Several years ago, I began to recognize treadmills. Not the ones at the gym—I’m talking about lifestyle treadmills: the paths we take in life based upon well-established social and institutional norms. These are the paths we rarely question because, well, “everyone does it.”
We stepped off the public education treadmill in 2011, when we began homeschooling. We exited the convenience treadmill a few years later when we moved from an established neighborhood to a farm in a small town 25 miles away. And that move got us off our next treadmill.
Once we lived miles from our regular physicians and weren’t required to be “current” on vaccinations, we simply didn’t make doctors’ appointments. Other than a rotten appendix, none of us have been sick enough in the five years since our move to warrant a visit, but I digress.
Health Care Has Become a Treadmill
I was born in 1962, just seven years after Jonas Salk’s discovery became available for public use—a time which could be referred to as the “decade of vaccines.”
My parents told stories of swimming pool hysteria, iron lungs, and classmates who suffered the effects of polio. Measles was killing children polio wasn’t, rubella was causing miscarriages and birth defects, and the mumps vaccine had just been improved. My sister and I were vaccinated for them all individually before the combined MMR vaccine came to market in the 1970s, and my parents were very grateful for that opportunity.
The peace of mind brought by vaccine science and antibiotics elevated the practice of medicine. If you got sick, you went to the doctor. You received some kind of pill you took until you felt better, no matter how many were left in the bottle (see antibiotic resistance).
Homeopathic remedies began to look like more like witchcraft, compared with the success and ease of modern medicine. It was easier to take prescription medications than to ride out their inconveniences or research other methods of treatment.
But today, the pendulum is swinging back. With Obamacare and the associated gargantuan rise in health care costs, many citizens are being forced to pay attention to their personal health, contributing to a rise in alternative medicine. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, nearly 40 percent of the US adult population used some kind of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in 2008, including diet-based therapies, massage or acupuncture, and/or natural products and supplements such as herbs and essential oils.
Is it unbelievable then, that parents would begin to question the safety, efficacy and necessity of their child’s vaccinations as well?
Why Would Anyone Question Vaccines?
When my biological kids were born (and after our adopted children became American citizens and Oklahoma residents), their pediatrician gave them the standard CDC vaccination protocol corresponding to their year of birth (2002–2004). Though the large number of syringes on the nurse’s tray being emptied into chunky little thighs and arms made me nervous—I knew of the possibility for vaccine injury—I never really questioned the process. I had carefully interviewed the physician who would be their pediatrician. I believed I had done my due diligence.
Every year, the kids had their well-baby visits and were given booster vaccinations as necessary.
Once school aged, in order to be enrolled in their zip-code-assigned public school, state law required them to be current on their vaccination schedule. This included vaccines for chicken pox (Varicella), Hepatitis A and B.
Although I was conditioned to accept the Polio, MMR, and DPT vaccines, these additions had always frustrated me. From 1997 to 1999, I was employed as an epidemiologist with the Oklahoma State Department of Health. During that time, the state was becoming convinced of the need to require Varicella and Hep A vaccinations for children.
We epidemiologists (in charge of studying disease outbreaks) often discussed the very rare percentages of children and/or adults experiencing severe reactions from either Varicella or Hep A (mainly the immunocompromised and elderly), and it made little sense to me that the state should suddenly decide to force vaccinations for these diseases on children as a necessity to attend school.
It still doesn’t—and here’s why.
The OSDH School Vaccination sheet for parents explains that about 100 people a year die from hepatitis A, and that some infected persons may not even have symptoms of the disease. The population of the United States is over 324 million. Thus, the instance of death of Hepatitis A in the United States is 0.00000031 or 0.000031% of the total population. Does that warrant a vaccine?
We’re told chicken pox is “usually mild, but it can lead to severe skin infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling), and even death”. We’re not given the instance in the population, but several sources confirm an average of 100 chicken pox deaths before 1995 when the vaccine was introduced. Once again, we are forcing a vaccine on parents for a disease significant for three-hundred thousandths of the population?
Relatedly, the CDC has confirmed a near doubling of the incidence of shingles since 1993 (shingles is a variant of the chicken pox virus). A current theory is that, because most children no longer get chicken pox, their parents no longer get an immunological boost from the disease and their immune system ‘forgets’ how to fight it. For anyone with shingles – this is a significant issue.
Hep B symptoms are usually mild. Chronic liver infection can occur, but the older the person is at the time of infection, the less likely that risk.
According to the National Vaccine Information Center, Hep B is neither common in the US, nor highly contagious. But because it can be spread from mothers infected by IV drug use or sexual contact to their babies, the CDC advised it should be given to ALL babies/children in the US beginning in 1991.
There have been 11,052 serious adverse events reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) in connection with Hep B vaccines since 1990 – a disease that only affects a subset of the total population. Why would this vaccine be mandated for school children when only those within a specific subset of the population are affected—especially in light of the recorded associated vaccine injuries?
Is it because it’s easier to remove an individual’s right to make healthcare choice than take CDC and/or state Epidemiologists away from number crunching at their computers and put them into the field to actually study disease process?
There’s a Lot of Nuance to This Topic
In a recent Federalist article—“No, Anti-Vaxxer Robert Kennedy Jr. Won’t Be Trump’s ‘Vaccine Czar’”—author Julie Kelly states that “collective alarm” was raised as then-President-elect Trump met with RFK Jr. She continues, “The fear was well-deserved, since Trump has also made a number of dangerous comments about vaccines, linking immunizations to cases of autism and suggesting we need different vaccination schedules for small children…”
It’s possible this writer doesn’t know that in 1995, the CDC recommended approximately 20 doses of 5 vaccinations from birth to 18 years of age, but by 2013, that number had expanded to 50 doses of 14 vaccinations from birth to 18.
