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Vaccination: Not as Simple as a Decision as it Seems

A battle is raging throughout the United States and Great Britain over the widespread use of multiple vaccines in children. Both sides tend to present what they deem a clear-cut case either in support of or opposition to vaccines. Parents of autistic children, in particular, have become increasingly vocal in their opposition to vaccinations, while the medical community at large continues to recommend and defend their use.

The topic of vaccinations has spilled over into to political arena with new vigor as Governor Rick Perry enters the Republican Presidential race. During a recent debate, Rep. Michele Bachmann questioned the wisdom of Perry’s 2007 executive order requiring Texan girls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer. Bachmann insinuated that Perry may have had ulterior motives in issuing the mandate because a lobbyist for the vaccine-maker was Perry’s former chief of staff.

Governor Perry admits that the way he went about enacting the policy was wrong and that he wished he had gone through the legislature. But he stand by the policy itself, saying, “At the end of the day, I am always going to err on the side of life,” and pointing out that parents could opt their girls out of the vaccination. Regardless of the political motivations, there is no doubt many parents are becoming increasingly wary of government mandated vaccinations.

Quick Facts

  • There is no federal vaccination law, but all fifty states have some kind of requirement for certain vaccinations for children entering public schools. Depending on the state, children must be vaccinated against some or all of the following diseases: rubella, diphtheria, measles, mumps, tetanus, pertussis, and polio. All fifty states also issue medical exemptions to vaccinations. Forty-eight states (excluding Mississippi and West Virginia) permit religious exemptions. Twenty states allow an exemption for philosophical reasons. As of 2009, the national average vaccination rate for required school entry vaccines was 95.41 percent.
  • Over 5,500 cases alleging a causal relationship between vaccinations and autism have been filed under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims between 2001 and 2009.
  • About 30,000 cases of adverse reactions to vaccines have been reported annually to the federal government since 1990, with 13 percent classified as serious, meaning associated with permanent disability, hospitalization, life-threatening illness, or death.
  • The U.S. Court of Federal Claims Office of Special Masters awarded compensation to 1,322 families whose children suffered brain damage from vaccines between 1988 and 2009.
  • According to a 2003 report by researchers at the Pediatric Academic Society, childhood vaccinations in the U.S. prevent about 10.5 million cases of infectious illness and 33,000 deaths per year.

Pros and Cons

Proponents of vaccinations offer a compelling case that they comprise the single greatest development in public health in the twentieth century. Rubella (German measles), whooping cough, and diphtheria, all which once killed tens of thousands of infants every year in the United States, have all but been eradicated due to vaccines. Medical professionals acknowledge the risks (including rare but severe side effects such as seizures, paralysis, and death); however, they say the benefits to public health far outweigh the risks.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Physicians recommend that children be vaccinated against fifteen different common childhood illnesses.

Opponents of vaccination contend that children’s immune systems can handle most infections and that natural immunity should be allowed to develop. They say the potential severe side effects of vaccinations place children at needless risk and the diseases they are being vaccinated against are not usually life threatening. It is also argued that vaccines can cause adverse reactions including allergies, autism, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune disorders, ADHD, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS).

The National Vaccine Information Center, The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and Generation Rescue take the position that parents should have the freedom to make informed decisions about whether or not their children should receive vaccinations.

Vaccinations in America – A Timeline

1797 – Vaccination began as a public health practice in 1796 when Dr. Edward Jenner developed a vaccine for smallpox disease. The vaccine was created from the cowpox virus – a disease similar to smallpox that only infected cows.

1809 – Massachusetts became the first state to mandate vaccinations for smallpox with other states following shortly thereafter.

1879 – The Anti-Vaccination Society of America was founded on the credence that no one should ever be “complied to submit to any surgical operation,” including vaccination. One premise of the Society was that vaccines caused “corruption of the blood” and increases the spread of disease rather than preventing it.

1905 – Mandatory vaccination was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court case Jacobson v. Massachusetts. Many states responded by requiring vaccinations as a condition for public school attendance

1922 – Mandatory vaccination of school children was again challenged and upheld in the case Zucht v. King.

1955 – Dr. Jonas Salk announced he had developed the vaccine for polio. The disease had previously crippled and paralyzed thousands of children in the U.S. A national polio vaccination program instituted that year was successful in dropping the number of paralytic polio cases to sixty-one by 1965. The last known case of polio in the U.S. was reported in 1993.

1986 – The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was passed in response to numerous lawsuits filed claiming vaccines has caused unfavorable reactions including brain damage and death. The Act mandated that vaccine injury claims be filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, as opposed to being filed directly against physicians or vaccine manufacturers. The Office of Special Masters was created to make rulings on petitions for compensation. Unlike civil court, people filing injury claims are not required to demonstrate negligence but must only prove that a vaccine caused injury.

1993 – Congress passed the Comprehensive Childhood Immunization Act, increasing the percentage of children who receive vaccinations. The Vaccines for Children program was established to provide vaccinations free of charge to children in need. Five years later, less than half of all two-year old children were fully vaccinated.

1999 – The American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Public Health Service recommended that thimerosal (a preservative containing mercury and a known neurotoxin) should be removed from vaccines “as soon as possible.”  This was mainly as a result of concerns over links between vaccination and autism.

2001- Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) held a congressional hearing in which he requested that the FDA immediately recall vaccines that still contained mercury due to the risks associated with autism. The request was not met.

2009 – Thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative, had been phased out of all vaccines in the U.S. with the exception of certain influenza, meningococcal, and tetanus vaccines.

2010 – The British medical journal Lancet retracted a 1998 peer-reviewed study that had linked vaccines with autism, saying the study had failed to have its under-aged subjects properly approved by the local ethics committee. Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the study’s lead author, had his medical license revoked due to “serious professional misconduct” as a result of the retracted study. Dr. Wakefield claims the investigation of his work is part of a conspiracy to “discredit and silence his research” in order to “shield the government from exposure on the vaccine scandal.”

2010 – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled there is no link between vaccination and autism.

2010 – Over ten million vaccines are given to children under the age of one each year in the U.S.

2011 – British Medical Journal stated that Dr. Wakefield’s 1998 study connecting autism and vaccines was “an elaborate fraud,” hopeful the declaration would “close the door for good” on persistent beliefs in a link between vaccination and autism.

2011 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled (6-2) that vaccine injury claims must continue to be filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and cannot be filed directly against physicians or vaccine manufacturers in civil court.


One of the chief arguments against vaccination is that a better approach is to encourage the development of a child’s natural immune system. Simply avoiding vaccines without foundational changes in diet practices is not an answer! Opponents of vaccinations recommend parents find a homeopathic physician or at least one that is aware of alternatives to protect their children.

Another proposition of opponents is that vaccines are mainly pushed by the government and pharmaceutical companies as a result of greed and a pure profit motive. There can be no doubt that there is a great deal of conflict of interest in such matters. We do live in an over-medicated age where everything is a crisis. Parents should educate themselves, think the matter through carefully, and make choices for their children on the best information possible.

At the same time, this issue is not as one sided as either those in favor or those opposed often seek to make it appear.  The realities of the devastation of epidemics such as Spanish Flu at the end of World War I that can easily be prevented with vaccines cannot be ignored. In spite of persistent conspiracy theories, the Baby Boom generation surely remembers the ravages of polio and rubella.

Profit motive is not the sole property of the pharmaceutical companies. Natural medicine is also a multi-billion dollar business that often doesn’t have to submit to the same regulatory pressures of traditional medicine. As in many things, a balanced and informed viewpoint is the best.

©2011 Off the Grid News

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