A Shot in the Dark?
by Tracy van den Broek
Over the years I've been home-schooling, many topics have come up in conversations with other mothers, and one to which I had never given serious thought is the question of immunisation. If I've had any doubts it has been on the grounds of safety (and thus we didn't have whooping cough or Hib vaccines). Surely no sensible person could question their necessity and efficacy; or so I thought until recently.
I had recently taken our eighth child, Simon, to the clinic for his second set of jabs. As the nurse was about to administer the Polio vaccine, I commented on how horrible it tasted and she remarked that she had not had it because she hadn`t travelled anywhere where she might have needed it. So, here was a health professional spending several hours a week handing out medicine to all babies living in this area, who did not think it was necessary to take it herself. I began to feel the truth of a comment made by C.S. Lewis, to the effect that chance and seemingly insignificant remarks often become turning points in our lives.
I had already received a batch of literature from The Informed Parent (an organisation concerned with helping parents make informed choices on issues such as vaccination). When I got home that day I started to read it. I read all that I could get my hands on and began to feel that a balanced and honest representation of some of these details ought to be presented in a format suitable for all parents.
GPs earn money for vaccinations. When a GP has administered vaccines (DPT, Polio, Hib and MMR) to the children on his register at a rate of 70% of the total doses required, then he can collect a payment. Should he achieve a 90% take-up rate, he will collect a higher payment. This helps us to understand why a doctor (sometimes with the assistance of the health visitor) can appear insistent concerning the vaccination of your children. The information they have (and which they pass on to you and me) is published by HMSO in what is commonly known as `The Green Book'. Notification of suspected adverse reactions is done on a purely voluntary basis through the `yellow card' scheme.
It is easy to imagine the scenario where a parent attributes an illness as a reaction to vaccination. A doctor who is ideologically in favour of vaccines and believes serious side effects to be rare will be less sympathetic to the parent's concern. In the light of that and the heavy workload of GPs, one could imagine a situation where not quite so many `yellow cards' find their way back to the Medicines Control Agency. Since the information thus obtained is collated and used in the updating of the `Green Book', I think we can surmise that the details presented may not represent an accurate picture of side effects. There is a weight of circumstantial evidence to suggest that there are some consequences of vaccinations which would go beyond the scope of paracetamol to sort out.
We ought to be able to make a wise choice based on at least a little information from the `other' point of view. It is true that the selective presentation of information leaves one open to the charge of being biased, so I urge you to read more - if you can make the time. Here, at least, is a summary of information I have discovered in response to the information the interested parent is likely to receive, countering the five main claims made by health workers.
Claim: Vaccines are harmless.
It is reasonable to suggest that unless subjects have been tested before and after vaccination, it cannot be categorically stated that there is no harm caused by them. Further, there is a growing body of inferential evidence to be found in publications by JABS, The Informed Parent and Health Action Network to suggest that real and lasting damage is being done in some cases. The existence of a `vaccine damage compensation scheme' is sufficient to confirm that there is a known danger of permanent injury from the vaccines on offer. The underlying argument is not that vaccines are harmless but that it is necessary, for the greater good, to subject all children to this procedure. If damage is done, the Government accepts liability as long as it is notified within six years and the victim is certified as 80% disabled. It may be asked that if damage can be attributed to the vaccine at this level, what sort of damage may be inflicted which parents and GPs do not attribute to vaccine damage? Illnesses such as glue ear, allergies, arthritis and cancer are all examples of the immune system breaking down. A direct connection between their development and vaccination would be impossible to prove. However, if we are to take a conscious decision to vaccinate our children, let it be on the grounds that it is best for them. The responsibility God gives us as parents is to care for our children, not to offer them up for the perceived good of the wider population.
Claim: Vaccines are necessary.
For most of our lives many of us believed that schooling was necessary, but were caused to question that. So why not question the necessity of vaccinations? If your children are at home they can encounter and combat viral infections in a more natural way. Remember that God designed the immune system, and although it is affected by the fall, it is no more so than the digestive or any other system. Therefore it could be expected to perform as well, in general, as any other body part.
Claim: Refusing vaccination puts your child at risk.
It appears that the risk of contracting a disease is not necessarily reduced by having the vaccine. The following are just a few examples which seem to cast doubt on this assertion.
- A review of 1600 cases of measles in Quebec, Canada, in 1989 showed 58% of school-age cases had been previously vaccinated.
- The Lancet (vol. 3, Sept. 1991) reported "Outbreak of paralytic poliomyelitis in Oman ... among fully vaccinated children." This study, dealing with the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), found that the areas that had the highest vaccine coverage rates had high attack rates of paralytic polio, whereas areas with low vaccine coverage rates had low rates of paralytic polio.
- Thirty thousand cases of diphtheria have occurred in the UK in recent years amongst diphtheria-vaccinated children (taken from the Health Action Network information packet).
- Cook County Hospital in Illinois immunised one half of its nursing staff against diphtheria. Shortly afterwards, diphtheria broke out in immunised staff and not the others. It later affected both immunised and unimmunised alike, the total number of cases being greater amongst the immunised group.
- In April 1982, a television programme called DPT - Vaccine Roulette preceded reports of Whooping Cough epidemics in the states of Maryland and Wisconsin. It was stated by the Maryland health officials that the `epidemic' was due to parents seeing the documentary and not having their children vaccinated. The cases were analysed by an expert in bacterial and viral diseases. In Maryland, 5 of the 41 cases were confirmed; all of them had been vaccinated. In Wisconsin 16 of the 43 cases were confirmed and all of them had also been vaccinated.
Claim: Children who have had the vaccine will be protected against contracting the disease, or will get it in a milder form.
This statement is very difficult to prove. I have observed, amongst my own children, that the age and general health of the individual at the time of picking up a virus affect the severity and duration of symptoms. This is so even though we can be sure it is the same virus with which we have all come in contact. There are even occasions when a child develops no symptoms even though he's surrounded by ill people! I know that our experience is not unique. Current statistics estimate that only 10% of people exposed to Polio will contract it, and only 1% of these will develop the paralytic variety.
Claim: The decline in the incidence of diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles and whooping cough is attributable to widespread immunisation.
It needs to be pointed out that in the period from 1850 to 1950 (when the vaccine became widely available), the death rate from whooping cough in England and Wales fell from 0.14% to 0.004%. This can be explained by the fact that over that period there were significant improvements in housing, hygiene and water supplies. The whooping cough vaccine has not been given in Sweden since 1979; nevertheless, the incidence of the disease has continued to drop to near zero. It is apparent that the weak and sickly are more likely to become ill than those who have good nutrition. In the Journal of Infection, November 1993, a report of research into tetanus immunity in UK populations found that immunity in older people was found to be lower in those who had `underlying disease'.
A study by the World Health Organisation maintains that `the best vaccine against common infectious diseases is an adequate diet'. Poor nourishment is universally regarded as the single most common cause of immune system deficiency. This is commonly thought to relate more to the undernourished populations of the Third World. However, research attention is beginning to focus on the sub-clinical deficiencies of the populations of the industrialised nations of the world, who frequently suffer from the undernutrition of overconsumption.
Finally, a word of caution. The organisations to which I have referred are not in any way Christian, and the worldview of those who contribute to their publications is substantially different from ours. In the foundational belief that man was created perfect and becomes ill because of the effects of the fall, we are compelled to come to different conclusions about the purpose of illness, and therefore we must read this material with care. However, the information they present is not necessarily less objective than the `official line', and for this reason I would urge you to consider this subject from both points of view.
1. Managing Immunisations in General Practice, Michael Ingram (Radcliffe Medical
Copyright © Family Matters 1998