THE VACCINATION DEBATE
by Randy Baker MD
Please note that I first published the following essay on 5/4/12. See the bottom of this essay for a new update regarding the current controversy regarding Measles, but please read the original essay first! Here it is:
Few subjects in medicine are as controversial as vaccination. Both sides of the debate are passionate. Most vaccination advocates sincerely believe that vaccinations are safe and effective and save lives; they believe that those who do not vaccinate their children are foolishly endangering them, not only risking their lives but endangering others in the community as well. Vaccination opponents sincerely believe that vaccines are neither safe nor effective and have a significant potential of causing serious irreversible harm. Neither side is easily persuaded by the opposing side’s arguments. One would hope that science would provide the information necessary to settle this disagreement, but, unfortunately, the type of research that could best answer this question (long-term prospective studies evaluating the health of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children) has not been done. Each vaccine has its own set of risks and benefits, so the rational approach is to evaluate each individual vaccine with regards to risks and benefits. However, the full extent of the risks and benefits are not fully known. Those favoring a vaccine will tend to emphasize the benefits and minimize the risks, while opponents tend to minimize the benefits while emphasizing the risks. Intelligent people may disagree. Because this issue is far from black and white, I advise my patients to read both sides of the debate and make their own decisions. However, there is one vaccine that I strongly recommend against, which is the Hepatitis B vaccine for newborns. Newborns have virtually no risk of getting Hepatitis B and this vaccine has many serious adverse reactions. In a 1993 survey 87% of pediatricians and family practitioners felt this vaccine was unnecessary in newborns. I also have strong concerns about the safety of the HPV vaccine and about immunizing children for influenza. The polio vaccine no longer seems necessary, the chickenpox vaccine seems like a bad idea and there are significant questions about the safety of the MMR vaccine.
I will briefly summarize the main arguments pro and con vaccines: Vaccine advocates believe vaccinations are largely responsible for the tremendous decline of serious childhood infectious diseases such as smallpox and polio. Critics note that nearly 90% of the decline in childhood mortality from infectious disease occurred before 1940, before most current vaccines were available or widely used. This decline was primarily due to improved sanitation, hygiene and other public health measures.
Vaccine advocates feel vaccines are effective in preventing disease. Critics point out that an overwhelming majority of those who have been infected with measles, mumps and pertussis in recent years were vaccinated. Mortality from influenza is just as high in years when the influenza vaccine is a perfect fit for the circulating strains as in the years when influenza vaccine does not at all match the circulating strains and is thus worthless, suggesting that influenza vaccine does not save lives.
Vaccine advocates claim that vaccines are largely safe, with most adverse effects being mild and serious adverse effects rare. Critics point out that vaccines have been linked with anaphylaxis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, polyneuropathy, thrombocytopenia, encephalopathy and death. These are acute reactions known to occur within hours or days of vaccination. There is concern that vaccines may commonly cause more insidious long-term reactions that do not manifest immediately, like allergies, asthma, autism, arthritis, colitis, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases and may also cause cancer many years later. A study published in 2000 involving 14,000 children found those who had received the DPT or tetanus vaccine were twice as likely to develop asthma and 63% more likely to have other allergy symptoms than unvaccinated children.
Concerns about vaccine safety can be summarized as follows:
1) the toxicity of additives, preservatives and adjuvants including mercury (as thimerosal), aluminum and formaldehyde
2) the effects of vaccines on immune function. Natural immunity after infection is much more complex than the type of immunity conferred by vaccines. This is why many people will get infections they have been vaccinated against.
Many vaccines have been shown to at least temporarily suppress immune function and some have been shown to trigger autoimmune disease. Giving vaccines by injection is an unnatural process that the immune system has not evolved to handle.
3) the unknown effects of giving multiple vaccines, often at the same time, and starting as early as the first day of life, when the immune system is still largely undeveloped. Even many vaccine advocates believe it is wiser to start vaccines when the child is older and to not give so many at once. Current CDC recommendations call for children to receive 33 vaccinations for 14 diseases in the first 18 months of life.
4) the hazards of waning immunity. Chickenpox is fatal in 1 out of 100,000 children, but 31 of 100,000 adults. A child who gets chickenpox is immune for life, whereas those who are vaccinated have imperfect short-lasting immunity (18-34% still get chickenpox 5-10 years after vaccination) and will be more prone to becoming infected later in life. This is one of many such examples, with other illnesses such as mumps also much more serious in older people.
