What options are available to parents in their choice about vaccines? First, parents may decide they want less than the total range of recommended vaccines. It comes as a surprise to some parents that they can choose to have one or some vaccines and refuse others. You are responsible for your child’s health. You are in control. If a child suffers a dramatic and tragic reaction to a vaccine, it is the parents who must cope with it. The doctors may be sympathetic, but they are personally uninvolved. They view it merely as a casualty in the war against disease, if they admit any culpability at all.
When would a parent choose to give some vaccines and not others? Simply stated, some vaccines apparently represent a more dangerous threat to the body than others. This is inferred from the types of immediate, short-term reactions that we can observe. We assume that those vaccines with the most dramatic short-term toxicity also pose a more dangerous risk for long-term reactions, though this has not been proven because no one has studied the long-term effects of vaccines.
Given that the long-term risks are unknown, parents usually make choices about individual vaccines based on the history of short-term reactions they have caused. The pertussis, measles, and rubella vaccines tend to cause more significant observable reactions than others, though hepatitis and polio vaccines can also cause serious illness. The most commonly avoided vaccine is pertussis because by now, after more than sixty years of medical reports of horrific reactions (deaths, epilepsy, and retardation) from the whole-cell pertussis vaccine, public fear of the vaccine has mounted. The fact that many other countries have abandoned the pertussis vaccine has strengthened the resolve of many parents to also refuse the vaccine. These parents have held their ground, and many physicians, though they may not take the same position, admit that a parent’s concern about possible reactions may be justified, despite the consistent denial of the American vaccine industry.
Parents can pick and choose from the list of vaccines based on their own individual family’s needs and their own research. They may decide that some diseases pose enough danger to their child to risk the adverse effects of the vaccine. Even a parent who has rejected most vaccines because of their potential adverse effects may choose to give one or a few individual vaccines. Typically, tetanus is a disease that concerns many parents. Since the vaccine causes less immediate severe reactions than others, because the vaccine always works to prevent tetanus, and because tetanus represents a life-threatening situation when it does occur, parents who refuse other vaccines sometimes opt to get the tetanus shots for their child. A parent’s concern may be greater for a very active child, especially around horses, since both these factors increase the risk of wounds and exposure to tetanus. Other families may be considering travel to areas of the world (Asia or Africa) where polio still exists, and they will consider giving that vaccine even if they realize that polio does not occur in their own part of the world.
Typically, parents will avoid and refuse specific vaccines for two reasons. Either they fear serious vaccine reactions because of a vaccine’s history, or the disease causes so little concern that the vaccine does not seem necessary to them. Other diseases represent a greater threat, and parents may feel more secure giving the vaccine than risking the disease in their child.
When parents make an informed choice, they will be taking responsibility for their own child’s health care, doing their best to ensure that child’s safety and future. An informed choice requires information.
Adverse Effects of Vaccines
All of the vaccines have significant adverse effects. These can be separated into two groups: (a) immediate or short-term reactions that occur soon after giving a vaccine, and (b) delayed or long-term reactions. Immediate reactions include fevers, allergic responses, deafness, convulsions, paralysis, central nervous system disease resulting in temporary or permanent disabilities, and death. Delayed reactions may be more insidious and less obvious. They can also result in persistent conditions that include epilepsy, mental retardation, learning disabilities, and immune system dysfunction.
Adverse events resulting from vaccines may be due to the bacterial toxin or virus component of the vaccine, or to the chemicals used in the preparation and preserving of the solution. These chemicals include mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum, and a variety of other known toxic materials.
Vaccine reactions are notoriously under-reported. Many factors contribute to the reluctance of physicians to report a vaccine reaction, not the least of which is outright denial. Self-protection and self-reassurance are other psychological motives. Physicians do not want to admit that they have caused a problem. They like to think that their interventions are helpful, not harmful. They have also been assured and instructed by the vaccine industry that certain reactions that parents regularly observe, such as brain damage and death, cannot be attributed to the vaccines. A whole range of bizarre and pathological behaviors that infants display after they receive vaccines must have another cause, they argue. It would have occurred anyway, regardless of the shot.
Immediate or short-term reactions following vaccine administration have been consistently reported in the medical literature since vaccines have been in common use. Reports of these reactions have caused rebellion within the populations of various countries, and governments have responsed in various ways.
In 1975, Japanese parents refused to give their children the pertussis vaccine after widespread publication of two deaths following vaccination. The Japanese government changed its policy in response to this protest, and delayed the recommended age for vaccination until two years. During the late nineteenth century, individuals in the United States protested that mandatory smallpox vaccination infringed upon their constitutional right of personal liberty. The issue was brought to trial and, in 1905, the Supreme Court upheld the rule that state police power included the need to protect its citizens from diseases. All cases since then have resulted in the same conclusion based on this precedent. When European countries began suspecting that the pertussis vaccine was dangerous, they eliminated it from the recommended schedule of childhood vaccinations. When parents in the United States have refused to administer this vaccine to their children, however, their children have been taken into protective custody by the state.
