by Franklin Cameron
Most new parents dutifully take their
babies to the doctor or clinic at the prescribed times to be vaccinated.
Generally, it doesn't occur to them to question this public health
institution. However, growing numbers of doctors, scientists and
parents have become suspicious about the long-term implications
of what some consider a national experiment posturing as solid science.
It could be said that the development of immunization theory has
been compromised by the theory's very successes.
The history of vaccines does indeed have some glorious chapters.
In 1796, British country doctor Edward Jenner formulated a vaccine
that led to the global eradication in our time of the deadly smallpox
virus. A century later, French chemist Louis Pasteur formulated
a vaccine against rabies and even foresaw serums made from nonliving
substances that would one day materialize as synthetic, chemical
These are among the defining legends of Western medical lore. Presently,
researchers on the vaccine trail have a new dream: to create a "supervaccine"
to be used against all invasive bacterial or viral organisms.1
It would theoretically be injected into infants during their first
weeks of life and thereafter protect them against every known human-invasive
microorganism including those causing common childhood diseases
such as measles, mumps, chicken pox and rubella.
That such a dream could have detractors seems almost sacrilegious.
Why would a medical practitioner or a parent oppose such an agenda?
One side of the controversy believes ardently in the military medical
metaphor: The body is perceived as a battlefield on which great
generals, otherwise known as doctors, wage war against a virulent
enemy of viral and bacterial microbes to secure a kind of peace
known as health.
On the other side is a holistic belief system, espoused since Hippocrates,
holding that deleterious micro-organisms aren't the ultimate cause
of disease. Thomas Sydenham, who in the 17th century was known as
the "English Hippocrates," put it this way: "Germs
seek their natural habitat--diseased tissue--rather than being the
cause of diseased tissue. For example, mosquitoes seek the stagnant
water, but do not cause the pool to become stagnant."2
In our time we've witnessed the gradual re-emergence of the Hippocratic
model as manifested by alternative and preventive medicine. Even
as recently as 10 years ago the idea that nutrition could have a
positive effect on health was viewed sceptically by many allopathic
doctors. Today, it has become a widely accepted tenet of health.
"You are what you eat" is no longer perceived as the misguided
prattle of fringe health fanatics but the guiding principle of a
multibillion-dollar natural products industry.
The aspersion of fringe fanaticism is presently applied to people
who question the wisdom of our national vaccination policy. Prominent
among the critics are Harris Coulter, Ph.D., and Barbara Fisher,
co-authors DPT: A Shot in the Dark (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985;
Warner, 1986; Avery, 1991). This book specifically targets the P
in DPT--the pertussis vaccine, which Coulter and Fisher claim had
a poor success rate and was even harmful to many infants.
Separately, Coulter and Fisher provide an update on the politics
of infant vaccination.
Modalities at War
We live in a society of either/or arguments. One cannot take a stand
on an aspect of vaccination without being perceived as railing against
all aspects of vaccination. Coulter stresses it is not adult immunizations
that are protested. No one, for example, disputes the science or
efficacy of the smallpox vaccine. Coulter also agrees that if one
were to travel in some parts of Asia, vaccinations against cholera
or Blackwater fever would be wise. What he and many other scientists
dispute are the ever-increasing numbers of infant vaccinations.
In psychology, more than a century of research has been dedicated
to understanding how an infant develops into an emotionally mature
adult. Clearly articulated developmental stages, each with tasks
to be mastered, are well-documented. In purely physical terms, our
bodies must also pass through developmental phases. Coulter is prominent
among a group of scientists who postulate that childhood diseases
are part of that normal process. "Contracting and overcoming
such diseases," he says, "is part of a developmental process
that actually helps develop a healthy, robust, adult immune system
able to meet the challenges that inevitable encounters with viruses
and bacteria will present later on."
On the other side of this controversy is a public health system
that assumes its mandate is to eradicate all bacterial and viral
disease-causing organisms. The holistic medical contingent argues
that some of these organisms are millions of years old. How they
fit in the overall web of life--besides giving us measles and chicken
pox, for example--is unknown. What virulent organisms they feed
on and control is also unknown. Even mainstream scientists admit
that solid data are lacking on the ecological relationship between
humans, the infecting agents and how infestation occurs.3
Unbeknownst to many parents, infant vaccination has long been a
subject of controversy. In his book The Assault on the American
Child: Vaccination, Sociopathy, and Criminality (North Atlantic
Books, 1990), Coulter documents possible long-term neurologic and
other side effects of infant vaccines. Among these are lifelong
allergies, autism, brain damage, encephalitis, and dyslexia as well
as learning and behaviour disorders. What Coulter and Fisher vociferously
protest is the lack of response to these findings from the government-funded
public health establishment. Fisher, who is also cofounder and president
of the National Vaccine Information Centre (NVIC) in Vienna, Va.,
points out that the public-health infrastructure was built with
vaccination as the cornerstone of its preventive health policy.
