My take on the vaccine issue

Some vaccines have been life-savers, while others have done untold damage, so I can’t get on either the all-vax or the no-vax bandwagon. However, I will gladly wave a sign and blow a horn against any attempts to FORCE people to vaccinate themselves or their kids.

I just can’t be totally anti-vaccine, because I read about the polio epidemic.  I remember the all-community line-up for the first “pink stuff in a paper cup” polio vaccine.  I had a classmate who was a polio survivor with a weak leg; he had to walk around and around his yard every day to exercise it. And I’ve read about survivors; some have lived in iron lungs for so long, they can’t get parts to fix them any more.

However, one of my kids was (I believe) vaccine-injured in the 80s, so I’m not totally pro-vaccine either. Her doctor refused to even consider that her sudden problems were related to her 2-month check-up vaccination, but I talked to other parents whose kids had suffered similar, but much more severe problems after getting a faulty batch of pertussis vaccine.

I switched to a more cautious doctor who said we shouldn’t even consider the new vaccines that were just coming out, because they were too new to have a track record and were for treatable diseases that were neither common nor deadly. Plus, my kids had already demonstrated immune problems, so we needed to be extra cautious even with the well-tested vaccines that were for common and/or deadly diseases. We went with the DT, not the DPT, plus the MMR administered on a careful schedule, because my kids were allergic to eggs.  (The MMR vaccine viruses were grown in eggs.)

Now I’m a grandmother and, given that I thought there were too many vaccines in the 80s, I just about choked when I saw the truly ABSURD number of vaccines they’re slapping into babies and toddlers NOW!

What. The. Hell.

My daughter is a very cautious mom who knew all about our vaccine history. Her son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum last year. Was he born that way? Did one or more of the vaccines she permitted damage him? I don’t think there’s any way to know. But how about we err on the side of caution and make sure the diseases we vaccinate for are BAD enough to warrant the risk AND that the specific vaccines themselves are made with every attention given to safety.

I’m currently reading a fascinating book about the 1918 flu that killed somewhere between 20 million and 100 million people world-wide in a matter of weeks. This flu was so deadly that people could literally be healthy at breakfast and dead by dinner. The author talks about flu and speculates about why history has been largely silent about the 1918 epidemic until very recently.  She discusses efforts that have been made to figure out where the 1918 flu came from, why it was so uniquely lethal and what is being done about the possibility that it could recur.  She also recounts the swine and bird flu scares and explains why effective flu vaccines are so difficult to manufacture.  It’s a very readable book.

Graphic: Flu by Kolata

I also just read a very interesting article about the measles vaccine, which appears to greatly diminish childhood deaths not just from measles, but also from other infectious diseases.

The article above linked to another that talks about the approximately 1 in 1,000 cases of measles that cause brain swelling, which can result in behavioral changes, convulsions, and/or death.  Children who survive measles in the brain can be left deaf, blind, and/or retarded. The risk of brain damage exists even after a mild case of measles, because the virus may cause chronic inflammation in the brain that only manifests symptoms years later.

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