Wednesday, November 28, 2007

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate That Is The Question

Originally, I was planning on writing a comment in response to Rebellious Pastor's Wife however, if I were to do justice to the topic I need more room.

First, I would like to address the concern of not doing enough research. This may or may not be a fair charge to level on people doing medical research. Why? Simply put, the human body is an extremely complex and diverse "machine," it is simply impossible to test for all circumstances because you cannot predict or know what all the circumstances are going to be. Frequently, what happens is simply a product of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Sometimes this is bad and sometimes it is good. A case in point is a doctor who noticed that fewer women died in the hospital when they were seen right after meals. His investigation turned up the factor involved was that he washed his hands before eating. He tested his findings by washing his hands after each examination and, what do you know, fewer women died. Other times and these are the times they make the news is when it goes bad, such is the possible case with Thimerasol, they used it too prevent contamination by fungi and bacteria, it is very good at this job. Yet, there was no way they could predict that the levels used could possibly be a cause of autism, particularly since autism is still not well understood.

Now some people do have adverse reactions to vaccines. Some can be quite serious, i.e. people died from the old small pox vaccination. Most can be mild i.e. breaking out in hives. The reasons are quite diverse from nurses not paying attention to expiration dates (happened to me with a Tetanus booster) to allergic reactions to the serum. Cases of contracting the disease are exceedingly rare if it is even true that they happen. All of these problems are hard to predict and because of this difficulty you are supposed to wait around for 15 minutes. The worst adverse reactions tend to show during that time frame. Demonstrated adverse effects should constitute reasonable reasons for discontinuing that particular line of vaccination unless it can be demonstrated that it was due to contamination.

Second, do not sell young children's immune systems short. They are incredibly capable and flexible systems and can easily handle the vaccination load. In addition, for vaccines to be remotely responsible for Autism does require a preponderance of variables. The first is that Autism would have to be proven to be an auto-immune disease where the immune system is attacking the central nervous system (CNS). Second, the antigens involved in eliciting the immune response in vaccinations would have to be similar to antigens in the CNS. This is highly unlikely for several reasons. The first is they do not use nerve or brain tissue for the production of any vaccine, which would be the most likely source for the production of these antigens. In addition, the majority of vaccinations given to children are for bacterial toxins which in no way resemble CNS antigens and are very specific. With these in mind I seriously doubt the load of vaccinations is responsible.

Now, my third point is the use of fetal tissue. In reality, this has been blown out of proportion. The use of fetal tissue is limited to vaccines for viruses as bacteria do not require living tissue and when I left the Vet. Microbiology dept for seminary there was work being done on using bacteria to synthesize the viral antigens, because bacteria are cheaper to maintain than tissue cultures. I have a feeling in the next 20 years we will start seeing vaccines made this way and the pharmaceutical companies will buy into it because it will cut their costs significantly. One batch of MRC-5 cells costs over $250 and they have a limited reproductive cycle plus the production of virus destroys the cells, so that adds up very quickly. When you consider bacterial colonies can exist in perpetuity there is no question of cost benefit. Admittedly that is in the future so back to here and now.

All of the viral vaccinations have non-human diploid cell (fetal tissue) alternatives except for Rubella, Varicella (Chicken Pox and Shingles), and Hep A. The alternatives generally use chicken eggs to create the vaccine. They generally work just as well. There are notable exceptions such as Rabies, the HDC Rabies vaccine has a 100% efficacy rate, unusual even for HDC derived viruses, and can be used as a treatment for recently infected patients. Rubella differs from all the other vaccines in that the child that was used for the tissue sample was already infected with the virus due to the mother contracting Rubella while pregnant, which is why it is impossible to find a non-HDC source. The CDC has an excellent resource on their website that lists all of the approved vaccines in the U.S at this link. If you do Google searches of the brand names, the companies have the information posted on how they produce the vaccine and most are available through the John Hopkins link I provided previously.

Now, I did some digging and the pharmaceutical companies all use two HDC lines in producing their vaccines: MRC-5 and WI-38 available through American Type Culture Collection. Both of these cell lines were created from children aborted in the 60's in Europe (WI-38's remains were transported to the U.S.). No new lines are being created. One reason is purely practical the current viral vaccine research needs different cell lines. HIV for instance will only grow in T-cells and both commonly used HDC lines are not immune related. The continued use of these lines falls very close to the debates about the NAZI medical experiments.

The use of the results of NAZI experimentation has caused scientists many ethical dilemmas as illustrated by this 1989 NY Times article. What do we do with what is learned from atrocities committed in the past? There are some who would have us ignore what was learned and try to unlearn what was learned. I can see some of the appeal of this position, because we do not want to be complicit after the fact in their torture and murder. However, I do not take this position. I believe we should keep what was learned and work towards preventing further atrocities. This view forms the basis for my position on the use of HDC's in vaccine production and my advocacy of Pro-Life. One way that we can look at this is that God has worked something good out of something absolutely horrible. I think in someways by throwing out what has been learned would dishonor those who lost their lives. At the same time we can strive to sanctify medical technology (so to speak) by working towards more ethical means of study and production.


