The Controversy Over Immunization
Immunization is a controversial issue in pediatric medicine today. Deciding whether or not to have your child receive vaccinations is a complex and, ultimately, a personal matter. It is up to you, as a parent, to make informed, thoughtful decisions for your child.
Any vaccination has the potential to cause a reaction in some children. More than anything else, though, it was probably the serious and frightening side effects observed in some children who had been given the pertussis vaccine (the P in the DPT vaccine) that brought the question of the safety of immunizations to the public's attention. Short-term complications of the standard DPT vaccine can include fever, irritability, screaming syndrome, excessive sleepiness, seizures, and localized inflammation. A newer version of the DPT that uses a more purified pertussis vaccine developed in Japan has become available and seems to cause fewer side effects. The controversy over immunization continues, however. For one thing, critics note, Japanese children are not usually given the vaccine until they are two years old, at which time their nervous and immune systems are more mature and perhaps better able to handle the challenge. And DPT is not the only vaccine that causes concern. Other common vaccines have also been associated with serious side effects, including neurological complications, seizures, fevers, encephalitis, retinopathy, blindness, joint pain, and death.
In addition to citing the risk of side effects, opponents of immunization question the efficacy of vaccines in the first place. For example, some studies have shown that as many as 5to 10 percent of children who have been vaccinated against pertussis go on to contract the disease anyway (although vaccination may lessen its severity). Measles outbreaks have been known to course through school populations despite the fact that 99 percent of the children had been immunized against it. Further, opponents remind us that the long-term effects of vaccinations are not known. Some propose that there may be a correlation between early immunization and later develop" mental problems, learning disabilities, autism, hyperactivity, and depression of the immune system.
Conventional medical opinion holds that, as a result of widespread immunization in the United States, many dangerous diseases have been eliminated or inhibited in this country. Consequently, universal immunization against a wide variety of diseases continues to be recommended by the medical establishment. Opponents argue, however, that the lower incidence of many illnesses might just as easily be related to improved sanitation, nutrition, and living conditions as to vaccination programs. They also observe that illnesses seem to follow a natural life cycle, becoming more prevalent at times, and seeming to die away at others. Indeed, there is research showing that the incidence of certain diseases, such as polio and diphtheria, were declining on their own before the vaccines designed to combat them were introduced.
About The Author
JANET ZAND, O.M.D., L.Ac.
is a nationally respected author, lecturer, practitioner and herbal products formulator whose work has helped thousands of people achieve better health....more