The California Immunization Coalition (CIC) is spreading misinformation about vaccines. CIC is “a non-profit, public-private partnership dedicated to achieving and maintaining full immunization protection to promote health and prevent serious illness across the life span.” This coalition issued a press release on Friday, August 12, 2011 to call on parents to vaccinate their school-aged kids.
The press release includes answers to ten “Frequently Asked Questions” about immunizations and the health of our children.
Most of their answers are misleading or untrue. The CIC is, unfortunately, spreading misinformation about vaccines.
More and more parents are rejecting the CDC’s current vaccine schedule. There are now hundreds of thousands of parents choosing not to vaccinate or to follow an alternative schedule in California. Instead of spreading misinformation and telling half truths, if the CIC wants to change this, and encourage parents to vaccinate more, parents need to be given honest information about vaccine safety
Why aren’t parents being given accurate information about vaccines?
Because the best scientific data available does not reassure parents that the current vaccine schedule is safe. Instead, this data reinforces what so many parents have realized: the current vaccine schedule is actually harming our children.
Let me be clear: I am pro-vaccine. I have been vaccinated thoroughly and repeatedly. I have lived in the poorest country in the world, Niger. In Niger polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases still leave young people crippled. My children are vaccinated.
I know that not everyone agrees on this but I have seen firsthand that vaccines work. Vaccines play an important part in public health.
That said, the current vaccine schedule in America is not based on the best practices, best evidence, or best outcomes. The CDC’s current childhood vaccine schedule is much more aggressive than in dozens of industrialized countries where health outcomes for children are much better. It needs to change.
Though I believe that the scientists, researchers, and government officials who have been analyzing this schedule have only the best intentions, somewhere we have gone astray.
By spreading misinformation about vaccines, the CIC’s campaign does not further the cause of vaccinating. Instead it frustrates the parents, doctors, and scientists who have done their research carefully and thoroughly and who conclude that many troubling safety questions remain unanswered.
Here are the 10 questions, along with the CIC answers (aka misinformation about vaccines), and my corrections:
1. Are vaccines safe?
CIC: Yes, vaccines are safe. However, any medicine can cause reactions in some people. The most common side effects are swelling or tenderness at the injection site and fever. Serious reactions are very rare, happening in 1- 2 people out of a million shots given.
A Thinking Parent’s Response: Partially true. While vaccines are safe for some, they cause severe reactions in thousands of others. Death is one of the reactions caused by vaccines. Severe brain damage is another.
Many believe that harmful side effects of vaccines are grossly underreported.
This little boy’s parents were told vaccines were safe. He died from the hepatitis B vaccine. The young woman with her mother in the picture below was severely brain damaged as an infant by a vaccine and awarded a settlement by the United States government to pay for the care she needs for the rest of her life.
2. Why do children today need so many immunizations?
CIC: Immunizations save lives. Advances in medical science have developed vaccines to protect us against more than 15 dangerous diseases. Only a few years ago, vaccines prevented just a small handful of diseases. Who benefits most? Babies. Their bodies may be too weak to fight off a serious disease.
A Thinking Parent’s Response: Partially true. The CDC continues to add vaccines to the schedule without taking anything off. The belief is this does not damage the immune system. The truth is that we do not know. We have not done the necessary testing. Instead of following the precautionary principle we assume that, in the absence of information, to keep adding vaccines to the schedule is safe. What if it’s not? Though vaccines used to be reserved for emergency health epidemics, in recent years vaccines against mild routine childhood illnesses have been added to the schedule. We now vaccinate every newborn against a sexually transmitted disease. The only proven protection for an infant’s immune system is breastfeeding. Babies benefit most from breast milk, not from pharmaceuticals. In fact, infants are most susceptible to side effects from vaccines because their immune systems are so immature. Read the package inserts. The reason we vaccinate infants so frequently is because the infant immune response for some vaccines only lasts two months. Even medical doctors are becoming increasingly concerned that this is too much. To say that babies benefit from a bloated vaccine schedule is to give misinformation about vaccines.
