Natural Way Health Blog
Vaccinations - A Balancing Act
Many people visit Naturopathic Doctors with concerns regarding the Canadian childhood vaccination schedule. Vaccinating or not vaccinating your child is a very personal decision and there seems to be a lot of controversy regarding the subject. After having my daughter in August, I decided that it was time to explore the issue further so that I could make an informed decision on what route I was going to take with her. After learning more, I decided to compile some information for a blog post.
Information for this handout has been gathered from numerous sources, including a course entitled “Vaccine Balancing Act” by Hilary Andrews and Heather Zwickey, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, various medical sites, and pharmaceutical company monographs of specific vaccines.
This handout has not been designed to dissuade you from vaccinating your child. Its sole purpose is to provide education on this matter and let you know that alternative vaccination schedules can be recommended if you decide to take an alternative route like myself.
Immunizations are recognized as one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. The widespread use of immunization is responsible for dramatic reductions in, and in some cases the elimination of, specific diseases. To see the comparison between 20th century annual morbidity and current morbidity from vaccine-preventable diseases (United States figures), see the following table:
More Infectious Diseases Have Vaccines
In 1974, children were routinely vaccinated against SEVEN diseases (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella). Currently in Canada, children are routinely vaccinated against THIRTEEN diseases (all of the above plus Haemophilus influenzae type B [Hib], Pneumococcal Disease, Varicella, Meningococcal Disease, Hepatitis B, and Influenza).
Testing of Vaccinations
Vaccines are studied in a 2-step process: testing of vaccines before licensing and monitoring of vaccines after licensing.
Before licensing, vaccines are tested mainly to make sure they raise titer levels (ie. improve immunity) to the infectious disease they are meant to protect. These studies are too small to detect many potential dangerous events. “It is almost never possible to do pre-licensing studies that are large enough to find rare events with great certainty,” says Robert Lowell David MD, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and a vaccine safety researcher at the Group Health Cooperative, Immunization Studies Program. It is thought that a study to detect potentially dangerous events would require too many participants, and would cost the vaccine manufacturer too much.
For monitoring of vaccines after licensing, a post-marketing safety surveillance system called VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System) has been established to collect information about adverse events (possible side effects) that occur after administration of vaccines. In other words, once a vaccine has been approved for use, the studies for safety in children really begin.
One thing that is important to point out is that in the clinical trials that have been conducted on childhood vaccinations, only healthy infants have been enrolled. There are no studies where sick or “slightly sick” infants are vaccinated. In addition, ages are not adjusted if the infant is premature. In other words, age-correcting does not take place, meaning that the vaccination schedule is the same for infants born 1 month early as a full-term baby even though their development is different.
The Vaccine Schedule
The vaccine schedule has been determined because it is linked to pediatric wellness visits. “In order to eliminate disease in a society through vaccinations, the majority, if not all of the people must be vaccinated. The only time we see people in the healthcare system often enough to complete the primary series of vaccinations is in the first year of life. From a public health standpoint, it makes absolutely the most sense to give as many vaccines as early as we can, and as many at the same time as we can. This provides the greatest chance to immunize the greatest proportion of the population,” says Anne Montgomery MD, FAAFP, FABM, IBCLC (head of La Leche League).
In other words, the schedule is not determined by: individual risk factors, immune system development, and neurological system development.
Canadian Childhood Vaccinations
DTaP-IPV (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio)
This combination vaccine contains 4 vaccines combined into 1 vial (and at months 2, 4, and 6, it also contains the Hib vaccine). Thus, the combination vaccine tends to have the same effects as the individual components. Most studies have been done with the individual vaccines and not the combination.
- Description: Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection. You can catch it from a person who has the infection and coughs or sneezes. It usually affects the nose and throat and causes a bad sore throat, swollen glands, fever and chills. But if it is not properly diagnosed and treated, it produces a poison in the body that can cause serious complications, such as heart failure or paralysis.
- Risk Factors: crowded or unsanitary conditions, malnourished, compromised immune system.
- Efficacy of Vaccine: 87-96%
- Description: Tetanus is a serious illness caused by tetanus bacteria. The bacteria live in soil, saliva, dust and manure. The bacteria usually enter the body through a deep cut, like those you might get from cutting yourself with a knife or stepping on a nail. The infection causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to "locking" of the jaw, which makes it impossible to open your mouth or swallow. If this happens, you could die of suffocation.
