The Vaccine Controversy from a Scientist Gone Mother

vaccine controversy

Have you heard about the vaccine controversy?

It's the debate about whether the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks.

Two Separate Camps

I have had discussions with a couple pediatricians about the vaccine controversy. They postulate that the controversy was spurred by radical natural health enthusiasts, or mothers of autistic children desperate for an answer. I was told that non-vaccinators are ignorant, and make decisions based on fear. The Institute of Medicine, in their latest review of the adverse reactions to vaccines claims that vaccines themselves have created the non-vaccinating culture. Vaccines, they say, have created and environment in which people no longer live in fear of life-threatening diseases, and therefore, don't see the importance of the vaccines themselves.

In the other camp, are folks who cite specific scientific research, historical health trends, and the database of adverse reactions as the argument for not vaccinating. Yes, it is an argument based in fear... fear of documented adverse reactions and scientific experimentation. Certainly not a decision based in ignorance.

Now I'm a Mother

Once I had children of my own, and saw the enormous list of vaccines recommended for my children, I decided to do a little digging of my own.

    What is the likelihood that my child will get a vaccine-preventable disease?

    If my child is infected, what is the likelihood of serious or fatal complications from the vaccine-preventable disease?

    What are the chances of a serious or fatal complication from the vaccine itself?

    And finally, how do these answers change if we want to travel?

It turns out that there are plenty of people willing to contribute to the vaccine controversy; movies, articles, books… it’s dizzying.

To my dismay, my basic questions were not answered. Not directly anyway. Four years later and I'm still piecing it together.

I heard how the downward trend in the prevalence of a disease began prior to vaccination, with the speculation that certain diseases would have naturally disappeared. There’s no doubt that historical data about vaccine effectiveness is clouded by sanitary and hygienic improvements that were happening alongside medical advancements.

I have learned about how the diseases spread (is an infant really going to be exchanging bodily fluids, thereby being exposed to hepatitis B?).

I learned how letting a wound bleed is a great way to prevent infection.

What about my questions? What about the black-and-white answer to the vaccine controversy?

I believe the vaccine controversy actually arose from the families of those who have been injured.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) approximately 30,000 adverse reactions to vaccines are reported annually, and approximately 3,000-4,500 are classified as serious.

Serious, is defined on the CDC website, as the vaccine being associated with permanent disability, hospitalization, life-threatening illness, or death.

It's important to note that the CDC's estimation of adverse reactions is likely an underestimate due to failure of physicians to make the association with a vaccine or properly report it.

The overwhelming current vaccine schedule has contributed to the vaccine controversy.

In 1983, the CDC recommended three vaccines (ten total doses) during the first 6 years of life.

In 2010, the CDC recommended ten vaccines during the same period. As a result, there are currently thirty-five doses recommended for low-risk children by the time they are six years old.

Modern medicine, with the help of brilliant pharmaceutical researchers have increased the number of shots by more than three times during a period when childhood disease seems to be completely under control.

And this brings me to my next concern: At what point did we decide that we should all avoid common illnesses? Flu? Chickenpox? Really? I’m only 34, and this part of the debate really ages me. Listen whipper-snappers, back in my day, everyone got the flu, and the chickenpox, and we all turned out just fine.

I don’t like the idea of my children being part of the longitudinal study for the latest vaccines against diseases that I don’t consider life-threatening.

I’ll admit, there are some instances when common ailments take a wrong turn, especially in vulnerable populations. I can’t fault anyone for trying to prevent those tragic (but rare) scenarios.

Which is why we get back to the big question: what are the chances?

I still haven't found the answer.

Adding so many harmless diseases to the “must-have” list of vaccines has undermined the entire enterprise.

Suddenly vaccination stinks of profit-driven marketing more than a national health crisis. It simply fuels the vaccine controversy. I’m all for businesses making a profit, but I think that consumers should know that profit is one underlying motivation. I personally feel it's unethical for a doctor to make any recommendation regarding another person's health because it's in their financial best-interest. And hey, it doesn't hurt anything to be vaccinated.

At least that's what the medical community says.

3,000-4,500 people suffer hospitalizations, permanent disability, life-threatening illness, or death each year from vaccines?

And we simply don't know the risks associated with those vaccine-preventable diseases in today's era of modern medicine. The numbers are out there, but they are not being reported by the CDC.

Most recently, I received a letter from my pediatrician's office that reads: "No current available studies support the idea of vaccines causing harm..."

3,000-4,500 serious adverse reactions each year. It may not be a "study," but it is a significant statistic.

I happen to have a stack of scientific papers here that suggest my pediatrician's statement is inaccurate.

Don't worry, I'll be reviewing those articles for you as quickly as this mother of two possibly can!

How does the vaccine controversy look when we use 3,000-4,500 serious adverse reactions annually as proof that vaccines may cause harm to some?

You might also like to read Do Vaccines Cause Autism? in our Current Science Reviews.

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