Childhood immunization is a hot topic and has been for the past couple decades or so and for that reason it was also one of the first topics I wrote a post about, very generally maintaining a neutral position on the topic. I must say, I still hold a neutral position on this topic but much has changed since I first wrote on the subject. Dr. Wakefield’s study was pulled from the medical journal that first published his study linking the MMR vaccine to Autism and he has since lost his license to practice medicine. In the wake of all this, the topic of vaccination has been sensationalized and emotionalized to no end. Numerous articles on either side of the debate have been published and circulate the web daily! Since the scrutiny of Wakefield’s study, some of those on the anti-vaccine side have wrongly held the claim that vaccination leads to autism. Without going into too much detail about this, autism is not as simple an issue as these groups claim. But it has only been recently that the pro-vaccine advocates have been so vocal in broadcasting Dr. Wakefield’s study as pseudoscience -and I can’t call this ‘reasoning’ -but by some pseudoscience deduction of their own, the pro-vaccine side has used Dr. Wakefield’s debunked science to send the message that vaccines are indeed safe and any variation of the prescribed vaccine schedule is parental negligence!?
This article is in response to those individuals, medical professionals and news agencies who have started the pro-vaccine propaganda using the “we now have a measles outbreak because you didn’t vaccinate your kids”.
Being a new mother and being surrounded by concerned new mothers I saw the need to revisit this issue again. This time not to merely take a neutral stance but to support my neutrality as the pro-vaccine group is so effectively managing to force their views using Dr. Wakefield’s bad study to draw their own just as harmful conclusions.
More clarity needs to be brought to this subject for a number of reasons:
- It is harmful and dangerous to conclude that MMR causes Autism and hence choose not to vaccinate . True. But it is equally harmful to then assume that since one Dr.’s experiments failed, that vaccines are harmless.
- Following the above mentioned point, it is wrong to conclude that the harm of not vaccinating outweigh the side-effects of vaccination. This needs to be determined on a case by case basis.
- Vaccination side-effects cannot be ignored even though a direct cause and effect link between MMR and autism has not been found. Correct? It seems only rational to me!
- When any subject is sensationalized and where innocent infants and children are concerned there’s always a lot of emotion and we must be careful not to allow that to cloud our judgment or inhibit our rational abilities.
Disclaimer (or more accurately a warning; I’m not using this disclaimer to merely unburden my load of responsibility for voicing my opinion on this topic but a true warning!): It is not advisable to not vaccinate your infant/child against certain viruses or to delay vaccination without a thorough understanding of its pros and cons. Please discuss your child’s health history and your vaccination options with your health care provider.
I will not delve into the topic of the necessity of vaccination as there’s sufficient evidence. I will only discuss what leads me to stand in the grey zone where vaccination according to today’s schedule is concerned. Using the pro-vaccine arguments, I will try to present the other side of the argument based on the available science.
1. “MMR does not cause autism”
a. Study (1): “In recent years, the immunization-autoimmunity topic has gained quite a bit of public attention. This is quite possibly because autoimmune diseases are the commonest manifestations of immunizations [1, 13]. The MMR has been insinuated as a culprit of gastrointestinal problems in some children with autistic characteristics . Approximately one half of the parents with autistic children reported autistic regression after the MMR immunization.” While a direct link between MMR and autism has yet to be proven, we can observe through many studies, the link between autoimmune disorders and vaccines. Also, as you can see from the above quote, the author is sourcing other studies to back his findings, none of which I must say are Dr. Wakefields fail of a ‘study’.
b. An animal study (2): “In this pilot study, infant macaques receiving the recommended pediatric vaccine regimen from the 1990’s displayed a different pattern of maturational changes in amygdala volume [the part of the brain responsible for processing social information] following the MMR/DTaP/Hib vaccinations between T1 [4 months of age] and T2 [6 months of age] compared with non-exposed animals.” Although only an animal study, it is pretty clear that vaccination at such a vulnerable stage of brain development is not without consequence!
2. “Best to give all vaccines and all according to the most recent schedule if you care for the health of your child and society.”
a. According to the vaccine makers themselves, one should not blindly just follow the vaccine schedule prescribed for the general population. This herd mentality is what gets us in trouble. Here is my reasoning based solely off of the Pentacel Information sheet:
According to the vaccine manufacturers, when considering all Warnings and Precautions and their recommendations in case of adverse reactions, what do we get? >50% of participants following any dose had systemic reaction of “inconsolable crying” which is then cause for reflection before administering a second dose as indicated in the Warnings and Precautions. The vaccine manufacturers themselves are asking you and your healthcare provider to “carefully consider benefits and risks before administering” but really, how many parents and doctors are aware that inconsolable crying is reason for reflection and not merely another innocuous side effect of vaccination?! Although it is not clear how long the >50% of participants cried inconsolably, regardless of that, at least 6-16% of the participants should question their doctors on the benefits and risks associated with vaccines after a high fever 48 hours post vaccination! I ask again, how many parents would actually allow their infants’ fever to reach a high level? With Tylenol so readily dispensed to control fever, how many infants are given vaccines when they shouldn’t be? Tylenol may mask a fever but if those processes set in motion to bring about such a reaction as a result of vaccination is cause for reflection then how would we ever know?
3. “There is nothing wrong with the mercury in vaccines”
I believe that mercury’s adverse health effects have already been solidly established such that it is now Aluminum that replaces mercury (thimerosal) in most vaccines. However here’s a study(3) linking environmental mercury exposure and autism: “for every 1000 pounds of industrial release, there was a corresponding 2.6% increase in autism rates (po.05) and a 3.7% increase associated with power plant emissions(Po.05). Distances to these sources were independent predictors after adjustment for relevant covariates. For every 10 miles from industrial or power plant sources, there was an associated decreased autism Incident Risk of 2.0% and 1.4%, respectively (po.05).
