VACCINATION: ARE WE ON THE RIGHT TRACK?
Some medical and philosophical considerations
~ Sandy Reider, MD
It seems ironic that amidst the emotional, contentious, and polarizing debate about whether to preserve or eliminate an individual’s or parent’s right to claim a philosophical exemption for one or several vaccinations, there has been little discussion about “philosophy” per se. Perhaps that’s because the Vermont Coalition was so busy playing catch up and constantly having to respond to the debate in the way it was framed by the proponents of S199. But now that the dust has ( temporarily ) settled, it seems appropriate to address in more detail some of more fundamental health aspects related to our vaccination policy, especially since concerned parents and individuals will soon be having to make decisions for the upcoming school year.
This article represents my personal thoughts and in no way presumes to be comprehensive … it is my hope that others will add their own ideas so that we can provide a firm philosophical foundation for parents needing to make a decision about this confusing issue. Also, I have intentionally avoided any discussion regarding the numerous toxic ingredients contained in many vaccines ( thimerosol, aluminum, formalin, foreign DNA, etc.) not because they are unimportant, but because it is not the purpose of this paper to examine various adverse effects of vaccines in a comprehensive way…. rather to look at the bigger picture, the context in which this vaccine policy exists.
The “philosophy” espoused by public health authorities seems clear enough. Infectious disease is harmful and should be eliminated ( stamped out ) wherever and whenever possible. The implication is that the we would be better off if all acute infectious diseases were eradicated, and that the vaccination of as many individuals as possible, even against their will, is crucial to this campaign. The philosophy of “the greater public good” frequently trumps the individual’s right to decide for themselves, and the oft repeated mantra, and belief, that vaccines are “generally safe” ( the US Supreme Court has described vaccines as “unavoidably unsafe” ) is a cornerstone of this program. In this context, evaluating policy and its success ( or failure ) mostly boils down to disease surveillance and subsequent statistical analysis, though I know of no rigorous studies by our public health authorities in this age of “evidence based medicine” examining the long term health outcomes of this approach. A corollary to the current policy is: look only at short term outcomes ( this principal applies to studies of vaccine adverse effects as well ).
On the other hand, there are legitimate “philosophical” issues that pertain here, the most important of which is every individual’s right to informed consent ( and to withhold consent ) to any medical procedure or drug treatment. This important personal right was firmly established by the Nuremburg trials after WW2 and today is recognized in the US and internationally.
When one considers the individual child ( and that is the overarching imperative confronting parents ), the issues become much more interesting. Thomas McCleod’s astute observation that “the most dangerous place in the woods is between a mother bear and her cub”, though not so nuanced, is spot on. In order to gain some insight into the health implications of current vaccination policy, it seems reasonable to look to the individual human being first, and not a statistical aggregate. Traditionally, the primary role of the physician has been to assist and protect the individual in his or her care, so here, too, individual, not group, concerns ought to take front seat. In this regard, a consideration of the polar pathophysiologic processes of inflammation and sclerosis is illuminating.
(1) Inflammation is the dominant characteristic of all of the usual, normal childhood illnesses. The typical signs of a pure inflammatory process are rapid onset, redness, swelling, heat ( including fever ), and pain, often accompanied by discharges ( pus, mucous ). Generally there is a clear beginning and a clear end. All the usual childhood diseases ( upper respiratory infections, impetigo, bronchitis, various viral and bacterial infections, many eczemas, fevers in general, etc. ) are variations on this theme. ( we are today seeing a movement in the spectrum of childhood disease to more chronic states, more on this later ). Pure inflammation exerts a sort of “dissolving” influence in the body.
(2) Sclerosis: this pathophysiologic process tends predominate in those diseases that occur in adults, and the older the person the more “normal” it is to experience this type of pathology. Just consider various adult illnesses … they tend to be less acute, more chronic, more silent ( even painless ), more degenerative, without much inflammation ( i.e, “cold” ), and commonly with hardening of the tissues often accompanied by the deposition of substances ( calcium, uric acid, fluoride, amyloid, fibrous tissue, etc ) …… cancer, atherosclerosis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s ( and other degenerative neurological illnesses ), degenerative arthritis, end stage rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, nephrosclerosis, cirrhosis, gout, and so on. In all these hardening, dessicating, and often painless diseases (the “silent killers”… children’s illnesses, like children themselves, are rarely silent), there is a distinct lack of active reaction and inflammation …. just ask any adult the last time they had a good fever, and you’ll be surprised, or not, how infrequent a strong febrile reaction becomes as people age, especially in contrast to how common and normal such a fever is in childhood. Chronic degenerative disease, on the other hand, is distinctly abnormal in children, and when it occurs it should be cause for real concern.
