Are there safer ways to vaccinate our children?

August 06, 2013

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By Maureen McDonnell, BS, RN

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There are unanswered questions about vaccine safety. We need studies on vaccinated populations based on various schedules and doses as well as individual patient susceptibilities that we are continuing to learn about. No one should be threatened by the pursuit of this knowledge. Vaccine policy should be the subject of frank and open debate, with no tolerance for bullying. There are no sides—only people concerned for the well-being of our children.” Bernadine Healy, M.D., (former director, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and health editor for U.S. News & World Report prior to her death in 2011)

Now that my 6th grandchild has arrived and I am surrounded by many young parents eager to make the right decisions for their children, the question frequently comes up:  Should we vaccinate?  As I’ve posted before, I’ve been a pediatric registered nurse for 37 years. More relevant to this discussion however is the fact that as a clinician and as the former coordinator of the Defeat Autism Now! Conferences, I have interacted with thousands of parents of children with autism.  Because of these experiences, many family members, friends and clients want to know my opinion regarding this very hot and very controversial subject.  My advice to these young parents is “It is not as black and white as the health agencies and your pediatrician would have you believe.  Do your homework on this subject before adhering to the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics and or the CDC.”  I also tell them a must read is the updated version of the book by Dr. Stephanie Cave, MD What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Childhood Vaccinations.

Given all the decisions a parent must make regarding the health care of their children, it is often easier (at least in the short term) to trust the “authorities”.   However, in my experience I find when parents take the time to do some in-depth research on their own into the subject of vaccine safety, everyone benefits. The degree of skepticism that typically occurs as a result of their investigation can make decisions regarding vaccines a bit more challenging.  But without question, informed parents make better choices for their children.

I will warn those willing to dig deeper into this subject, there are a few challenges ahead as much of the research necessary to make informed vaccine decisions is hard to find or doesn’t exist.  For instance: The vaccines recommended in a child’s first year have never been studied for autism incidence in vaccinated versus unvaccinated children, with the exception of a single vaccine study which found a 3-fold increased autism risk due to the vaccine.  And just this year, the prestigious Institute of Medicine reported that “studies designed to examine the long term effects of the cumulative number of vaccines or other aspects of the immunization schedule have not been conducted.”  Additionally,  almost every article you read on this subject in the mainstream media claims that all the studies have shown there is absolutely no link between vaccines and autism – and that is simply not true! There is good science pointing to a connection (some studies listed below) and more importantly there are hundreds, if not thousands of parents of sick children who can tell you they had a normal child up until he or she received several vaccines in one day.

Another scenario that is often recounted by parents is that their child was showing signs of illness and they got their vaccines anyway.   As Dr. Bernadine Healy, MD former director of NIH infers in the quote at the top of this page, discussions need to continue and more research needs to be done.  Examining the differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations for instance which to date, government agencies have refused to do is especially important. (Note a new bill HR 1757 the Vaccine Safety Study Act was just introduced in Congress this year. Go to SafeMinds.org to learn more about this important piece of legislation)

In the meantime, these explanations of how parents lost their children to autism rendered by intelligent, observant parents cannot be discounted, and to me are equally, if not more important, than ANY scientific study. There are also recent published studies from pediatricians who report that when they create a modified vaccine schedule (tailored to the individual needs of the child), optimize the child’s nutrition and minimize their exposure to toxins, autism incidence in their practices is extremely rare.  If after thoroughly researching the subject, parents make the informed decision to vaccinate their child, here are some ideas and suggestions that in my experience help minimize problems associated with vaccines:

1.  Instead of following the “one size fits all” approach (that the American Academy of Pediatrics erroneously insists is completely safe),  select which vaccines to give only after careful consideration of the individual child’s health status, history and genetic background. For instance, if a child was born prematurely, or if they have had recurrent ear infections or if the parents have a history of autoimmune disorders or allergies, these are all indicators that the particular child may not respond well to vaccines and certainly not when several are given at one time.

