The Vaccine Debate

I’ve learned a lot since I made my video on the topic of childhood vaccination1:

In the video I go over the controversy and look at all of the childhood vaccines and the diseases they protect against.  I’ve spent the last few weeks exchanging dialogue in both pro and anti-vaccine facebook groups. Here’s the breakdown of what I have come to understand about the mindset of both sides.

First, both Pro-Vaxxers and Anti-Vaxxers have hundreds, yes you read that right—hundreds, of scientific articles to support their claims. That’s hundreds per side2,3. For every article concluding that vaccines are safe, I can present you with an article that reaches the opposite conclusion. And it’s not that vaccines harm everyone, or even a great percentage of people. The percentages, of say seizures occurring after vaccination, are small. But the key point is that there is a risk, just as there’s a risk involved with any medical procedure.

Anti-Vaxxers are not really anti-vaccination in that they are not advocating for the elimination of vaccines. Really they are pro-choice vaxxers. They just want the option to not vaccinate their children because they are afraid of the risk. Pro-Vaxxers will counter this by stating that if you don’t get your child vaccinated, you endanger the community because your child could get sick with one of the vaccine-preventable diseases and spread it to other children who haven’t been vaccinated, either because they are too young to have received that particular vaccination, or can’t be vaccinated because they are immune compromised.  So, you have to get your children vaccinated to protect others, just like you have to wear a mask to protect others from COVID-19. That’s how they counter Pro-choice. They even admit that you could pass the disease on to someone who is vaccinated because vaccination is not 100% effective. Some percentage of vaccinated children could still get sick with the disease due to a failure of the vaccine.

Pro-Vaxxers will argue until the cows come home that vaccines are overwhelmingly safe. It pains them to admit that vaccines do sometimes cause harm. And they will quickly point out that “dangerous” diseases like measles pose a far greater risk of harm. I happen to think the jury is still out on what would be more harmful—dealing with infectious childhood diseases, the death rates of which had already been reduced dramatically by better hygiene, antibiotics, and improved living conditions before mass vaccination started, or injecting young children with a slew of live or inactivated viruses along with all of the other additives in the vaccines.

As the pro-choice vaccination movement has pointed out time and time again, we are dealing today with an epidemic of chronic diseases. We have more kids with asthma, allergies, diabetes, autism, ADHD, autoimmune diseases, etc…  They think over-vaccinating may be contributing to these diseases, and there is some science to back it up. However, like I said, for every scientific article you present for one side, the other side can counter it with another scientific article. So, for every scientific article you give me that links vaccination to asthma, for instance, I can present you with one that shows there is no link. Quite frankly, the science just isn’t clear or settled on the issue of vaccine safety. Pro-Vaxxers, however, will vehemently deny that and tell you the opposite, again, citing their science which they think is conclusive. They will be quick to point out any flaws in the anti-vaxx science and discount it in any way they can. They don’t even want to acknowledge that there’s a debate. In their minds, anti-vaxxers have no good science to back up their claims, nor any good arguments to make.

If, however, vaccines, of which there are many more on the schedule today than there were 30 years ago, are one of the causes of chronic illness we’re seeing today, where 1 out of every 2 children has a chronic illness4, it would be very hard for the medical community to accept that they’ve been causing harm for so many years when they thought they were helping. It would be similar to the situation in the mid-1800’s when doctors would go straight from surgery with blood on their hands to delivering a newborn baby. When Dr. Semmelweis suggested that they were causing Puerperal fever, which was deadly in many cases, by not washing their hands first, doctor’s vehemently denied this and attacked him. It’s far easier to go into denial than to face a fact so horrifying as to admit you’ve been an instrument of harm and change your ways.

And with vaccines, it’s not a simple game of doing good vs. doing bad. It’s a risk/benefit calculation that we really don’t have the answer to. Of course, vaccines do a good job of reducing rates of the diseases they prevent. Any harm done might be justified on that basis. Then again, maybe there are benefits to coming down with and recovering from some of these diseases naturally. Pro-choice vaccination doctors will expound upon the benefits for the developing immune system to fight off a disease like the measles. They will cite studies showing a lower cancer risk in people who’ve had one or more vaccine-preventable diseases in their life.5,6 They will point out that vaccines create an artificial immunity by directly stimulating the humoral immune system (anti-body production in the bone marrow), while bypassing the cellular immune system (killer T-cells eliminating infected cells which are expelled through mucous). Maybe we need this cell-mediated immune response first as nature intended. Maybe there are long term benefits via a training or strengthening of the immune system. It’s been pointed out that fighting some of these viruses involves the entire arsenal of your immune system, affecting and challenging the epithelial tissues of the skin, respiratory (rubella), and gastrointestinal tracts (measles, chicken pox, and mumps) in ways that few if any other viruses do. It’s definitely worth looking into any long-term health benefits there might be to fighting off these diseases naturally.

Another speculation is that the increase in auto-immune diseases could be due to a similarity of some of the proteins in vaccines to proteins in our own body, leading to a cross-reaction and autoimmunity, whereby the body starts attacking its own cells as if they were a foreign invader. Right now, this debate is still at large and we don’t have all the answers.

On the other side of the coin, maybe vaccines cause harm in such a minuscule portion of kids that we are doing more good than bad overall as we continue the quest to vaccinate against every disease. Maybe a larger percentage would be killed or harmed by complications from diseases like the measles. It could be that the rise in chronic disease has little or nothing to do with vaccines and anti-vaxxers are making false connections.

Given the fact that there are risks either way you go, I think the pro-choice position should be upheld.  

References:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8POmOOHa1A
  2. Pro Vax Science:
  3. Anti-Vax/Pro-Choice Science:
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21570014/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9824838/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924393/

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