a question of vaccines

I do not describe myself as someone who’s anti-vaccine.

Honestly? I’m not sure what I think about them.  I keep up on my tetanus shots because, between critters and Halloween, I run enough of a risk of injury that I’ve never questioned whether or not I should have the shot.  (Ironically, it’s a shot I’ve asked my doctors for and have never had one suggest that I get a booster.)

So let it be noted that I’m not anti-vaccine, especially for things like polio, smallpox, and tetanus. In fact, I used to not think much about them at all.  At some point, I remember posting a link to the Penn and Teller video about vaccines.

I still think there’s some good food for thought there. But I also think there’s more stuff to consider.  And the more I think about it, the more I think we should all be asking more questions.

When I was a kid, we were only given about 7 or 8 vaccinesAn example of the immunization schedule for 1974 is here, and it looks pretty minimal. I don’t have kids of my own, and – just as I had NO idea how much school security has changed since my childhood (I graduated from high school in 1987) – I had absolutely no idea how many vaccines are on a kid’s schedule today.

That’s…a LOT of vaccines.  For really young kids.  And..hepatitis is on the schedule?  The flu shot?  Chickenpox?

The CDC reports that of course vaccines are safe.   The website says, “Immunizations, like any medication, can cause adverse events. However, a decision not to immunize a child also involves risk. It is a decision to put the child and others who come into contact with him or her at risk of contracting a disease that could be dangerous or deadly. Consider measles. One out of 30 children with measles develops pneumonia. For every 1,000 children who get the disease, one or two will die from it. Thanks to vaccines, we have few cases of measles in the U.S. today. However the disease is extremely contagious, and each year dozens of cases are imported from abroad into the U.S., threatening the health of people who have not been vaccinated and those from whom the vaccine was not effective.”

So there’s pressure there to get the vaccine, although it might not work and although measles isn’t common.

What happens if you don’t get all those vaccines?  What if you think that your baby doesn’t need to be vaccinated against hepatitis?  Blogger Matt Walsh found himself under attack because he decided against getting his baby this vaccine.  (Please do read the blog. It’s fascinating.)

As it turns out, Matt had some damn good reasons to not want this vaccine for his child.  Babies have died from itThe vaccine can cause liver damage.   The common response to these points is, “Parents are told of the possible risks of vaccinations.”  That’s not true.  Ian’s story is just one example.

Let’s say you opt out of the chickenpox vaccine.  Well, now you’re putting your child at risk of being affected by flesh-eating bacteria. Which is true.  Ya know what also does that?  Insect stings.  Rashes.  Surgeries.  An open cut coming into contact with salt water.  And the CDC does point out that even with this vaccine, you may still get the chickenpox. This vaccine inspired parents to willingly expose their children to the virus rather than have their children immunized.

The Gardasil vaccine has been pretty popular for the past few years.  HPV is one of those diseases that’s pretty common and in most cases will clear up by itself..and, oh, it’s sexually transmitted, so, ya know, not SO easy to contract for a kid (which I say with the knowledge that kids are not always making smart choices, but..dude, if your kid’s having unprotected sex at age 11, you have more to worry about than HPV)…but it might also cause cervical cancer. So a vaccine is Of The Good, yes?  Maybe not. A lot of people think not.  Additionally, please note that although all of the immunization schedules say to wait until a kid is 11 or 12, Merck says 9 year olds can receive this medication. And yeah, that vaccine isn’t going to save your kid from all strands of HPV…which you probably know.

No wonder there’s confusion out there about what is and isn’t safe.

The vaccine I’m most familiar with is the flu shot.  We’re all told to get it.  Does it work?  Well…maaaaybe, according to the CDC.  Here’s the problem that *I* certainly didn’t know until I looked into the subject.  The flu shot is a guess.  The producers guess which flu strains might be the most common, and they include 3 different varieties into the shot.  If you get the shot and you don’t come in contact with that shot, you’re still going to get sick.  You might get sick just after getting the shot, for varied reasons.

My personal opinion about vaccines is that I don’t see a reason to get a vaccine for something like chickenpox or the flu because I don’t personally see them as being anywhere as serious as, say, polio.  I’ve yet to see a good enough argument to change my mind.

