Talking about vaccines nowadays seems to be more explosive than discussing abortion or the death penalty. That’s pretty incredible when you think about it, because abortion and the death penalty are really social and ethical issues and vaccine safety and efficacy is, well, science. Simple facts.
It is a sad story how the beauty of vaccines has been desecrated. And yes, I say beauty. If it were not for vaccines we would still have polio in this country and small pox would be a reality. One wonders if global travel would be as popular today if small pox silently lurked in bazaars, airports, and dusty roads?
How did we get to a point where we are on the precipice of epidemics. And yes, it’s plural. Where I live, Marin County in Northern California (the Greenwich mean time of woo) vaccination rates continue to plummet even while hard core scientific evidence of their safety blossoms in well-respectied peer-reviewed journals. In my children’s school district in 2009 more than 7% of kindergarteners did not receive all of their vaccines because of “personal exemptions.” It is estimated that when 7.5% of children in a school are unvaccinated against a particular pathogen conditions are ripe for an epidemic. And of course, that is exactly what has happened here with pertussis. We have an epidemic.
The dissenters will tell you of the dangers of vaccines. They speak of toxins. Even though countless studies have now shown there is no link between autism and vaccines. No link between brain development and vaccines. In fact, there is no study published in a credible medical journal that supports a cause and effect between vaccines and abnormal neurodevelopment.
Others will claim that vaccine preventable diseases are not that bad. That natural immunity is better. At best they are misinformed and at worst they lie. Many of these diseases kill or maim. That’s why the vaccines were invented in the first place. I have seen people die from influenza (35,000 people die from the flu every year in the U.S.), pertussis, and hepatitis B. I have seen people left seriously impaired from chicken pox (brain inflammation), and fortunately have only seen photos of the devastation that is congenital rubella. There is a reason there is no vaccine against the common cold. It’s a pain in the ass, but that’s all it is.
And finally, some say all CDC run studies are biased because the CDC has a stake in promoting vaccines. They don’t. The CDC promotes health. The people at the CDC are paid by our tax dollars and are a highly critical group interested in science. They also promote hand washing, HIV testing, breast feeding, using condoms, and maintaining a healthy weight. There is no hidden agenda.
I am a doctor, but I am also a parent. A parent who sat beside incubators doing everything possible to help my children live. There is no way I would give my kids anything that I though would affect their nervous system. I have done the research and read the studies as well as the ingredients. And unlike most doctors who speak against vaccines, the only dog I have in the fight is protecting my kids. I am not selling an alternate vaccine schedule, a TV show, or a special brand of vitamins and probiotics guaranteed to keep you healthy.
So here are the vaccine ingredients, because that’s really what it all boils down to:
1) The virus or bacteria or toxin. The thing we are being vaccinated against. It is weakened or killed, so it doesn’t cause disease but rather stimulates the body to produce antibodies (our natural defense mechanisms). The virus/bacteria/toxin is natural.
2) Adjuvants. This is a substance that enhances the body’s immune response, basically makes the vaccine work better. In the United States the adjuvant used is aluminum hydroxide. The adjuvant aluminum is ONLY present in the following vaccines: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, diptheria-tetanus-pertussis, haemophilus, HPV, and pneumococcus. The MMR, chicken pox, rotavirus, inactivated polio, and seasonal influenza vaccines DO NOT contain adjuvants. Aluminum hydroxide is also found in many medications as well as our diet. If a baby received every vaccine in the first 6 months of life she woud get 4 mg of aluminum. During the same time frame the same baby would get about 10 milligrams of aluminum if she were exclusively breast fed, about 40 milligrams if she was formula fed, and 120 milligrams if she ate soy-based formula. Let’s put that in perspective: one teaspoon (5 ml) of Maalox liquid, regular strength, has 200 mg aluminum hydroxide (it’s one of the active ingredients!).
3) Preservatives. These are present in trace amounts. Every medicine has a small amount of preservative. Click here for a full list of preservatives in vaccines, there are surprisingly few. Compare the ingredients in the MMR-II (a brand of vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella): amino Acid, Bovine Albumin or Serum, Chick Embryo Fibroblasts, Human Serum Albumin, Gelatin, Glutamate, Neomycin, Phosphate Buffers, Sorbitol, Sucrose, Vitamins to the ingredients in Tylecol Rapid Release GelCpas: Benzyl alcohol, butylparaben, castor oil, cellulose, corn starch, D&C Yellow #10, edetate calcium disodium, FD&C Blue #1, FD&C Blue #2, FD&C Red #40, gelatin, hypromellose, magnesium stearate, methylparaben, propylparaben, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium propionate, sodium starch glycolate, titanium dioxide. Here’s the thing, every food in a package has preservatives, never mind soaps, shampoos, hair gel, Tylenol…even vitamins. There are more potentially dangerous preservatives in TylenolGelCap than a vaccine. For the record, I think Tylenol is a very safe drug (as long as you stay within the recommended dosing, otherwise the acetaminophen is quite liver toxic).
4) Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative and long the focus of certain autism activists. Thimerosal contains ethyl mercury. This is not the same as methyl mercury, which is found in dental fillings and fish. Thimerosal may cause minor reactions at the injection site, like swelling or redness, but there is no medical evidence that the small amount of thimerosal in vaccines has ever posed any risk. Furthermore, thimerosal was removed from all pediatric vaccines in 2001, so as far as kids are concerned it’s a non-issue (it is present in a few adult vaccines such as diphtheria, tetanus, and some influenza vaccines.) Despite removing thimerosal, there has been no drop in autism rates in the past nine years. There are also many studies published in respected medical journals showing there is no link between thimerosal or vaccines and autism.
So the breakdown of what’s in a shot: no thimerosal for kids, fewer preservatives than a Tylenol and probably many granola bars, and less aluminum than breast milk.
If anyone tells you anything different they don’t know the science or have another agenda. There can be no other answer.
The info about thimerosal is easily found on the CDC web site and I have provided a link to a recent article in Pediatrics (although it is no longer in vaccines so should not be point of discussion). The dose of aluminum in Maalox and the ingredients in Tylenol come from their respective web sites. There is a link in the article for the preservative content of every US vaccine, and here are the references for the information on aluminum:
Baylor NW, Egan W, Richman P. Aluminum salts in vaccines— U.S. perspective. Vaccine 2002; 20: S18-S23.
Bishop NJ, Morley R, Day JP, Lucas A. Aluminum neurotoxicity in preterm infants receiving intravenous-feeding solutions. New England Journal of Medicine 1997; 336: 1557-1561.
Committee on Nutrition: Aluminum toxicity in infants and children. Pediatrics 1996; 97: 413-416.
Ganrot, PO. Metabolism and possible health effects of aluminum. Environmental Health Perspective 1986; 65: 363- 441.
Keith LS, Jones DE, Chou C. Aluminum toxicokinetics regarding infant diet and vaccinations. Vaccine 2002; 20: S13- S17.
Pennington JA. Aluminum content of food and diets. Food Additives and Contaminants, 1987; 5: 164-232.
Simmer K, Fudge A, Teubner J, James SL. Aluminum concentrations in infant formula. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 1990; 26: 9-11.