of armor in Survival of the Fittest. Without these advancements in science, we would be subjected to whatever hazards we were dealt. And even vaccinations are proving to be ineffective against outbreaks.
So, exemptions from vaccines include religion (“I don’t believe in interventions other than those from God”) or health (“I’m allergic to eggs and this vaccine will cause me issue”). Is this acceptable from the pro-vaxing community? Why is “I’m just not sure about this and would like more information,” or “I’m uncomfortable with the number of vaccines my child is getting” NOT acceptable? Do we not have an obligation to look out for the best interest of our children? Pro-vaxers do not get to decide what is best for my son just because they have studies, funded by Big Pharma, to back up their reasoning.
I don’t buy the argument that we all need to vaccinate for “the greater good” of the population. If anyone was concerned with the greater good of the population, she should be fighting for GMO’s to be eradicated from our grocery store shelves, campaigning for chemicals and petroleum by-products to be eliminated from our cosmetics, and standing up for natural, drug-free births. These three issues have caused harm to public health and will inevitably cause harm to future generations–to the point of altering DNA and natural functions of our bodies.
Essentially, it seems that issues of public health that are not readily seen aren’t as anger-inducing as issues of public health that are more immediate. Before the measles vaccine, 5.7 million people died annually from measles (worldwide). “In 1920 [before the measles vaccine], the United States had 469,924 measles cases and 7,575 deaths due to measles.” The number of deaths dropped to virtually none after the implementation of vaccines. Now, let’s compare this to heart disease, not quite as flashy as measles, but a killer nonetheless: in 2009, 26.8 MILLION Americans were diagnosed with heart disease. The number of deaths? Over 600,000. (See these stats and more on the CDC website.)
Now, I said I am a non-believer in statistics. However, if we’re just looking at a pure number of cases, it seems that heart disease is killing more Americans than measles ever did. And consider this: children are getting fed the same way their parents are eating. Where’s the vaccine for convenience food addiction?
What’s a Parent to Do?
Despite this slanted argument I’ve just spewed, I’ve got to say that discontinuing vaccinating my son concerns me. It becomes an issue of “what’s the worst that can happen?” with each disease versus its immunization. The side with the least amount of risk will win out. Most likely, we will elect to have The Bear receive certain vaccines and discontinue others.
Everyone should be informed about immunizations from both sides of the story and no one should be judged for her decision (or choice NOT to make a decision and vaccinate as per the CDC recommendation).
Let’s play nicely, now. What’s YOUR choice in the vaccine debate? How do you handle those who don’t agree?
Many of the images in this post came from the press kit for the documentary The Greater Good. Check out a screening of the film available at Mercola.com on October 3oth! I’m very interested to see the conversations this film may bring to light.
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