The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Thank you for the information that you have provided. I appreciate your explanations. With a 5 year old and an 11 year old, the risk for autism is not one of my chief concerns anymore. I do think there is a possibility that the sheer number of vaccinations, the schedule of vaccinations, and the nature of the more recent vaccinations that have come out in recent years might have some role to play in the increasing autoimmune problems that we are having in our society. This along with the low rates of breastfeeding (Multiple sclerosis and other neurological autoimmune diseases are almost nonexistent in cultures where breastfeeding is the norm), how we treat the animals that will be our food, the toxins that we are treating them with and putting into the soil and into our water supply, and many other things are all issues that may contribute this.

As a lactation consultant and someone who has been trained in developmental issues with infants (before my husband's last call that moved us across country, I was very near to earning my masters in marriage and family therapy, and I was specializing in bonding issues between parents and infants with various challenges), I have seen babies shut down after vaccines. I have seen dramatic reactions, including in my own son. And I know enough about how God set up their immune systems to interact with their mothers' through the act of nursing and the protective and strengthening effects that human milk provides to know that their immune systems are not mature enough to deal with many things on their own at so young an age.

And I know the following isn't a scientific response, but from personal experience, I've seen what the "safe" birth control pill did to me. I have seen what hormone replacement therapy did to my mother (she had 3 strokes within a short period of time -- each time within a couple of days of when her Provera dose was increased. Her doctor told me that despite the fact that it was contraindicated in persons with stroke (and with smokers) he thought it was the magical cure for menopause and everyone should be on it), I've seen bad reactions to "safe" antidepressants. I had to go to five different doctors and have lab tests from five different labs before I found a doctor that would believe that I had symptoms of hypothyroid and polycystic ovarian syndrome, because the numbers on the lab paper BARELY showed me within normal range. I must not be experiencing the symptoms because the numbers on the paper said I didn't.

As someone who has had graduate level training in psychology, I also know that if a paradigm is popular, any evidence to the contrary will not be embraced or published in esteemed scientific magazines.

There are many doctors, and even doctors who value science who will disagree with you on the thimerosol issue as well as many others pertaining to vaccinations. I also know that we take a look at the math and in a purely scientific sense their shouldn't be a reaction to a drug, a vaccine, etc. we often fail to take into consideration that different people at different ages in different environments will respond very differently based on a number of very individual factors. Human beings have their very chemistry changed by their life experiences. The use of antidepressants to treat what are considered organic disorders such as IBS shows that.

In the end, one of my children showed a very alarming reaction to a very basic vaccine, and while the guidelines said he should not have another one -- the doctors treated it like it wasn't one to be concerned about. My daughter early on showed a reaction to eggs. I wasn't going through it again.

It may be reactionary, though coming to this point was a long process for me, but it is also a mother's prerogative to trust her instinct.

I have dealt with alarmist, panicky mothers, and I am not one of them. From years of reading and from knowing my children the way that I do know them -- the way their bodies respond to things and even the way their brains seem to respond to things, everything inside me told me that vaccines would not be good for them. Maybe later. Not now.

I can't explain the chemical processes that would make your hypothesis valid like you can. I respect your knowledge and your ability. Experience is also a teacher. And my experience has taught me that so many things that I have been told are harmless weren't. I'm not willing to say that vaccines are perfectly safe because of this, and given the purely individual situation we were confronted with, we made the best decision we could based on the gifts that God has given us while still trying to avoid all possibility of being merely reactionary. And God be praised, based upon our right to do so.

Dr. Luther in the 21st Century said...

Casuistry in science as in theology is not a solid foundation for proof. However, unlike theology in science it does make a possible theory. It is entirely in the realm of possibility that vaccines could play a role in auto-immune diseases, yet so could Clorox. I bring up Clorox because thanks to greater levels of cleanliness our immune systems have less to deal with and well you know the saying "idle hands..." The other thing I would mention is that diagnostic medicine has improved drastically over the last 50 years, so I am very hesitant to jump on the "we are seeing an increase" bandwagon, for any disorder and/or disease.

I would not put the pill on the same playing field as vaccinations. Any time you mess with hormone levels it is going to be very touchy, because hormones affect so many different systems. Where as vaccines affect one.

Please do not think that I am just approaching this from an intellectual viewpoint. I may be young but, I have a lifetimes worth of experience =). I had a horrible reaction to a tetanus booster as a kid, turned out the nurse had missed the fact it had expired. I also cannot receive the TB vaccine because I have previous exposure to Bovine TB and I react too strongly to the antigens.

We are also in the breastfeeding camp. I think people are idiots for not breastfeeding. Colostrum is God's immune system kick start. Can't call it a vaccine because it does not create an immunological memory.

From my point of view, I am seeing blame that should solely be placed on doctors being placed on the drugs they prescribed. Just because an idiot has an MD doesn't make them less of an idiot, just a more dangerous one. Good doctors will listen to their patients, unfortunately too many have that god complex thing going. Sadly, too many people believe things are harmless because doctors so often go overboard trying to reassure panicky patients and they minimize the risk. No procedure or drug (I include supplements) is with out risk.

I have to ask, what was your son's reaction? I would also like to point the AAP does not set the guidelines for immunization, the CDC does. So, while the AAP may have guidelines, doctors do not have to use them.