- Risk Factors: Age over 50 years (due to decreased circulation), diseases that decrease circulation, and trauma to the skin since the bacteria enters through a contaminated wound (ie. skin injury, burns, intravenous drug abuse, skin ulcers, surgical wounds).
- Efficacy of Vaccine: > 90% but immunization does not confer immunity (therefore a booster is required every 10 years).
- Description: Whooping cough is an infectious bacterial disease caused by Bordetella pertussis that leads to uncontrollable coughing. The name comes from the noise you make when you take a breath after you cough. You may have choking spells or may cough so hard that you vomit. Anyone can get whooping cough, but it is more common in infants and children. It is especially dangerous in infants because the coughing spells can be so bad that it is hard for infants to eat, drink or breathe.
- Risk Factors: Anyone can get whooping cough, but the health effects are usually much worse for children less than a year old. It is highly contagious with up to 90% of susceptible household contacts developing the disease following exposure. Coughing adolescents and adults (usually not recognized as having pertussis) are the major reservoir for Bordetella pertussis and are the usual sources for the initial case in infants and children.
- Efficacy of Vaccine: 35%-96%
- Description: Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus that attacks your nervous system. The disease most commonly affects young children. Poliovirus spreads in human waste and people usually get it from contaminated food or water. Symptoms include fever, tiredness, vomiting, neck stiffness, and leg and arm pain (most infected people never have symptoms). In rare cases, however, polio infection can cause paralysis and there is no treatment for this. Some people who have had polio develop post-polio syndrome (PPS) years later and symptoms include tiredness, new muscle weakness and muscle and joint pain. There is no way to prevent or cure PPS. Polio vaccination will protect most people for life and most countries eradicated polio decades ago, except for rare cases.
- Risk Factors: Travel to an area where polio is common or that has recently experienced an outbreak, living with or caring for someone who may be shedding poliovirus, handling laboratory specimens that contain live poliovirus, a compromised immune system.
- Efficacy of Vaccine: >90% immune after 2 doses and >99% immune after 3 doses.
- Extra Notes: The mother’s immune system passes immune molecules called antibodies through the placenta to the fetus and these antibodies provide protection to the baby for as long as they remain in the baby’s body. A different immune molecule (called IgA) is found in the breast milk and is transferred to the gut of the infant during breastfeeding until the newborn can synthesize his/her own antibodies. Therefore, a phenomenon called passive immunity protects the breast fed baby from polio for up to 6 months of age. A healthy gut may play the most important role in preventing polio so a healthy child with good gut flora and a healthy digestive tract need not be vaccinated. However, in Canada, the polio vaccine is part of the DTaP vaccine so if you want your child to receive the DTaP vaccination, then he/she will also be vaccinated against polio.
Vaccine Additives: aluminum phosphate, 2-phenoxyethanol, polysorbate, bovine serum albumin, trace amounts of formaldehyde, and trace amounts of polymyxin B and neomycin may be present from the cell growth medium.
Adverse Reactions: localized symptoms from the injection (ie. redness and tenderness at injection site, painful swelling from shoulder to elbow), hives, anaphylaxis, or neurological complications.
Contraindications or Precautions: severe allergic reaction (ie. anaphylaxis) after a previous vaccine dose or to a vaccine component, encephalopathy (ie. coma, decreased level of consciousness, prolonged seizures) not attributable to another identifiable cause within 7 days of previous dose of DTaP, moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever, Guillain-Barré syndrome within 6 weeks after a previous dose of DTaP, history of arthritis-type reaction following a previous dose of DTaP, progressive or unstable neurologic disorder, uncontrolled seizures or progressive encephalopathy, pregnancy.
Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b)
- Description: Haemophilus influenzae type b disease, also called Hib disease, is an illness that can cause a potentially fatal brain infection in young children. Hib disease is caused by the bacteria, Haemophilus influenzae serotype b. The Hib bacterium is widespread in humans. Along with other bacteria, it usually lives in the throat and nose without causing illness. In some cases, though, the bacterium breaks through the body's defenses and causes disease. Hib disease is spread through contact with discharges or droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person and can spread from person to person through sneezing, coughing, or speaking closely with an infected person. A person does not have to have symptoms to spread the bacterium. The most common and severe manifestation of Hib disease is meningitis (inflammation and swelling in the coverings of the brain and spinal cord). Symptoms of meningitis include fever, weakness, vomiting, and a stiff neck. Hib can also cause infection of the lungs, blood, joints, bones, throat, and covering of the heart and can result in such serious diseases as epiglottitis (inflammation of the epiglottis – the flap that sits at the base of your throat), pneumonia, arthritis, and cellulitis (inflammation of the connective tissue). Hib is resistant to a number of antibiotics so treatment of an infection is often unsuccessful. The most striking feature of Hib disease is age-dependent susceptibility.
