By Mark Killick, Melissa Smith and Rob Verkerk PhD
Few would deny that lives have been saved since the time, some 220 years ago, that Edward Jenner took fluid from a cowpox blister and scratched it into the skin of James Phipps, an 8-year-old boy. But are we actually vaccine-wise?
I (Mark) was born in the UK in 1961, and my recollection of vaccinations are limited to receiving a polio vaccination on a sugar cube and, as a teenager, waiting in a school line for BCG. While I didn’t get polio or TB, I did contract measles, rubella and chicken pox, as did many of my young friends at the time. We built our immunity naturally, as it happens.
Now in 2016, the NHS in the UK recommends a vaccination programme that includes a total of twenty six vaccinations by the time you reach university, along with another seven which are optional. Let’s not forget your annual flu vaccination too. In the USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least fifty shots starting within the first hours of life and continuing to age sixteen, to protect against sixteen diseases. Australian vaccination schedules are similar to the UK.
Changes in Western diets and lifestyle among children along with other factors have created dramatic changes in the disease profile of children since the mid-1980s. The new arrivals are obesity, autism, ADHD, dyslexia, allergies, notwithstanding a range of mental health diseases.
Many of these problems are caused by disturbances to the immune, endocrine and immunological systems, and are associated with poor diets, lack of physical activity and increasing exposure to toxins and RF frequencies from wireless devices. Given that vaccines add to a child’s toxic burden, have their ingredients, singly and in combination, been sufficiently researched to determine if they pose any additional stress on more vulnerable children?
Many mothers during pregnancy do what they can to protect their unborn infant by giving up smoking, alcohol, medications and caffeine. They may also be wary about eating certain cheeses or processed meats. However, when it comes to childhood vaccines, it seems that it’s much easier to go along with what the doctor “orders” than it is to decide for themselves. And the same seems to be true for many doctors; comply with what the health authorities want, take the financial incentives that often go hand-in-hand with vaccination — and protect your medical license even if somewhere in the back of your mind you know it may be an excessive burden for some children.
It is parents, not public health officials, the government or even doctors who are best placed to be making health decisions for their most important responsibility, their children. To make an informed choice, parents must have fully balanced information ready to hand, covering both the known risks and the known benefits.
To help in redressing the balance and deal with information inadequacies, here are five things you may not know about vaccines. To show contrasts between different regions and reflect a large sector of our readership, we’ve made our answers relevant to readers in the UK, the USA and Australia.
1. Is vaccination mandatory?
UK – Vaccination is not mandatory and there is no government discrimination against unvaccinated children.
USA – Yes, vaccination is effectively mandatory in most states in the US, with documentation proving that children are up-to-date with their childhood immunization schedules being required for attendance of day care centres or school. Exemptions for medical, religious or philosophical reasons are allowed in the majority of states, however in California the only exemption allowed is medical and even that right has recently been challenged with the prosecution of Dr Bob Sears.
Australia – Childhood vaccination is not mandatory in legal terms, however in practice it is. In January of this year, the Australian government announced ‘No Jab, No Pay’, which limits parents access to certain benefits if they refuse to have their child vaccinated.
2. Who needs to give consent?
As a general rule it is accepted that a child’s parent will give consent for their child to be vaccinated.
However, in the USA there is no Federal requirement for informed consent relating to immunization. There does not appear to be a consent form in the USA as parents are required by law to get their child vaccinated. A consent form is available for medical practitioners to use, but this appears to be primarily aimed at flu vaccination.
Consent for vaccination in Australia is described as “the voluntary agreement by an individual to a proposed procedure, given after sufficient, appropriate and reliable information about the procedure, including the potential risks and benefits, has been conveyed to that individual“.
The Australian Medical Association advises immunisation providers SHOULD NOT VACCINATE without the voluntary consent of the parent or individual. It advises: For the purposes of clarity, the patient/parent/guardian must voluntarily consent to an immunisation. The key to a voluntary decision is the absence of undue pressure, coercion or manipulation. If the parent presents with an “involuntary consent form” or states they are being coerced to do so by government the doctor should not proceed to vaccinate the child because valid consent has not been provided.
The Immunise Australia Program states: “Parents or guardians are required to complete a consent form in order for their child to receive a vaccination at school“, however this information has not been updated since 2015 and we are unable to find evidence of the use of this form currently. We spoke to parents in Australia whose children have been recently vaccinated who were not asked to give consent, it’s appearing as if this right has been stripped away at least in some cases, due to the ‘No Jab, No Pay’ law that came into force in January this year, although exemptions remain for specific and ‘relevant’ medical conditions. We are also aware of medical doctors who are being challenged by their state medical boards for ‘over-exempting’ children from vaccination and some of these risk losing their medical licenses.
