In 1998 a study was published in the British Medical Journal reporting that autism could be linked to the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine. The study created an uproar in public health around the world. Despite later reports that Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the researcher, falsified the information presented, the medical community is still trying to recover from the aftermath of what Dr. Wakefield published. The use of the MMR vaccine in Britain dropped by 80% in 2004 and the incidence of measles has gone up. In 2008 the United States had the highest number of reported measles cases since 1997.
In the pediatric world, vaccines are a hot topic. At my preceptorship, I have had the opportunity to see and learn a great deal about this debate. Most individuals who seek out a Naturopath have a position on vaccination for their child. I find the debate to be most interesting when the mother and father of a child disagree on if/when a child should be vaccinated. 20 years ago, I don’t believe parents would have discussed a possible alternative vaccine schedule; today it is on everyone’s minds.
Dr. Donald Miller is a cardiac surgeon and professor of surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle. He proposes several alternative guidelines for vaccinating a child. He recommends that parents chose to vaccinate after the age of two, using mercury free vaccines and avoiding live vaccines. His alternative schedule includes the following vaccines, given after the age of two at six-month intervals: Pertussis (acellular, not whole cell), Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (the Salk vaccine, cultured in human cells). Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly difficult to find Diphtheria and Tetanus vaccines that are separate and not combined. The combined vaccine is preserved using mercury. The schedule offered by the CDC includes over six vaccines, in multiple doses before the child is 6 months old and over ten multi dose vaccines by 18 months.
What is the difference between vaccination and an acquired disease? A vaccine does not affect the immune system in the same way that a naturally acquired disease would. Vaccines stimulate T-helper cells known as Th2 cells. Th2 cells are responsible for autoimmune diseases that arise from overstimulation, and some postulate that vaccines can over stimulate Th2 cells leading to health concerns later in life. A naturally occurring disease stimulates Th1 cells. The development of Th1 cells is critical to protection against cancer; in fact women who have had naturally occurring mumps during childhood are found to have less occurrence of ovarian cancer than women who did not have this infection.
My personal research into this matter will continue, as I feel this is an area where informed consent and docere are key. In my research I found this statement from the World Health Organization: “The best vaccine against common infectious diseases is an adequate diet.” As a future Naturopath, I couldn’t agree more.