4. “Only few vaccines contain thimerosal anyways and there’s no link between Aluminum and any adverse effects. Plus babies ingest way more aluminum through breast milk!”
Study (4): “Aluminum-adjuvanted vaccines may be a significant etiological factor in the rising prevalence of ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorders] in the Western world. We show that children from countries with the highest ASD prevalence appear to have a much higher exposure to Al from vaccines, particularly at 2 months of age. In addition, the correlation between ASD prevalence and Al adjuvant exposure appears to be the highest at 3–4 months of age. Of note, these periods (i.e., first 4 postnatal months) coincide with several critical stages of human brain development and biobehavioural transitions that are known to be impaired in autism (i.e., onset of synaptogenesis, maximal growth velocity of the hippocampus , onset of amygdala maturation  and development of brain-wave and sleeping patterns [82,83]).
Study (5): As can be clearly observed from the figure below, the body burden of vaccines in the first 200 days of life exceeds the minimal risk level for 3 days post vaccine according to the study authors. So, although breast milk contains aluminum, the body burden caused by Al from vaccines gets dangerously close to levels associated with risk.
Study (6): “Exclusively, breastfed infants (in Brazil) receiving a full recommended schedule of immunizations showed an exceedingly high exposure of Aluminum (225 to 1750 μg per dose) when compared with estimated levels absorbed from breast milk (2.0 μg). This study does not dispute the safety of vaccines but reinforces the need to study long-term effects of early exposure to neuro-toxic substances on the developing brain.” There’s no question that Aluminum is a neuro-toxic substance but unfortunately the long-term effects of aluminum in infants has not be established.
5. “Babies are resilient survivors capable of overcoming anything we throw at them!”
Study (4): “During prenatal and early postnatal development the brain is extremely vulnerable to neurotoxic insults [1,2]. Not only are these highly sensitive periods of rapid brain development in general  but also, the blood brain barrier (BBB) is incomplete and thus more permeable to toxic substances during this time [2,4,5]. Further, immune challenges during early development, including those induced by vaccines, can lead to permanent detrimental alterations of nervous and immune system function [6–9]. Experimental evidence also shows that simultaneous administration of as little as two to three immune adjuvants, or repeated stimulation of the immune system by the same antigen, can overcome genetic resistance to autoimmunity in animals [10,11].”
6. “Current Schedule is for optimal protection”
Study (7): “When comparing cases and controls receiving their first MMR vaccine before and after 36 months of age, there was a statistically significant increase in autism cases specifically among African American males who received the first MMR prior to 36 months of age. Relative risks for males in general and African American males were 1.69 (p=0.0138) and 3.36 (p=0.0019), respectively.” This study very clearly demonstrates that the administration of the MMR vaccine at an early age (prior to 36 months) can have detrimental effects more so for males than females and especially for African Americans (Vitamin D status and immune functioning are some hypotheses for the observed difference between race).
So in presenting all the potential dangers and side-effects of vaccines, it is not my intention to add to the fear mongering that is currently going on but only to educate so that when decisions regarding vaccination are made, they are informed and educated as opposed to just following protocol set by a system that aims to normalize a bell curve where infectious disease is concerned. What I mean by that is that the current schedule is set up only with the eradication of disease in mind. Those suffering few are understood to have to bite the bullet for the health of the rest. There is however another way. In my next post, I will explain the reasons for the above observation and what can be done to minimize the adverse reactions.
Note: It is one thing to read a study with a critical eye noting studies’ funding, author’s scholarly history and associations and weighing the validity of conclusions based on methods and statistical analysis, and it is another to read a study for the sake of understanding some truth and gaining further knowledge in another piece of the puzzle in this maze of vaccine science. This article was written with the latter objective. As some of you may argue, a few of the articles included here are written by scientists that have links and associations to autism organizations or anti-vaccine advocates. And this is what I want you to ask yourself, who is more of a powerful funder? The pharmaceutical industry or the small NGO’s and groups that are trying to bring light to this subject? As Dr. Joel Lexchin demonstrates in his book and study “those who have the gold make the evidence”, then really, which organizations should we be weary of when analyzing the results of any study?
1. Singh, V.K., et al. Abnormal Measles-Mumps-RubellaAntibodies and CNS Autoimmunity in Children with Autism. J Biomed Sci 2002;9:359–364.
2. Hewitson, L. et al. Influence of pediatric vaccines on amygdala growth and opioid ligand binding in rhesus macaque infants: A pilot study. Acta Neurobiol Exp 2010, 70: 147–164.
3. Palmer, R.F. et al. Proximity to point sources of environmental mercury release as a predictor of autism prevalence. Health & Place 15 (2009) 18–24
4. L. Tomljenovic, C.A. Shaw, Do aluminum vaccine adjuvants contribute to the rising prevalence of autism?, J. Inorg. Biochem. (2011), doi:10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2011.08.008
5. L.S. Keith∗, D.E. Jones, C.-H.S.J. Chou. 2002. Aluminum toxicokinetics regarding infant diet and vaccinations. Vaccine 20 (2002) S13–S17.
6. Dórea JG, Marques RC. Infants’ exposure to aluminum from vaccines and breast milk during the first 6 months. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2010 Nov;20(7):598-601.
7. Brian S Hooker. Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young african american boys: a reanalysis of CDC data. Translational Neurodegeneration 2014, 3:16.