"When I look at it," Fisher says, "what I see is
allopathic medicine at war with the other modalities. Homeopathy,
naturopathy, chiropractic are perceived as challenging the basic
premise of allopathic medicine, which is that germs are the ultimate
cause of illness and must be destroyed--in this case, by vaccines."
Both Fisher and Coulter agree that not only are vaccines the sacred
cow of the public health system, they have also become the golden
calf. What that means is money. Fisher points out that the Department
of Health and Human Services (HHS), with an annual budget of around
$360 billion, is the most powerful and wealthiest federal agency
in the country. On the face of it, that could be wonderful. What
better priority than national health? The way it plays out, however,
has roused serious concerns in the alternative medical community.
In the United States there are two main vaccine policy-making groups,
the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) under HHS. ACIP makes recommendations
for vaccine policy. Fisher says these recommendations turn into
mandates "because state health officials automatically turn
them into state law. In most states," she says, "[when
it comes to public health] you no longer even have a vote by the
legislature. All the state health departments have to do is issue
a regulation, and it automatically becomes a law."
Fisher says: "For 16 years I have sat in rooms with these officials,
both at scientific conferences and government meetings. I was appointed
to the Vaccine Advisory Committee for four years under HHS. I was
the token consumer representative." What she observed was lack
of oversight of this huge enterprise. "You have the highly
funded HHS. You have the federal health infrastructure that funds
the state public-health infrastructure. Together they have decided
they are going to use vaccines to eradicate disease-causing microorganisms
from Earth. Then there are the drug companies that manufacture the
vaccines; they have a very profitable relationship with FDA and
CDC. Everyone is committed to the same premise. What we are trying
to make the public realize is that no money whatsoever has been
portioned to independent researchers who work outside this very
profitable, self-reinforcing loop."
For years dissenters have been raising questions about vaccines.
Among them: What is the safe quantity of vaccine antigens that will
not cause local, systemic and sometimes severe neurological damage
in infants and children? What happens to the vaccine antigens in
the body years later? Where do they go, and what are they capable
of doing?4 To what degree is the introduction of live
viruses via routine vaccination responsible for autoimmune diseases?
What effect do live viruses, which are incorporated directly into
the genetic material of our cells, have on the cells themselves?5
Coulter correlates the explosion of learning disorders in the past
30 years with mass infant inoculations and bemoans the fact that
no studies are being conducted to investigate this correlation.6
Instead, Congress set up the National Vaccine Injury Compensation
Program in 1986, thereby creating a no-fault system to protect vaccine
manufacturers from lawsuits and to compensate parents of children
who have been harmed by vaccines. Since 1990 more than $500 million
have been paid out.7 One would think that such a large
payout would itself raise serious questions about our vaccination
It is ironic that alternative medical practitioners, whose theories
have historically been called unscientific, should be demanding:
Where are the control groups? Where are the long-term follow-up
studies? Where is the adversarial research?
"Brave souls have raised their own money and have identified
that these problems exist," Fisher says, "but when they
try to publish, many are kept out of the medical journals or are
even vilified. The public health infrastructure will brook no view
other than 'vaccines are totally safe and effective.' "
Currently, vaccines are being mandated in ever-increasing numbers
of doses. "Right now in America," says Fisher, "we
require 34 doses of 10 different viral and bacterial vaccines before
children are allowed to go to school. Some of these are live virus
vaccines--the polio, chicken pox, measles, mumps and rubella vaccines.
What concerns us presently is the proposed implementation of vaccination
registries that would track every child in the country to ensure
that vaccine schedules are complied with. This would even include
entitlement programs--no shots, no family assistance. A state legislator
in Oregon has proposed a bill to deny tax exemptions for children
whose parents cannot prove their children were vaccinated with all
the government-recommended vaccines."
There are three major issues at stake. The first is Coulter's premise
that overcoming childhood diseases constitutes important stages
in the development of a robust, adult immune system and that bombarding
an infant's immature immune system with live viruses actually can
do more harm than good.
The second issue involves how antibodies are transferred from a
mother to her child to protect an infant during its first months
and years of life. If the mother had contracted and overcome measles
during her childhood, she would be able to pass this immunity on
to her baby, both through the placenta and by means of breast-feeding,
thereby protecting the child for 12 to 15 months after birth.
