PRO: Vaccines can save children’s lives. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “most childhood vaccines are 90%-99% effective in preventing disease.” According to Shot@Life, a United Nations Foundation partner organization, vaccines save 2.5 million children from preventable diseases every year, which equates to roughly 285 children saved every hour.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 732,000 American children were saved from death and 322 million cases of childhood illnesses were prevented between 1994 and 2014 due to vaccination. The measles vaccine has decreased childhood deaths from measles by 74%.
CON: Vaccines can cause serious and sometimes fatal side effects.
According to the CDC, all vaccines carry a risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) in about one per million children. The rotavirus vaccination can cause intussusception, a type of bowel blockage that may require hospitalization, in about one per 20,000 babies in the United States.
Long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness, and permanent brain damage may be associated with the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) and MMR vaccines, though the CDC notes the rarity of the reaction makes it difficult to determine causation. The CDC reports that pneumonia can be caused by the chickenpox vaccine, and a “small possibility” exists that the flu vaccine could be associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a disorder in which the person’s immune system attacks parts of the peripheral nervous system, in about one or two per million people vaccinated.
The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) says that vaccines may be linked to learning disabilities, asthma, autism, diabetes, chronic inflammation, and other disabilities.
PRO: The ingredients in vaccines are safe in the amounts used.
Ingredients, such as thimerosal, formaldehyde, and aluminum, can be harmful in large doses but they are not used in harmful quantities in vaccines. Children are exposed to more aluminum in breast milk and infant formula than they are exposed to in vaccines.
Paul Offit, MD, notes that children are exposed to more bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other harmful substances in one day of normal activity than are in vaccines. With the exception of inactivated flu vaccines, thimerosal (a mercury compound) has been removed or reduced to trace amounts in vaccines for children under 6 years old. The FDA requires up to 10 or more years of testing for all vaccines before they are licensed, and then they are monitored by the CDC and the FDA to make sure the vaccines and the ingredients used in the vaccines are safe.
CON: Vaccines contain harmful ingredients.
Some physicians, including Robert W. Sears, MD, pediatrician and author of “The Vaccine Book,” believe thimerosal, an organic mercury compound found in trace amounts in some TDap, Hib, flu, and TD vaccines, is linked to autism. Aluminum is used in some vaccines and excess aluminum in human bodies can cause neurological harm. Formaldehyde, also found in some vaccines, is a carcinogen, and, according to VaxTruth.org, exposure can cause side effects such as cardiac impairment, central nervous system depression, “changes in higher cognitive functions,” coma, convulsions, and death.
Glutaraldehyde, a compound used to disinfect medical and dental equipment, is used in some DTaP vaccinations and exposure can cause asthma and other respiratory issues. Some flu vaccines contain cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTMB), a compound used as an antiseptic, which can be a skin, eye, and respiratory irritant. Some polio, TD, and DTaP vaccines contain 2-phenoxyethanol, an antibacterial that is a skin and eye irritant that can cause headache, shock, convulsions, kidney damage, cardiac and kidney failure, and death. Some vaccines for the flu contain chicken egg protein, which can be harmful to children who are allergic to eggs. Some vaccines for PCV, HPV, DTaP, Hep A, Hep B, and Hib contain yeast proteins which, according to VaxTruth and Joseph Mercola, MD, an alternative medicine proponent, contain MSG that can cause migraines, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, ADD, seizure, and stroke.
PRO: Major medical organizations state that vaccines are safe.
These organizations include: CDC, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Institute of Medicine (IOM), American Medical Association (AMA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), UNICEF, US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), World Health Organization (WHO), Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
The WHO states, “Vaccines are very safe.” The US Department of Health and Human Services states, “Vaccines are some of the safest medical products available.”
CON: The government should not intervene in personal medical choices.
Medical decisions for children should be left to the parents or caregivers. Barbara Low Fisher, co-founder of National Vaccine Information Center, stated, “If the State can tag, track down and force citizens against their will to be injected with biological products of known and unknown toxicity today, there will be no limit on which individual freedoms the State can take away in the name of the greater good tomorrow.”
Ron Paul, MD, former US Representative (R-TX), in an Oct. 19, 2011 article, “Government Vaccines – Bad Policy, Bad Medicine,” stated, “intimately personal medical decisions should not be made by government… Freedom over one’s physical person is the most basic freedom of all, and people in a free society should be sovereign over their own bodies. When we give government the power to make medical decisions for us, we in essence accept that the state owns our bodies.”
PRO: Adverse reactions to vaccines are extremely rare.
According to Frank DeStefano, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s immunization safety office, the most common albeit rare side effect of vaccines is anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) that occurs in “one per several hundred thousand to one per million vaccinations.”
Ellen Clayton, MD, JD, Professor of Pediatrics and Law at Vanderbilt Law School and co-author of the 2011 IOM report “Committee to Review Adverse Effects of Vaccines,” summarized the results of the report: “The MMR vaccine does not cause autism… The MMR and DTaP do not cause Type 1 diabetes. And the killed flu vaccine does not cause Bell’s palsy, and it does not trigger episodes of asthma.”
