Parents watch with proud satisfaction as their infant, just a few months old, begins to reach out into the world--tiny hands grasping at toys and gently twirling locks of their mother's hair. Just when they have begun to take a lively interest in the world, rolling-over, cooing, and smiling, the first illnesses strike.
The baby's runny nose develops into a fever, fussiness, and night-waking. Her previously placid demeanor suddenly changes to obvious discomfort--crying, clinging, refusing to leave her mother's arms. The pediatrician sees red eardrums and prescribes antibiotics. That first infection starts a seemingly endless battle against viral and bacterial illnesses that persists despite repeated treatment with a barrage of different antibiotics. Something is dreadfully wrong. Frequent visits to the pediatrician do nothing to prevent the continuous pattern of illness—antibiotic—illness.
Why do these illnesses begin when babies are three or four months old? What event triggers this frustrating scenario? What happens to babies at two to four months that could initiate this relentless course of symptoms? Perhaps maternal antibodies are beginning to wear out, making babies susceptible to these environmental microbes. But why don't these babies develop their own antibodies in response to the initial viral or bacterial infections? What prevents the immune system from mounting a vigorous response? And why does this pattern of illness with recurrent ear infections occur now, a pattern that seldom occurred prior to thirty years ago? What is weakening the immune function of today's infants?
The Cause of Chronic Illness
Ear infections have become the most common reason for visits to pediatricians. The incidence of asthma has steadily increased in the modern era. 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. 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. This dramatic increase has been attributed to increased exposure to environmental pollutants, and to the toxic effect of asthma medications themselves. Could vaccines be weakening the immune system of our populations and causing recurrent infections and allergies at unprecedented levels?
The only event that all infants routinely encounter at two months of age is vaccination with at least five different vaccines (Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis-Polio-Haemophilus). They are repeated at four months. Could this simple fact explain the onset of the recurrent illnesses that plague so many infants? If vaccines stimulate antibody production to fight diseases, why would they weaken the immune system? Is there any evidence that vaccines do cause illness and immune system dysfunction?
One answer came in a careful study of illness patterns observed in babies before and after vaccination, published in Clinical Pediatrics in 1988. If vaccines cause a weakened immune system, then we would expect to see a higher incidence of illness following vaccination. In that study conducted in Israel, the incidence of acute illnesses in the 30 day period following DTP vaccine was compared to the incidence in the same children for the 30 day period prior to vaccine. The three-day period immediately following vaccine was excluded because children frequently develop fever as a direct response to vaccine toxins. A total of 82 healthy infants received DTP, and their symptoms were reported by parents and observed by a pediatrician at weekly intervals. Those babies experienced a dramatic increase in fever, diarrhea, and cough in the month following DTP vaccine compared to their health before the shot.