Vaccinations

 What you don't know could hurt your Children

By Joan Batista

Most parents take vaccinating their children for granted. It is assumed that you will bring your children in for "well baby" visits to receive childhood vaccinations. It is also assumed that vaccinations are safe, effective, and mandatory. Vaccine safety, however, is questionable at best. Vaccine effectiveness varies and vaccination is not mandatory. After three years of research, I'm dismayed by the lack of comprehensive, unbiased information about vaccination. I am appalled that parents do not have to consent to this medical procedure and that we do not have the right in all states to make a truly informed decision concerning what is injected into and ingested by our children. Whether or not to vaccinate is a complicated question, and few people make these decisions easily. Parents deserve the right to make informed decisions, for we are the ones who will have to live with the consequences.

 Reactions

Public health officials and some medical professionals generally dismiss reactions to vaccines. Children do react to vaccinations, sustaining brain damage, other irreversible injuries, seizures, allergic reactions, and even death. Officials say these reactions are rare and a small price to pay for the protection vaccines offer the general public. As the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) explains, "When it happens to you or your child, the risks are 100%."

Mainstream medicine tells us that children who were hurt and killed were "predisposed" to having these types of problems, and the vaccines just manifested the conditions earlier. However, doctors rarely take a thorough medical history to determine if the child has any contraindications that are spelled out on the vaccine's own product insert.

The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) receives 11,000 reports of vaccine reactions each year, and the FDA acknowledges that this number represents approximately ten percent of actual vaccine reactions. Little, if any, research is being done to find out why some children are injured and killed by vaccines. In fact, out of the current CDC vaccine budget of nearly one billion dollars, less than one-half of one percent of the money is directed toward vaccine research. The other 99.5+ percent will be spent on vaccine purchase and promotion.

Short and Long-term Side Effects

Reports of these effects are numerous. They include several central nervous system diseases and autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and thrombocytopenia. There is also evidence linking the so-called "mild" reactions of fever, crying, and excessive sleepiness to encephalitis, which can lead to learning disabilities and other neurological complications. These links (and other side effects) have not been definitively proven, due to lack of funding for research and the will to conduct such research. Yet $724 million (as of January 1997) in compensation has been paid under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 since its inception.

"Long-term" studies of vaccines usually only last months or sometimes a few years and concentrate on efficacy, not safety. Instead of researching the possible side effects before injecting our children, our children are subjects of post-marketing surveillance of licensed vaccines. There are no double-blind placebo-controlled studies to be found involving childhood vaccines. Doctors are required by law to report possible adverse effects from vaccines, but, according to an NVIC survey, less than 10 percent of doctors do so. Editor's Note: Anyone can report a vaccine reaction, whether or not they are a medical professional. The National Vaccine Information Center can be contacted for information on how to do this.

Contamination

Most vaccines are cultured on animal tissue or use other animal cells-most often from monkeys, pigs, cows, and chickens. One simian (monkey) virus, SV40, was discovered in the polio vaccine used in the late 50's and early 60's. It has recently been found in some human cancers. Cross-species transfer of viruses also transfers animal RNA and DNA which may alter our genetic makeup. At least two vaccines now in general use are cultured on embryonic lung cells or on human diploid cells originally taken from aborted fetal tissue. These vaccines carry the contamination risks present in any human tissue or blood product transfer.

In light of all the other types of pollution our bodies are assaulted with in our everyday lives, some of us have to ask ourselves if it is wise to inject vaccines containing known carcinogens and toxins (including mercury, formaldehyde and aluminum) into our children's bodies when so little is known about the possible side effects. It appears that we may be trading one set of diseases for another that is chronic and debilitating.

Efficacy

Vaccine effectiveness varies depending on the product and how it is stored, as well as the recipient's immune system. Some vaccines have high efficacy rates initially, but the effectiveness wanes greatly over time requiring "boosters". Significantly, there have been outbreaks of diseases such as measles in highly or fully vaccinated populations.

