To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate – What a Loaded Question…
by Elena Greco
Typical reading time: 6 minutes
August 10, 2015
Vaccination is a topic which seems to bring out rabid and vicious disagreement. Those on either “side” of the debate (they seem to see it as an either/or situation) seem to have an unusually negative reaction to those opposing their view. People have even been arrested for their stand on the subject!
First off: I am not an “anti-vaxxer.” That terms implies that one is against ALL vaccines. Vaccines against diseases that usually result in death or permanent disability, such as polio and smallpox, are a blessing, and I think we should get those vaccines. The potential consequences of not taking those particular vaccines outweigh the risks.
While I’m not “against” vaccines as a class, I do advise caution and prudence when weighing the pros and cons of any particular vaccine, as well as considering whether the producer of the vaccine is benefiting from the promotion or sale of the vaccine, a red flag that our best interest might not be the sole motivating factor.
I wonder if many people are considering all the factors thoughtfully in this matter, or whether they are giving in to a knee-jerk reaction to the manipulative titles or written “sound bites” they see on social media (which are designed for exactly that effect), immediately calling people who have differing opinions from theirs derogatory names and taking a black-and-white – and I believe illogical – view of the subject. I would hope not, because that would not be an intelligent way to deal with this important matter, which has real life-or-death consequences which affect all of us. Vaccination is a complex topic, and requires more than a blanket “for” or “against” position. This black-and-white view of vaccination is exactly what is provoked by those who would rather pit us against each other so that we don’t notice what is in it for them or the potential harm that can come to us from their products, namely, pharmaceutical companies, and to some extent, our own government.
We need to be very specific in our language. For example, when you say “vaccines are safe,” which vaccines are you talking about, and what do you mean by “safe.” Being “for vaccines” or “against vaccines” doesn’t make sense if you’re not being specific, because there are many vaccines, and they are all different. Each vaccine is for a different disease, is composed of different materials, and has different possible harmful effects, so each vaccine should be considered separately. When you consider taking any other pharmaceutical product, you normally consider the benefits of taking the drug, as well as the potential harm that could be caused by taking the drug, then decide whether the risk is worth the potential benefit to you. It would be foolish, actually nonsensical, to say that you’re “for drugs” or “against drugs,” because pharmaceutical drugs are individual products that are markedly different from each other. You might decide that you’re “for” taking a certain antibiotic because of its benefit, but “against” taking a different antibiotic because of its potential side effects. You might be “for” a certain heart drug, but “against” taking an antidepressant. The many types of vaccines are as different from each other as the myriad of pharmaceutical drugs.
In addition to the (a) benefits and (b) potential side effects or permanent harm a particular vaccine might offer, as well as (c) how dangerous and/or contagious the disease it purports to prevent or mitigate is, some very important factors to be considered are (d) who benefits financially from the vaccine, (e) whether there is recourse for those who are harmed by a product that was sold to the public when dangerous side effects were known by the pharmaceutical company but not shared with the public, and (f) how much money is involved in the sale of the product, since that might serve as motive to get the product to market quickly, before safety is ensured.
So there we have six items to consider for each vaccine we examine. It seems to me that only one factor is considered by those who take a black-and-white view of vaccines as a whole, and that is that vaccines supposedly prevent the occurrence or spread of whatever disease they target. That is such a small part of the factors involved with vaccines, and unfortunately is not even a completely valid view, as in some cases, they do not appear, based on some scientific studies, always to do that. Certainly no vaccine completely prevents the occurrence of a disease, as there will always be at least a small percentage of people who do not obtain immunity through the vaccine.
In considering different vaccines, please notice that there are several general categories of vaccines. First, there are those that address highly communicable illnesses that affect large populations and which can result in significant harm, permanent disability or death. These would be diseases such as polio and smallpox.
Another category would be typical childhood illness, such as mumps and rubella, which do not usually result in death, and usually do not result in permanent harm, and usually result in permanent immunity from the disease in the future. Because these disease do sometimes result in harm, it needs to be weighed whether the potential harm of the vaccines outweighs the potential harm of the disease for each individual, as well as the potential of permanent immunity in those who experience the disease versus the non-permanent immunity in those who choose to take the vaccine. Each person would likely come to a different decision about this, depending on their individual constitution and lifestyle.
A more recent addition to the categories of vaccines, one whose number is increasing rapidly in the growing pharmaceutical market, is that which targets illnesses which affect a small population. Often these vaccines are highly controversial because of extremely negative side effects and a questionable need for their use. One example is the HPV vaccine that targets teenage girls. Some of the side effects are horrific, and there is a question whether it is needed. Unfortunately, it appears that one state intends to mandate that every teenage girl receive this vaccine.
In addition to the six factors I listed above that should be considered in any vaccine decision, an extremely important one is the age of the person receiving the vaccine. Infants’ and children’s brains are developing rapidly, and children are much more sensitive than adults to environmental pollutants and chemicals. Adults can sometimes tolerate one or two toxic chemicals without permanent damage, but the synergistic effect of many chemicals has a greater negative effect than the sum of those chemicals’ effects. Therefore, it makes a great deal of sense that injecting the many substances contained in each vaccine into infants and children should be addressed with caution. It seems common sense to me that injecting these tiny developing humans as young as two months of age with huge numbers of these chemicals many times through their childhood is asking for trouble. When I was young, I received the polio and smallpox vaccines when I was about five years of age. I took a DPT vaccine when I was eight (and had an unfortunate reaction to it, but survived). That was it. Now infants receive a cocktail of many vaccines simultaneously, and this occurs repeatedly throughout childhood, up to as many as 70 vaccines! I believe we need to take a step back and see if this makes sense.