- Risk Factors: lack of breastfeeding, smokers in the household, age, daycare, greater than 4 in a household, race and ethnicity (higher in Native American and African American), low income, low socioeconomic status, school-aged children, and chronic disease.
- Efficacy of Vaccine: Clinical efficacy has been estimated at 95-100%. Invasive Hib disease in a completely vaccinated child is very rare. Before the introduction of Hib vaccines, an estimated 20 000 cases of invasive disease occurred annually (in the US) in children younger than 5 years, including meningitis (12 000 cases) and pneumonia (7500 cases). By 1999, just 2 years after the introduction of the Hib vaccine, there was a 95% reduction in the incidence of this disease in kids younger than 5 years, with only approximately 250 cases reported in 1999. In 2002, there were 34 cases of Hib disease
- Extra Notes: Passive immunity protects the breast fed baby from Hib for up to 6 months of age (as with Polio). Therefore, Hib is rarely seen in infants less than 6 months. Attack rates generally occur at 6-7 months of age and decline thereafter while the disease is not common beyond 5 years of age.
Vaccine Additives: aluminum phosphate, 2-phenoxyethanol, polysorbate, bovine serum albumin, trace amounts of formaldehyde, and trace amounts of polymyxin B and neomycin may be present from the cell growth medium.
Adverse Reactions: inflammation at the site of injection, Guillain-Barre, seizures, renal failure, and possible link with Type 1 Diabetes.
Contraindications or Precautions: severe allergic reaction to a vaccine component or following prior dose, moderate or severe acute illness, < 6 weeks of age.
Pneu-C-7 (Pneumococcal Disease)
- Description: Pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of serious illness in children and adults throughout the world. The disease is caused by a common bacterium, Streptococcus pneumoniae, which can attack different parts of the body. When bacteria invade the lungs, they cause the most common form of community-acquired bacterial pneumonia; when bacteria invade the bloodstream, they cause bacteremia; and when they invade the covering of the brain, they cause meningitis (it is actually now the #1 cause of pediatric meningitis). Pneumococci may also cause otitis media (middle ear infection) and sinusitis. Currently there are more than 90 known pneumococcal types; the ten most common types account for approximately 62% of invasive disease worldwide. Antibiotics are effective for the disease forms but resistance to antibiotics is becoming more common.
- Risk Factors: smoking, recent Influenza infection, daycare, poor nutrition, lack of breastfeeding, recent antibiotic use, race (African American, Native American, Alaskan Native have double to quadruple the risk), genetic susceptibility, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder), alcoholism, congestive heart failure, diabetes, renal failure, lack of a spleen.
- Efficacy of Vaccine: The currently licensed pneumococcal vaccine is based on the 23 most common serotypes of pneumococcus, against which the vaccine has an overall protective efficacy of about 60%–70%. Children under 2 years of age, and persons suffering from various states of a compromised immune system (ie. HIV infection) do not consistently develop immunity following vaccination, thus reducing the protective value of the vaccine in some major target groups for pneumococcal disease.
- Extra Notes: Colonization of the bacteria does not occur before 6 months of age because of maternal antibodies acquired in utero (ie. passive immunity, as seen in Polio and Hib). Therefore, infection before 6 months of age is unlikely.
Vaccine Additives: Sodium Chloride, succinic Acid, polysorbate 80, water for injection.
Adverse Reactions: irritability, decreased appetite, drowsiness, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, seizures, fever, tenderness at injection site.
Contraindications or Precautions: severe allergic reaction to vaccine component or following prior dose, moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever, thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) or any coagulation disorder.
MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)
This combination vaccine contains 3 vaccines combined into 1 vial. Thus, the combination vaccine tends to have the same effects as the individual components. Most studies have been done with the individual vaccines and not the combination.
- Description: Measles is an infectious disease caused by a virus. It spreads easily from person to person. The main symptom of measles is an itchy skin rash. The rash often starts on the head and moves down the body. Other symptoms include: fever, cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Measles can sometimes lead to serious problems.
