• Vaccines can do harm
    April 25,2014

    Contrary to the stated goals of official health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, measles could not be eliminated even if everyone on the planet were to be vaccinated. On the contrary, mass vaccination seems to be exacerbating measles’ spread.

    A study published in Great Britain’s Proceedings of the Royal Society found that measles vaccination “can have a range of unexpected consequences as it reduces the natural boosting of immunity” and that “the interaction between vaccination and waning immunity can lead to pronounced epidemic cycles in which the peak levels of infection can be ... orders of magnitude greater than the mean.”

    Microbes constantly mutate, so vaccines may become less and less successful at protecting against new circulating strains, similar to the way overuse of antibiotics promotes growth of resistant bacteria such as MRSA.

    Measles can be spread through vaccinated individuals. The CDC cites 21 cases of measles occurring in a fully vaccinated secondary school, which “demonstrates that transmission of measles can occur within a school population with a documented immunization level of 100 percent.” The origin of an outbreak in New York City in 2011 was traced to an “index patient” who had two doses of measles-containing vaccine, and spread the infection to four “secondary patients” who had either two doses of measles vaccine or confirmed positive test for measles antibody.

    Any vaccine can lead to encephalitis (brain damage, through swelling of the brain): The Merck Manual, the largest-selling medical textbook, says vaccines can cause encephalitis when “a virus or vaccine triggers a reaction that makes the immune system attack brain tissue (an autoimmune reaction).” In the package insert of Merck’s M-M-R II vaccine, “Encephalitis; encephalopathy; measles inclusion body encephalitis (MIBE), and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE)” are listed as possible adverse reactions, along with the comment that “the data suggest the possibility that some of these cases may have been caused by measles vaccines.”

    Of the nearly $2.7 billion total paid out in claims for vaccine injuries and deaths from 1988 to the present by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, 12 percent was for deaths and injuries attributed to measles vaccines. Only four conditions are covered for measles-containing vaccines: anaphylactic shock, encephalopathy (or encephalitis), thrombocytopenic purpura (excessive bruising and bleeding), and vaccine-strain measles viral infection in an immunodeficient recipient. (Those vaccinated against measles can endanger immune-compromised individuals through shedding of live viruses.)

    Vaccines are not necessarily as effective as we are led to believe. Merck has been sued for falsification of data and for making fraudulent claims about the efficacy of the mumps component of its M-M-R II vaccine. (The case has been tied up in court since 2012.) How can we believe Merck’s claims about its many other vaccines?

    Most of these problems apply to other types of vaccines, making it clear that vaccination is fraught with ambiguity, and that the tiny percentage of those who opt out — less than 2 percent of children entering kindergarten nationwide are not vaccinated at all — cannot be blamed for the failure of vaccines to check the spread of disease.

    Nearly 300 vaccines are under development, and, following current protocols, most will eventually be mandated. Now too, it’s reasonable to forgo at least a few shots of the dozens required, yet throughout the country hostility mounts toward thinking health care consumers who decline vaccination for a variety of good reasons. A survey by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found 25 percent of pediatricians have fired patients for refusing vaccines. The Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice regularly hears complaints from those who have been disrespected by their physicians because of their vaccine choices. Recently, two of my close family members were subjected to varying degrees of pressure to be vaccinated themselves while pregnant; one was later harassed for refusing to vaccinate her newborn. (The doctor honorably apologized the next day.)

    As the pharmaceutical and insurance industries and the government increasingly dominate health care, it becomes ever more urgent to hold onto our right to informed consent regarding all medical choices — including the highly personal matter of whether to accept vaccination for oneself or one’s children. Informed consent, a cornerstone of medical ethics, is summarized by the American Medical Association as a communication process to “elicit a better understanding of the treatment or procedure, so that he or she can make an informed decision to proceed or to refuse a particular course of medical intervention.”

    Informed consent, by definition, includes the right to say no. Period.

    Charlotte Gilruth, of Worcester, is the secretary of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice.

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