A year ago, one of America's leading alternative health gurus, Gary Null, published an article in Counterpunch accusing the American Academy of Pediatrics of putting Big Pharma ahead of children's health because they continued to recommend vaccines without reservation.
Null fired another shot in the vaccine wars when he uploaded an interview with Suzanne Humphries, M.D., a nephrologist (kidney doctor) who opposes vaccination. Her eleven-minute interview is available on this site.
As someone with no medical training, this blogger has no standing to weigh in on the safety of vaccinations. Clearly, vaccines have saved the lives and health of countless thousands of people. Because of vaccines, we no longer worry about smallpox, a disease that is often fatal--and cruelly disfiguring when it's not. Similarly, children are only rarely born with congenital defects due to prenatal exposure to rubella. One woman of my acquaintance was exposed to rubella while pregnant and gave birth-- in the years before routine vaccination-- to a son missing a forearm. The hand was joined to the arm only slightly below the elbow. Prenatal exposure to rubella is also linked to a higher likelihood of schizophrenia and lower intelligence. According to this article, enhanced maternal cytokine levels (cytokines are chemical substances produced in response to allergens) are also linked to schizophrenia.
Because such horror stories are now rare, it is easy to forgot how devastating these childhood diseases are.
On the other hand, my mother and I are both teachers. She teaches adults at a technical institute while I have worked with middle and high school students. Both of us have heard--several times--stories of mothers who say something like, "My twins were normal until they were vaccinated. Then they stopped talking and started flapping their arms around." Arm-flapping is a classic autism symptom.
Yet, scientific studies purportedly show that children receiving more vaccines are no more likely to develop autism than children receiving fewer vaccines. Furthermore, when vaccination rates dropped after research (since retracted) linking measles vaccines to autism, the rate of measles cases skyrocketed.
Gary Null would claim that the studies showing the harmlessness of vaccines is due to the nature of the studies and that the case-control and cohort studies are particularly liable to data manipulation.
For what it's worth, my guess is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle: a few children may indeed have severe reactions to vaccines. The rarity of the events may make them hard to identify through the kinds of studies that are done on this subject. After all, no one is randomly assigning children to a vaccine group and a non-vaccine group and comparing the outcomes twenty years down the road. In the absence of such studies--which would be considered highly unethical--small effects may be difficult if not impossible to detect. The best a lay person can do is stay informed about the controversy.
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