Combination vaccines, like MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), have been used without adverse effects since the mid-1940s.
CON: Mandatory vaccines infringe upon constitutionally protected religious freedoms.
Several religions oppose vaccines and mandatory vaccinations. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In the ruling for Cantwell v. Connecticut (1939; 9-0), the U.S. Supreme Court held that state and local governments’ infringement upon religious freedom is also unconstitutional.
Some Christian scientists consider vaccinations against their religion because founder Mary Baker Eddy stated that the “calm, Christian state of mind is a better preventative of contagion than a drug, or than any other possible sanative method… the ‘perfect Love’ that ‘casteth out fear’ is a sure defense.” Amish communities do not view all vaccinations as “necessary” and some believe that vaccinations weaken the immune system. The Church of Illumination states that “the teachings of the Church unequivocally affirm that injections of vaccines and inoculations are a violation of these biblical teachings… Immunizations and vaccinations are a form of blood pollution because they have devastating effects on the regeneration of the soul that each Church member seeks to attain.”
The Universal Family Church believes that parents should decide whether their children should be vaccinated and that “God intends the health decisions of individuals should… be honored by all authorities.”
PRO: Vaccines protect the “herd.”
Herd immunity (or community immunity) means that when a “critical portion” (the percent of people who need to be vaccinated to provide herd immunity) of a population is vaccinated against a contagious disease it is unlikely that an outbreak of the disease will occur so most members of the community will be protected.
Children and adults who cannot be vaccinated due to age, poor health (who are immune-compromised or undergoing chemotherapy, for example), or other reasons rely on herd immunity to prevent contraction of vaccine-preventable diseases. A Jan. 2008 outbreak of measles in San Diego resulted in 48 children who had to be quarantined because they were too young to be vaccinated and could not rely on herd immunity to keep them safe. In 2011, 49 U.S. states did not meet the 92-94% herd immunity threshold for pertussis (whooping cough), resulting in a 2012 outbreak that sickened 42,000 people and was the biggest outbreak since 1955.
In 2005, an 18-month-old Amish girl contracted polio and spread the disease to four other unvaccinated children but, because the community met the herd immunity threshold for the disease, there was no polio outbreak.
CON: Vaccines can contain ingredients some people consider immoral or otherwise objectionable.
Some DTaP/IPV/Hib combination, Hep A/Hep B combination, HepA, MMR, and chicken pox vaccines are cultivated in cells from two fetuses aborted in the 1960s (listed as MRC-5 and WI-38 on package inserts). The Catholic Church, in a June 9, 2005 report about using vaccines made using cells from aborted fetuses, indicated that “there is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines” to avoid the “evil” of actively or passively participating in anything that involves voluntary abortion.
Some vaccines for DTaP, Hep A, RV, Hib, HPV, IPV, flu, MMR, and chicken pox are made using animal products like chicken eggs, bovine casein, insect cells, Cocker Spaniel cells, pig gelatin, and cells from African Green monkeys, making those vaccines conflict with some vegetarian and vegan philosophies. Others consider it problematic that some vaccines are produced using human albumin, a blood plasma protein.
PRO: Vaccines save children and their parents time and money.
Vaccines cost less in time and money to obtain than infectious diseases cost in time off of work to care for a sick child, potential long-term disability care, and medical costs. For example, children under five with the flu are contagious for about eight days, and, according to a 2012 CDC study, cost their parents an average of 11 to 73 hours of wages (about $222 to $1,456) and $300 to $4,000 in medical expenses. Children with rotavirus are contagious for up to 30 days.
A Jan. 2008 outbreak of measles in San Diego resulted in 11 unvaccinated children catching measles and a resulting net public-sector cost of $10,376 per case (or, $123,512 total) due to emergency vaccination and outbreak response.
Furthermore, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or Obamacare) many vaccines are available to children and adults without copay.
CON: Vaccines are unnatural, and natural immunity is more effective than vaccination.
Even pro-vaccine organizations state that natural vaccination causes better immunity. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia notes that “It is true that natural infection almost always causes better immunity than vaccines. Whereas immunity from disease often follows a single natural infection, immunity from vaccines occurs only after several doses.”
Mayo Clinic states that natural infection “often provides more complete immunity than a series of vaccinations.” Kurt Perkins, DC, a chiropractor and wellness expert, stated, “A vaccine violates all laws of natural immune defenses by taking a potential pathogen along with all the TOXIC ingredients (aluminum, formaldehyde, adjuvants, etc.) directly into your blood system. This process would never occur in building natural immunity. That last sentence is kind of an oxy-moron. Immunity is a natural thing. Vaccines are an artificial thing.”
PRO: Vaccines protect future generations.
Vaccinated mothers protect their unborn children from viruses that could potentially cause birth defects, and vaccinated communities can help eradicate diseases for future generations.
Before the rubella vaccine was licensed in 1969, a global rubella (German measles) outbreak caused the deaths of 11,000 babies, and birth defects in 20,000 babies between 1963 and 1965 in the United States. Women who were vaccinated as children against rubella have greatly decreased the chance of passing the virus to their unborn or newborn children, eliminating the birth defects, such as heart problems, hearing and vision loss, congenital cataracts, liver and spleen damage, and mental disabilities, associated with the disease.
