"Immunisation Week" – Day 1

immunisation week

It’s that time of year yet again, and it feels like just yesterday I was sitting down to write last year’s story on the ‘flu vaccine. Yes, the days are short, nights are long, storms are echoing through the skies, and err… International Immunisation Week is here again. Cue myriad scare-stories extolling the virtues of vaccination and downplaying – or downright ignoring – any possible risks, often whilst painting those of us who opt for delayed/selective schedules or choose not to vaccinate altogether as dangerous and ignorant threats to society. Oh, how we just love it.

To ‘celebrate’ this week, as it were, we’ll be bringing you daily analysis covering what’s been in the news, as well as information on other things you can do to truly ‘immunise’ yourself against the dangers that lurk in the colder months – no needles (or vaccinations) necessary.

First up, we have a piece from Fairfax Media.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/8579001/Mum-backs-free-vaccines

Predictably, the story features a young parent whose child suffered an apparently ‘vaccine-preventable’ illness, and who now is standing as the poster-child for why people should vaccinate. It’s a fairly generic formula seen time and again in media-driven vaccination campaigns, with no real surprises anywhere. In this case, the child in questions was five weeks old when he contracted pertussis (the New Zealand vaccination schedule has the pertussis vaccine – in a combined formula with diptheria and tetanus – at six weeks old, making this boy too young to have received it), and the mother was understandably upset and therefore has allowed herself to be interviewed in an attempt to encourage everybody to be vaccinated.

The story then goes on to encourage all pregnant women to receive the pertussis/diptheria/tetanus vaccine as a ‘booster’ to protect their unborn child, the theory being that the child will then be born with antibodies present to confer a degree of immunity until they’re old enough to receive the vaccination at six weeks of age. On the surface, this sounds like a nice idea – bridge the gap with maternal antibodies, keep the baby safe, then they can be vaccinated at six weeks of age and never have to deal with whooping cough in their life. Perfect.

Unfortunately, it isn’t quite so simple in reality. Firstly, there is limited data available on whether or not vaccinating a pregnant mother against pertussis actually confers any real immunity, and much of what exists was done decades ago in the 1930s and 1940s. These studies found that antibodies were conferred in some cases, but not all, and the numbers were also limited. Some later studies appear to support the finding that neonatal antibody levels do rise following vaccination during pregnancy – but wait just a moment. This is without getting into the debate over the role antibodies actually play in immunity, and whether or not those levels are actually protective against the illness in the first place – see this article and the many references contained therein which go into the questions around this as it relates to pertussis.

Back to our article…

The next few paragraphs contain more scare tactics to encourage people to get vaccinated. According to the piece, one of the main reasons people choose not to vaccinate is because they don’t like to see their children in pain (from being jabbed with needles). This is understandable, and of course nobody likes to see their child suffer, however, stating that this is the main reason people don’t vaccinate is incredibly ignorant and inaccurate, giving an easy out for the writer to dismiss any legitimate arguments against vaccination and avoid even mentioning the real reasons most people choose not to have their children jabbed – that is, they would rather not have a toxic cocktail of heavy metals, antibiotics, industrial chemicals, viruses, bacteria, foreign animal proteins and DNA, and who-knows-what-else injected into their very young, very vulnerable child. The risks are, they consider, too high, the research is lacking and unsubstantiated in many instances, and the number of adverse reactions too many to risk it.

Incidentally, an informal poll of non-vaccinating parents conducted over a few hours today (on the utterly non-scientific platform that is Facebook, so please don’t take this as anything more than it is!) found that of the 20 who responded in the past few hours, not one cited ‘not wanting to see my child be stabbed with a needle’/’fear of needles’/’not wanting my child to suffer the physical pain of injection’ etc as the reason for not vaccinating. Cynical Me also wonders whether or not this is lending itself towards a push for the newer methods of administration in development or recently on the market, such as the ‘painless’ mini-needles, patches, and inhaled vaccines. Unfortunately for the pushers of these drugs who are hoping to encourage more non-vaccinating parents to ‘jump sides’ and have their children vaccinated, the fact is that very few people choose not to vaccinate due to worries around needles and injection.

The story also – predictably – fails to address any means of dealing with pertussis. It mentions that the child involved still has ‘ongoing respiratory problems’, and the family went through ‘weeks of panic and stress’ – yet it doesn’t once mention the effect of Vitamin C in its sodium ascorbate form on pertussis (i.e. given at adequate doses and adequate frequency, vitamin C can neutralise the pertussis toxin, bolster the immune response, thin the mucous, and aid rapid recovery). Nor does it mention the protective effect of breastmilk on infants, as a constant source of immune factors produced by the mother in response to viruses circulating in the environment and given directly to the baby every time they feed. Breastfeeding is one of single best things a parent can do to protect their child against illness. That doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to protect against everything and infants can’t get sick, of course – and let’s not forget that illness in childhood primes the immune system and teaches the person’s body how to cope with our microbe-laden world – but it does mean it can lessen the severity and duration of illness, as well as lending a protective hand against it entirely.

Interestingly, there seems to be some confusion about all of this on many government/private-sponsored official websites. There are some, such as IMAC, stating that breastmilk contains few antibodies to pertussis, and few are passed via the placenta – yet they still encourage pregnant women to be vaccinated, so antibodies can be passed on via the placenta! And then there’s the UK site that states none are passed via breastmilk, unless you get vaccinated in pregnancy, and then maybe it will contain some of those antibodies. And the CDC in America stating that yes, breastmilk does contain antibodies, and they can be passed on via the placenta. Oh really? So breastmilk can selectively choose which antibodies to pass through to the child, and only the ones from vaccination are good enough? And there is little placental transfer of antibodies, yet we should still vaccinate pregnant women to protect the infant? Excuse me while I put on my Sceptical Hat.

In short – this is a typical piece of NZ journalism, aimed at scaring parents into compliance with the vaccine schedule by way of stories about how sick children have been, with a cute baby and earnest mother fronting it, and no mention of anything that might empower parents to understand the illness they’re talking about and enable them to prevent or deal with it in other ways that are either free or cost next to nothing. If the Ministry of Health and media were serious about helping people stay healthy, where is the mention of natural means of prevention (as verified extensively in their own medical literature)? Where is the mention of natural means of recovery, should the person fall ill.

Answer: It isn’t there at all. The idea is to scare people into vaccination, ignoring entirely the risks of the procedure and disempowering the reader from any thought that there may be other means of prevention less dangerous and toxic, and that there may be ways within their reach of treating any disease instances that do crop up.

Let’s wait and see what tomorrow brings…