After my first post on vaccines and an alternate vaccine schedule, I decided to dig a little deeper into the history of vaccines and the modern day controversy surrounding them. I started with Aviva Jill Romm’s book, Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide. Romm explores the allopathic and naturopathic perspective in her guide while also simplifying the underlying concepts of immunity for readers.
I find it interesting that even in developing nations, without access to vaccines, we saw a progressive decline in the presence of infectious diseases. Many attribute this to sanitary living conditions and clean drinking water; yet others believe that this could have only been achieved through the use of vaccines. In America, mass vaccination was widely practiced yet in Europe, where vaccination was not required, we saw a simultaneously decline in disease. More so, we have seen an increase in conditions that affect our immune system such as asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders, SLE, arthritis and cancer. In fact, studies have shown that children who have been vaccinated have a 50% higher incidence of allergies versus children who have not been vaccinated. Is there a connection here? It seems likely.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s Eclectic Physicians (medical doctors who incorporated botanical medicine, homeopathy and nutrition into their practice) operated on the assumption that “morbid matter” produced diseased states in individuals with diminished vitality. This was an idea that was also shared by Lindlahr, the author of the book Nature Cure. Lindlahr attributed chronic diseased states to excess morbid matter that was not effectively “cleaned up” by good bacteria. Excesses such as alcohol, narcotics, drugs, vaccines, antitoxins, accidental poisoning and suppression of acute diseases could all lead to diminished vitality. This was not a widely accepted view, as the other half still believed that bacteria and microorganisms from our environment invade our bodies and cause disease; to be healthy we are to are to kill the organisms with a powerful substance (antibiotics) or to prevent the organism from ever making us sick (vaccines). Today, these two view points accurately depict the healthcare tactics of Naturopathic Physicians and Allopathic Physicians. According to Romm, “[In the latter] disease is caused by organisms outside the body that randomly invade inside the body…[in the former] it is believed that a healthy body can resist the generation of disease, whereas weak or sick tissue provides ample breeding ground for infections.” Simplified, on one hand the individual is unable to exert any influence over infection, on the other, the individual is able to affect health through nutrition and other healthy practices.
Another interesting point was made in Romm’s book regarding passive immunity and breast feeding. A mother who has been exposed to a virus or infection confers life long immunity to that organism and that immunity is passed to the child transplacentally and through breast milk. Thus, breast feeding can protect the child from any illness that the mother has acquired conferred immunity to during their first year of life. Unfortunately, lifelong immunity is not conferred through the use of a vaccination. A great example of this is the measles vaccine, prior to the advent of this vaccine, the most common age group affected were children ages four to five (the universal age for weaning off breast milk is four); infants were rarely affected. In 1993, more than 25% of measles cases were found in infants; the CDC attributes this to the measles vaccines given to girls in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s which did not leave the mothers with adequate antibodies to confer passive immunity to their infants.
While medical advances have provided us with numerous life saving options, there are still areas in healthcare where I wonder if intervention is truly necessary. In my childhood, I remember being “exposed” to a classmate with chickenpox and measles and then “sharing” my “disease” with my sister. I didn’t understand my mother’s tactics at the time, but now I am grateful. If you really think about it, it almost seems like the more dangerous option to neglect giving your body the opportunity to develop a natural protective agent against future exposure to infections. In Aviva Jill Romm’s words, “perhaps we need to focus more attention on the ingredients that promote health rather than just trying to control disease.”
Romm, Aviva Jill. Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide. 2001. Healing Arts Press: Vermont.