Monday, January 26, 2015

Hoo, boy. . . going deep here

A friend asked for "anti-vaxxers" to explain in their own words why they don't vaccinate. He promised to listen and not argue. And also to only allow anti-vaxxers to post. I don't like that term, btw :-). I don't consider myself an anti-vaxxer. . . read on.

(Facebook didn't like the length of my comment, so I post here instead. Comment section definitely will be closed.)

I will try to be brief, which is impossible, so scrap that. . . just assume I will be "long" instead :-D. Really long. In the past I've ignored all the mockery about vaccines you've posted, simply because I "don't got time for dat," nor do I think it's worth it to answer a mocker. But since you're actually asking for real reasons now, and have said you won't mock or argue. . . . here goes :-). I'd love it if you read it :-D.

History: I have three children, ages 6, 4, and 1. The 6yo has been partially vaccinated. He did NOT receive the MMR, the flu shot, chicken pox, rotavirus, or Hep B. He has not been vaccinated since he was 15 months old. My youngest 2 children have not been vaccinated at all.

Why did we do this? The same reason every parent chooses either to vaccinate or not vaccinate their child: because they think it is best for their children. Not because of unbased fear, not because we read Mercola (we do NOT), not because "it's more natural," not because I like being weird and mocked and ostracized :-D. But because we felt it was the best choice. I have a bachelor's degree in mathematics education and my husband has a Ph.D. in mathematical physics. We're not exactly stupid. But after reading the literature, we felt this was the right choice for us. We also understand why another parent would make a different choice and we do not ever mock a parent for choosing to vaccinate. We expect respect, so we give respect.

I actually have spent a lot of time browsing the CDC's website section on immunizations and I've read much of their "pink book," which is available for anyone to read for free online. It's long and has a lot of data. There are some vaccines that have very high efficacy rates, but others simply don't. The flu shot is literally a shot in the dark. This year's efficacy rate is 23%. Whee! I got this from a CDC release, not from Most years are higher.

The pertussis vaccine is another interesting one. I'm actually impressed at how much the CDC admits here. Direct quote from them:
"Pertussis incidence has been gradually increasing since the early 1980s. A total of 25,827 cases was reported in 2004, the largest number since 1959. The reasons for the increase are not clear. A total of 27,550 pertussis cases and 27 pertussis-related deaths were reported in 2010." Now, what impresses me about this is that they don't follow immediately with "this is likely due to the steadily gaining anti-vaccine movement," which is the stunt they usually pull :-). The fact is that the pertussis efficacy has never been one of the most impressive, and in the past few months the CDC has admitted that the pertussis vaccine has been shown in animal studies to only suppress symptoms, not cure the disease. I wish I could find this article! But Google is failing me. I can assure you it was a CDC or FDA article, NOT Mercola. It was not ABOUT the CDC, but BY them. They admitted that this would mean that someone who appeared to be immune from whooping cough could in fact just not be showing symptoms, and THEREFORE SPREADING THE VIRUS while appearing unsick. In other words, more dangerous in a contagious way than my unvaxed children ;-).

The Hep B vaccine is just. . . weird. At least, the newborn shot. Newborns do not have an immune system (except their skin, hehe), yet we give a shot to a newborn and expect it to stimulate an immune system that isn't working :-/. Newborns do not need protection against Hep B if their mothers do not carry it, a sexually transmitted disease, as they don't do drugs and aren't sexually active. . . we hope. There is absolutely no reason to begin the vaccine at birth instead of 2 months (or beyond). Why don't we test the mothers? We test the mothers for HIV when they birth? How hard would it be to also test for Hep B?

Chicken pox. I mean really. We survived it as children. It was miserable, but now we don't have to worry about getting it again. Just shingles ;-). (Back to that thought in a moment.) The chicken pox vaccine is very convenient from an American economy perspective. How many families have a parent who can and is willing to isolate themselves for weeks while the virus makes its rounds in the family? Many families have two working parents (or a single parent, who works). We're talking a lot of family-medical leave or unpaid time off work. Chicken pox is inconvenient but rarely a problem for young children. With very rare exceptions, "natural immunity" is permanent, whereas vaccine immunity for varicella (chicken pox) and some other viruses is very unknown, as admitted by the CDC. I'd rather get chicken pox as an 8yo than get it as a 28yo, thankyouverymuch.