5) the hazards of live virus vaccines. Vaccines such as measles, mumps and rubella use weakened live viruses that may create chronic low-grade infections and have been associated with increased risk of autoimmune diseases. According to a 1995 study, those who received measles vaccine were 2.5 times more likely to develop ulcerative colitis and 3 times more likely to develop Crohn’s disease than unvaccinated controls (though some have criticized this study): http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2895%2990816-1/abstract
6) the contamination of vaccines with live viruses, prions and oncogenes. Vaccines are manufactured by culturing bacteria and viruses in live tissues, such as chicken eggs, cow serum and monkey kidneys. Many vaccines have been shown to be contaminated with live viruses including retroviruses and fragments of DNA from host cells and viruses.
Polio vaccine was contaminated with the SV40 virus between 1955-1963, when 100 million Americans were vaccinated. This virus is known to cause cancer in animals and has integrated into the genetic code of those vaccinated. This virus is often detected in a wide variety of human cancer cells, including brain cancer, bone cancer and lymphoma.
7) another fascinating though rather esoteric (yet potentially profound) objection to vaccination is advanced by proponents of Anthroposophical Medicine, a sophisticated system and philosophy of healing based on the work of German philosopher Rudolph Steiner (who also founded the Waldorf schools). Anthroposophic physicians believe that humans have co-evolved with viruses such as measles and that contracting these illnesses plays a key role in the psycho-spirtual and physiological evolution of a child’s development. They believe that childhood illnesses allow the physical body to transform to match changes in their etheric beings. Therefore, vaccination interferes with this natural and important process that enables personal evolution and development. This is, of course, rather difficult to either prove or disprove via our current scientific methods but adds another interesting dimension to this debate. A reference to a more detailed discussion of this is included below.
One of the principle precepts of medical ethics is “primum non nocere,” first do no harm. No one denies that vaccines can and do cause serious harm to at least some of the recipients; what is in debate is whether this is a tiny fraction or very significant percentage. Vaccine proponents feel that this risk is counterbalanced by the benefits, but while many of the risks are well proven, the benefits are surprisingly unproven and questionable.
There are many good articles online exploring vaccine safety. Some worth looking at include:
Vaccination: An Updated Analysis of the Health Risks by Gary Null PhDand Martin Feldman MD
Vaccines’ Dark Inferno: What Is Not on Insert Labels?by Richard Gale and Dr. Gary Null
As mentioned in the article above, besides the toxic chemicals deliberately added to vaccines they contain many dangerous contaminants. This article from the mainstream International Journal of Vaccines and Vaccination published on 1/23/17 says “”It is important to remember that particles (crystals and not molecules) are bodies foreign to the organism and they behave as such. More in particular, their toxicity is in some respects different from that of the chemical elements composing them, adding to that toxicity which, in any case, is still there, that typical of foreign bodies. For that reason, they induce an inflammatory reaction.
After being injected, those microparticles, nanoparticles and
aggregates can stay around the injection site forming swellings and granulomas . But they can also be carried by the blood circulation, escaping any attempt to guess what will be their final destination. We believe that in many cases they get distributed throughout the body without causing any visible reaction, but it is also likely that, in some circumstances, they reach some organ, none excluded and including the microbiota, in a fair quantity. As happens with all foreign bodies, particularly that small, they induce an inflammatory reaction that is chronic because most of those particles cannot be degraded. Furthermore, the protein- corona effect (due to a nano-bio-interaction ) can produce organic/inorganic composite particles capable of stimulating the immune system in an undesirable way [19-22]. It is impossible not to add that particles the size often observed in vaccines can enter cell nuclei and interact with the DNA .
Summary of study on link between DPT and asthma/allergies:
Impressive interview with neuroscientist Dr Andrew Moulden MD, PhD. Here is a quote from it: “I have discovered that vaccinations are causing impaired blood flow (ischemia) to brain and body from clinically silent to death. These are strokes – across the board for all of us. I have reason to believe that all are being affected and all vaccinations ARE causing the overwhelming rise in autism, specific learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, sudden infant death, gulf war syndrome, dementia, seizure disorders, some cancers it would appear, and much much more.”
