While it may be premature to categorize the production, sale and administration of vaccinations as a growth industry, it could be argued that the trend is headed in that direction. As of January 2006, the conventional pediatric vaccination schedule had listed eight childhood vaccines. However, up to 20 other vaccines, mostly targeting the adolescent patient, may reach the market-place by the year 2010. As the use of vaccinations continues to grow, so do the controversies surrounding them. Numerous medical problems, including rising rates of autism, thimerosal/mercury toxicity, asthma, eczema, allergies, ADD/ADHD and even cancer, are being scrutinized as part of the vaccine-injury “spectrum.”
Research still is being performed to substantiate whatever connections may exist, but the problems with vaccines have caused enough concern to spark the formation of dozens of grassroots political organizations that promote the right of a parent to refuse inoculation for their children. In addition, The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) was created via a cooperative effort of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). VAERS collects information about adverse-vaccine events and side effects.
Deciding whether to have a child vaccinated is one of the most important choices a parent will ever make. In the interest of informed consent, a pediatrician should present a full disclosure of the pros and cons of innoculation. Unfortunately, pediatricians rarely give parents the opportunity to learn about their option to not vaccinate. Often pediatricians or family doctors confront parents with strong opposition when merely questioned by parents about the potential risks of vaccination.
Parents should seek information on the pros and cons of vaccination on their own in order to make an educated, informed decision. A number of questions about vaccination follow. Each offers a statement commonly given by pediatricians and family doctors in support of vaccination. Information that rebuts this statement and supports the decision not to vaccinate follows.
1. Is vaccination necessary to prevent childhood disease?
Support of Vaccination: Immunization has been repeatedly demonstrated to be one of the most effective medical interventions we have to prevent disease.
Rebuttal: Most of the common childhood diseases were declining in terms of morbidity (complications) and mortality (death) prior to the introduction of vaccinations, according to information obtained directly from government sources.
2. How many lives does vaccination save?
Support of Vaccination: It has been estimated that immunizations currently save three million lives per year throughout the world.
Rebuttal: A negative cannot be proven. For example: how can you know that a vaccine saved a life? Do all people contract all infections? How do you know how many infections have been prevented by vaccines and how many infections have been prevented by other means?
3. Is vaccination cost-effective?
Support of Vaccination: Immunization is one of the most cost-effective health interventions.
Rebuttal: We do not know the actual cost of vaccination worldwide but a few costs are known:
The wholesale price for vaccines used in the U.S. pediatric schedule is more than $170 per child. Given that there are more than 77,000 live births per week in the U.S., that equals more than $13 million each week to prevent a few childhood infections.
More than $1.3 billion has been spent to eradicate polio from Third World countries.
The estimated lifetime cost of caring for one autistic (possibly vaccine-injured) child is more than $4.5 million.
4. Are vaccines safe?
Support of Vaccination: Vaccines are safe and do not cause untoward effects on the immune system.
Rebuttal: Safety studies have been too short, too small and too few in number to enable us to declare vaccines safe. In addition, the natural immune system of infants has not been studied and is not yet fully understood. The long-term consequences of vaccines on the immune systems of children under two years of age cannot be predicted. And as of yet, this information is not being tracked. If a child develops an autoimmune disorder, the cause is not studied; instead, a therapy/medication is developed to treat it.
5. Do vaccines contain toxic additives?
Support of Vaccination: The additives in vaccines are in small concentrations and are non-toxic.
Rebuttal: Vaccines contain a combination of at least 39 different toxic additives, preservatives and cell types introduced during the manufacturing process. The cumulative effect of these toxins, particularly the heavy metals, is hotly debated. Most vaccines are given in combination, and in doing so potentially create a cumulative effect of toxicity. In addition, vaccine contaminants have included bovine (cow), avian (chicken) and monkey viruses and bacteria such as streptococcus in the DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine [Pediatrics, Vol. 75, No. 2, Feb 1985] and Serratia marcesens in the influenza vaccines [2004 influenza season].
For example, DTP, a common vaccine given to most newborns, is produced using formaldehyde, aluminum hydroxide, aluminum phosphate, polysorbate 80 and gelatin. In some cases, thimerosal still is used. The polio vaccine is produced using three types of polio virus and can contain formaldehyde, phenoxyethanol (antifreeze), sucrose (table sugar), neomycin, streptomycin, polymyxin B and VERO cells (a continuous line of monkey kidney cells).
It is also important to consider an infant’s developing filtering system for eliminating toxins. For example, aluminum is eliminated from the body primarily through the kidneys. Infant kidney function (glomerular filtration rate) is low at birth and does not reach full capacity until one to two years of age. [Simmer, K. Aluminium in Infancy. In: Zatta PF, Alfrey AC. (Eds) Aluminium Toxicity in Infants’ Health and Disease. 1997, World Scientific Publishing.]
6. What do vaccines protect against?
Support of Vaccination: Vaccines provide high levels of protection against several diseases, as well as disability and death.
Rebuttal: Vaccines vary in efficacy, and many who have been vaccinated still contract the disease. Therefore, vaccines do not necessarily protect against disability and death from disease. In addition, vaccines have been documented to cause certain disabilities, even death.
7. Are adverse side effects of vaccination common?
Support of Vaccination: Serious adverse events following immunization are rare.
Rebuttal: Between mid-1999 and Jan. 4, 2004 (for all vaccines and all reactions), 128,035 adverse reactions were reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). It is estimated that only 10% of all reactions are actually reported to VAERS. Therefore, this may actually represent between 1.28 million (10%) and 12.8 million (1%) of all vaccine-associated adverse reactions. In that same period, there were 2,093 deaths reported to VAERS. This may actually represent between 20,930 (10%) and 209,300 (1%) of the deaths thought to be associated with vaccines.
Even though this data does not prove an association to vaccine-related injury and death, the magnitude of the numbers certainly takes exception to the concept of a “rare” event. It is worth mentioning that more than $1 billion has been paid in settlements to victims of vaccine-related injuries and death through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) since the program’s inception in 1988.
The decision to vaccinate or not is important and complex. Parents must take on the responsibility to seek enough information to make an educated, informed decision. Armed with as much information as possible, parents then can make the choice in consultation with their own health-care providers.