I’d like to suggest that you discuss this common sense  reasoning with your pediatrician, but unfortunately most would not agree with the suggestion to postpone, spread out or avoid vaccines based on a family history or current illness. As a matter of fact, I have heard several high ranking pediatricians say that a child’s immune system could handle hundreds of vaccines in one day. Honestly, what are these people thinking? And where are the studies proving their theory? They don’t exist!   Finding a pediatrician who is at least open to discussing selective vaccination is essential when parents are trying to make the best decisions for their children. See Dr. Cave’s book for suggestions on an alternative schedule and then go to SafeMinds’ www.SmartVax.org website to download individualized vaccine schedules and information on how to prepare for the pediatrician visit.

Also be sure to research the particular disease that the vaccine is supposed to prevent to determine if your baby is even at risk for that disease. For example, does your baby really need a Hepatitis B vaccine at birth when this disease is transmitted primarily by sexual intercourse and exposure to dirty needles?  Another consideration is if the risk of the vaccine may be greater than the risk of the disease.  Many of the newer vaccine recommendations are for minor childhood diseases such as infant diarrhea (rotavirus) or chickenpox, which typically are not life threatening illnesses unless the child has a compromised immune system or develops severe dehydration and does not receive appropriate medical attention. Go to www.smartvax.org to weigh the risk of the each vaccine vs the risk of the child developing the illness.

2.  Many informed pediatricians are no longer suggesting that Tylenol be given after a vaccine.  Here’s their rationale:  Tylenol is one of the substances that can block the formation of glutathione which is a tri-peptide needed for proper detoxification.  Long story here, and I won’t list all the questionable ingredients in vaccines, but I will tell you that adjuvants (substances added to the vaccines such as aluminum) are intentionally added to provoke an immune response. Since we need our detox pathways to be in good shape to handle these substances, some are calling into question giving a child a medication (Tylenol) which interferes with the body’s ability to detoxify.

3.  Make sure the child is very healthy and hasn’t recently been on antibiotics at the time vaccines are administered. One study indicated that the toxic effects of mercury (still used as a preservative in the flu vaccine and to a lesser degree in many others) are more pronounced when a child is on, or has recently been taking antibiotics because the antibiotic may kill off good gut flora that help to detoxify and excrete mercury from the body.  Recently, a very influential doctor in the “never question the safety of vaccines” movement is encouraging pediatricians to veer from common sense strategies and give vaccines regardless of whether a child is sick or not.    If there is one vaccine practice that has the potential to cause more harm to our children than any other, it is this poorly thought out suggestion.   I don’t know if this doctor has children or grandchildren, but he should have his head and heart examined for perpetuating this horrific and unsafe strategy!

4.  Prior to vaccinating, some pediatricians including Julie Buckley, MD from Ponte Vedra, Florida suggest in addition to making sure the child is in good health, it is a good idea to “prime the pump”.  In other words, Dr. Buckley encourages parents to give immune boosting supportive nutrients such as Vitamin D, ½ tsp cod liver oil (a great source of Vitamin A and D and essential fatty acids),  appropriate dosing of Vitamin C,  and the herb Elderberry.   I also recommend to parents to do what I did for my own children when they selectively received a sampling of vaccines 30 years ago and that is to give a few drops of the herb Echinacea for a few days prior to and a few days after a vaccine is administered.  Do not give Echinacea if the child is allergic to ragweed.

5.  If a child has missed their well baby check and the pediatrician wants to “double up” on vaccines. Do not allow this….Spread them out.

6.  Ask for the package insert to be certain that the vaccine does not contain Thimerosal (a mercury based preservative.)   Additionally, you may want to special order a single dose vial if available for the particular vaccine you are considering as multi dose vials are more likely to contain preservatives including Thimerosal (which , remains in most flu vaccines).

If after researching this topic you decide not to vaccinate, find out the laws surrounding exemptions in your particular state by going to www.NVIC.org…the National Vaccine Information Center and www.smartvax to review the justifications for exemptions.

