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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 598

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We got a letter from the government telling us our daughter should be vaccinated-we refused

The fast moving outbreak of vaccine hysteria has swept the nation. The debate has been disappointing, as most debates about controversial public policies are in the USA. When to vaccinate or not is a much more complicated issue than the partisans on each side will consider. I will give you my conclusion up-front. People should have the right to decide for themselves and their dependents if and when to vaccinate.

The story is this; Back in the mid-90s, I live in Sweden, where my daughter was born, to me (an American) and a native Swede. We received a letter from the public health authorities tell us our daughter should be vaccinated against Tuberculosis. TB vaccination is not standard for children in Sweden, but because one of her parents was an ‘immigrant’ we were called in for this vaccination.
The TB vaccine is not benign, it leaves a permeant scar. My other concern was that we were planning to move to the USA and I remembered having skin tests for TB in school every year when I was a child. If you have been vaccinated you will hit positive on a skin test. The risk for my daughter of contracting TB was very small and most strains of TB can be easily and effectively treated. The nurse who we had to talk to was not happy that we were refusing the vaccine, but relented in the face of our opposition.

I am not anti-vaccine, my daughter received all of the other ‘regular’ childhood vaccines and when she was a pre-teen she was vaccinated against HPV, a new, less universal, vaccine. But I still think I made the right decision about the TB vaccine, even though some of my concern was based on wrong information- I don’t think that TB skin tests are still done routinely in US schools.
All vaccines carry a risk of serious, possibly fatal, complications. The odds against a serious adverse reaction is very small. But everyone should be able to take their own chances. I will buy a Powerball lottery ticket today. The odds of my daughter (or myself) dying from a sudden adverse reaction to a vaccine is roughly 300 times greater than me winning Powerball. For me, the minuscule odds are worth $2, but for someone else, miniscule odds might not be worth risking their life.

Vaccinations and the sometimes less than scientific public policy about vaccinations is not universally positive. I am not talking about the fears surrounding autism and MMR. Let’s first look at Polio. Church Bells rang on April 12th 1955 when it was announced that a safe an effective vaccine had been developed for Polio. It is not possible for those of us who grew-up after 1955 to fully understand the joy people felt at conquering this horrible disease. The original Salk vaccine, or inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) was soon superseded by the Sabin Oral polio vaccine (OPV), an attenuated vaccine. The OPV vaccine is more effective and much easier to administer and was widely used. Between 1962 and 1965 about 100 million Americans (roughly 56% of the population at that time) received the Sabin vaccine. The problem is that OPV, can in rare cases, cause vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP), basically, give you devastating polio. -1 case per 750,000 vaccine recipients. As of January 1, 2000, OPV was no longer recommended for routine immunization in the United States.

Rare cases of VAPP was not the only problem on the way to defeating Polio in the US. Early on in the mass vaccination campaign, defective vaccine from Cutter Biologicals caused 153 cases of paralysis and 11 deaths. Much later, it was discovered that from 1955 to 1963 a proportion of vaccine was contaminated with SV40 virus. It has been estimated that 10–30 million Americans may have received a dose of vaccine contaminated with SV40, but adverse health effects of the virus are not conclusive.

Equal disturbing is that public policy is not always dictated by firm science. The 1976 swine flu debacle was driven more by President Ford's re-election campaign than by sound public health policy. As a 13 year old middle school student, I convinced my parents to let me op-out of that mass vaccination program. The 1976 swine flu vaccine is thought to have possibly caused Guillain–Barré syndrome for 1 in 105,000 individuals. The dangers of the flu epidemic were greatly over estimated. A/New Jersey/1976 (H1N1) was detected only from January 19 to February 9 and did not spread beyond Fort Dix. Mass vaccination did not begin in the US until October 1st. 48,161,019 Americans, or just over 22% of the population, were vaccinated. Dick Cheney, who was Ford’s chief of staff at the time was a key driver behind the miss-guided policy. After 9-11, Cheney also advocated for mass vaccination against smallpox out of fear the pox would be used as a terrorist weapon. While it would have been foolish to vaccinate the whole population against smallpox in the absence of any credible threat, I was vaccinated against smallpox as a child, just one jab in the millions the wiped out the disease. I still have the scar.

Just to recap, from the last to the first; I am glad my daughter was not forced to be vaccinated against smallpox because of Cheney’s paranoid ‘war on terror’ manipulations. I am glad I was vaccinated, even though a have a permanent scar, as a part of the campaign that ridded the world of this disease. I am glad I opted out of the ill-conceived, politically motivated 1976 swine-flu vaccination program. I am glad I was vaccinated against Polio, even though I may have been exposed to SV40, as the disease is now virtually wipe-out in the US. I am glad we refused the TB vaccine, the call for which was based on general non-specific demographic profiling- not our actual individual circumstances.
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