According to the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2003), the two public health interventions that have had the greatest impact on the world’s health are clean water and vaccines. The medical establishment consider that the benefit of vaccinations are clear, fewer people develop infectious diseases and the complications associated with thee diseases and children that are not vaccinated for whatever reason are are still protected by a process called “herd immunity”. Mandatory vaccination programmes were introduced in the United States in the 1960s; persuasion became obligation as vaccination was a condition of school entry. Vaccination is not mandatory in the UK and consent should always be obtained before immunisations are administered, the vast majority of people go along with vaccination but there a few black sheep in the heard about 10% of children in developed countries are not vaccinated.
Since Edward Jenner published his immunisation theory in 1798 immunisation with vaccines has been extremely controversial. Diseases such as smallpox measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus whooping cough and polio are extremely rare now in developed countries. However no one knows exactly how many children die or are injured by the vaccines that have been used to reduce prevalence of the diseases. It is well known that reactions to vaccines are under reported, parent groups have been formed in many countries (UK and US) seeking justice for their injured children. GPs who question vaccinations Dr Jayne Donegan and Andrew Wakefield risk professional suicide. If vaccinations are “safe”, why do Governments absolve pharmaceutical companies from responsibility when side effects are proven? Promoters of immunisation policy in US or UK rarely mention the risks. Making the “right” decision when it comes to the subject of vaccines and vaccinations for your children is probably not going to be easy. Good parents are not necessarily by definition those who vaccinate their children and bad parents those who don’t or vice versa. What may be right for one child could invariably be wrong for another, all children are different and it cant be that one vaccine fits all sizes.This raises the first question, when the medical establishment know some children get damaged by vaccines and do not know why, how is it possible to identify the children who should not be vaccinated or is it just a lottery and you may be the “one in a million” like Vera Duffy’s son Alan and all the other “one in a millions”
What surprised us when it came to deciding whether or not to vaccinate our children, was how polarised and personal the debate was. We decided not to vaccinate, not out of fear, but because the evidence clearly demonstrates that infection is part of the evolutionary process that strenthens the immune system. (I expand on this view in my response to this study in the British Medical Journals “rapid responses”). In addition I was surprised to discover that vaccinations were not nearly as effective as we were led to believe and began to wonder if parents who decide not to vaccinate their children were really a threat to public health?
The vast majority of children are immunised and supposedly “protected”, so one would have thought these children were healthier or are they? My children have contracted infectious diseases like measles and whooping cough without problems, is this whats most important rather than preventing them getting infected? I am not presenting this website as a recipe for healthy children, I am meerly describing what has worked for our family and previous generations of my family.
The vaccination debate raises more “questions” than provides answers and the questions I have been asking about the assumptions public health officials are making about disease prevention is what I will be presenting in this blog. Rather than comparing scientific studies which are questionable to say the least.
Our aim is to provide information, not to make decisions for you. No doubt some will say my partner (a solicitor with a PHd in chemistry) and I are are two “ill informed liars” “selfish” “or antivaccination activists“, because we decided not to do what the vast majority of parents choose for their children. I have studied the pros and cons of vaccination for my masters dissertation in Health Promotion, which examined “informed consent” in the UK for the DTaP vaccines. I was able to concluded that very few of the parents surveyed had even basic knowledge as to what they had consented to (what does the D and P stand for). I also draw on 20 years experience providing chiropractic care to children and the trials and tribulations of dealing with childhood infections of our own children Eloise 9 years old, Isabelle and Molly 12 and Frederik 29
The picture on the right shows my children visiting their late great great aunt Daicy who was 94 in 2004. There are four generations in this picture and none of them had been vaccinated against Measles, Mumps, Whooping Cough, Chicken pox, normal childhood illness when aunt Daicy was young “children were happy to have a week off school”.
None of the children in the picture has had medicine of any kind to treat illness, basically we have followed the 80s advice of American Pediatrician Robert Mendelsohn (who was way ahead of his time) and wrote a number of great books for parents. They were all breast fed for at least twelve months. They eat mostly home cooked organic food, and get lots of fresh air and exercise. I do not disputes that there can be complications from infectious diseases, particularly in children with compromised immune systems sometimes congenital most often due to poor social conditions. In fact in January 1959 during one of the worst measles epidemics on record; The British Medical Journal reported that “measles was the commonest infection in the world and that complications were extremely rare thanks to improved living conditions”.