The Vaccine Safety Committee, established by the Institutes of Medicine, has ruled that the evidence proves, or favors, a causal relation between vaccines and the following adverse effects:
Despite the other thousands of reports from countries around the world - from distraught parents whose children died within hours of a shot, to physicians convinced that a vaccine resulted in meningitis, or deafness, or sudden onset of central nervous system disorders - the committee refused to recognize a causal relation between these events and the recently administered vaccines. Most types of adverse reactions reported in the medical literature and through the adverse event reporting systems were not recognized by the Vaccine Safety Committee as having a causal relationship to the vaccines. The list of conditions that have a suspected link to vaccines includes 44 different types of reactions—conditions with literally hundreds of reported cases, conditions such as meningitis and diabetes following mumps vaccine, and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) after measles vaccine. Other types of reactions, such as deaths from the pertussis vaccines, are denied. Despite the controversies, the conclusions of the Vaccine Safety Committee are now used as guidelines in the award of compensations for vaccine-injured children.
- anaphylaxis (a sudden, potentially life-threatening systemic allergic response) caused by several vaccines
- polio and death caused by the polio vaccine
- thrombocytopenia (a decrease in the number of platelets, the cells involved in blood clotting) caused by the measles vaccine
- death caused by the measles vaccine
- acute arthritis caused by the rubella vaccine
- acute encephalopathy after DTP
- shock and unusual shock-like states after DTP
- chronic arthritis after rubella vaccine
- Guillain-Barré syndrome after DT and polio vaccines.
Deep controversy also surrounds the issue of delayed or long-term reactions, because these do not have a clear causal link to vaccines. In vaccine-industry jargon, they are not "temporally related" - that is the definition of a delayed reaction. For example, how do we know that the increased number of ear infections in a population of vaccinated children, or in any individual child, was caused by the vaccine? No one has studied this question. How do we know that the rise in attention disorders in school-age children has a relationship to vaccines? It would seem to be a logical conclusion, but no one has studied vaccinated versus unvaccinated children. Parents must make judgments in this area based on the experience of other parents and practitioners whose children and patients have not been vaccinated.
In general, such parents and practitioners agree that their children are healthier, and suffer fewer recurrent infections, than their vaccinated counterparts. This may help reassure parents who choose not to vaccinate, but it obviously carries no scientific weight.
Critics of vaccinations have asserted that vaccines are capable of causing recurrent infections in children because they weaken the immune system. They say that the dramatic rise in ear infections, allergies, and asthma in children can be attributed (at least in part) to the damaging effects of vaccines. The incidence of asthma, the most serious and life-threatening of these conditions, has steadily increased in the modern era since the introduction of vaccines. Just during the period 1980 through 1989 the prevalence rate of self-reported asthma in the United States increased 38 percent, and the death rate for asthma increased 46 percent (Centers for Disease Control, 1992). Just in the five years from 1985 through 1990, projected estimates for asthma’s medical costs increased 53 percent. The total estimated cost of asthma rose from $4.5 billion to $6.2 billion, or 1 percent of all US health-care costs (Weiss et al., 1992). This dramatic increase has been attributed to increased exposure to environmental pollutants, and to the toxic effect of asthma medications themselves, but the increasing burden on the immune system caused by vaccines could also be responsible.
One of the most compelling arguments that points to vaccines as a cause of immune system dysfunction is the dramatic improvement that occurs in these cases following homeopathic treatment of the vaccine adverse effects. When a homeopathic doctor sees a child with recurrent infections, respiratory symptoms, or nervous system disorders which began after a vaccine, a common treatment protocol includes the prescription of a homeopathic preparation of the vaccine itself. This serves to antidote the adverse effect of the vaccine. Dramatic recoveries have been recorded in the homeopathic literature, including cases of immediate febrile reactions after vaccines and long-term illness patterns that resolved subsequent to the homeopathic treatment (Smits, 1995; Schaffer, 1995; Moskowitz, 1991; Moskowitz 1983).
The Institute of Medicine Vaccine Safety Committee identifies various autoimmune phenomena as well-documented adverse effects of vaccines. Many of these autoimmune responses to vaccines result in permanent, chronic disease conditions. The committee’s report acknowledges the repeated incidence of specific autoimmune diseases triggered by vaccines that attack nerves and cause destruction of the nerve sheath (myelin). These demyelinating diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), have plagued the vaccine industry. Reports of their occurrence following vaccination continue to pour in from around the world. In their attempt to explain the repeated occurrence of demyelinating autoimmune diseases that occur as reactions to vaccines, the committee members admit that,