3. Is it safe for a child’s immune system to have multiple shots?
CIC: Yes. Children are exposed to hundreds of viruses or bacteria (called antigens). Antigens make the immune system do its work. Healthy babies’ immune systems easily handle weakened or killed vaccine antigens.
A Thinking Parent’s Response: False. There is little, if any, scientific data to back up this claim. This is a theoretical “hope” on the part of people stuck in an all-or-nothing vaccinate-or-die ideology. The truth is the body’s natural exposure to viruses and bacteria is totally different from exposure to vaccines. What we do know is that we have one of the highest infant mortality rates of any country in the industrialized world (6.06 deaths per 1000 live births, according to the CIA’s World Factbook). And one of the most aggressive vaccine schedules. A recent study published in the journal Human & Experimental Toxicology–to the surprise of the researchers–found that the more vaccines infants are exposed to early in life, the higher the infant mortality rate.
4. What about “combination” vaccines (when a single shot protects against more than one disease)? Or getting several shots in one visit?
CIC: Combination vaccines and multiple shots are safe. In fact, today’s vaccines are more refined than in the past. So even though kids get more vaccines, they get far fewer antigens all together.
A Thinking Parent’s Response: Impossible to verify whether this statement is true or false. The problem with getting a combination vaccine is that if your child has a reaction, you cannot know what caused it to avoid it happening again. Multiple shots have not been shown to be safe. This is an assumption that is not based on medical science. Why not? Because we have NOT DONE STUDIES WITH A STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT CONTROL GROUP OF COMPLETELY UNVACCINATED CHILDREN. In the absence of a control group, as any scientist can tell you, you cannot conclude that something is safe. Until we do well-designed safety studies, to say combination vaccines and multiple shots are safe is to spread misinformation about vaccines.
5. Are diseases of the “old days” really still something to worry about?
CIC: Diseases continue to exist, though many young parents haven’t seen them. But people not vaccinated, especially children, are at risk for common illnesses like influenza, whooping cough, and chicken pox. Less common diseases like meningitis, measles, and mumps happen unexpectedly and can spread quickly. International travelers not up-to-date on their shots can easily bring a disease back home and infect other people.
A Thinking Parent’s Response: Partially true. Parents need to evaluate these risks on a vaccine by vaccine basis but the risk of getting these diseases, in many cases, is LOWER than the risk of having a severe vaccine reaction or suffering longterm problems, like allergies, because of the assault on the immune system by the vaccine. Polio is a good case in point. For several years until the government stopped using a whole-cell vaccine the polio vaccine was causing paralysis in otherwise healthy children while no child in America was dying of polio. According to the CDC, no one in America has died of polio in more than 15 years. I was told by a government official that the risk is so low that it cannot be quantified.
6. Do vaccines cause autism?
CIC: No. Autism has been increasing around the world for many years. In fact, autismrates [sic] are the same in vaccinated and unvaccinated children. No one knows yet what causes autism. Twenty-three studies have tested hundreds of thousands of children and found no link between autism and vaccines. The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Institute of Medicine, and World Health Organization have released statements saying that there is no connection between vaccines and autism.
A Thinking Parent’s Response: False. The federal government awarded money for the around-the-clock care of Hannah Poling, whose severe autism was caused by vaccines. Hannah’s father is a pro-vaccine medical doctor (a practicing neurologist) and her mother is a nurse and a lawyer. Scientists now theorize that vaccines can cause autism in children with underlying mitochondrial disorders and there is a growing body of credible scientific research suggesting that vaccines can contribute to or cause some cases of autism. “Autism” is an umbrella term. We do not have a definitive answer about what causes autism. Autism is often genetic. But tens of thousands of parents have watched their completely normal children become autistic within hours, days, or weeks of being vaccinated. We know definitively that vaccines can cause severe brain damage in some children.
*A study published in the Annals of Epidemiology, “Hepatitis B Vaccination of Male Neonates and Autism,” found that “Boys who received the hepatitis B vaccine during the first month of life had 2.94 greater odds for ASD [autism] compared to later- or unvaccinated boys.”