Also if you choose to not vaccinate or you do vaccinate selectively, optimal nutrition (including:  a variety of organic fruits and vegetables, pure filtered water, organic sources of protein (chicken, eggs, turkey, meat, nuts), fresh made vegetable juices and a comprehensive children’s supplement program),  is the key to keeping kids healthy. While these practices may not prevent a child from developing an illness, they can provide the foundation for them to respond more favorably.  An additional benefit of developing the actual illness as opposed to being vaccinated against it, has to do with an elegant plan by Mother Nature which provides the child with  ll re lifelong  immunity to the disease  A little known fact the vaccine industry would rather we didn’t discover is that the artificial immunity derived from vaccines decreases over time therefore requiring one receive frequent “booster” vaccines.    Although the AAP and the pharmaceutical/vaccine industry focus their efforts on convincing parents and pediatricians that the main way to protect our children from ill health and infection is through vaccination, we are all smarter than that!  selective vaccines may have their place in the lineup of strategies to support our children’s health, but the smartest way is to create a comprehensive  approach that includes: making sure they get plenty of fresh air, an adequate amount of sleep, sunshine, exercise, eat an excellent organic diet, take appropriate supplements that include a great multi-vitamin, Vitamin D, fish oil, and periodic use of herbs that give their immune systems an extra boost (such as Elderberry and Echinacea)

Do your homework and TRUST YOUR GUT! As parents, we cannot abdicate the responsibility for the health of our children to the CDC or the American Academy of Pediatrics. They have their role, but somewhere along the line, they became the authorities on children’s health.  Given their less than stellar track record (we rank 34th in the world for infant mortality and 53% of our children have one or more chronic illness) and the financial interlacing between them and the pharmaceutical and vaccine industry, it is time we as parents TAKE BACK OUR POWER and learn and practice safer ways to vaccinate our children.

Maureen McDonnell has been a registered nurse for 37 years (in the fields of: childbirth education, labor and delivery, clinical nutrition, and pediatrics.)   She is the former national coordinator of the Defeat Autism Now Conferences, and the co-founder of Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet (www.sokhop.com).  Maureen is the health editor of WNC Woman Magazine and lectures widely on the role the environment and nutrition play in children’s health.  Presently, she serves as the Medical Coordinator for the Imus Ranch for Kids with Cancer in New Mexico and serves on the Communications Committee for SafeMinds. 

References:

Institute of Medicine, The childhood immunization schedule and safety 2013. http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13563

Hepatitis B triple series vaccine and developmental disability in US children aged 1-9 years
Gallagher C, Goodman M. Toxicol Environ Chem 2008 90(5):997-1008.
http://fourteenstudies.org/pdf/hep_b.pdf

Aluminum hydroxide injections lead to motor deficits and motor neuron degeneration
Christopher A. Shaw; Michael S. Petrik.Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry (2009) in press

Early thimerosal exposure and neuropsychological outcomes at 7 to 10 years. Thompson WW, Price C, Goodson B, et al. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(13):1281-1292.

Detection of measles virus genomic RNA in cerebrospinal fluid of children with regressive autism: a report of three cases. Bradstreet JJ, El Dahr J, Anthony A, Kartzinel JJ, Wakefi eld AJ. J Am Phys Surgeons. 2004;9(2):38-45.

Chronic low-level mercury exposure, BDNF polymorphism, and associations with cognitive and motor function. Echeverria D, Woods JS, Heyer NJ, et al. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2005;27(6):781-796

Endoscopic and Histological Characteristics of the Digestive Mucosa in Autistic Children with gastro-Intestinal Symptoms. Gonzalez L, et al. ArchVenez Pueric Pediatr, 2005;69:19-25.

Detection and sequencing of measles virus from peripheral mononuclear cells from patients with inflammatory bowel disease and autism. Kawashima H, Mori et al Dig Dis Sci. 2000;45(4):723-729.

Mercury, Lead, and Zinc in Baby Teeth of Children with Autism Versus Controls, Adams, JamesJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 70: 1046–1051.

Similarities in features of autism and asthma and a possible link to Acetaminophen use. Becker KG, Schultz, Med Hypothesis . 2010 Jan:74(1):7-11.

Risk of autistic disorder in affected offspring of mothers with a glutathione S-transferase P1 haplotype.TA, Mars AE, Buyske SG, et al. Arch Pediatr  Adolesc Med.

Aminoglycoside antibiotics and autism: a speculative hypothesis. Manye R, Manev H. BMC Psychiatry 2001,1:5 Epub 2001 Oct 10

Autism: A brain disorder or a disorder of the brain?  Herbert, M Clin Neuropsychiatry. 2005;2(6):354-379

Can awareness of medical pathophysiology in autism lead to primary care prevention strategies? Mumper,E. No, Amer J of Medicine and Science, vol 6, (3) pp. 134-144.

http://www.ageofautism.com/2012/05/dr-david-berger-on-mimizing-autism-incidence.html