- Risk Factors: overcrowding, international travel, weakened immune system (especially vitamin A deficiency), winter and spring months.
- Efficacy of Vaccine: 90%-95%
- Extra Notes: The occurrence of measles before the age of 6 months is relatively uncommon because of passively acquired maternal antibodies from the immune mother.
- Description: Mumps is an illness caused by the mumps virus. Mumps causes the following symptoms: fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swelling of the salivary glands follows these symptoms. Swelling of the glands near the jaw line below the ears may give you "chipmunk cheeks.” Serious problems from mumps are rare, but can include deafness, swelling (of the brain, spinal cord, testicles, breasts or ovaries), and pregnancy loss.
- Risk Factors: overcrowding, ages 2 – 12, international travel, weakened immune system, winter and spring.
- Efficacy of Vaccine: 90%-98%
- Extra Notes: A primary immune response to the first vaccine dose provides long-term protection. Second doses of MMR are given because of the measles component (not because of the mumps or rubella component).
- Description: Rubella is an illness with flu-like symptoms followed by a rash. It is usually mild and you may get it and not even know it. However, adults who get rubella often feel sicker than children do. The biggest danger of rubella is if a woman gets it during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. She may lose the baby, or the virus could cause problems to her unborn baby. Those problems could include cataracts, deafness or damage to the heart or brain. Other common symptoms of Rubella infection include: low-grade fever, headache, runny nose, red eyes, and muscle or joint pain.
- Risk Factors: pregnancy (severe complications arise in the unborn children of women who get rubella during the first 3 months of their pregnancy). Infants infected before birth are rubella carriers and they excrete the virus and expose hospital staff, and pregnant women to the disease. In fact, these little babies can shed the virus for up to one year after birth.
- Efficacy of Vaccine: >95%
- Extra Notes: A primary immune response to the first vaccine dose provides long-term protection. Second doses of MMR are given because of the measles component (not because of the mumps or rubella component). In addition, the vaccine virus is communicable during breastfeeding so breastfeeding is a contraindication for vaccination.
Vaccine Additives: sorbitol, hydrolyzed gelatin, medium 199 with Hank's salts, sodium phosphate monobasic, sodium phosphate dibasic (anhydrous), sucrose, sodium bicarbonate, potassium phosphate dibasic (anhydrous), neomycin, monosodium L-glutamate monohydrate, potassium phosphate monobasic, phenol red, water for injection, recombinant human albumin, fetal bovine serum.
Adverse Reactions: fever is the most common adverse reaction following MMR vaccination. The measles component of MMR vaccine is most often associated with this adverse reaction. Febrile seizures have been noted but are rare. Rashes, usually appearing 7-10 days after MMR have been reported in approximately 5% of vaccinees. Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) has occurred within 2 months of vaccination in 1 in 30 000 vaccinees. Allergic reactions following the administration of MMR or any of its component vaccines are rare.
Most of the adverse events reported are attributable to the measles or rubella components. Parotitis (inflammation of the parotid glands), fever, orchitis (inflammation of the testes), and rare cases of central nervous system dysfunction (ie. deafness) have been reported rarely from the mumps component of the vaccine.
The most common complaints from the rubella component are fever, lymphadenopathy (enlargement of the lymph nodes), and arthralgia (joint pain) but these adverse reactions only occur in susceptible persons and are more common in adults, especially women. Transient peripheral neuritis complaints (ie. pain in the arms and legs) have been reported and generally begin 1-3 weeks after vaccination with the rubella component, persist for 1 day to 3 weeks, and rarely recur. As for chronic arthritis, data from studies in the US have not supported an association between the rubella component of MMR and chronic arthritis.
Concern has been raised about a possible relation between the MMR vaccine and autism by some parents of children with autism. Two groups, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics have reviewed the evidence regarding a potential link between autism and MMR. Both groups independently concluded that the available evidence doesn’t support an association. However, a 2002 study in Utah found that 75 out of 125 children (60%) with autism were positive for antibodies to the MMR vaccine and 70 out of 125 (56%) autistic children had myelin basic protein (MBP) autoantibodies. In 90% of children with MMR antibodies, MPB autoantibodies were also found. None of the 95 blood samples taken from children who did not have autism showed evidence of either the MMR antibody of the MBP autoantibody
Contraindications or Precautions: Severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) after a previous vaccine dose or to a vaccine component, pregnancy, known severe immunodeficiency (e.g., hematologic and solid tumors; receiving chemotherapy; congenital immunodeficiency; long-term immunosuppressive therapy or patients with HIV infection who are severely immunocompromised), moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever, recent (within 11 months) receipt of antibody-containing blood product, history of thrombocytopenia or thrombocytopenic purpura, breastfeeding, gelatin or egg allergies.
