Vaccines: The Pros and Cons

Back in 1998, a study conducted by a British Doctor linking vaccinations to autism caused many Americans to rethink the safety and effectiveness of vaccinating themselves and their children. Seventeen years later, that skepticism is proving hard to uproot. That study has since been thoroughly discredited—yet today, a record number of parents are refusing to vaccinate their children. A recent survey conducted by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) found 17,253 sets of parents in California and 3,097 in Colorado who refused vaccinations for their children due to “philosophic reasons.” The result is that there are now schools in the wealthiest parts of Los Angeles that have a lower vaccination rate than in South Sudan. It’s no wonder that the national discussion around disease prevention is once again heating up.

LA-County-vaccine-drive-pic.jpg

That same survey showed that the national compliance rates for the chicken pox, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), and DPT (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccines range from about 93.3% to 95%. This may seem reassuring—but in order to attain “herd immunity,” vaccination rates need to be at least 95%. Herd immunity is the concept that, so long as enough people are vaccinated (and thus unable to transmit a disease person-to-person), the last 5% of people who cannot be vaccinated (due to age, medical conditions, etc.) are safe from disease as well. Unfortunately, there are twenty-six states plus the District of Columbia that don’t meet the Department of Health and Human Service’s guidelines of 95% coverage for the MMR vaccine; there are another thirty-seven states that don’t even gather proper data on vaccination rates in the first place.

This is cause for concern. Vaccines have wiped out many illnesses over the decades; but these illnesses still exist in the world and could very well reappear in America. Further, there are many people in this country whose health depends on other people getting vaccinated. Are the vaccine refuses, then, merely being foolish and selfish? Or are they justified in questioning the safety of vaccines? The remainder of this newsletter details some researched, proven pros and cons of getting vaccinated to help you decide for yourself.

CONS:

-A couple studies done in the 90s suggested that vaccines had harmful effects:

One found that children die at a rate eight times greater than normal within three days after getting a DPT vaccination. Another found that 80% of children under five who were diagnosed with whooping cough had been vaccinated for whooping cough, suggesting that the vaccine is ineffective or even infected children with the virus. However, these are just a couple studies amongst many, and you should know that the vast majority of studies on vaccines have proven them to be safe.

-Some vaccine ingredients are controversial:

Many vaccines contain ingredients like thimerosal (mercury disinfectant/preservative), aluminum, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), phenol (disinfectant, dye), and other chemicals—things we typically do not want to put into our bodies. These ingredients usually only exist in minimal quantities and have been approved by several health organization as “okay” to put in our bodies for vaccination purposes.

A small population of scientists has also recently voiced concern over the animal products used in vaccine production. These include monkey kidney cells, chicken embryos, calf blood, and more. The worry is that infected animal cells may prompt the passage of certain illnesses across species lines, putting humans in danger.

The majority of the scientific community does not consider this to be an imminent threat, but you should still be informed as to how vaccines are created and produced.

-Vaccinations are largely not “proven”:

There has been no long range testing of vaccines in a controlled environment. This means that we can’t say, without a doubt, that we know vaccines are the reason we no longer see people contracting certain diseases. So while it is extremely likely that vaccines had a lot to do with eradicating Polio, this country has also seen much advancement in hygiene and health care over the years, which may well have played a role in combating disease as well.

-Some vaccines are more established than others:

Take a newer vaccine, Gardisil, for example. Gardisil is a vaccine against HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer in women. This vaccine has generated much controversy since it was made available to the public, with several people claiming permanently damaging side effects. The vaccine also prompted twice as many reports to VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting System) as other new vaccines. But after conducting further studies that tracked millions of patients who had received the Gardisil shots, the CDC maintained that Gardisil was a safe vaccine. The analysis looked at side effects within forty-two days of the shot.

The Flu shot is another commonplace vaccine. It has a track record of 80% effectiveness, with occasional side effects that are extremely mild (chills, runny nose, body aches, etc.). And, contrary to popular belief, you cannot contract the flu illness from either the flu shot or the nasal spray.

I bring this up to illustrate the differences amongst vaccines. The flu vaccine is benign for the most part and combats a very common illness. Gardisil, on the other hand, hasn’t had as much time to prove itself. While it does help prevent an extremely serious disease, cervical cancer is pretty rare for the most part, and getting regular pap smears is also an effective way of preventing it.


