Filmmakers Leslie Manookian, Kendall Nelson, and Chris Pilaro have turned up the heat on the vaccine conversation in North America. Their production “The Greater Good” examines the emotionally charged issues around vaccination policies and mandates in the US through interviews with medical doctors, researchers, and families adversely affected by childhood immunizations. For many vaccine questioning families, the film will surely flame the fires of fear and conspiracy. While I believe this film is important in revealing the conflict of interest behind policy and the pharmaceutical industry, it also quietly sensationalizes the issue of vaccine reactions. Whether or not the impact of this film is positive is yet to be determined.
With the number of childhood immunizations more than triple what it was in the early 1980’s we have legitimate reason to be concerned. Those of us who are now in our childbearing years were in that generation who received a handful of immunizations (roughly 11 injections before age 2) and for the most part fared well. However, on our heels we have a generation who may have received 5 shots at one doctor’s visit and as many as 24 by the age of two. Arguably, the consequence has been a dramatic increase in autism, allergies, and auto-immune diseases. The scientific community has decidedly ruled out the thimerisol (mercury) in vaccines as a causative agent for autism. And with that they have made the blanket statement that vaccines do not cause autism. The simple truth is: we still do not know enough about the effects of vaccines on human physiology to rule it out as a trigger for neurological dysfunction.
The inherent nature of vaccines is to stimulate one branch of the immune system (known as the Th2 response) but not stimulate the other (Th1 response). Without getting into the swamp of immunology, the significance of this lies in the fact that without both branches of the immune system in action, the body cannot fully process the exposure to the antigen (germs in the vaccine) and the vaccine constituents. For those who have neurological damage from an immunization, I believe it is at least partially due to the fact that the body is unable to fully “digest” and eliminate the adjuvants, preservatives, and viral and bacterial residues (a significantly more complicated discussion than is suitable for this article). The question amongst concerned parents then becomes “How do I know if my child will be the one to respond poorly to immunizations?”. This is difficult to assess in a young child, unfortunately, therefore we end up taking a gamble.
So what do we do now? We have seen the rates of autism, allergies, and autoimmune disease rise dramatically in the last 2 decades along with the overall number of immunizations. Something is going on. While it is said that we don’t have enough evidence to implicate immunizations, we also don’t know enough to rule them out as causative agents. Much to the dismay of public health officials, more and more parents are questioning the schedules and composition of vaccinations. This is something I encourage. While there has been research on the timing and efficacy of individual shots, which has led to the carefully constructed schedule we now have, I believe it is time we revisit this and officially open up more conversation around how we might be able to immunize more cautiously, and responsibly. There simply has not been enough research on the synergistic effects of so many injections let alone the capacity of the immune system to respond to not one or two, but potentially half a dozen viruses being artificially introduced into their developing systems. Furthermore, there are conflicts of interest in the decision making process of public health recommendations and those need to be detangled before we can begin to make decisions that are truly based on the well being of individuals in our communities. I also think it is essential that parents take into account the overall health and development of their children in the context of exposing them to these viruses through artificial means (i.e. an injection vs. a wild type infection). There is much that can be done to support the young child through this process; tools exist in the Chiropractic, Chinese Medicine, Homeopathic and Naturopathic professions.
It is key that we keep an open conversation between our physicians, researchers and public health officials on this matter. There is a very real possibility that fear will drive more and more people not to immunize their children while simultaneously not taking other precautionary measures to keep their kids healthy and support them adequately in the event of illness. On his deathbed, Louis Pasteur, the founder of “germ theory” stated this about his colleague: “Bernard was right: the pathogen is nothing, terrain is everything.” In this context Pasteur’s statement means two things: 1) the terrain of a child’s physiology will determine how the vaccine takes effect. It is not the vaccine alone that causes the problem, it is the intermingling of the individual human biological system with the standardized vaccine. 2) Even in the midst of an outbreak, our basic health will determine how we will fare when up against the flu or the measles, in many instances regardless of our immunization status.
As people are discovering, our current medical paradigm fails us in as many ways as it serves us. It is not perfect and, as a result, it is evolving. With this evolution more credence is given to the fact that while science may be able to produce standardized medications and immunizations, Nature does not produce standardized human beings. The film “The Greater Good” highlights this as it features a family whose daughter died after her first series of immunizations and another teenage girl who is suffering from debilitating chronic ailments after the administration of Gardasil, the HPV (cervical cancer) vaccine. We simply do not know enough about each individual’s physiology, genetics, and previous toxic exposures to know how their body will handle the introduction of a vaccine. For now, I don’t believe the question lies in whether or not we should immunize our children. I believe the question is “how can we do this better?” For some this may mean they do not immunize at all. For some, it means a partial or delayed schedule. For others it means integrating other supportive measures into the child’s healthcare regimen so that their bodies can fully digest and eliminate all the components of the vaccine. Helping our children to lead healthy lives may include the use of immunizations, but this practice is not creating health in and of itself. We need to think far more critically about how we apply them to truly build a healthier generation of people.