Not Enough Information Given to Parents

Most parents are given a one-or two-page handout that does not mention legitimate safety and efficacy concerns. There are more comprehensive information booklets available, but they are not routinely distributed. Official literature frequently contains misinformation and half-truths, along with scare tactics. Not surprisingly, alternative treatments are not mentioned.

We should be able to read about the safety issues involved with vaccination and review the studies, product inserts, and reports on vaccine effectiveness in order to determine what vaccines we want our children to have and when to get them. We also need to be informed about the diseases from which these vaccines are designed to protect us. This means wading through all of the misinformation and myths about disease and the emotional manipulations from all directions. It also means investigating alternative treatments such as herbs and homeopathy. Another thing to consider is how important and protective a diet of breast milk and then whole, organic foods is to building a strong immune system, heightening resistance and decreasing susceptibility to disease. The human immune system is strong and purposeful. Parents who wish to respect this should also have their beliefs accepted and honoured.

Options

You do have options when it comes to vaccination. You can:

      Vaccinate following the recommended schedule

      Delay vaccinations in order to allow your child's immune system to mature

      Choose to get only the vaccines that you feel carry a greater benefit than risk

      Choose to stagger vaccines and refuse combination vaccines (because the vaccines suppress immune function, increasing the likelihood of reactions and illness, many parents and healthcare professionals prefer not to administer multiple vaccines at one office visit)

      Obtain an exemption from vaccination for your child

Many people assume that vaccination is mandatory for admission to school, day care, and other programs. This is not the case. There are medical, religious, and philosophical exemptions. A medical exemption is obtained from a doctor, usually applies to just one vaccine, and is generally given only following a previous adverse effect. There are religious exemptions in 48 states (not MS or WV). You must get a copy of your state's law regarding vaccination (available at libraries and from your state representative). In many states, all that is required is a written affidavit that includes the child's name, parents' names, a statement using the exact wording of the state law pertaining to vaccination conflicting with ones religious beliefs, and the legal basis for the exemption (the state law, chapter and section). Notarisation is recommended. A personal or philosophical exemption usually requires writing an affidavit as described above, substituting philosophical beliefs for religious ones, or simply checking the appropriate box on the state's vaccination record form.

Educate Yourself Before Vaccinating

This is just an introduction to some of the issues involved in routine childhood vaccination. Specific vaccines, diseases and other concerns will be addressed in great detail in future issues of Healthy Child newsletter. I strongly encourage parents to educate themselves as much as possible in order to make informed decisions that fit their belief system and family situation. Read books from the recommended reading list. Ask questions and get them answered to your satisfaction. Be comfortable with your decisions--you are the ones who have to live with them. I am not anti-vaccination. My personal hope is that by insisting on making informed vaccination decisions, we parents can provide motivation for and exert pressure on the government and vaccine manufacturers to develop safer vaccines, not just more vaccines. Our children deserve it.

Much of this article was taken from an article that first appeared in "Co-Options" a monthly publication of Sevananda Natural Foods Cooperative, 1111 Euclid Avenue, NE, Atlanta, GA 30307.

Sources:

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents Guide to Childhood Immunization. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, revised 1994.

Coulter, Harris. Vaccination: Social Violence & Criminality. North Atlantic Books, 1990.

Institute of Medicine. Adverse Events Associated with Childhood Vaccines: Evidence Bearing on Causality. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1994.

Mendelsohn, Robert. Immunizations: The Terrible Risks Your Children Face.... Second Opinion, 1993.

National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) see additional resources.

Neustaedter, Randall. The Vaccine Guide: Making an Informed Choice. North Atlantic Books, 1996.

Severyn, Kristine, Director, Ohio Parents for Vaccine Safety (OPVS), personal communication, April 1997.

Recommended Books About Vaccinations

Vaccine Information Resources & Links

Use the information provided in this database as an educational resource for determining your options and making your own informed choices. It is not intended as medical advice or to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any specific illness. If there is any chance your child is seriously ill, take him or her to a qualified health professional for evaluation.

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