Var (Varicella) -Chickenpox
- Description: Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by the varicella virus. Most cases occur in children under age 15 but older children and adults can get it. It spreads very easily from one child to another. Symptoms include an uncomfortable, itchy rash, fever and headache. The rash is like blisters and usually appears on the face, scalp or trunk. The disease is usually mild and lasts 5 to 10 days, but it sometimes causes serious problems. Adults and older children tend to get sicker from it.
- Risk Factors: no previous chickenpox infection, working in or attending a school or child care facility, living with children, primary and acquired immunodeficiency states, active untreated tuberculosis, fever > 38.5°C, pregnancy.
- Efficacy of Vaccine: 70-85%
- Extra Notes: Duration of immunity after vaccination is thought to be about 7 years or more. Therefore, the vaccine might prevent childhood chickenpox. But because its immunity is believed to be short-lived, a vaccinated child leaves him- or herself vulnerable to the dangers of adult chickenpox. In addition, the risk of chickenpox is 2.5x higher if the varicella vaccine is administered less than 30 days following MMR whereas there is no increased risk if varicella vaccine is given simultaneously or more than 30 days after MMR.
Vaccine Additives: Sucrose, hydrolyzed gelatin, urea, sodium chloride, monosodium L-glutamate, sodium phosphate dibasic, potassium phosphate monobasic, potassium chloride, water for injection.
Adverse Reactions: pain and redness at the injection site and varicella-like rash, fever, upper respiratory illness, cough, irritability/nervousness, fatigue, disturbed sleep, diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting, otitis, diaper rash/contact rash, headache, teething, malaise, abdominal pain, other rash, nausea, eye complaints, chills, lymphadenopathy, myalgia, lower respiratory illness, allergic reactions (including allergic rash, hives), stiff neck, heat rash/prickly heat, insect bites, arthralgia, eczema/dry skin/dermatitis, constipation, itching, rare pneumonitis, and rare febrile seizures.
Contraindications or Precautions: Severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) after a previous vaccine dose or to a vaccine component, substantial suppression of cellular immunity, pregnancy, moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever, recent (within 11 months) receipt of antibody-containing blood product, receipt of specific antivirals (i.e., acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir) 24 hours before vaccination.
Men (Meningococcal Disease)
- Description: Meningococcal infection is caused by a bacterium known as meningococcus. Many people (approximately 10% of the population) carry meningococci bacteria at the back of the throat or nose without any ill effects. In rare instances, meningococci overcome the body's natural defenses and cause serious diseases, including meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain) and meningococcemia (a widespread infection involving the blood and multiple organs). Meningitis symptoms commonly include high fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting and drowsiness. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dislike of bright lights (photophobia), confusion, drowsiness or a small purplish skin rash. In young children, the most noticeable symptoms may be marked behavioural change, such as drowsiness, irritability or excessive crying. These symptoms can develop over several hours or they may take 1 to 2 days. In people with meningococcemia without meningitis, the headache, neck stiffness and photophobia may be absent but the rash may be extensive, and may be associated with bleeding. The meningococcal infection is spread from one person to another through a transfer of secretions from the throat or nose during close contact. Kissing, sharing eating utensils, drinking glasses, water bottles, cigarettes or sharing of lipstick can spread the disease. Most people exposed to the bacteria do not easily become infected, and even if infected, the majority does not develop any disease or symptoms.
- Risk Factors: age (< 5 years), living in a community setting, compromised immune system, active smoking and second-hand smoke.
- Efficacy of Vaccine: 94%
Vaccine Additives: sodium chloride, aluminum phosphate, water for injection.
Adverse Reactions: irritability, injection site redness, injection site swelling, injection site pain/tenderness, fever, crying, drowsiness, impaired sleeping, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia
Contraindications or Precautions: Severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) after a previous vaccine dose or to a vaccine component, moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever.
