The Great Vaccine Debate

Like most people of my generation, I received the typical slew of vaccines against measles, mumps, and polio as a child.  To my knowledge, these vaccines caused no side effects and protected me from some potentially harmful viruses.  Peripherally, I had heard some rumblings about vaccine controversy when Jenny McCarthy claimed they were a major contributor to her son’s autism – in fact, she even wrote a book about the topic called “Louder than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism“.

I wanted to find out more on this topic so recently attended a talk called The Politics of Vaccines given by Dr. Chopra who was a Senior Scientist at Health Canada for 35 years and whose job it was to research and approve vaccines.  It’s important to note that Chopra was fired from Health Canada for speaking out publicly about the pressure he and a colleague ensured to approve various drug usage which may skew his views on the topic.

Throughout his speech, Chopra outlined the sort of politics that are involved in vaccine approval and gave an interesting example of how President Ford was believed to have approved and ordered $200 million dollars worth of a Swine Flu vaccine from Merck in 1976.  It was seen by some as a tactic in his re-election campaign that promised health to all Americans without taking into consideration the necessity or effectiveness of such a drug.

So, this brings me to the effectiveness of vaccines which essentially work by introducing an antigen in small amounts so that the body can create its own antibodies as a protective mechanism.  The problem as seen by some with vaccines is that the drugs go directly into your blood stream and therefore bypass some crucial components of the innate immune system.  There is a theory that skipping the innate immune system and going directly to the adaptive immune system is connected with autoimmune diseases 20-30 years down the line.  The innate immune system works in conjunction with the adaptive immune and skipping this first step is seen as potentially problematic.

When vaccines are given to children, there is a theoretical risk that the immune system at that stage of life is too weak to completely clear the virus and so it will lay dormant.  It’s interesting to note that the flu shot vaccine is contraindicated for anyone with a compromised immune system which includes; kids under 7, the elderly, and people with autoimmune diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

When we look at statistics showing the effectiveness of vaccines it’s interesting to note that those who are critical of vaccines often use graphs such as the one shown below to explain that the decline in communicable diseases is a result of improvements in sanitation rather than vaccines.

This subject is one of great debate and as we get more information from both sides of the argument perhaps a more definitive answer will come to light.  It must be a hard decision for parents who obviously have the ultimate goal of ensuring the health and safety of their children.  What are you thoughts on the topic – are you swayed one way or the other?

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7 thoughts on “The Great Vaccine Debate

  1. When I have children, they will get the same vaccines I did for real diseases. Not for the flu or HPV restless leg syndrome or whatever made up disease the pharmaceuticals invent. They are for profit, not for charity and it is in their best interest that we are as doped up as possible. And dont get me started on passing out anti depressants like tics tacs! You should have told me about the speech- I would have totally gone to that! C xo

    • Cathy! Thanks for your comment. I agree with you re: it being in the best interest of pharmaceuticals to push vaccine’s as necessary and have had my own experience of a specialist pushing a vaccine on me that I didn’t feel was necessary. Upon further research and a second opinion I was comfortable not getting the vaccine and I’m glad I didn’t get bullied into it…just confirmation that you really have to be your own health advocate. I’ll let you know if there are any other talks coming up!

  2. Public vaccination is, undoubtedly, the greatest medical advancement of the 20th century. One has no look no further than the developing world to see the ongoing morbidity and mortality associated with disease that we have the luxury of forgetting about here in Canada. It is also interesting to note that the initial Lancet study linking MMR to autism has been retracted by the journal, has failed to be replicated in numerous repeated studies, and that the primary author, Andrew Wakefield, had a child suffering from autism which he failed to note as a conflict of interest. Food for thought. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8493753.stm

    • Cool, thanks for your info Melissa! Very interesting…will read that article in detail.

      From an MD perspective, do you find that parents are worried about the potential side effects from vaccines? If so, what are their most common concerns?

  3. Hey HD, check out today’s NYTimes interesting article about people in parts of Washington State who can’t afford to get vaccinations for their kids and now there is a whooping cough epidemic which is fatal in 1% of cases in children. I completely agree with Melissa’s post that vaccinations are the greatest achievement of the 20th century! What people who don’t believe in vaccinations overlook is that they are piggy backing on those who do and that seems unfair as they benefit from not being surrounded by infectious diseases. That goes for the flu as well!

    • Thanks Sherry! For those of you interested in reading the artcle which is really interesting, check it out here:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/health/policy/whooping-cough-epidemic-hits-washington-state.html

      One interesting point from the article is that most victims of the outbreak had actually received their vaccination for whooping cough and that there have been no reported cases of deaths this year.

      From what I understand, whopping cough is mostly fatal to infants but the kids impacted by the outbreak in Washington State are between the ages of 8-12.

      Just seems a little weird that these kids had 1.) received the vaccination and 2.) if a child gets whooping cough and hasn’t had the vaccination it can be treated with an antibiotic.

      I’m still reading and learning about vaccines but am hesitant to accept that all vaccinations are necessary.

      Loving the comments and article suggestions – keep them coming, I’m learning a lot!

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