PROS:

-Vaccines prevent illness:

The chart says it all in this case. Vaccines save lives! They prevent disease epidemics and have helped transform the country’s health. While they may have some unsavory ingredients in them or occasionally produce unpleasant side effects, contracting a disease like Tetanus or Smallpox would be much worse.

-There is A LOT of evidence supporting vaccines:

Vaccines have been shown time and again to be safe and effective. Decades of research from medical professionals and both government and non-profit organizations around the world support this conclusion. Vaccine production is also highly regulated by the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, and more. The process usually takes around 10-15 years of research, development, and testing before a vaccine can be approved by the FDA for public use. Those who claim that vaccines are produced with toxic ingredients or in toxic environments are certainly making an ambitious argument in the face of such stringent control by multiple respected health organizations.

-Under-vaccination can be harmful:

Without sufficient vaccination rates, we lose herd immunity and may see a resurfacing of some of the illnesses vaccines have helped wipe out. For example, in 2010 there was an outbreak of pertussis in California, which caused 9,120 illnesses and ten deaths. The outbreak was traced back to under-vaccination.

-Picture a world without vaccinations:

It looks something like West Africa today, where 1,000 people are being infected with Ebola each week. You can imagine what some of them would do for the opportunity to be vaccinated—an opportunity which, over on the other side of the globe, more and more Americans seem to be taking for granted.

 

The bottom line is that vaccinations have both pros and cons. The choice between getting vaccinated or not will ultimately be a subjective one, dependent upon factors like your personal health, the vaccine in question, etc.. ALL medical procedures—including life-saving ones—have a risk of side effects. Like every other procedure, some side effects may be worse or more/less likely for you than others. The key to avoiding complications in every situation is to be INFORMED and not make your choice based on fear, or because of one thing you read on the Internet somewhere. With this information about vaccines, you are that much closer to being an informed patient and making the choice that is right for you when it comes time for your next scheduled vaccination.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

Winter's Controversy: Flu Season and Vaccinations

It’s that time again. Flu season is upon us, and everywhere we turn we are reminded to get our flu shot.
It couldn’t be easier: You can get an influenza vaccine at your favorite neighborhood pharmacy, right along with your toothpaste and shampoo, or at a makeshift stand at the grocery store. At more and more businesses, employees can get one just down the hall from their desks.
 
Rising Flu Shot Use: 2010-2011
-        50% of American children received flu shots
-        41% of all American adults received flu shots
 
Are Flu Shots Effective?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get the annual flu vaccine,” says Joseph Bresee, MD, chief of the Epidemiology Prevention Branch at the CDC’s Influenza Division. Not all experts agree with this advice, though. An increasing number of researchers, academics and doctors are questioning the scientific basis. Some point out that the influenza virus isn’t the cause of most flu-like illness. Others argue that flu shots don’t work well for the most vulnerable among us, including the elderly, because their immune systems are too weak to respond. The most vocal critics even point to studies showing the influenza vaccine is no better than a placebo.
 
Influenza Strains Mutating Constantly
The problem with flu epidemics in the past and present is that there are always several variations of influenza strains circulating the globe, says medical historian George Dehner, PhD, author of Influenza: A Century of Science and Public Health Response (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012). The variants of those strains mutate constantly, and it is difficult for vaccines to keep the pace. With the advent of new DNA sequencing technologies, scientists have become faster at isolating influenza strains and updating vaccines. But it is still an inherently inexact science, unable to keep up with morphing viruses.
 
Fewer Cases of Influenza that We Think
Only 7% of those with flu symptoms actually have influenza, suggests epidemiologist Tom Jefferson, MD, author for the independent Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group. Jefferson believes flu cases are confused with flu-like illness. Jefferson's studies show that, on average, only about 7 percent of those with influenza-like illness actually have influenza.
 
No Official Body Count
How can we prove people die of the flu? Peter Doshi, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in comparative effectiveness research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, says “there is no actual body count here, as we have with death by car accident or cancer.” The CDC put the death toll at 36,000 in 2003, though it has recently backed off the claim. The numbers are broad estimates, “but since there is no guarantee that what they call influenza is actually influenza,” says Doshi, the whole model is unreliable.
 