Almost fifty years later despite continued improvement in living standards, parents are being told measles is a killer disease, because the government wants everybody vaccinated. In April 2006 it was reported that for the first time in fourteen years, a 13 year old boy had died from complications after contracting measles. Was it the measles that killed this boy or the fact he was a traveler, with a lung disease that required immunosupressive medication. The government wants me and other parents to vaccinate our children with the risks involved so this unfortunate child is protected by heard immunity? I believe the answer is in better social conditions, vaccination helps cover up health problems in the poorest part of our society where child poverty in the UK is one of the highest in the EU. The fact is, it is cheaper to vaccinate than deal with the social conditions that predispose many children to complications from infectious diseases. Are vaccinated children healthier than unvaccinated? No one knows, and is anybody looking? In fact there is much scientific evidence that demonstrates a link between vaccination and autoimmune disorders (i.e. asthma , eczema), which are now considered the normal childhood illnesses.
The Polarized points of view
“The greatest threat of childhood diseases lies in the dangerous and ineffectual efforts made to prevent them through mass immunization…There is no convincing scientific evidence that mass inoculations can be credited with eliminating any childhood disease… There are significant risks associated with every immunization and numerous contraindications that make it dangerous for the shots to be given to your child…” :Robert Mendelsohn, MD
“Disease prevention is the key to public health. Vaccines benefit in particular the people who receive them, and in turn, those people cannot spread the disease to others who have not been vaccinated. Infection cannot spread if it never gains a foothold. Infectious Diseases cause enormous suffering, strain the health care system, and deplete financial resources.” :The US Department of Health and Human Services
The UK Department of Health (DOH) recommends that routine vaccines are given as detailed in the immunisation schedule presented by health visitors to all newborns. The DOH has set targets for vaccine uptake. The aim is that by the age of two, 95 per cent. of children will be immunised against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis, Hib, measles, mumps and rubella. Similar schedules are in operation throughout the world, interestingly despite the claim these programmes are “scientific” they are different in many countries.
The proponents of mass vaccination programmes believe its scientific but to compare the risks of infectious disease to malnourished children living in the third world to healthy children living in leafy Surrey is disingenuous and hardly “scientific”, in fact I would describe it as scaremongering. Could reducing incidence of infectious disease with vaccination be unscientific because its ignoring Darwins theory of natural selection as the explanation for the functional design of the immune system. Humans immune systems have evolved by being exposed to infectious diseases and adaptations by which we combat pathogens, adaptations of pathogens that counter our adaptations. Evolution is an incremental process over hundreds of thousands of years. It cant make huge jumps only small changes, each of which must be immediately beneficial. So to suddenly remove exposure to infections disease must be questioned in terms of its effect on individuals health and wellbeing rather than in isolation as a public health intervention.
Vaccination has been a controversial subject in the UK since the Vaccination Act of 1853 made smallpox vaccination compulsory for all infants in the first three months of life and made defaulting parents liable to a fine or imprisonment. Author Lewis Carroll (1877) was one of the first to question this approach to health care in his letters to the Eastbourne Chronicle, which over the years has spawned mass criticism of a public health policy now considered by many to be the most cost effective part of health care. Critics of vaccination programmes, argue that there was already a 90 per cent. decline in the mortality rate from pertussis in the United States and England in the 20 years preceding the introduction of the vaccine and the same decline in mortality rates were occurring with other infectious diseases such as scarlet fever, measles, influenza, tuberculosis and typhoid. These diseases were formerly prevalent and lethal and all declined as causes of death during the same period, while morbidity remained high. After the first scare about the pertussis vaccine in the 80s, after people like Alan Duffy were brain damaged by the vaccine, there was an increase in pertussis rates but not a significant increase in deaths, however after vaccine rates returned to normal there has been a big increase in pertussis/whooping cough rates despite the fact almost 90% of children are being vaccinated as it would appear the vaccine is not very effective but continues to be used despite the risks.