- Description: Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks the liver. It can cause serious disease including permanent liver damage (cirrhosis). Hepatitis B is also the main cause of liver cancer, which can be fatal. The disease is spread from one infected person to another by contact with blood or body fluids. The virus may also be spread by using items that have blood on them, such as a toothbrush, razor, or needles used for drugs, and by having unprotected sex with someone infected with the virus. Mothers who are infected with hepatitis B virus can pass the virus to their newborn babies during delivery. When infants get infected with hepatitis B virus, they often do not have symptoms but most will stay infected for life.
- Risk Factors: Having unprotected sex with more than one partner, having unprotected sex with someone who's infected with HBV, having a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea or Chlamydia, being a man who has sexual contact with other men, sharing needles during intravenous (IV) drug use, sharing a household with someone who has a chronic HBV infection, having a job that exposes you to human blood, receiving hemodialysis for end-stage kidney (renal) disease, traveling to regions with high infection rates of HBV (ie. Africa, Central and Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe).
- Efficacy of Vaccine: 95-100%
Vaccine Additives: Aluminum (as amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate), sodium chloride, sodium borate, water for injection.
Adverse Reactions: injection site reactions (ie. local pain, soreness and tenderness, itching, redness, bruising, swelling, warmth, nodule formation), fatigue, malaise, fever, nausea, diarrhea, headache, sore throat, upper respiratory infection.
Contraindications or Precautions: Severe allergic reaction (ie. anaphylaxis) after a previous vaccine dose or to a vaccine component, moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever, infant weighing less than 2000 grams (4 lbs, 6.4 oz).
A Note About Autism and Vaccinations
In an April 1999 report, the Department of Developmental Services in California found a 273% increase between 1987 and 1998 in the numbers of new children entering the California developmental services system with a professional diagnosis of autism. The report concluded that “the number of persons with autism grew markedly faster than the number of persons with other developmental disabilities (cerebral palsy, epilepsy and mental retardation)” and “compared to characteristics 11 years ago, the present population of persons with autism are younger (and) have a greater chance of exhibiting no or milder forms of mental retardation…”. They also concluded that the increase could not be explained as a result of improved diagnostic techniques and case-finding.
The connection between vaccination and autistic behaviour was first reported in a book called DPT: A Shot in the Dark (Coulter & Fisher, 1985). However, the association between vaccinations and autism is generally thought to be more in relation to MMR (not DTaP). In 1998, gastroenterologist and researcher named Andrew Wakefield suggested a link between autism and the measles vaccination and this was published in the well-known medical journal called the Lancet. On February 2, 2010 the Lancet retracted his 1998 publication, noting that elements of the manuscript had been falsified. It is important to note, however, that his findings have never been disputed – it was just his research tactics that were questionable.
A concerning ingredient in vaccinations was something called thimerosal (a mercury product). In February 1999, a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) named Thomas Verstraeten conducted an unpublished analysis of CDC Vaccine Safety Datalink records and found a relative risk of 7.6 for autism in children receiving thimerosal-containing vaccines. A relative risk of 7.6 might not mean much to most people but take this into consideration - generally a relative risk of 3.0 is considered the threshold to demonstrate causality and that the relative risk for a government-sponsored study of second-hand smoke as a cause of cancer is 2.69, which people take as “conclusive”. In June 2000, Verstraeten disclosed his analysis to vaccine advisory committee members at a meeting and he was told to reanalyze his results. This first reanalysis yielded a relative risk of 2.48 after which he was asked to reanalyze again and the relative risk dropped to 1.69.
In July 1999, public health officials announced that thimerosal was going to be phased out of vaccines as a precautionary measure. Currently, thimerosal is NOT found in any of the childhood vaccinations.
What is the Alternative?
An alternative schedule of vaccinations takes into account your child’s risk factors for getting the disease, immunological and neurological development, and the reduction of vaccine doses whenever possible. Administering vaccines to a child at a point when the immune system can mount the most appropriate response and the neurological system is the least vulnerable is the key to proper timing of vaccinations.
Several organizations, including the Institutes of Medicine and the World Health Organizations are concerned about an increased risk for autoimmune disease with vaccination. Vaccinating late, when the immune system is fully developed (and perhaps taxed from poor lifestyle choices) may increase the risk of autoimmune disease and vaccinating early when the immune system is not fully developed may increase the risk of allergies, autoimmune disease, and neurological disorders.
Dr. Angela MacNeil