Recall that the newborn infant’s physical organism is formed wholly from the mother’s bodily substance, even the infant’s early nutritional requirements are wholly met by the mother’s milk. In the course of development and individuation, each child has a tremendous amount of “work” to do in order to overcome this hereditary obstacle in order to fashion his or her physical body into one that uniquely suits him or her. An appropriate analogy might be that of building and furnishing one’s house according to one’s individual tastes and talents, designing and building a structure one can feel “at home” in. This “work”, this dynamic remodeling and growth, takes place at an extremely rapid rate in the young child, slows down noticeably in the teens, and by the late teens and early 20’s is more or less “finished”, and active growth by and large ceases. Slowest to develop and last to mature is that most human of organs, the nervous system. Particularly during the first 2-3 years of life the child’s developing nervous system remains exquisitely sensitive to environmental influences and requires special protection.
So here is the central question: why is it that children’s illnesses just happen to be primarily inflammatory? Is it possible that this inflammation serves some beneficial purpose? Should we consider the possibility that the widespread suppression of inflammatory reactions, especially in childhood, may have significant drawbacks? It is a fact that modern pharmacology has achieved much in the direction of suppressing inflammation: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( Motrin, Alleve, Vioxx, etc. ), corticosteroids, acetominophen, aspirin, antihistamines, antibiotics … and yes, vaccinations. However, in the case of a growing child, this sort of relentless suppression may have serious unintended consequences, for it is the vital, dynamic, “dissolving fire” of inflammation that facilitates the process of “remodeling” the young child’s physical organism. Anyone who has cared for a young child in the midst of a good fever may recall that strong ammonia smell in the urine. This ammonia is a by product of an active energetic breaking down and excretion of protein, the dissolution of “old” ( hereditary, maternal) substance, a kind of ramped up house cleaning, a detoxification. As one might expect, during the recuperative period, after successfully negotiating such an illness, it is usual to see distinct positive changes in the child’s development and health. The price paid by depriving the growing child of these “opportunities” to do this “work” is potentially high: a premature movement away from healthy inflammatory reaction towards the more chronic hardening diseases of old age. The steady rise among children in the incidence of allergies, asthma, diabetes, and especially the alarming epidemic of childhood neurological disorders ( ADHD, autism spectrum syndromes, etc. ) all attest to this fact … that we are steadily bringing “old age “ into our youth. This already is having, and will continue to have, dire consequences for our families, communities, and society in general.
Irony of ironies, a promising cancer treatment currently under investigation at the Mayo Clinic involves infecting the patient with a vaccine strain of measles virus (“radiovirotherapy ” .. see 1) and 2) below ), an idea with its root in repeated observations of spontaneous remission of various malignancies following wild measles infection ( this same phenomenon of rapid remission of cancer had also been noted after a staph or strep infection associated with high fever ). Sounds like we are coming a full circle here, but until public health authorities understand and appreciate the role of childhood infectious disease and its lifelong benefits for immune competence, the polarization of our current vaccine debate is bound to continue.
1) Bluming, AZ, /Ziegler JL: Regression of Burkett’s lymphoma in association with measles infection. Lancet. 1971; 2,105-106. (see also Pascuinucci 1971; Taqi, 1981)
2) Msaouel P, Dispenzieri A, Galanis E: Clinical testing of engineered measles virus strains in the treatment of cancer: an overview.
Note: for a more in depth treatment of this relationship between healthy inflammatory illness and chronic disease, I highly recommend:
Fighting Cancer: a Nontoxic Approach to Treatment, by Robert Gorter MD and
Erik Peper PhD (2011). North Atlantic Books. [ISBN 978-1-58394-248-2]