Money in Manufacturers Pockets
Many scientists point out that advisers on government vaccine committees vested with product approval have suspect ties to the manufacturers. With many of pharma’s most profitable drugs coming off patent in recent years, new vaccines, including influenza vaccines, have taken on an added luster. Experts predict that the seasonal influenza-vaccine market will grow to a $4 billion a year industry by 2015. Despite this, medical practitioners believe that concern for the public’s well-being is what motivates most health officials. Likely the truth is somewhere in the middle.
 
Toxins and Food Allergies in Flu Shots
Many influenza vaccinations contain toxins such as thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury that was removed from most (but not all) children’s vaccines more than a decade ago. The flu vaccine is also prepared in hen eggs — so if you are allergic to eggs, you could have a reaction.
 
Toxins in Flu Shots?: Ask your Doctor
Here are some of the potentially harmful toxins still found in various influenza vaccines:
·      Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative removed from other vaccines used in children in 2001.
·      Polysorbate 80 is linked to infertility.
·      Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen by the Department of Health and Human Services.
·      Octoxinol-10 is commonly used as a vaginal spermicide.
 
How are the Vaccines Produced?
Pharmaceutical companies manufacture many varieties of influenza vaccine, and formulations change from year to year, along with the targeted strains. To make the vaccine, about six months prior to the next influenza season, scientists identify the strains they believe will be circulating most widely in the next year and inject them into fertilized hen eggs. After the virus multiplies in the eggs, it is harvested, and then weakened for use in live viruses, or inactivated with a chemical such as formaldehyde for injectable killed-virus vaccines.
 
Finally, the product is purified to elicit an immune response without making the patient sick, and shipped to medical centers and other facilities where patients can receive the vaccine. Killed-virus vaccines are delivered via an injection, which may come from multidose vials — which often contain thimerosal, a toxic preservative — or in single-dose syringes that have far less thimerosal, or none at all. Other times, patients (particularly the very young) inhale live-but-weakened versions of influenza organisms in the form of a mist. These do not contain thimerosal.
 
An Informed Choice
There are certainly plenty of experts who still endorse the influenza vaccine. One is immunologist Mary Ruebush, PhD, best known for her book, Why Dirt Is Good: 5 Ways to Make Germs Your Friends (Kaplan Publishing, 2009). “Getting the flu vaccine is like taking your immune system to the gym,” Ruebush says. “Your immune system is activated when it responds to the vaccine, keeping it primed for response when the actual virus hits.”
 
Still, even in healthy populations, vaccines typically protect against just three or four strains, not the multiple strains that are constantly mutating in the wild. So, even if a vaccine boosts immunity, it can never protect against the full range of a constantly shifting illness.
 
After weighing the benefits of this marginal level of coverage, you might well decide to skip this year’s trip to the clinic. Then again, you may decide something is better than nothing, and elect to follow the advice of mainstream medicine and the CDC. This debate will likely rage for years. So for now, each of us is left to make up our own mind about whether to get that shot or not. If you decide against it, here are some easy steps to keeping you and your family healthy.
 
Simple Ways to Prevent the Flu
·      Avoid close contact with sick people whenever possible.
·      Stay home when ill. Urge your friends, family and coworkers to do the same.
·      Wash your hands frequently to protect yourself and others from germs.
·      Cover your cough. 
·      Keep your hands away from your face. Germs routinely spread when a person touches something contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
·      Stick to a nutrient-dense, toxin-free diet, and avoid foods that tend to weaken the immune system, such as sugar, refined grains, industrial vegetable oils, and processed and refined foods.
·      Sleep and avoid chronic stress. Constant anxiety at work or in your relationships suppresses the immune system, opening the door to flu.
·      Sunshine and supplemental vitamin D. High levels of vitamin D have long been linked to lower rates of flu.
·      20 minutes of exercise a day to prime the immune system.
·      Avoid antibiotics and antibacterial cleansers and sanitizers whenever you can. They can weaken your natural defenses and entice your “immunity muscles” to atrophy. By steering clear of chemical antibacterial agents as much as practical, you’ll encourage your body’s immune system to get smarter and harder-working overtime. As a result, it will stand a better chance of effectively vanquishing infections and diseases of all kinds, including influenza.
 
Helping your family stay healthy can be complicated. Fortunately, there are many other ways besides flu shots which can strengthen the body’s immune system. Supporting our digestive system is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to stay flu-free during the winter season.
 
Please call 734-222-8210 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation.

At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we provide professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide you towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.