In the UK, it is generally accepted that consent is given on a child’s behalf by their parent/guardian. The ‘Green Book’ states : “There is no legal requirement for consent to immunisation to be in writing and a signature on a consent form is not conclusive proof that consent has been given, but serves to record the decision and the discussions that have taken place with the patient or the person giving consent on a child’s behalf”. “Where this person brings the child in response to an invitation for immunisation and, following an appropriate consultation, presents the child for that immunisation, these actions may be considered evidence of consent”. In the case of childhood vaccinations, parents are invited to attend an appointment at their GP surgery. If the parent takes their child to the appointment, consent is implied and no form needs to be signed. Consent forms are used for other vaccines such as the yearly flu vaccine and HPV vaccine.
There is an anomaly in the UK with regard to the HPV vaccine, the logic presumably being down to the fact that those being targeted, primarily girls at present, are somewhat older (generally around 12 years of age). The NHS website states: “Your daughter has to sign a consent form before she can be vaccinated. So she doesn’t have to have the HPV vaccine if she doesn’t want to…..The decision to have the vaccine is legally your daughter’s, as long as she understands the issues in giving consent“.
Despite this, parents are asked to sign a consent form for the HPV vaccine. However, if a child decides they want to be vaccinated, the child’s and the state’s rights override those of the parents. The threshold in terms of a child’s competence to make a decision is based on whether a child is found to be ‘Gillick Competent’. This of course has nothing to do with whether a child has been given sufficient information about either the risks or benefits.
3. Does the Aluminium in vaccines pose any risk?
So what’s in our childhood vaccines? Aside from the antigens (the parts from the target virus or bacteria or genetically modified equivalent), ingredient components of a vaccine include adjuvants to enhance their effect and help deliver them to the body. Adjuvants are sometimes thought of as inert ingredients that have little or no effect on the body, but many are recognised as foreign by the body and stimulate an immune response. One of these is the metal aluminium. Although aluminium is one of the most common metals on the surface of Earth, present in water, air and food, when we ingest it, it appears to have little or no effect, presumably reflecting the reason that no known nutritional or biological function has yet to be found in humans. When taken orally, the vast majority of it is absorbed through the gastro-intestinal tract, and excreted via the kidneys and urine. When taken intravenously however, it can wreak havoc on our systems.
An adult may be exposed to as much as 10 micrograms of aluminium a day in the diet, as aluminium is added to some foods and is used in the manufacture of antacids. As mentioned above, very little of this aluminium is absorbed. A healthy adult would test for about 5 micrograms of aluminium per litre of blood, which is considered by health authorities, albeit with scant supporting data, a safe amount.
Aluminium given intravenously has been shown to be toxic after reports were published of neurotoxicity and bone toxicity from aluminium in children who had kidney problems. The problem with toxins is that one plus one does not equal two! It could equal 10 or 100! When we mix small amounts of toxic chemicals together, it can create a much larger, non-linear, negative effect than separate exposure to either toxin on its own. A child going through a vaccination programme may be able to withstand repeated exposure to something harmful, but the toxin accumulates in his or her system and may eventually cause harm over an extended period of time. We accept this when it comes to cigarettes or x-rays.
By the time your baby is a year old, if he or she follows the full vaccination programme, he or she would have received a cumulative amount of aluminium of 3375 micrograms if living in the UK or Australia, and 4225 micrograms in the USA.
So it begs the question, “What level of injected aluminium is safe?”. The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) website states: “Aluminium may reach toxic levels with prolonged parenteral administration if kidney function is impaired”’. This includes new born babies whose kidneys are developing. It goes on to say, “Research indicates that patients with impaired kidney function, including premature neonates, who received parenteral levels of aluminium at greater than 4 to 5 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day, accumulate aluminium at levels associated with central nervous system and bone toxicity.” As revealed by leading US paediatrician and ‘slow vaccination’ advocate, Dr Bob Sears, who is now facing a lawsuit, a child may receive 250 micrograms of aluminium or more in one hit – and a newborn has a mere 300 millilitres of blood in the system! Remember that lead was removed from petrol as too much exposure to lead affected our children’s brains, IQ’s and development. Mercury in the form of thiomersal (thimerosal) was used as a preservative in childhood vaccines, but was removed on the advice of the medical authorities ‘as a precautionary measure’. Surely aluminium will be next – but how long will it take?
4. Could the full vaccination schedule affect my baby’s development?
Surely every parent would want to know the answer to this question? It’s bad enough watching somebody put a needle into the arm of your little one and making them cry. But do we know what this shock to the immune system really does?
The rise in autism is impossible to ignore. In 2013, a study in Norway found that for mothers that took folate during pregnancy the autism rate for their children was 1 in 1000, whereas for the mothers who didn’t, the rate was 1 in 500. What does that have to do with vaccines? Well at the same time the rate of autism in the USA was 1 in 100. So what don’t they do in Norway that they do in the US? They do not give the hepatitis B vaccines to newborns. Hepatitis B is contracted from sex and IV drug use, which babies don’t do, so unless their mother has hepatitis B, why give them a vaccine for a disease for which they are not at risk? This is a classic example of risk versus benefit gone mad – there is no risk and definitely no benefit.
