The topic of measles itself has produced an outbreak of more than just a fever, cough, and rash. In the last few weeks especially, fear, speculation, hate, and concern have all been voiced through the media.
Unfortunately, the passion behind vaccinations and disease has turned to a level of disrespect and finger pointing with such comments witnessed on social media stating “People who don’t vaccinate their children don’t love or care about their own or others”. Sounds like a bold statement! If you have gotten this far, congratulations on being open minded enough to gain knowledge from yet another physician’s perspective.
As a naturopathic physician, my job is to educate and empower patients to increase their health as well as their confidence in health related decisions such as vaccinations. Terms such as “anti-vaxxer” or “pro vaccine” seem to only polarize people more, therefore, if one must name call, I’d prefer to be lumped into the ‘pro informed’ category please.
Perhaps we can at least agree that we are products of our environment and experiences. I am honored to witness the healing capabilities of the body on a regular basis, given the proper conditions (diet, hygiene, lifestyle, and healing medicine). Whether it is a cough, fever, rash, ear infection, pneumonia, diarrhea/vomiting, or yes, even meningitis or encephalitis, I have seen healing take place quickly and effectively using homeopathic medicine and/or other healing treatments. Diseases including measles are respected and taken seriously, yet not feared, based on my experiences. Equipping the body with increased immunity and the power to heal is important regardless of vaccine choices.
With that said, when patients want guidance or options to the current vaccine recommendations (23-25 immunizations in the first 15 months of life), I encourage them to invest in their health and feel empowered in a variety of ways.
- Ask questions! Ask your physician what the ingredients are in the vaccines, what are the side effects, what is the risk of contracting disease if vaccinated versus unvaccinated, what are the symptoms and risks of the diseases?
- Seek out various perspectives versus simply looking online for ammunition for the viewpoint you already support. Books or websites that may provide clarification or options from various perspectives include: The Vaccine Book, The Vaccine Guide, and The Solution: Homeoprophylaxis: The Vaccine Alternative, www.nvic.org, www.nih.gov, and www.immunizationinfo.org.
- Spreading out or delaying the current vaccination schedule is an option to avoid overloading young children’s immune and nervous systems while still choosing to vaccinate. You may also choose to decrease the vaccine frequency by choosing only the vaccines you find to have the greatest benefit compared to risk.
- Options such as homeopathic “vaccines” or nosodes (specific to all the currently offered vaccines) can be used for prevention or at the first sign of infection in place of or in addition to traditional vaccines. For more information on this, please read an article written by Dr. Kruzel at http://www.rockwoodnaturalmedicine.com/naturopathic-medicine-articles/immunizations-vaccinations/
Those who choose to not vaccinate are making a choice as well and are recommended to take additional responsibility to prevent and protect you/your child’s immune function. This can be done in a variety of ways recommended by your physician including breast feeding infants then ensuring proper diet, probiotics, colostrum, garlic, vitamin A, spinal corrections, seeking medical attention at the first signs of illness, practicing proper hygiene, following the homeopathic vaccine schedule, and avoiding public places when ill. In all fairness, these would be recommendations I would make to the general population, yet when choosing to not vaccinate, I want to be clear that it is an informed decision with informed responsibility.
Let’s take a look at some statistics.
- According to the CDC health advisory on January 23, 2015, there were 51 recent confirmed cases of measles in the U.S. between December 28, 2014 and January 21, 2015. Of those 55% were unvaccinated, 31% had unknown status, and 12% were vaccinated (2 had received 1 dose and 4 had received 2 or more doses). Among the 28 unvaccinated cases, 5 were too young for vaccination.
- According to the CDC, about 3% of people who get two doses of measles vaccine will still get measles if exposed to the virus.
- The death rate in the U.S from measles was 0.2% from 1985-1992, with pneumonia accounting for 60% of those deaths. Since 1995, an average of 1 death per year has been reported. Deaths from vaccine related injury can be confusing and difficult to find clear research on, but as of January 5, 2015, there had been 57 deaths following MMR vaccination in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
- Please do not take this section as the take home message of this article! Death is rare in both scenarios, yet if you are affected, the word rare is worthless. The point is, both decisions have risks, death included. This word evokes fear in many and can be used as a fear tactic on both “sides” which can be destructive. There is nothing with 100% certainty or success, nor is there anything with 0% risk. Please understand that when provided with proper treatment, disease does not equate to death.
- Vitamin A supplementation to preschool children is known to decrease the risks for mortality and morbidity from forms of measles likely due to immunomodulatory mechanisms, enhanced antibody production and lymphocyte proliferation. E, Fawzi WW. Effects of vitamin A supplementation on immune responses and correlation with clinical outcomes. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2005;18(3):446-64.
The World Health Organization recommends vitamin A as a beneficial treatment for measles. It is not uncommon for those infected with measles to be vitamin A deficient, eluding to supplementation being a factor in prevention.
Various factors make us uniquely individual, therefore, treating the topic of vaccines as though one decision is “right” for everyone is preposterous to me. Each person’s susceptibility, immune status, living condition, moral/religious belief, experience, genetics, lifestyle, and reaction to disease or foreign substances (such as vaccine ingredients) is variable and should be taken into consideration.
What does this all mean? It means you are empowered as a responsible consumer. Do your research and challenge your own beliefs until you feel comfortable with a decision that brings peace. Speaking of peace, let’s create some by respecting each other and our differences instead of spreading hate created by fear or ignorance.
In closing let’s take a look at what a person who chooses to not vaccinate may look like.
They love their child tremendously and want them to live a long, happy, healthy life. Their experiences show the risk of vaccinating outweighs the benefit. The potential consequences of the current vaccination schedule produces more fear than the potential risk of the specific disease.
How about a person who chooses to vaccinate?
They love their child tremendously and want them to live a long, happy, health life. Their experiences support the benefit of vaccinations. The potential consequences of contracting a specific disease produces more fear than the potential risk of the vaccination schedule.
When you step back and let go of judgment and bias, the common denominator is that parents generally love and want the best for their children and choose the best options based on their experience and knowledge. This not only applies to the ‘vaccine debate’, but life in general. Be kind, respect each other’s differences, and take a minute to see another perspective. We’re all in this journey together.
If you are interested in learning more about naturopathic medicine or options to vaccines, visit www.rockwoodnaturalmedicine.com.