What I *have* run into is the argument that by not getting all of the vaccines and boosters the CDC recommends, I am putting other people’s health at risk.  And here’s my opinion about that:

I don’t buy it.

I get the idea behind “herd immunity.”  I get the idea that, because I have (I believe) a healthy immune system and should be able to get a vaccine without having an adverse reaction, I have a responsibility to do so for the sake of those who cannot do so.  (And to the parents of kids that have compromised immune systems?  Wow do you have some hard decisions to make.  Not much is known about immunizations and how they affect kids like yours. If you don’t get your kids the shots, you’re a bad parent.  If you do,

That said:  I also believe we are each responsible for our health.  Where do your rights smack up against mine?

So why not get all of those vaccines?  One concern voiced has been that mercury has been used in vaccine production. To be fair, we are also exposed to mercury in our diet (via fish) and in our dental work (our fillings..hence the push to have those metal fillings removed).  The concern?  Mercury is toxic. To quote that document: “Mercury is considered by WHO as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern.”  When it comes to vaccines, thiomersol, which contains ethyl mercury, has been used since the 1930s in vaccines. Is it dangerous?  WHO says no.  Why the concern?  Go back and look at what we know mercury can do to us.  Now consider vaccines being given to infants.  We know that the half life of mercury traces in infants is pretty shortThere are varied studies showing that no, there’s no danger. But there’s still a concerted effort to remove the chemical from vaccines because hey, mercury really isn’t that good for us.

Which makes the whole thing a little muddy.

Let’s move on to the hot topic of vaccines and autism.  Is there a connection?

In 1998, Dr Andrew Wakeland said yes, yes there is.  That conclusion has been dismissed, and people tend to assume that all protests to vaccinations stem from this one study.  Which isn’t true, but it sure does make for a great knee-jerk-reaction argument.  The concern about a possible connection goes back to at least 1985, and there’s been more than just one study done on the topic.  What it really all comes down to is this:  We see a disturbing rise in autism as we see a rise in immunizations for both pregnant women and infants.  There’s an overwhelming number of stories out there about parents saying multiple vaccines were given to their children at once – which isn’t recommended – and when their children had adverse reactions, their concerns were dismissed.

One thing I personally find disturbing is that, if you do have a complaint about a reaction you or your loved one has had to a vaccine, you have to take that to the “Vaccine Court.”  If you try to sue a drug company, you’re running into the very real possibility that your suit won’t go anywhere because vaccine companies are protected against such cases.  And if you want to think vaccines are safe?  The manufacturers make huge settlementsEven over autism.  Medicine is HUGE money.  If they can settle for those amounts, the mind boggles at how much they’re actually making.

My not at all humble opinion is that if you want to not believe there’s reason for concern, you’re going to dismiss any cautionary tales as being “anti-vax propaganda.”  And if you’re of that opinion, you haven’t read much of what I’ve linked to in this blog because you’ve already forgotten that I’ve said I’m not against vaccinations.  🙂  If you’re at all open minded, you’re going to look at the tons of information and think about what you’re putting into your body. Or your child’s body.

One of the more surprising stats I found while writing this blog was that more parents than you’d think are questioning vaccinations. NVIC is a great resource if you want to know more.  (And yes,they’re working with the CDC, so no, this isn’t a dismissable ‘anti-vax’ website.)  Among chiropractors, it’s commonly accepted that vaccines are maybe not the best idea, which means that are countless doctors saying no to vaccines.

To step away from vaccines…here’s some sobering info.

We are 49th in world health.  We’re also the country spending the most on health care. Says that article, “After citing statistical evidence showing that American patterns of obesity, smoking, traffic accidents and homicide are not the cause of lower life expectancy, they conclude that the problem is the health care system.”

Our children are not expected to outlive us.

We’re doing it wrong, folks.

40-ish vaccinations are not saving our kids.

It’s not just one thing. It’s not just obesity or genetically altered food or pollutants or bad medical practices.  It’s all of it.

And if you’re not looking around and asking why we’re doing the things we’re doing – eating crap, not getting outside, poisoning ourselves in a multitude of creative ways – I think you..and not the folks refusing to overvaccinate their kids..are the problem.


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