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How Safe Are Children's Vaccines?




Excerpted from
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children's Vaccinations
By Stephanie Cave, M.D., F. A.A.F.P., Deborah Mitchell

When it comes to vaccines, the big question is how safe are they? The answer is both simple and complex. While choosing to refuse all vaccinations for your children may expose them to serious health risks, blindly accepting all vaccines without question and according to the proposed schedule may also result in grave consequences.

There are benefits and risks associated with every vaccine, and I believe it is your right to know both sides and the controversies that surround every vaccine. One goal of this book is to provide you with the most up-to-date information on each vaccine now mandated for children, as well as vaccines on the horizon, so you can decide for yourself what is best for your children.

There are many theories about how vaccines may cause harm. For more than two decades, there have been intense discussions at local, state, and federal levels regarding possible links between immunization and various physical and emotional/ psychological problems, like those discussed in chapters 4 and 5. The adverse effects of vaccines appear to be mild and temporary in many cases, but certainly not in all of them. Until we are able to assess what vaccines are doing to the human body at a cellular level, we will never know the full impact they have on the health of our children.

This chapter explores vaccine safety. It looks at the types of reactions people have to vaccines, how vaccines are tested, multiple dosing, how vaccines are made, ingredients in vaccines, and the story of a vaccine gone bad: the rotavirus vaccine.

Mass Immunization and Herd Immunity

In many parts of the world, including the United States, there are programs for mass immunization of different populations. In the United States the primary targets are infants and young children, whose parents are told they should receive multiple doses of ten different vaccines between the ages of birth and five years. The rationale behind mass immunization was stated by the thirteenth World Health Assembly: "Vaccination is not simply a personal affair. Indeed, it is essentially a community matter, since the objective of most vaccination programs is to produce a herd immunity."

"Herd immunity" is the level at which a certain population can resist disease. To achieve a high level of herd immunity, advocates of mass immunization strive for the highest vaccination rates possible with the hope that virtually everyone in the selected group will be protected from disease.

One of the main arguments of those who oppose mass immunization of children is that government entities, vaccine manufacturers, and other players in the pro-mandatory vaccine arena have a dangerous one-size-fits-all attitude. Yet every child is an individual, with a unique genetic makeup, social environment, and family and personal medical history that can have an effect on how he or she will react to a vaccine. Nor are all diseases and vaccines the same. Vaccines can save, and they can harm. The line between the two may be fine at times, but it is a line we must clearly define because lives are at stake.

Types of Adverse Reactions

While an explanation of the dangers of each of the vaccines can be found in their respective chapters, there are some general types of adverse effects, injuries, and complications that are associated with vaccinations. Some occur almost immediately after a child receives the injection; others may take hours, days, or even months to appear.


In vaccines that contain killed bacteria, the bacteria can release toxins into the bloodstream. If these toxins reach the brain, neurological problems, including autism, ADD, and behavioral problems can develop. Autism and related disorders are discussed in chapter 4.


Vaccines are supposed to trigger the body's immune system to attack the vaccine's components. But what if the immune system attacks more than it is supposed to, say, a part of the body that is chemically similar to the vaccine? This type of reaction is called autoimmune, meaning that the body attacks itself {auto). Such reactions have been reported for measles, tetanus, and flu vaccines, says Marcel Kinsbourne, M.D., of Tufts University.


Vaccines that contain live viruses may cause the disease they are supposed to prevent. One example is the oral polio vaccine, which as of January 1, 2000, is no longer recommended for use because it was responsible for approximately ten reported cases of polio each year it was given. Also, measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox vaccines sometimes lead to symptoms of the diseases they were designed to prevent.

Safe Vaccines: Science or Fiction?

Doubting the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is not far-fetched. Not only are there tens of thousands of vaccines adverse events reported-but tens of thousands more not reported. The pharmaceutical industry and medical field have a record of causing harm, as well as good, through the use of recommended, prescribed drugs, and vaccines.

This fact became glaringly apparent in April 1998, when an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that more than 2,000,000 Americans become seriously ill and 106,000 die each year because of toxic reactions to drugs that were prescribed for them by health-care professionals. Among children, vaccines and antibiotics are responsible for more negative reactions than any other prescribed drugs. I am not saying that drug companies and doctors intentionally harm people. But the reality is that no drug is safe for everyone, and some are much more dangerous than others.



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