“This outbreak is occurring because a critical number of people are choosing not to vaccinate their children,” said Dr. Paul Offit
The effectiveness of vaccination programmes is highest when the vaccinated individuals are over a certain proportion of the population. When this is the case infection rates drop rapidly because the disease is not easily spread through the population, and this is known as “Herd Immunity”. The threshold is different for each disease (85-95% for measles).
(Information from: Wikipedia – Herd immunity)
Two common concerns about vaccines
Can vaccines be linked to autism spectrum disorders?
In 1998 Andrew Wakefield, a doctor in the UK, published a research paper linking the MMR vaccine to the development of Autism Spectrum disorders. This paper was found to be fraudulent and was later retracted, but the damage has been difficult to reverse; rumours and misgivings about the MMR vaccine and vaccines in general persist.
The facts about Wakefield’s research:
(Information from: Wikipedia – MMR Vaccine controversy)
Are we giving too many vaccines, too young?
Other rumours and fears commonly seen on the internet centre around the number of vaccinations which our children receive; are they all necessary? Do we give them too young? Does giving multiple vaccinations at once increase the risks? Are pharmaceutical companies providing ever more vaccines just to boost their profits?
Here is some input on these concerns:
- Antigens are the protein markers our immune systems respond to in order to produce antibodies to fight disease and build immunity. Although more vaccines are being given than ever before, improvements in the vaccines mean that the number of antigens a child is exposed to by the 2013 vaccination schedule is between 5 and 10% of the number of antigens provided by vaccination schedules in the late 1980’s (CDC – Vaccine Safety, Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics).
- The vaccine schedule produces a total of about 30 antibodies. It is estimated that (a) each infant has the theoretical capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at any one time and (b) if the 11 routinely recommended vaccines were administered together, the immune system would need to use only about 0.1% of its capacity to process them [Offit et al, 2003 Addressing Parents’ Concerns… ].
- We vaccinate young because, for many diseases, babies under the age of 12 months are have the highest risk profile. Delaying vaccines puts your child at higher risk.
- I find that vaccinating older children is much more traumatic,as they can anticipate and are fearful and develop needle phobias.
- Spreading/separating vaccines requires more visits to the clinic,more injections, more cost, more trauma for child and parent, and therefore typically more vaccinations missed.
Extensive reviews of multiple research results have found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
A baby’s immune system is capable of processing thousands of times more antigens than the vaccination schedule exposes them to.
Although more vaccines are being given today, improvements in the vaccines mean that the schedule exposes us to less than 10% of the antigens generated by older vaccination schedules.
Reactions to vaccines
I have been vaccinating at Thula and in my home practice 4-5 days a week since 2005, and I am often asked about the side-effects of vaccinations.
As you’d expect, side-effects vary by vaccine. There are a number of vaccines for which I have never had side-effects reported.
Looking at those vaccines where I do see side-effects fairly regularly I estimate, based on feedback from my parents, that:
- +/-50% of babies experience no noticeable side-effects
- +/-45% experience minor side-effects: eg. they are grumpy/irritable and/or run a mild fever for a few hours and/or have a mild inflammation at the injection site.
- A small number (<5%) of babies experience more significant side-effects: moderate to severe inflammation at the injection site and/or a higher fever for a day or two and/or crying for a couple of hours.
- I have not had a severe reaction to a vaccine, requiring hospitalisation or longterm sequelae.
Remember that a strong reaction to a vaccine probably indicates that your baby would also react badly to the disease itself.
Oxford Vaccine Group – http://www.ovg.ox.ac.uk/
World Health Organisation- http://www.who.int/topics/immunization/en/, http://www.who.int/topics/vaccines/en/
Centers for Disease Control – http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/index.html
Vaccine Education Center, Children’s hospital of Philadelphia – http://vec.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/home.html