Fisher recalls the measles outbreak of 198990: "A whole group
of young mothers who had been vaccinated against measles, and therefore
had only temporary artificial immunity, were not able to give their
babies the protection their unvaccinated mothers had given them."
She observes: "We saw a lot of measles in very young babies
where they did not naturally occur before. Furthermore, these babies
were dying of a particularly nasty kind of measles, which aroused
speculation that the virus may have mutated beyond the scope of
our present vaccines."
This leads to the third issue. By artificially suppressing these
micro-organisms through mass vaccinations, Fisher asks, are we causing
them to evolve into more virulent forms? We've seen what happened
when antibiotics were indiscriminately used; now humans are faced
with super germs for which there is no known defence. Fisher wonders,
with vaccines, "Are we actually creating a worse problem for
future generations than if we found alternative ways to live in
harmony with these viruses?"
The fact remains that none of these questions is being addressed
publicly. Says Fisher: "You have a very narrow-minded view
of public and individual health that has been embraced by the public
health police. I am waiting for the scientists who have the guts
to come forward and speak out. They're going to be in the disciplines
of immunology, genetics, microbiology, cell biology and bacteriology.
They've got to step forward and take the power away from the epidemiologists,
who like to manipulate numbers, and the infectious disease specialists,
who are absolutely obsessed with the eradication of micro-organisms
through the use of vaccines."
Even more vaccines are coming down the pike. Fisher cites the rotavirus,
a new live-virus vaccine to keep babies from getting diarrhea. Also,
an AIDS vaccine is on a fast track. That it will be mandated for
everyone, she says, is almost certain. "There will be no way
of knowing what havoc even a portion of that virus is going to cause
years after it is injected into the body. I believe we are in tremendous
danger. If we do not rein in this vaccine autocracy, we could literally
compromise the biological integrity of the human race."
That an immune compromised species might be proceeding into the
future is speculative. Whether Coulter, Fisher and others in the
alternative medical community are right or just well-intentioned
alarmists is not known. What is known is that the questions they
have raised have been peremptorily deemed unworthy of government-funded
research. Arthur M. Silverstein, professor of ophthalmic immunology
at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, discussed the
swine flu vaccination tragedy of 1976, when the Guillain-Barré syndrome
was identified as a direct consequence of swine flu vaccination.
He concludes: "The decision to produce a vaccine should probably
be separated from the decision to immunize," and "a mechanism
should be built into such programs from the start that requires
periodic re-evaluation of the premises upon which decisions are
made."8 Perhaps a public forum to objectively evaluate
the arguments for and against our national vaccination policy--including
its very premise--is finally now in order.
Not to Get the Shot
Why Some Parents Think Twice
Case for Vaccinations
1. Chase A. Magic shots: a human and scientific account of the long
and continuing struggle to eradicate infectious diseases by vaccination.
New York: William Morrow and Co.; 1982. p 39.
2. Bieler H. Food is your best medicine. New York: Ballantine Books;
1992. p 40.
3. McNeill W. Plagues and peoples. New York: Anchor Books; 1989.
4. Murphy J. What every parent should know about childhood immunization.
Boston: Earth Healing Products; 1993.
5. Moskowitz R. The case against immunizations. J Am Inst Homeopathy
6. Coulter H. The assault on the American child: vaccination, sociopathy
and criminality. Berkeley (CA): North Atlantic Books; 1990.
7. Mariner W. Health affairs. 1992 Spring;11(1):255-65.
8. Silverstein A. Pure politics and impure science. Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press; 1981. p 142.
Why Some Parents Think Twice
1. UCLA FDA Study. Pediatrics 1981;68(5):650-60.
2. British Department of Health and Social Security. The national
childhood encephalopathy study. 1981.
3. Stratton K, et al. Adverse events associated with childhood vaccines:
evidence bearing on causality. Washington (DC): National Academy
Opting not to get the Shot
1. Neustaedter R. The immunization decision: a guide for parents.
Berkeley (CA): North Atlantic Books; 1990.
The Case for Vaccination
1. Oski F, et al. editors. Principles and practice of pediatrics.
2nd ed. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott; 1994.
2. Weil A. The debate over immunization. Dr. Andrew Weil's Self
Healing [newsletter] 1996 Sep.
3. Robbins A. Modern vaccines--progress toward vaccines we need
and do not have. Lancet 1990 Jun 16;335(8703):1436-8.
4. U.S. Bureau of Census, Statistical Abstracts of the United States.
116th ed. Washington (DC); 1996.
Franklin Cameron is a free-lance writer based in Denver, Colo. His
writing specialties are history and natural approaches to physical
and mental health.