There are doctors that offer alternative vaccination schedules. Small babies are most susceptible to serious complications of infections and that’s why vaccinations are given at an early age. However little babies’ developing immune systems and nervous systems may also be susceptible to side effects of the vaccines. Alternative schedules available in the UK and the US space out the vaccines and offer the parent the choice to omit some vaccines where the risk may outweigh the benefit.
5. Do the vaccines affect a child’s gut-based immunity given they are injected?
Researchers are showing increasing interest in the impact of vaccines (and antibiotics) on the human microbiome and on the role the microbiome might play in the effectiveness of vaccination — or its corollary, vaccine failure.
The reality is that at present remarkably little is known, despite recognition that the gut microbiome in particular plays a key role in immunity and that the immune system and the microbiome develop in tandem. It is also recognised that variations in individual or familial microbiomes may be related to vaccine non-responders.
There is very little in the peer-reviewed literature on the subject. One study comparing children from poorer rural settings in Ghana suggested that lack of diversity in the microbiome might explain the lower effectiveness of rotavirus vaccination in these children, as compared with healthy children in the Netherlands. Another, relating to the nasal, rather than gut, microbiome, suggested the intranasal flu vaccine disrupts nasal microbiome and increases susceptibility to other pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus.
The gut mucosa represents the largest lymphoid organ of the body and is centrally involved with immune responses to pathogens, most of which enter the body through mucosal surfaces by ingestion, inhalation, or sexual contact. Since the importance of the gut mucosa and the microbiome has only recently been fully acknowledged, researchers are only now turning their attention to developing vaccines targeting the gut mucosa. It is remarkable that nearly all childhood vaccinations used today bypass this all-important route, being applied intramuscularly.
Andrew Wakefield’s key finding in his retracted 1998 Lancet paper famously noted irregularities in the gut structure among a group of children studied with autism. The words that led to the medical establishment turning on him – and his co-authors – are contained in the final two sentences and read: “In most cases, onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps, and rubella immunisation. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.”
The bottom line is that while it is very clear that gut disturbances, that in turn affect immunity, are linked to autism, there is still no consensus that immunity may be associated, among vulnerable children, to the MMR vaccine. A similar issue is now emerging with HPV vaccination, with even less evidence reported in the literature about common links to gut or neurological symptoms, despite these being common among those reporting serious adverse effects shortly following vaccination.
Given what we now know about immunity and the gut microbiome, it is almost inconceivable that the gut mucosa and microbiome is not affected by vaccines applied systemically. However, it is too early to know if this effect is negative or positive, or both – with the weighting one way or another varying according to the individual. And that is something that cannot yet be predicted, hence the uncertainty around predicting side effects in particular children. However, what can be said, is that if one or more children responds adversely to a vaccine, there is likely to be an increased chance that other siblings will also respond adversely.
Making sense of the unknown
We should all remind ourselves that vaccines are a form of preventative medicine. They do not cure an illness; they target instead the immune system, that may be naïve or at differing states of development. A child who has been on antibiotics, particularly multiple courses, is likely to be in a very different position to one that hasn’t, as the antibiotics effectively sterilise the gut and so significantly dampen the mucosal and microbiome-mediated immune response.
Has your child’s history of antibiotic medication, especially if recent, been taken into account prior to vaccination consent being requested?
The reality is that while health authorities and some doctors like to claim a very clear knowledge of vaccine risk and benefit – this couldn’t be further from the truth. Vaccination is tried and tested in a limited number of situations, but as new vaccines are developed and our own relationship with our environment changes (including declining quality of diets and increased sedentary behaviours) we can no longer rely on older studies or adverse event statistics. We should also recognise that many likely adverse events are not even reported because they are not recognised by doctors or health authorities as adverse reactions to vaccines, despite their typical onset shortly after vaccination.
We uphold that ‘informed consent’ is presently a hypothetical notion, one that cannot be achieved with the current evidence, especially as it relates to exposure of the entire government-mandated vaccine schedule to a given child with unchecked or unknown immune response, health status or medical history.
‘Shooting in the dark’ is, in our view, a fair representation of current immunisation programmes. We’re not condoning vaccines, nor are we rejecting them outright. What we are saying, however, is that health authorities, doctors and nurses need to be more honest, open and transparent as to the known and unknown risks associated with the vaccination schedule in its totality. That would mean having to communicate the idea that a lot more is not known than is known, whatever the consequences.
Parents should also be given comprehensive information about what else they might be able to do to enhance the immunity of their child, especially if they choose to avoid vaccination. To not do this in countries like the UK, where vaccination is optional, represents medical negligence.