A recent rare placebo-controlled study showing that Influenza Vaccine actually dramatically INCREASES one’s risk of getting other respiratory infections:
And a recent study showing that Influenza can increase risk of getting Influenza!
Great article on the lack of effectiveness of Whooping Cough vaccine, how it may actually increase risk of Whooping Cough and the differences between naturally-acquired immunity and vaccine-induced “immunity”:
A collection of graphs showing the decline in mortality rates in a variety of infectious diseases and the relationship (or lack thereof) to vaccination that impressed me a great deal at first. However, I have leaned that this information is misleading. This is an interesting case study regarding the need to be careful about believing what you see on the internet. First the graphs:
And now a critique of these graphs:
A more detailed look at the decline in the rate of various diseases before and after the introduction of vaccines:
A fascinating detailed analysis of the research on the safety/toxicity of mercury (as Thimerosal) in vaccines and how research studies can be manipulated to demonstrate a particular conclusion even when the actual data supports a different conclusion:
Many supporters of vaccination seem to think the only evidence linking autism and vaccines was the research conducted by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that has been discredited. They seem to believe that because that one study was discredited that means all critiques of vaccines have been discredited. However, even that study was not ever proven to be invalid and the controversy around it is more political than medical. See
The best information linking vaccines to autism can be found in this excellent and detailed summary titled Did British scientists just solve the autism puzzle by JB Handley on medium.com:
Here is a link to 99 other papers in the peer-reviewed literature suggesting a link between vaccines and autism:
However, I am trying to present both sides of the debate so this is a well-written essay which points out that many of those studies have little information directly linking vaccies to autism and which gives reasonable criticism to many of these studies:
The Autism-Vaccine Debate: Why It Won’t Go Away by David Kirby
Vaccine Court: Autism Debate Continues by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and David Kirby
CDC to Study Vaccines and Autism (recent news)
“The true story of SV40, the cancer-causing virus hidden in polio vaccines”
Comprehensive article on SV40 contamination of the polio vaccine. An estimated 98 million Americans have this virus in their bodies:
Report on recent German study on differences in chronic disease rates in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children:
Vaccine advocates often point to polio vaccine as a great example of how effective vaccines can be, but the story, again, is far from black and white.
This is a lengthy and fascinating article about polio and how much of what was called polio before the introduction of the vaccine was actually caused by DDT toxicity and other factors, and how what might be polio (usually caused by the oral polio vaccine) now is labelled as something else:
Because the above article is so lengthy here is a very brief summary:
The most thorough discussion of tetanus and the hazards and benefits of tetanus vaccination that I have seen:
Proponents of vaccination, especially those who wish to limit the freedom of individuals to decline vaccination, base much of their arguments on the concept of “herd immunity.”
Here is a good article on this questionable and unproven concept:
An article summarizing a variety of epidemiological studies demonstrating the association between various vaccinations (esp. multiple vaccinations given at once) and increased infant mortality:
An essay on the Anthroposophical perspective on vaccination by Vance Dietz MD
Websites with multiple articles and links include:
National Vaccine Information Center http://www.nvic.org/
General review of a large body of research and historical data questioning the safety and efficacy of vaccination by Patrick Quanten MD:
Well-written essay by Suzanne Humphries MD:
The HPV Vaccine (Gardasil) appears to cause more serious reactions than most with over 150 deaths reported and over 20% reporting adverse reactions including autoimmune disease. While purported to reduce risk of cervical cancer this has not been proven and it may actually increase risk in those previously exposed to HPV. Most HPV infections are mild and self-limited and may stimulated immune function. For article on the concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the HPV Vaccine (Gardasil):
Useful books include:
Vaccine Safety Manual for Concerned Families and Health Practitioners,Guide to Immunization Risks and Protection by Neil Z. Miller, Russell Blaylock MD (the most comprehensive resource for the documented downsides of vaccines)
The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child By Robert W. Sears MD
(a largely pro-vaccine book that does acknowledge some of the risks)
A useful DVD on this subject is Vaccines: The RIsks, The Benefits, The Choices by Sherri Tenpenny DO, an excellent presentation by one of the leading experts on vaccine safety.
