by Ralph Campbell, MD
(OMNS Mar 26, 2015) The recent measles epidemic with its scary media presentation has me asking, "What is going on here?" How much distortion of the facts is necessary in order to produce a compelling TV news story?
Apparently, an airline traveler from an unknown part of the wide world went to Disneyland in Southern California. Along came the measles virus, which produced ambiguous precursory symptoms similar to an ordinary viral bug. The media, from the onset, treated the mini-epidemic that followed with all the fear-promoting intensity of the recent Ebola crisis. So what should we expect? Is the answer an airport scanner that can keep those coming down with an infectious disease from traveling on airplanes?
Medical authorities apparently had no knowledge of measles in the pre-vaccination days and unanimously recommended the only thing they knew to do: vaccinate. Nevertheless, since people no longer stay in one place, the recent "epidemic" grew to 140 cases in several States. Imagine: 140 cases in 320 million U.S. citizens. Immediately the blame game began. The epidemic spread more rapidly in California. Its liberal vaccination laws, which allowed parents to opt out of vaccinating their children, somehow made the kids of "good" (vaccinating) parents more susceptible. Sides were chosen between "vaccers," with backing of all the authoritative bodies, and "anti-vaccers," characterized as naive or thoughtless. More fear was generated by quoting worldwide mortality figures which are high in areas of the world in which nutritional deficiencies prevail. However, in the United States over the past 10 years the CDC reported zero deaths from measles.
It was amazing how this type of thinking (or lack of it) took off. Soon it evolved into a public discourse that included all vaccines for all children. New Jersey Governor Christie was labeled naive for suggesting that forcing a vaccination on infants or children was interfering with parental rights. And Senator Rand Paul, who must have learned something about medical practices in order to be an ophthalmologist before switching careers, was labeled ignorant as he told how he had worked with his kid's doctor to spread out, over time, some of the required vaccinations.
Politicizing this issue is the wrong path to take. In my mind, I supported Christie's position by recalling that pediatricians recommend giving a baby in the newborn nursery the first shot of the vaccine for Hepatitis B, a disease acquired through sex or contaminated needles. Before giving government charge of how we raise our children, couldn't we let parents have a crack at it? They won't find all that many infants with a dangerous life style, so it would make sense to at least postpone the vaccination until adolescence. Many studies have suggested that the immature infant immune system can't handle the many vaccinations thrust on it and that some should be postponed. And some of the combination vaccinations might provide better and longer-lasting antibody production if separated and then given as a single vaccine at a more appropriate age.
When I began pediatric practice in 1957, there were only two immunizations normally started in infancy: DT (diphtheria-tetanus) and the Salk polio (inactivated form as a shot), both of which have had a long history of efficacy and safety. However, attempting to control all childhood infectious diseases with total reliance on vaccination compares poorly with suffering the natural disease. Many children whose parents refused the new vaccines got along well without. Vaccination programs have muddled natural infection epidemics. In former days, there would be epidemics every spring where more children got, and got over, measles, rubella or chickenpox. Now, mini-outbreaks occur any time of year. Once the trend to develop a vaccine for every recognized infectious agent began, it snowballed.
President John Kennedy's sister, Rose Marie (Rosemary) was born with brain impairment that resulted in a troubled childhood, since mental impairment was not well accepted in high society. At age 23, she was subjected to a lobotomy which increased her disability. The President began a "war" on mental disease that included the development of a measles vaccine that was expected to eliminate measles encephalitis. Combining this with a vaccine for rubella (German measles) as the MR vaccine, proved problematic as the rubella component caused a rare but serious type of rheumatoid arthritis-like problem in just one joint, accompanied by iritis (inflammation of the eye) that, if not treated, could lead to blindness. The revision was later augmented with the other "M," mumps. It was thought that one shot at 1 year to 15 months of age would provide antibody levels equal to a natural infection until a group of high school boys who had the recommended vaccination were involved in a mini-epidemic. This led to the recommendation of a booster for middle-school aged children.
Rotavirus is an agent causing vomiting and diarrhea. Infants do not tolerate prolonged bouts of either, so a vaccine was developed. Unfortunately, it sometimes caused a condition called intussusception in which the inflamed bowel telescopes into itself. This can lead to a bowel obstruction if not relieved by manipulation or surgery.
I have given these examples to make the point that all vaccines are not created equal. The "anti-vaccers" are able to seek out this information that runs contrary to advice from the authoritative bodies, but they are prone to making the same mistake as the "vaccers": not individualizing but lumping all vaccines together, the good with the bad. Medical authorities concerned about lack of parental compliance would do well to consider that compliance surely would have improved if trust, obtained by open public discussion, had first been established. Discussion of both the benefits and the risks of individual vaccines is needed.
Authorities are upset with the "anti-vaccers" as they are not buying the "herd immunity" concept. With a complicated formula for each disease, they feel that an epidemic will be thwarted if a certain high percentage of susceptibles are immunized. But if the vaccine is as good as proposed, isn't an unimmunized child only a threat to other unimmunized children?
I will interject what I see as a bigger problem: In general, the public is unwilling to question medical authorities. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC's Communicable Disease Center, the World Health Organization and others were established to protect and promote citizens' health. Medical "experts" who work for them, and certainly have the public's best interests at heart, design policies and recommendations which are presented to the public as almost inviolable. These authorities often reject studies that do not support the views of their fellow experts. A public that accepts all public announcements from one or more of these organizations loses the art of discernment. For example, an important factor underlying susceptibility to disease is the amount of essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals) in the diet. Yet medical experts too often marginalize many a well-designed nutrition study, claiming that the "science" is not behind it.
Since it is impossible to develop an effective vaccine for every imaginable infectious agent, we are left with the only sensible things that work: avoid environmental toxins; seek exercise; and especially, get good nutrition that includes supplements of essential nutrients that will boost immune function. Vitamin C, the leader of this group, somehow has remained controversial among medical pundits. But even the most die-hard medical scientist now accepts the benefit of adequate vitamin D. Indeed, "adequate" is far higher than what doctors were taught in medical school. Many doctors have known for decades of the life-saving value of vitamin A, given to infants and children in populations that are vitamin A deficient. Immune health cannot be isolated from general health, so we need to employ every means we have that promotes healthy living.
The authoritative medical bodies must end their arrogant stance and take an honest look at the literature they have suppressed. The public deserves better. With so many vaccines so widely used for such a long time, we have thoroughly distorted the expression patterns of natural disease, making it difficult to know which vaccines are truly efficacious. Unlike testing a drug, it is impossible to set up a controlled study to evaluate a vaccine's effectiveness. But negative effects must be honestly brought to light. At all costs, legislative bodies need to do their homework and reject any thought of mandating vaccinations.
(Ralph Campbell, MD, a now-retired board-certified pediatrician, is an active octogenarian orchard farmer in Montana. He is the senior author of The Vitamin Cure for Children's Health Problems and also The Vitamin Cure for Infant and Toddler Health Problems.)
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