That doesn’t seem a bit much—especially for small children with new and developing immune systems? Especially when the newest recommendations contain vaccinations for illnesses that are neither highly infectious, nor have a high mortality rate?
I’ve already discussed three of those vaccines. But let’s take a couple more: the HPV and Gardasil vaccine, and the meningitis vaccine.
According to the CDC, 6.2 million new sexually transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) cases are identified each year. Of all cases, 70 percent clear within a year. Ninety percent clear within two. Apparently, an avoidance of casual sex would solve the problem of initial infection—as would monogamous sex. In addition, regular yearly PAP smears would alleviate cancer risk.
VAERS reports 37,474 vaccine reactions to Gardasil since September 2015, including 209 deaths.
Though a cervical cancer survivor, I would NEVER recommend HPV vaccination to anyone, including my own daughters, based on both the etiology of the disease and the vaccination risk.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain which can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Though symptoms for all these variants are similar, four vaccines are currently used to combat bacterial meningitis, commonly called meningococcal disease. Meningitis is passed via saliva primarily and can be treated by antibiotics if identified quickly, but can be physically debilitating or deadly if not treated soon enough.
According to the CDC, “Today, meningococcal disease is at a historic low in the United States. Rates of meningococcal disease have been declining in the United States since the 1990s, with much of the decline seen before the routine use of meningococcal vaccines” (emphasis added).
In 2013, there were only 550 total meningococcal cases. The CDC reports 8,594 VAERS events in conjunction with vaccine MenACWY-D between 2005 and 2011, including 24 deaths and 284 VAERS events with MenACWY-CRM, including one death.
Please note the fact that while there are only approximately 550 cases per year, there have been 1,480 vaccine events per year. Additional risk is apparent when HPV and Meningococcal vaccines are administered together.
Drug interaction is a known issue—it’s the reason doctors must know the medications and supplements their patients are taking before they write them a prescription.
Is it really so outrageous to believe that the possible combinations from giving a child 50 doses of 14 different vaccines couldn’t cause health issues? Just the list of contraindications for today’s vaccines should generate at least some level of deep thought before offering up that thigh, arm, or hip to a syringe.
Fearmongering Doesn’t Make Responsible Citizens
Across the United States, legislators are attempting to pass laws forcing parents to vaccinate their children and/or removing existing exemptions from current vaccine laws. Citing “public safety,” law makers such as Oklahoma’s state Sen. Irvin Yen seek to remove parental choice in vaccination based on the argument that diseases once eradicated—such as polio—will return.
Like Yen, author Kelly blames “anti-vaccine activism” for outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, yet neither Kelly nor Yen cite their reasoning.
Curiously, both Kelly and Yen seem unaware of the influx of undocumented immigrants pouring into this country daily from countries with very low vaccination rates and high instances of diseases such as whooping cough and mumps. In fact, the CDC studies rates of disease in incoming legal immigrants and reported in 2009, that 104,954 immigrants were identified as having a “medical condition” to include tuberculosis, and then admitted “the majority of immigrant records (approximately 400K) are not collected.”
Parents Aren’t Solely Responsible for Outbreaks
A recent mumps outbreak in Oklahoma spanned 8 counties, yet the highest rates of illness (66 percent) were in the vaccinated population. No vaccine confers 100 percent disease immunity, and mumps vaccine is only 88 percent effective after two doses, leaving 12 percent of the population at risk following disease exposure. Though the origination of the outbreak is unknown, the Arkansas Department of Health also reported nearly 100 confirmed cases—an indication of interstate mobility.
The median age in this outbreak was 16. Because adults often have little immunity from diseases vaccinated against in childhood, this significant part of the population can also contract and/or pass illness.
In addition, many vaccines given today contain live virus. Anyone taking a live virus vaccine can ‘shed’ the disease to others as their immune system ramps up to create antibodies against the disease. Unvaccinated persons in physical contact with a shedding vaccinated person can become ill.
Considering these factors, blaming parents whose children didn’t take the MMR for this—or any—mumps outbreak simply doesn’t add up.
Not Anti-Vax, But Pro-Informed Consent
Let me be clear. I believe parents in the United States should protect the health of their children by vaccinating them against highly infectious diseases with high mortality and/or morbidity rates. Vaccinations against polio, whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, and rubella have prevented untold thousands of deaths and health complications in this country over the decades and this fact is nothing to—excuse the term—“sneeze at.”
That said, every physician or health department responsible for vaccinating children should provide parents with all the facts about every vaccine before a needle pierces skin. Few do, and that raises a red flag. Why shouldn’t parents receive all information necessary to make an informed decision about their child’s health?
Today’s parents are getting savvy. They’re beginning to find that government doesn’t have all the answers. They don’t want half-baked “experts” telling them what to do. Let’s face it— if the USDA created the food pyramid to help out farm concerns, and the CDC bought into it, what does that say about the government’s ability to use science independently? Why not exercise some healthy skepticism about CDC vaccine recommendations?
Strident physicians and lawmakers unwilling to address concerns about vaccine safety don’t create public trust—especially when rampant anecdotal (and factual) information is easily found on the internet.
State health departments and legislators who sneer at parental concerns and call for vaccination mandates erode parents’ trust. That makes them less likely to vaccinate, which in turn makes government officials push vaccines all the more. This vicious cycle is good for no one.