And shingles. Because I promised we'd get back to that. Shingles happens to immuno-compromised people. . . cancer, lukemia, the elderly. Stressed people. Historically, old people. It is caused (as I'm sure you know) by the latent varicella virus, which remains in a person's body for life, once introduced. Shingles flares occur very rarely in younger healthier people. But the average age for a shingles flare has been getting younger in recent years and has become more common. This suggests that either the American immune system is getting weaker (but surely not, since we are "strengthening it with all these great vaccines") or perhaps that a person's natural immunity is no longer periodically being boosted to varicella by exposure to the active virus in a young child. I'm not stating definites, but the latter is a distinct possibility.

As a former statistics teacher, I am aware that looking at graphs charting epidemiological trends have benefit. . . and also a tendency to allow people to assume cause and effect where there might not be :-). In the last hundred years, we have made vast improvements in the sanitation and clean water in the U.S. and also the world in many areas. We have better diagnosis of diseases, we have better treatment (in many cases), and better results. So a trend showing death from Disease X dropping over the course of the 20th century can't be used as a "proof" that a vaccine worked miracles, yet most pro-vaxxers I know (especially in the older generation) will use the "well, we used to get polio and now we don't, so the vaccine must have worked) argument all. the. time. Interestingly with regard to polio, the "clinical features" section for polio in the pink book differentiates the different types of polio and admits that 95% of cases of polio are "inapparent or asymptomatic." Yet the CDC redefined the active incidences of polio to include only those carrying symptoms at. . . the time the polio rate dropped. How. . . strange, convenient, unethical?

Vaccine creators are human beings who make mistakes just like the rest of us. They've done some things in the past, and contributed to problems. The reason the LIVE polio vaccine is no longer given is because it can actually spread the polio virus. yet if someone had insisted that at the time, they would have been mocked. Do I think they are evil beings who want to render our society sterile and autistic? No. But I also don't think they can't be motivated by money. I just don't have strong opinions on that line of reasoning and would prefer to stick with facts.

Another reason I object to the use of *some* of the vaccines (not all, by any stretch), is that some of them are created (both in the far past, but some in recent years) using aborted fetal cells and I absolutely do not use aborted fetal cell products in good conscience.

The statistics "supporting" the efficacy of vaccines only show how many cases are reported, comparatively, or how many serious cases. They do not show possible side effects that may or may not arise from vaccines. They don't show the startling increase in autism in the last couple of decades, which happened as we started packing the child vaccine schedule tighter and tighter. (We also started doing a lot of other things during that time period, so I think it is hard to pinpoint. I am not making an argument, merely pointing out the incompleteness of the "vaccines limit disease" data.) It doesn't show the possible effects from heavy metals from some vaccines. It doesn't show many other things that are happening at the same time: just how much less "disease" we have. . . But of course, they are only reporting the "vaccine-preventable diseases" in such reports, not new pandemic problems like skyrocketing autism rates, digestive disorders, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer. I think some of these modern pandemics can definitely be NOT linked to vaccines (I did this on purpose, to offer some ambiguity), but the jury is still out on many others.

I don't believe vaccines cause autism. But I'm willing to leave open the possibility that vaccines MAY contribute to autism. That's really an entire other 20 paragraphs that I'd like not to get into (as my writing time is quickly drawing to a close as naptime for kiddos ends soon), but suffice to say that, there are reasons besides Wakefield and Mercola to believe that vaccines and autism should at least be given pause. Also, for full disclosure, although my oldest child is high-functioning autistic, we made the decision to stop vaxxing him long before we suspected he was on the spectrum. I don't blame vaccines for his problems, nor do I exonerate them.

