It is biologically plausible that injection of an inactivated virus, bacterium, or live attenuated virus might induce in the susceptible host an autoimmune response by deregulation of the immune response, by nonspecific activation of the T cells directed against myelin proteins, or by autoimmuniity triggered by sequence similarities of proteins in the vaccine to host proteins such as those of myelin (Institute of Medicine, 1994).
If autoimmune processes and immunosuppression caused by vaccines can destroy myelin (GBS) or joints (rheumatoid arthritis), then perhaps other destructive diseases also may have their origin in vaccination. This is the concern of various authors who identify cancer (Murphy, 1993) or AIDS (Curtis, 1992) as possible results of vaccination. Many critics have suggested taking a much more cautious approach to vaccine campaigns until we know more about these possible long-lasting devastating effects.
Several studies have examined the effect of vaccines on subsequent illness patterns in children to investigate whether vaccines can suppress immune system functions. One study examined the incidence of acute illnesses in the 30 day period following vaccine compared to the incidence in the same children for the 30 day period prior to a vaccine. This study showed a significant and dramatic increase in nonbacterial fevers, diarrhea and cough in the month following DTP vaccine (Jaber et al., 1988). Children had a higher incidence of illness after DTP compared to their health before the shot.
The ability of pertussis and DTP vaccines to stimulate the onset of paralytic polio provides further evidence that vaccines can promote serious disease processes and immune system dysfunction. Paralytic polio has occurred frequently following vaccination. This phenomenon was first reported in 1909. Scattered cases were reported over the next 40 years. Then, during the polio epidemics of the 1950s, series of cases of polio following pertussis-vaccine injections were reported around the world, in Australia (McCloskey, 1950; McCloskey, 1952), the United Kingdom (Hill & Knowelden, 1949; Medical Research Council, 1956), and the United States (Korn et al., 1952; Greenberg et al., 1952).
During a recent polio epidemic in Oman the problem of paralytic polio infection’s onset soon after DTP vaccination occurred again. In this epidemic, 70 children 5 to 24 months old contracted paralytic polio during the period 1988-1989. When compared to a control group of children without polio, it was found that a significantly higher percentage of these children had received a DTP shot within 30 days of the onset of polio (43 percent of polio victims compared to 28 percent of controls) (Sutter et al., 1992). The mechanism of this provoking effect of vaccination on polio onset has never been adequately explained, but it seems clear that an immune-suppressing effect of vaccines must be responsible.
Animal studies have also shown immune-suppressive effects of vaccines. For example, mice showed an increased susceptibility to infection following pertussis vaccine (Abernathy & Spink, 1956). Laboratory studies in humans have revealed evidence of immune system suppression as well. After measles vaccination certain lymphocyte functions essential in fighting pathogenic organisms are depressed (Hirsch et al., 1981), and the number of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that fights disease, decreases (Nicholson et al., 1992). Similarly, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine has been reported to have a temporary suppressive effect on the function of neutrophils, another white blood cell (Toraldo et al., 1992).
The possible long-term neurologic effects of the vaccines have been well-documented by Dr. Harris Coulter in his book Vaccination, Social Violence, and Criminality: The Assault on the American Brain. He delineates a hydra-headed syndrome of brain insult and injury possibly caused by vaccines. These effects include allergies, autism, dyslexia, learning disabilities, behavior disorders, and antisocial syndromes, all attributable to the assault of vaccines on the body. He postulates that vaccines have a damaging effect on the developing myelination process of the nervous system in children. This assault causes an allergic encephalitis (inflammation or infection of the brain) with widespread effects. That is, the allergic response initiated by a vaccine injected into the body is capable of causing encephalitis and brain damage, because the physical development of nerves is disrupted.
Legal Requirements and Exemptions
The United States government takes the vaccine campaign very seriously. Parents who make an informed choice about vaccines for their children must contend with compulsory vaccine laws. Conscientious objection to these laws is not handled liberally by the courts. In 1905 the Supreme Court ruled that an individual could not refuse the smallpox vaccine on constitutional grounds of infringement on personal liberty. The court found that an individual’s personal liberty must give way to the state’s protection of other citizens’ health (Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 US 11, 25; 1905).
Since that time, various state courts have ruled that compulsory immunization statutes cannot be stricken down on constitutional grounds. Every state has a compulsory vaccination law, though the specific requirements for individual vaccines vary from state to state. This means that parents or legal guardians who decide not to give the vaccines will need to seek a legal exemption from vaccines. These come in three varieties: medical, religious, and philosophical. Not all states have philosophical exemptions, so parents in those states must seek either a religious or medical exemption.
