Immunization: Right or Wrong?
Posted on 11 May 2015
To Immunize or Not?
A long time ago, I read a book that taught me to walk in someone else’s shoes. It was The Far Pavilions. The main character was born in England, but grew up as a Hindu in India with no memory of the past. As an adolescent, he returns to England and learns he was born a different person. As an adult, he no longer ‘knows’ who he is because he has walked in both pairs of ‘shoes’.
To immunize or not…Yesterday, I thought I knew the answers.
Today, I am a mother agonizing over whether to immunize my second child. I am convinced the ADD symptoms I now see in my first child began shortly after his first immunization. Tomorrow, I am a mother agonizing about whether to send my child to school because another child in his class is not immunized, and I am terrified by the images of children dying of Ebola in Africa.
Always, the question hovers: which is more important, are the rights of the many or the few? When does the individual get the right to decide? When must society impose order and mandate that some give up their rights so that others may be protected?
Yesterday, I thought I knew the answers.
What does the research show?
The report by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “Childhood Immunization Controversies: What Are Parents Asking?” presents one side of the case by observing:
“The reduction in morbidity and mortality over the past century as a result of routine childhood immunizations is quite dramatic. Smallpox has been globally eradicated, while diseases such as diphtheria, polio, and congenital rubella are virtually nonexistent in North America. Other life-threatening conditions such as measles, Haemophilus influenza type b disease, and pertussis have been dramatically curtailed to the point where families no longer fear their devastating effects.”
However, the article also presents the other side, stating:
“In one survey, nearly 25% of parents reported their impression that children were receiving too many vaccines and felt that this could result in a weakening of their immune systems. Parents worry about the “pincushion effect,” as current recommendations are for 19 injections in the first 2 years of life…are these side effects overwhelmingly mild and transient, or can chronic disease or long-term neurodevelopmental impairment occur at an “alarmingly high rate” as reported in the lay press?...“Given the close temporal relationship between frequent immunizations and the onset of certain chronic childhood illnesses, it is not surprising that speculation and epidemiologic studies have attempted to link chronic disorders of childhood to immunizations … postulated links to the increased incidence of autism … have been particularly contentious.”
The questions don’t stop at childhood. Now, there are vaccines for teenagers, such as to immunize against Hepatitis V or HPV.
The article notes that an unfortunate accident at Cutter Laboratories in 1955 caused 40,000 cases of transient polio. Even without accidents, in the 1960’s 4 or 5 children per year would acquire polio from the vaccine in the United States. Why was the program continued? The article notes: “In the early 1960s, this was felt to be acceptable based on the superiority of the live vaccine in that it provided greater herd immunity, eliminated the carrier state, proved more cost effective, was easier to administer, and exponentially reduced transmission compared to the less effective killed vaccine (IPV). These infrequent cases of VAPP need to be considered in the context of the late 1950s prior to polio vaccination, when more than 16,000 children per year in the United States were afflicted with natural paralytic polio.”
The article presents the contrast that pre-polio vaccine, 16,000 children per year acquired paralytic polio in comparison to ‘4 or 5’ per year who acquired polio from the vaccine. Today, many would view polio vaccination as a great success, as it accomplished ‘greater herd immunity’, which has benefitted many of us. But, what of the persons and parents of those children who acquired polio from the vaccine? Are they consoled by the thought that they bought good health for others with their own? Do they reason that, perhaps, the odds were that they might have acquired polio regardless? Unless someone does a poll, we do not have the answers.
In its conclusion, the article states: “The media have aggressively focused on controversies regarding immunizations, often with little regard for science. This focus has resulted in increased parental anxiety, confusion, and, at times, refusal to vaccinate.”What do you believe? Tell us below!