More on adverse reactions, because the CDC admits many more minor reactions that don't nearly approach something like autism. High fevers. Encephalitis. Convulsions. Rashes (that often are mysteriously like the disease that was "prevented."). Some more pleasant things, some less pleasant. But how many actually get reported? I have a certain older brother (*cough*) who got a dangerously high fever and convulsions within the time period after his MMR vaccine (the doctor originally miscalculated the interval and claimed it was one day outside, as realized later) and his reaction was never filed. Nor were all the strange fevers he spiked throughout the next year without known cause. His doctor still wanted him to get his booster at age 4. His mommy was (quite frankly) smarter. She also knows how to read a vaccine insert. . . under the cautions section.

I've read story after story from nurses who worked in a doctor's office that regularly did not report adverse reactions. A parent would call concerned because of X after a vaccine, and the doctor's office would reassure them and open no file, file no report. So I'd hardly call the reported vaccine reactions as super-accurate. I realize mis-reporting can also happen, but I find it more troubling when the medical community isn't reporting what they've been told :-P.

Finally, measles. Because everyone thinks my children are going to make them die from measles, given the current "epidemic." Look at the actual death and serious sickness rates for measles in a developed country with nourished children. It's very low. Measles didn't used to be a feared disease, except in areas with poor nutrition. My mom got it and no biggie. The Brady Bunch got it and nobody panicked ;-). And now we're like, WE'RE GOING TO DIE. Yes, measles can cause complications, and flu can, and chicken pox can. But for the average healthy person, it is extremely rare. Most serious cases of the measles happen in countries with serious vitamin A deficiency. Or happen to the elderly (who would be much more likely to get the disease as a child if we didn't have vaccines, *ahem*, or sick children with cancer or something. (Rotavirus is similar; our doctor's office actually didn't even carry/administer the roavirus when our oldest was being vaccinated, because they didn't find the statistics to support its usefulness for the average well child.)

Some of the news articles are following some little girl who has some symptoms that might be measles, but no one knows, etc. I hope she doesn't get sick. But the hilarious thing about the articles are that they mention that her doctor is remaining measured in his diagnosis (yay, him!) because the little girl recently had her MMR vaccine, which can "produce similar symptoms."

In fact, she shouldn't have been in public to begin with, per FDA vaccine insert recommendations, as there is "some evidence" per their guidelines that rubella can cause "shedding" and actually give the disease (a la the live polio vaccine) to people during the incubation period. So maybe we should ostracize the poor girl and call her Bloody Mary for narrowly avoiding spreading rubella to the Disney masses. NOT. (This is supposed to be read with good-natured humor. I 'm merely pointing out that I wish people would actually read ALL that is written about vaccines, even from the vaccines makers and regulators.)

Okay, not really finally. Now really finally: there are other ways to support the immune system besides vaccines. I'm not saying there isn't some research to support the fact that vaccines limit disease in some scope and in some way, but it's not cut and dry and it's not the only way. Nourish yourself! Drink water! Wash hands! Take your vitamin pills or eat healthy food, or both. Take vitamin A for measles. And vitamin D for flu. They both have good evidence behind them.

But vitamin A and D are not patented (let's just be honest) and it's also a lot easier to get someone to take a shot a few times in their lifetime rather than take a supplement indefinitely. And a vaccine appears to be a lot more cost-effective. And how widespread do you think a "eat healthy food" campaign against disease would be, compared to "come get your cheap shots and be done with it all"? Vaccines are partially (not totally!) about convenience. It's inconvenient when your child (and you) are home from school (and work) for weeks on end because of something like measles and chicken pox. And it's incovenient when you like Mickey D's and don't want to have to feel guilty for eating there and exposing your immune system to some serious damage.

But I don't suggest we condemn unhealthy eaters for ruining "herd immunity" for colds and flus anymore than I think the same should be done to anti-vaxers for measles, etc. I take serious responsibility for my health and my children's health. We are careful what we eat and drink and breathe and use, to boost our immune system and be less likely to infect others. But we also recognize laughter and not over-worrying as important immune boosters :-). Perhaps rather than throwing the "dangerous anti-vaxxers and herd immunity" argument in mockery every time someone gets the measles, people would be better served researching the issue for themselves, making an informed decision (either way), and also investigating other research-supported methods of not getting diseases (avoiding Mickey D's would be a good start) as well.

Okay, I think that's enough. I could seriously go on and on and on. But that's a smattering.

Thank you for finally listening to me and not mocking me.