Usually the issue of a child’s unvaccinated status will arise upon registration for school or day care. Schools require an immunization record, and parents must have proof that their child has been vaccinated, signed by a health care provider. Schools become involved in the vaccination campaign because state and local governments receive federal funding for immunization programs. The federal Public Health Service Act, 42 U.S.C. § 262 requires that participating governments must have a "... plan to assure that children begin and complete their immunizations on schedule ..." and "a plan to systematically immunize susceptible children at school entry through vigorous enforcement of school immunization laws" (42 C.F.R. § 5lb.204). Specific exemption clauses are included within each state’s immunization law. When the exemption is accepted by the school or the health department, the issue is resolved. If a request for exemption is denied, then parents may appeal that decision. Parents who continue to have difficulty with school and governmental authorities may need to seek legal counsel.
Many attorneys and individuals are working to ensure freedom of choice in the area of child vaccination. One organization in particular, Dissatisfied Parents Together (DPT), has been instrumental in the passage of legislation that protects children and their parents (see Appendix B: Resources). If a parent makes the choice to avoid a required vaccine, then support for that decision is available.
Options for Legal Exemption from Vaccines
Use the philosophical belief exemption, if available in your state.
Nineteen states provide the option of personal or philosophical belief exemptions. This means that parents need not justify their preference for avoiding vaccines except to say that they are philosophically opposed to their children receiving them. Parents residing in states that provide a philosophical exemption must sign a form or write a letter that says immunization is contrary to their beliefs. Some states provide a waiver statement on the school district immunization record forms included with registration materials. Other states require a written statement from the parents. Parents need only request the immunization exemption form at their school district office when enrolling their child in school, or present the school district a simple letter.
Find a doctor willing to write a medical exemption.
Develop a personal legal case for religious exemption, with the help of an attorney.
Parents seeking a religious exemption need to submit a letter to the school stating their desire for a waiver of vaccines based on their religious belief. The wording of such a letter is important, and should conform to the wording of the statute governing exemptions. It should also state the parents’ sincere beliefs, related in such a way that they can be interpreted by the court as religious. The wording of the immunization law can be obtained from the state health-department’s immunization office.
Parents seeking such an exemption should contact an attorney who specializes in immunization law. They must construct a solid legal case based on their individual situation, their state law, and their own beliefs. Since religious belief can be interpreted broadly, a wide range of personal beliefs and philosophies will qualify parents for a religious exemption. The case that is constructed in the letter must conform to the legal arguments that will be used in litigation if the school and state government authorities reject the parents’ petition for exemption. A well-constructed case and an attorney’s arguments will usually prevent litigation. The small cost of involving an attorney early in this process will help prevent the major expense of going to court later.
Conventional vaccines prepared by modern vaccine manufacturers represent only one form of disease-specific prevention. Vaccines and preventive medicines are also available to parents in homeopathic form. There is a long history within homeopathic medicine of attempting to prevent specific diseases, especially during epidemics.
The medicines used in homeopathic form consist of two classes. One class includes those substances obtained from the natural world of plants, minerals, and animal products. The second class, called nosodes, includes substances derived from disease products, tissue samples, mucus, pus from discharges, or pure cultures of microorganisms. Nosodes correspond to the specific diseases associated with the individual bacteria or virus, or the infectious material sample taken from a patient. Both of these classes have been used to prevent disease. Examples of this include Lathyrus sativa (a plant) for polio and Pertussin (a preparation of the bacteria Bordetella pertussis) for whooping cough.
A medicine that has proven effective for a specific epidemic of a disease in the community can be used as the preventive for other cases of that disease, though homeopaths tend to use those medicines that have proven themselves in the past. As a general rule, homeopaths utilize the nosode of the infectious organism to prevent disease. Nosodes are named with the Latin terms for the infection or organism, Morbillinum for measles, Diphtherinum for diphtheria.
This method of homeopathic prophylaxis has been formulated into strategies and rules of two types - short-term prevention during epidemics and long-term prevention.
Experience with the use of nosodes during epidemics has led to a level of confidence and optimism about the protective effect of this method. Since the mid-nineteenth century, homeopaths have attempted to prevent or limit the spread of disease during epidemics, with some success. Most of the experience with this approach occurred during the era preceding the availability of vaccines. Homeopaths reported a decrease in the severity and frequency of disease in those patients who received the nosode preventively.
The method of homeopathic prophylaxis has never been rigorously tested. Nonetheless, there is some evidence suggesting that homeopathic medicines do act to prevent diseases during epidemics. One study observed the occurrence of meningitis in a group of children who received a homeopathic preventive (Meningococcinum 10c in a single dose) during a 1974 epidemic in Brazil. Of the 18,640 children given the homeopathic nosode, 4 developed meningitis (0.02 percent), compared to 32 cases in the 6,340 unvaccinated children (0.5 percent). This represents a significant difference in a controlled study, although the control group was not randomized (Castro & Nogueira, 1975). Eisfelder reported an uncontrolled study of 50,000 children who received Lathyrus, a homeopathic preparation used to treat paralysis, in varying potencies during the polio epidemic of the 1950s. Only one of these children developed (non-paralytic) polio. The general population had a significantly higher rate of polio than 1 in 50,000 (Eisfelder, 1961).