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Vaccine debate: Are we hurting our kids?
“I have four children and never vaccinated any of them,” East Stroudsburg resident Susan Spannagel said. “I come from a holistic family. My father was a chiropractor and my family always had a natural approach to health.”
Parents have a choice regarding vaccinations and many are now speaking up on the subject.
A “Green Our Vaccines” rally Wednesday in Washington, D.C., is sponsored by actor Jim Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, Talk About Curing Autism, Generation Rescue, Healing Every Autistic Life, and Moms Against Mercury. Participants want Congress to eliminate certain substances from children’svaccines and to revise current mandatory vaccination schedules. McCarthy has advocated alternative research for autism since her 5-year-old son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism when he was 2.
By the age of 6, most children have been injected with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation of 48 doses of 14 different vaccines, not including optional immunizations. With that number of shots, parents are taking a critical-thinking approach to vaccinations and making themselves aware of the pros and the cons.
Vaccines have been around for generations, but vaccination injuries have been more prominent in recent years and have increased with the number of vaccines given.
Thimerosal is 50 percent mercury by weight and was once included as a preservative in most vaccines, but has been withdrawn because of the possibilities of vaccination injury.
Many experts and parents feel that thimerosal causes autism and other neurological disorders such as ADHD and ADD, although that has not been clinically proven.
“The trigger could be via vaccinations. While each vaccine is tested to be safe on its own merits, I doubt that there were adequate studies of the effects of the increasing battery of inoculations pushed earlier and earlier into the development of children,” said Bob Dellicker, president of the Pocono Autism Society.
“I also feel that the previous practice of using mercury, a substance known for thousands of years to be a potent neurotoxin, as a vaccine preservative injected into infants and toddlers, is insane,” he said.
According to the CDC’s Web site, in July 1999, the Public Health Service Agencies, the AAP and vaccine manufacturers all agreed that thimerosal should be reduced or eliminated.
“Vaccines containing thimerosal have been administered to billions of children and adults worldwide since the 1930s with no proven evidence of harm,” said Ellyn Schindler, manager of community relations for Sanofi Pasteur in Swiftwater.
“In 1999, when concerns were first raised by the Public Health Service about the amount of thimerosal in vaccines, Sanofi Pasteur initiated a high-priority program to reduce or remove thimerosal from our vaccines because it is important to us to retain public confidence in vaccinations,” Schindler said.
IN THE PAST 25 years, the number of American children with learning disabilities, asthma, diabetes and autism has more than tripled — as has the number of doses of vaccines given to children under the age of 6.
The recommended vaccination schedule has changed several times over the years. In 1983, there were 10 different vaccines given to children from birth to age 6, not counting optional inoculations like flu shots. In the 1990s, the number increased to 17 and then to more than 20 a decade later.
“New vaccines have come along as we have learned how to protect people against more infectious diseases. These new vaccines have been responsible for preventing disease and death in millions of people around the world,” Schindler said.
Besides thimerosal, other preservatives in vaccines concern many parents. They include ethyleneglycol (antifreeze), monosodium glutamate (MSG), phenol (disinfectant, dye), formaldhyde, aluminum, aspartame, sorbitol, ammonia sulfate, chick embryonic fluid, and washed sheep red blood cells.
In the United States, no one can vaccinate a child without parental consent. No one can force a parent to vaccinate a child either.
“The vaccine issue is a scary issue. Parents do have a choice,” said Dr. Brettney Ramsour of Ramsour Chiropractic.
Each state has acceptable exemptions. In Pennsylvania, medical and religious exemptions are accepted at schools and other agencies that require a vaccination record.
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a national database that collects reports of adverse post-vaccination events. It is co-sponsored by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration.
Since 1990, VAERS has received more than 123,000 reports of adverse reactions. Approximately 30,000 additional reports are filed annually.
The National Vaccination Information Center is another organization dedicated to vaccination issues. The nonprofit was founded in 1982 by Jeff Schwartz, Barbara Loe Fisher and Kathi William who are parents of vaccine-injured children.
“We are parents whose kids were injured in the early ’80s by the DTP vaccine. My son was injured at 2½ years old and was left with ADD and multiple learning disabilities,” co-founder and president of NVIC Barbara Loe Fisher said.
“We aren’t necessarily anti-vaccination but are instead pro-education,” Fisher said.
Although Fisher said she feels that we have come a long way in public awareness, there is room for improvement.
“My son had the vaccination and changed from a happy, high-functioning child to a sick child that regressed and no longer knew his alphabet or numbers. He became frustrated easily and was emotionally fragile. He stopped just short of autism,” Fisher said. “I watch this now and it is happening in greater frequency. There is enough evidence now that vaccines can cause death or injuries.”
Holistic Family Healthcare in Hackettstown, N.J., is one of a few facilities in the region that provides natural medicine.
“I am a primary care provider that allows my patients to not vaccinate. I do not offer vaccinations in my office,” said Elaine Hardy, a family nurse practitioner and owner of the facility. “I think it needs to be a parent’s choice, an informed choice. I am not against vaccinations at all. I am into doing it in a safe and controlled manner though.”
Some parents feel that delaying vaccines until a child is older is the better way. “I am all for delaying vaccines. It is smarter,” Hardy said.
“I believe that vaccines are an amazingly good health measure for the general public, but I just feel that at the very least, we need to back off the frantic pace of getting all the inoculations as soon as possible,” Dellicker said.