*A study published in Toxicological and Environmental Chemistry, “Hepatitis B triple series vaccine and developmental disability in US children aged 1-9 years,” stated “the odds of receiving EIS [special education services] were approximately nine times as great for vaccinated boys as for unvaccinated boys after adjustment for confounders.
7. What about holistic medicine or “natural immunity”?
CIC: Many holistic medicines have helpful effects, but they do not provide immunity to diseases prevented by vaccines. Most vaccines are more than 99% effective in preventing illness.
A Thinking Parent’s Response: Outright lie. The CIC made up this statistic. The vast majority of children who get “vaccine-preventable diseases” have been completely vaccinated. According to the CDC’s own data, NO VACCINE IS MORE THAN 99 percent effective. Vaccines containing pertussis are estimated to be from 83.6 percent to as much as 97.7 percent effective, according to a 2005 study in Pediatrics. If vaccines were this effective, government officials wouldn’t worry about unvaccinated people posing any health threat. The best way to insure that a child has a healthy immune system is to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, continue for a year, and as long thereafter as is mutually desired by the mother and the child.
CIC: Some people believe getting a disease is the “natural” way to trigger the body’s immune response. Vaccines work the same way—they trigger an immune response—but not the disease. Vaccine immunity is natural immunity.
A Thinking Parent’s Response: False. There is nothing “natural” about injecting a pharmaceutical product into the body intramuscularly. This is not the way the human organism is exposed to disease. (This kind of spin-doctoring frankly baffles me. Does anyone really think a parent is stupid enough to believe that vaccine immunity is natural?) There is no excuse for spreading this kind of misinformation about vaccines.
8. What about getting shots later, or more spread out?
CIC: Most doctors follow the recommended immunization schedule. This is because skipping or delaying shots leaves a child at risk for a longer time. And, there is no proof that receiving fewer shots in one visit is any safer. Young children and babies are the most likely to get very sick from certain diseases. That’s why shots are given to babies and why most pediatricians use the standard schedule.
A Thinking Parent’s Response: False. Of course it is safer to receive just one shot. Then if your baby has a reaction, you know what caused it. Many doctors say one thing to their colleagues and another thing to their patients. Many doctors choose to spread out vaccines for their own children or to vaccinate them selectively. Many doctors testify to Congress about their concerns about vaccine safety. One CDC official, a public advocate of the current schedule, told me privately that he did not follow it with his own son. Doctors themselves have been shown to eschew recommended vaccines.
9. What about thimerosal (or mercury) in vaccines?
CIC: Thimerosal was removed from all child vaccines in 2001 (except some flu shots) as a way to reduce mercury exposure to children from all sources. Thimerosal is a preservative made with ethylmercury. It prevents contamination. Some people worry that mercury is dangerous. However, no reliable study hasfound [sic] any link between thimerosal in vaccines and developmental diseases. Recent research shows that autism rates continue to go up even after thimerosal was taken out of vaccines.
A Thinking Parent’s Response: Partially true. The reason thimerosal was removed is because the amounts being given in the vaccines far exceeded what was considered safe for human exposure. This was unintentional on the part of government officials and policy makers and led to a flurry of action, thankfully. The more a human is exposed to mercury the more dangerous it becomes. No research to date has been done comparing children vaccinated with thimerosal-containing vaccines to children who were completely unvaccinated. We cannot know how safe or toxic thimerosal is without a control group.
10. What about other vaccine ingredients?
CIC: There is no evidence that vaccine ingredients are harmful. Ingredients are used in tiny amounts for very specific purposes.
Aluminum in vaccines is used as an “adjuvant” to trigger the body’s immune response to a disease. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia says that at 6 months old, babies have had less aluminum from vaccines than they get from breast milk.Bottle-fed babies get more daily aluminum —especially from soy formulas.
Formaldehyde prevents microbial contamination. It’s also in the environment and is a natural byproduct of the body’s metabolism.