If one decides that they or their child must have a certain vaccine, another question to consider is what the appropriate age to give that vaccine might be, where the possible side effects or harm are minimized. If the vaccine is less harmful at age eight than it is at eight months, then obviously that is an important factor to consider.
I think it should be obvious that injecting infants or small children whose brains are developing rapidly with vaccines that contain some toxic substances, no matter how small the amount, is something that should be carefully considered. Injecting them with not two or three, but up to 70(!) of these vaccines seems to be insanity, courting the disabling or reduction in intelligence or functionality of our future population. Is it possible that the rapidly increasing number of these vaccines is due to the large amount of money that is made from them? What could be greater for the pharmaceutical companies than for the government to require that all citizens get their vaccines?
As for dangerous additives, there are a number of ingredients that can be problematic for some. For example, some toxic or unhealthy chemicals which are also found in some foods are: MSG, artificial color and EDTA. Toxic chemicals which can have serious and/or permanent effects are: formaldehyde, sometimes thimerosal (removed from many, but not all, vaccines in 2001), ethylmercury, aluminum, formalin and aluminum phosphate. Also, there are potential allergens which could cause reactions, as well as animal-sourced ingredients which might not work for vegetarians: fetal bovine serum, egg protein, canine kidney cell protein, recombinant human albumin, bovine calf serum, chicken embryo culture, soy peptone broth, hydrolyzed pork gelatin, monkey kidney cells and antibiotics. For more information, the CDC provides a list of vaccine ingredients in their Current Vaccine Excipient & Media Summary so that you can see the ingredients in any vaccine you are considering: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/B/excipienttable2. pdf.
I have a great interest in and respect for science. I keep up with the latest information in several areas of science by reading trade periodicals and peer-reviewed literature. But even science is fallible, or at least scientists are. There have been many instances where drugs that seemed to be beneficial and received FDA approval later proved to have disastrous effects on those who took them (such as thalidomide, which resulted in severely deformed babies born without arms and legs). Can we really afford to subject large numbers of our population to new vaccines that already have raised questions as to their safety? We certainly cannot afford to be forced to subject to them as a society. Requiring the vaccines for polio and smallpox might make sense because of the serious results of contracting these illnesses, but requiring still-developing girls to receive a vaccine which has already resulted in terrible effects when it is supposedly a preventative for a disease that might be contracted if the girls have sex seems ill-advised.
There is a system set up by our government whereby the pharmaceutical companies produce vaccines are totally absolved of all responsibility for negative results of the vaccine. And regardless of injury or harm, it is contracted that they still receive payment from our government. So there is great incentive for them to produce as many vaccines as fast as possible and to come up with as many new vaccines as possible. And there is no incentive to be particularly careful about it.
I believe that a government forcing its citizens, and particularly small infants or children whose brains are still developing, to submit to high numbers of vaccines for diseases that are not usually life-threatening is a violation of our civil rights. The government does not have the right to force me to inject substances into my body that I believe, and many scientific studies have indicated, are toxic and can result in permanent disability or compromise of health. It is my body, not theirs. I have to live the rest of my life with the results; they do not.
There are billions of dollars at stake on the part of pharmaceutical companies and the government, and when that much money is involved, caution, inquiry and research are needed. Vaccines are not bad in themselves, but there are many bad vaccines, and using vaccines unwisely is bad for us as a society. Calling anyone who suggests that caution and study are needed an “anti-vaxxer” in order to discredit them is an ignorant and childish attempt to suppress those who have questions by calling them names or labeling them, and making them fearful of publicizing their belief for fear of being attacked or ridiculed. It is also an attempt to polarize us against each other, something that does not benefit us or our children. In a civilized culture, two people who have differing opinions are not at war; they can have a discourse, which might open up further possibilities, or they can simply agree to disagree.
The middle road is often the best – as it is in much of life. We should use intelligence and caution when it comes to vaccines. Polio and smallpox vaccinations have long been required in order for school children to enter school. The reason is obvious: we do not want an epidemic of these contagious diseases that can result in death or permanent disability. But for those diseases which pose a lesser threat, the positives and negatives of each vaccine should be weighed and determined on an individual basis.
If you want to get a vaccination or have your child vaccinated with a lesser-known vaccine that seems to have extremely negative side effects, that is your right, just as it is my right to want further study before I subject my body to the possibility of permanent harm. I am not “against vaccines”; I am “for” common sense and reason.
Every time we allow ourselves to be manipulated by the media into assuming a staunch or instant “for” or “against” position without really examining the issue, we have given away just a little more of our power, a little more of our intelligence, a little more of our right to choose how to live our lives. Let’s seize our power by examining everything that comes our way and forming our own conclusion, and allowing others to have their belief without ridiculing them. Courteous, well-considered discourse and rational consideration are the mark of a civilized society that has the capability to advance.
See Elena’s bios for more information about the author.