In 1974 McKeown and Lowe proposed this was principally due to a vast improvement in living standards in both Western Europe and the United States. Better housing, sanitation, nutrition and health care resulted in a better state of health in the infant population. Coulter and Fisher (1991) also pointed out that the successful use of antibiotics to control secondary infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis gave babies a much better chance of surviving pertussis, scarlet fever and other serious illnesses. Another reason proposed for the decline in morbidity was that the populations of Europe and the United States had acquired a certain degree of natural resistance to these diseases after so many generations of exposure . Then there are people who are immunocompromised who cant have a vaccine and an infectious disease like measles could be fatal to them so the concept of herd immunity is how to protect them. Thats assuming all vaccinated children don’t get the disease and that we know exactly which children can be vaccinated and which children cant. At the moment the the children who cant be vaccinated for fear of the side effects are the ones with serious illness, however there are children who are not seriously ill who get serious side effects from vaccines and there is no way of identififying who they might be as yet as yet. Yes its only a small group who will have serious side effects and its also a small group who will die and have serious side effects from infection in a healthy society. Perhaps we should focus our attention of the children who can get these diseases without problem rather than the few who will develop problems and be aiming for heathier children through diet and lifestyle rather than medicalising childrens health and wellbeing.
The objective of most of the studies on immunisation is to assess the efficacy of vaccines in relation to preventing the disease and safety issues. In 1974 a study by Kulenkampff reported neurological complications related to the pertussis vaccine that greatly damaged confidence in the apparently successful immunisation programme. As did Andrew Wakfield questions about MMR in 1998. In both instances vaccination uptake dropped dramatically. So the public health message became good parents care about public health and vaccinate bad parents don’t, which frankly is a laughable argument if one were to examine the relationship between inequality and poor health and successive governments attitude to the poor.
No major studies have examined whether vaccinated children are healthier than unvaccinated children (McTaggart, 2000) yet governments all over the world promote vaccination policy. Rogers and Pilgrim (1994) noted that the attention paid by public health experts to the risks of, and eradication of, childhood infectious diseases did not reflect their degree of threat compared with other contemporary hazards, particularly in the developed world. In comparison with cardiovascular disease, cancer, AIDs, pollution, violence and accidents in the United Kingdom, the dangers posed by childhood infectious diseases are actually quite small. Despite this, vaccination programmes retain a privileged position in public health policy.
Politicians who were formerly preoccupied with illness are becoming increasingly focused on the health and well-being of the population and disease prevention. Disease prevention is an important part of health promotion, however is it best achieved through the application of pre-symptomatic screening and vaccination programmes, while companies are allowed to sell cigarettes and put huge amounts of sugar and salt in the food people eat.
According to WHO (2003), the participation of the public and health workers in immunisation takes place within a myriad of complex and varying social settings. Their role is also important in the UK as the Government strives to meet its target to vaccinate ninety five per cent. of the population against these diseases. One method used is giving GPs financial incentives to reach the 90% targets with their patients
To help people make their decision the quality of information on the process is important, yet hardly any studies assessing the quality of information available to parents contemplating the vaccination of their children have been done. UK studies on “informed consent” and vaccination tend to focus on the minority of parents who chose not to vaccinate their children (Sporton and Francis, 2001). In the UK there are a few comments about sore arm and crying post vaccination . Thats it while in America they do recognise the possibility (small) of serious side effects in the Vaccination Information Sheets (VIS) which parents have to read before consenting to vaccination. In the US there is much more information available on adverse events associated with vaccines
Coulter, Entwistle and Gilbert (1998) was the only UK study assessing the quality of patient information in GP surgeries, it was less than complementary about the information available, however they did not look at vaccination information.In an article in In an article about vaccination in 2000 Dr Alan Hinman stated that the parents consenting to the vaccination of their children and parents refusing because of a recognised contraindication are making an “informed decision”, while the “misinformed” opposition to immunisation are refusing to have their children vaccinated?? Health workers involved in immunisation programmes should ensure that parents are given all the information to enable to give informed consent to have their children vaccinated, they should provide information on the nature, prevalence, risks of the disease, the risks of side effects and talk about the role of individual immunity in community well-being, this is not happening in the UK and Ireland?
The right to choose is the reality of patient autonomy and power. Patient power may mean that large groups of parents have the right to behave in a way that “the authorities” think misguided (Smith, 2002). Parents may chose to ignore the advice of authorities and not vaccinate their children and, according to Smith (2002,) it seems likely that this will continue to happen. Longstanding anxieties over vaccination, distrust of the authorities fuelled by Government’s mishandling of salmonella and BSE has resulted in a fall in the number of children being vaccinated in the UK and Ireland and and a loss of trust in the reasons governments desire to vaccinate their nations children when it does not appear to enhance their health and wellbeing??