Let me say off the top that I am in favour of the idea of vaccinations. Quite brilliant really. Give the body a little bit of a virus/disease – not enough to get sick, but enough for the body to build up immunity against the virus or disease. This is how the body works. Expose the body to bacteria and viruses and our immune system gets stronger, which is why it is a good thing to have some bacteria around. Children are less likely to develop allergies and get sick if there is a dog or cat in the house, and if they are allowed to play outside in the dirt. Eating some raw and fermented food at each meal is a good idea too! And this is why in this modern age, in our now overly sterile environment, from pasteurized and irradiated foods, to antibiotic soaps, to sterilizing cleaners, to the overuse of antibiotic drugs, our immune systems are being severely compromised. They haven't been exercised enough to be strong. Many people these days seem to be sick almost more often than they are healthy.
So, if vaccinations can prevent very serious diseases like polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough, which can cause paralysis and even death, why are many parents refusing to vaccinate their children these days? In States where vaccinations are mandated by law, some parents are going to the extreme measures to avoid forced vaccination by choosing to home school their children. The medical community often suggests that these parents are uneducated about the importance of childhood vaccinations, but actually the parents that make that choice are usually very well educated on the topic, and after weighing the risks, have decided that the risk to the health of their children from the vaccinations is higher than the risk of getting the disease the vaccinations are designed to prevent. It is becoming a real problem. So many parents are not vaccinating their children that some of the diseases are actually making a comeback. The unvaccinated children were unlikely to get the diseases because they were "protected" by so many vaccinated children. But if the trend continues, a tipping point may be reached where suddenly the risk of getting the disease may be quite high.
So, what are these parents worried about? There are two major issues. The first one that gets a lot of press, is that the additives and preservatives that are injected with the inoculant are quite toxic. Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, was believed by many to be linked to the huge rise in neurological disorders such as autism in kids, however even though thimerosal is being removed from childhood vaccinations, autism rates have not declined. (Thimerosal has NOT been removed from diphtheria, tetanus, and flu vaccines.) But as the mercury has been phased out, aluminum, commonly in the form of aluminum hydroxide or aluminum phosphate, has been increasingly phased in, and some studies have linked aluminum to autism as well. Aluminum is neurotoxic even in very small quantities, and can build up in the blood, brain and bones. Babies with compromised kidney function may accumulate enough aluminum to be toxic to the nervous system and bones at 4-5mcg per kg of body weight, meaning that a 6.5 pound (3 kg) baby exposed to 12-15mcg of aluminum may already be at toxic levels. The Hepatitis B shot which is usually first given at birth, contains 250mcg of aluminum per dose. This is 17 to 20 times over the toxicity threshold for that newborn 6.5 pound baby, yet no tests are generally done to check for kidney function prior to giving the vaccines. Neil Z. Miller in his article called “Aluminum in Vaccines, a Neurological Gamble” suggests that "babies who follow the CDC immunization schedule are injected with nearly 5000mcg (5mg) of aluminum by 18 months of age". That is a lot of aluminum for a baby to detoxify and eliminate! And of course, that does not take into account other vaccine additives the baby needs to detoxify and eliminate, which may include ethylene glycol (antifreeze), phenoxyethanol (a preservative and fixative which is a known carcinogen), formaldehyde (a preservative and disinfectant which is a known carcinogen), benzethonium chloride (a disinfectant which is toxic when ingested or inhaled), beta propiolactone (a sterilizer and “reasonably expected to be a human carcinogen” (IARC 1999)), neomycin (a preservative) which is toxic to kidneys when given intravenously – I think I'll stop there – you get the idea. Not all these additives are in every vaccine, but it still gives pause for thought.
The second major issue that concerns parents is the density of the immunization schedule itself. We are expecting these very very young babies that have immune systems that are only just developing to be able to take in and be able to build antibodies to so many different inoculations all before the age of 2. Fifty years ago, only four vaccinations were given – small pox, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough). Now babies and toddlers in the States get 32 inoculations for 12 diseases, including hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, rubella, measles, mumps, chicken pox, pneumoccocal infections, hemophilus influenzae type b infections, and influenza (flu). Canadian babies are routinely inoculated against 9 diseases, with chicken pox, influenza and meningitis being optional. Does it not seem at least possible that so many vaccines over such a short period of time may overwhelm the immune systems of some susceptible children?
Baby's brains develop most rapidly between the third trimester of gestation and age 2, and when a vaccination is given, the microglia, the brain's immune cells become activated, and when many vaccinations are given very close together, the microglia may become over activated, secreting cytokines, chemokines, excitotoxins, etc. which may damage brain cells and their connection to each other.
I think it is interesting to note that the death rate from measles had declined by 97% before the measles vaccine was even invented, probably due to cleaner water, better nutrition etc. Even diphtheria and whooping cough death rates had declined by 90% before the invention of the vaccine. Measles, and mumps were common childhood diseases that bestowed lifetime immunity on the child if they caught it. I remember "chicken pox" parties when I was a kid, where parents actually wanted their kids to get the disease as it is much milder if caught in childhood than in adulthood.
No long-term (multi-year), large scale, randomized controlled studies have been done comparing the health of children that followed the CDC vaccination schedule to a comparable group of non-vaccinated children, so the questions surrounding the safety of vaccines cannot be said to be put to rest. Most vaccine trials last a few months, and only look for acute problems like allergies, seizures or gastrointestinal problems. And although we don't know for certain the reasons why, it is interesting that neurological diseases such as autism which occurred in 1 in 10,000 children in 1943, now occurs at a rate of 1 child in 68. Auto-immune diseases in children such as type 1 diabetes, and child rheumatoid arthritis which were rare before the advent of vaccines, have increased in dramatic fashion as well. Vaccines only challenge the Th2 side of the immune system, whereas the diseases they are protecting against would challenge the Th1 side as well. We now know that over-activation of one side of the immune system at the expense of the other leads to autoimmune problems and allergies. Hopefully at some point proper long-term studies will be done to answer the question of whether or not the vaccine schedule is implicated in all these other health issues.
I think it is unhelpful for the medical/pharmaceutical industries to brush aside as "crazy" the concerns parents have for the safety of their children, and state that they simply need to "be educated" on the vaccine issue. And I think it is unfair for governments to force the vaccination schedule down the throats of parents who are genuinely worried. I applaud the pharmaceutical industry for removing thimerosal from most vaccines – that is a step in the right direction. Whether or not mercury causes autism is irrelevant – mercury is a known neurotoxin and surely we can agree that it should not be injected into babies (or adults for that matter, so please remove it from the flu vaccine as well!). Surely, rather than the accusatory tone that currently surrounds the vaccine debate, a dialogue can take place and an effort can be made to find non-toxic additives that would not be of concern to parents. And perhaps some flexibility can be allowed in the vaccination schedule, beginning inoculations after the age of 2 when the child's brain and immune system are more capable of handling them, and perhaps they can be given singly (rather than several different vaccines incorporated into one shot), and each one spread apart at at least six month intervals to allow the child's immune system to assimilate each one before the next one is given. Maybe if the make-up of the vaccines and implementation of the vaccine schedule were altered, the resistance to childhood vaccinations would decline. For a suggested safer vaccination schedule, click here.
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How Mercury Causes Brain Neuron Degeneration University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine, Dept. of Physiology and Biophysics
Miller, D. A user-friendly vaccination schedule 2004.
Online at National Vaccine Information Centre
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Copyright 2009 Vreni Gurd
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