Here is a video on youtube by Dr. Tenpenny, Vaccination: What CDC documents and Science reveal…
Here is the first draft of a work-in-progress, my essay on the current measles hysteria:
We live in a polarized nation with major schisms of Democrat vs.
Republican, religious vs. secular, pro-life vs. pro-choice, believers in mainstream
medicine vs. adherents of alternative medicine, those who trust our government and
authority vs. those who question our government and authority, etc. The current
widespread debate about vaccination is a near-perfect storm that brings many of
these into collision, igniting strong feelings, anger and fear in many quarters.
People have passionate views on this subject. Many of those who are
“pro-vaccination” seem to believe the “anti-vaxxers” are paranoid conspiracy
theorists who are unaware that Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s research has been debunked (as if that is the entire body of science that questions vaccine safety) and base their
beliefs on the writings of Jenny McCarthy. Some believe this issue is so black and
white that any doctor who questions vaccine safety and efficacy should have their
medical license taken away. In reality, those who question the safety and efficacy
of vaccines as a group have a higher level of education and income than those who
do champion it and include many thousands of well-credentialed doctors and
Vaccine skeptics tend to see the pro-vax community as mindless people who do not
question authority and have been gullible enough to believe the narrative of
government officials and the fear-mongering mainstream media which is unduly
influenced by Big Pharma, which stands to profit handsomely from more widespread
vaccination. Of course those who are pro-vaccine are genuinely concerned for the
health and well-being of themselves and their loved ones and see people who do not
vaccinate as directly threatening their safety. Thus, many in the pro-camp are
calling for mandatory vaccinations, which has the anti-vax camp extremely afraid of
the prospect of being forced to have something toxic and hazardous administered
against their will. No wonder people are so upset!
In the often-inflammatory online discussions I have seen, I have seen many in the
pro-vax camp rail against the “smug arrogance” of the “anti-vaxxers” but I see those
people as every bit as smug and arrogant about the validity of their own beliefs. In
the midst of all of this polarizing conflict I would like to take this opportunity
to look at the actual facts and examine both what is known and not known about this
issue. I am going to focus on what we know for sure, and one thing I know for sure
is that not all vaccines are created equal. While many in both camps may see all
vaccines as good or bad, the reality is that each vaccine has its own unique sets of
risks and benefits, so I going to focus on the MMR vaccine and on Measles, as this
is the current focus of people’s concerns.
Before delving into this topic I want to briefly review my background and
qualifications. I earned my undergraduate degree in Biology at Stanford University.
I studied Biology because I am fascinated by biochemistry, physiology and
understanding how our bodies work.
I then attended medical school at the University of Michigan where I also completed
my residency in Family Medicine. While mainstream Western medicine is often
miraculous, it has very few cures to offer for most chronic disease, instead
treating superficially and symptomatically with expensive and often-hazardous
pharmaceuticals. I thus studied nutrition, herbal medicine, mind-body medicine,
homeopathy and other complementary therapies which I integrate with conventional
therapies as appropriate. I was a founding diplomate of the American Board of
Integrative Holistic Medicine in 2000. I have had a solo family practice in Soquel,
CA since 1988. I do not consider my self pro or anti-vaccination but, as mentioned,
I look at the potential risks and benefits of each vaccine as well as the health of
the potential recipient. Because these issues are so charged and controversial I
encourage my patients to study the research and be involved making in these
Now let’s look a the facts. I want to examine Measles including how it is spread and
just how dangerous it is, the Measles vaccine and how effective it is and how
hazardous it is. I will also examine whether there may actually be benefits to
That is it thus far. As stated, a work in progress. Here are some of the articles I will be discussing and linking to as this essay continues:
Info on Measles and how much of a threat it really is:
A good review of the research on how effective (and ineffective) the MMR vaccine is:
Evidence that getting measles can prevent lifelong allergies (there is also evidence mumps significantly reduces risk of ovarian cancer and many other vaccines may directly or indirectly increase cancer risk):
Evidence that getting measles significantly reduces risk of a wide variety of cancers!
Some commentary on the politics of this debate and how this could even lead down the slippery slope of a totalitarian state; at first that may sound extreme but is a country where people are forced to have toxic chemicals and biological agents injected into them against their will a free country?
That’s all for now but check back for the full version, hopefully coming soon…