Vaccines do not contain anti-freeze, chick embryos, or monkey kidneys. This is falseinformation. [sic]
A Thinking Parent’s Response: Outright lie. This argument is so circuitous and bizarre that I find it hard to respond. If your baby is already being exposed to something known to be bad, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to expose them even more. Because formaldehyde is found in the environment means we should inject trace amounts into a baby’s body? We actually know that tiny amounts of certain chemicals can cause massive changes in the human organism if, for example, a fetus is exposed to them at a critical time during development. Uranium naturally occurs in the environment as well but you would not inject it into your baby. The problem is not the ingredient per se, it is whether the body is able to rid itself of the ingredient. We know that if premature babies get more than 10 micrograms of aluminum per day it may accumulate in their bones and brain at toxic levels. The FDA recommends that IV solutions contain no more than 25 micrograms of aluminum per liter and asserts that no premature baby or any patient with impaired kidney function should get more than 10 to 25 micrograms of aluminum at a time. A 1997 New England Journal of Medicine study found that infants given IV solutions with aluminum showed impaired neurological and mental development at 18 months. Dr. Robert W. Sears posits that a healthy 12-pound baby can safely handle a minimum of 30 micrograms of aluminum. The FDA’s own data suggests that no baby should get more than that at a time. Yet infant vaccines contain between 170 and 850 micrograms of aluminum each. WHEN A BABY GETS A FIRST BIG ROUND OF SHOTS AT 2 MONTHS HE GETS SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 295 and 1225 MICROGRAMS OF ALUMINUM DEPENDING ON WHICH VACCINES ARE USED.
Some other points to keep in mind:
*The current vaccine schedule was developed piecemeal without forethought, since each vaccine is safety tested individually.
*Vaccine manufacturers often do a much better and more complete job of explaining adverse reactions. Ask to read every product insert BEFORE you give your child the shot. This information is much more useful than government-sponsored handouts. If your doctor will not give it to you, be polite and refuse the vaccine. Find another doctor.
*Some vaccines are grown in human fetal tissue (from aborted fetuses.) Human tissue is currently used in 23 vaccines.
*Almost every advance in vaccine safety has come from parents of vaccine-harmed children speaking out. Despite the government trying to silence them, the media often listens. We now have an acellular pertussis vaccine because parents whose infants died or became permanently damaged went to the media and demanded a safer vaccine.
*Your very kind and well-meaning pediatrician may downplay your child’s severe reaction because they do not want to believe anything they have done has inadvertently caused your child harm. IF YOUR CHILD HAS A SEVERE REACTION OF ANY KIND, EVEN IF YOUR PEDIATRICIAN SAYS IT IS “IMPOSSIBLE” THAT THE REACTION IS LINKED TO THE VACCINE, DO NOT CONTINUE TO VACCINATE YOUR CHILD WITH THAT SAME VACCINE.
*Despite the vitriolic language on both sides (click here to read one writer’s accusation that I am a “total asshole” and scroll through the comments to see my response), CDC officials and pro-vaccine advocates, parents who vaccinate and parents who don’t, all want the same thing: better infant outcomes and improved health for every baby and child in America.
How do you choose what to believe?
Please don’t take my word for any of this. You need to decide for yourself what is accurate information and what is misinformation about vaccines.
Parents, educate yourselves.
Read the scientific studies.
Read the pro-vaccine arguments.
Read the anti-vaccine arguments.
Call the CDC and ask (I have done this several times. No one has ever called me back.) Call the FDA. Call your friends who have chosen to selectively vaccinate or delay vaccines. Call your friends whose children have gotten sick from chicken pox after being vaccinated and from rotavirus before a vaccine was available. Ask your doctor to take the time to explain the details to you (but be aware that there is a strong likelihood you will be asked to leave the practice if you do not follow orders, even though that same doctor may be making different choices for his or her own children.)
A good place to start is by reading books. There are some excellent books to read about vaccine safety and safe vaccination. These are books that give real information instead of misinformation about vaccines. These books include:
The Vaccine-Friendly Plan by Paul Thomas, M.D., and yours truly
The Vaccine Book by Robert W. Sears, M.D.
How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor by Robert Mendelsohn, M.D.
The Vaccine Epidemic edited by Louise Kuo Habakus and Mary Holland
Published: August 15, 2011
Last update: February 2, 2020