CON: The pharmaceutical companies, FDA, and CDC should not be trusted to make and regulate safe vaccines.
The primary goal of pharmaceutical companies is to sell drugs and make a profit. William Posey, Congressman (R-FL), stated in an Apr. 8, 2014 interview, “The incestuous relationship between the public health community and the vaccine makers and government officials should not be allowed to continue. I mean, you know, too many top CDC personnel go to work for the vaccine makers when they leave. That’s a revolving door that creates a serious conflict of interest and perverts incentives that compromise integrity.”
Julie Gerberding, President of Merck Vaccines, was the CDC director from 2002-2009. A vaccine for Lyme disease, LYMErix, was licensed by the FDA and marketed for almost four years before being pulled from the market after several class action lawsuits were filed due to a potential causal relationship to autoimmune arthritis.
Rotashield, a vaccine for rotavirus (RV), was pulled from the market by the manufacturer nine months after it was introduced after it was discovered that the vaccine might have contributed to higher instances of intussusception (bowel obstruction).
PRO: Vaccines eradicated smallpox and have nearly eradicated other diseases such as polio.
Children are no longer vaccinated against smallpox because the disease no longer exists due to vaccination. The last case of smallpox in the United States was in 1948; the last case in the world was 1977 in Somalia.
In the twentieth century, there were 16,316 deaths from polio and 29,004 deaths from smallpox yearly in the United States; in 2012 there were no reported cases of polio or smallpox. According to UNICEF, there were 500 cases of polio in 2014 worldwide (appearing only in three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan), down from 350,000 cases in 1988, thanks to vaccination programs.
Diphtheria killed 21,053 people yearly, measles killed 530,217 people yearly, mumps killed 162,344 people yearly, rubella killed 47,745 people yearly, and Hib killed 20,000 people yearly in the twentieth century United States; by 2012 each of these diseases were decreased by 99% because of vaccinations.
CON: Diseases that vaccines target have essentially disappeared.
There is no reason to vaccinate against diseases that no longer occur in the United States. The CDC reported no cases or deaths from diphtheria between 2003 and 2011 in the United States. Fewer than 51 cases and 10 deaths per year from tetanus were reported between 1994 and 2011.
Polio has been declared eradicated in the United States since 1979. There have been fewer than 21 deaths yearly from rubella since 1971 and fewer than 25 deaths yearly from mumps since 1968.
PRO: Vaccine-preventable diseases have not disappeared so vaccination is still necessary.
The CDC notes that many vaccine-preventable diseases are still in the United States or “only a plane ride away.” Although the paralytic form of polio has largely disappeared thanks to vaccination, the virus still exists in countries like Pakistan where there were 93 cases in 2013 and 71 in 2014 as of May 15.
The polio virus can be incubated by a person without symptoms for years; that person can then accidentally infect an unvaccinated child (or adult) in whom the virus can mutate into its paralytic form and spread amongst unvaccinated people.
Unvaccinated Amish missionaries who traveled to the Philippines brought measles back to Ohio in May 2014, resulting in 155 infected people as of June 5, 2014. There were 9,149 confirmed and 31,508 suspected cases of measles in the Philippines between Jan. 1 and May 20, 2013. In 2004, there were 37 cases of measles in the United States; in 2014, by May 30, there were 16 measles outbreaks in the United States resulting in at least 334 cases in 18 states.
UNICEF reported that, globally, 453,000 children die from rotavirus, 476,000 die from pneumococcus (the virus that causes pneumonia, meningitis, and blood infections), 199,000 die from Hib (a virus that causes pneumonia and meningitis), 195,000 die from pertussis (whooping cough), 118,000 die from the measles, and 60,000 die from tetanus each year, all vaccine-preventable diseases.
CON: Most diseases that vaccines target are relatively harmless in many cases, thus making vaccines unnecessary.
The chickenpox is often just a rash with blisters and can be treated with acetaminophen, cool compresses, and calamine lotion. The measles is normally a rash accompanied by a fever and runny nose and can be treated with rest and fluids. Rubella is often just a virus with a rash and low fever and can be treated with acetaminophen. Rotavirus can normally be treated with hydration and probiotics.
PRO: Vaccines provide economic benefits for society.
The CDC estimates that children vaccinated between 1994 and 2014 have yielded net savings of $1.38 trillion in “societal costs,” including money saved by preventing lost productivity due to disability and early death. The United States saves about $27 per $1 invested in DTaP vaccination, and $13 per $1 spent on MMR vaccination. UNICEF estimates that $6.2 billion could be saved in treatment costs if vaccines were more prominent in the world’s poorest countries.
According to the International Vaccines Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, $62.9 billion could be saved by providing Hib, pneumococcal, and rotavirus vaccinations to the 73 poorest countries: $1.4 billion in treatment costs, $300 million in lost caretaker wages, $6.2 billion in lifetime productivity loss due to disability, and $55 billion in lifetime productivity loss because of death.
Reprinted with permission of ProCon.org
Published: Feb. 5, 2015 - Volume 13 - Issue 43