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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