Saturday, 10 October 2009

To Jab or not to Jab

When, as a teenager, I first learned the story of Edward Jenner and how he developed the smallpox vaccine, I was entranced. I admired his good observation and the thinking that led him through the scientific process. I was, of course, already familiar with the idea of vaccination and the public health benefits it involves and my awakening to the history of the science further convinced me of the beauty of the idea .
Gradually I became aware of the anti-immunisation lobby and as a mother to very small babies and children (at the age of hundreds of jabs) I started to read on the subject.
Knowing that the anti-immunisation lobby was passionate about their cause I expected them to produce biased propaganda and I was frustrated by my own lack of knowledge to sort through it all (and how could I fully understand a branch of science that people spend whole careers in?)
Without the knowledge to fully understand but with the awareness that immunisation has saved thousands, possibly millions, of lives I was (and still am) uneasy about defying the prevailing wisdom.
The anti-immunisation people raise some good arguments: poor science and shonky testing are a concern, the presence of all kinds of heavy duty sounding chemicals in vaccines is a worry and there is plenty of circumstantial evidence linking vacciness to autism and similar mysterious dieases.
The accusation of shonky science is a case of their word against theirs and there is always argument in the scientific community so it's pretty hard to sort the wheat from the chaff with that issue.
Scary sounding chemicals are a similarly rubbish argument as far as I am concerned. Lots of everyday things have scary sounding names and anyhow, as a society we love chemicals, we surround ourselves with all sorts of dodgy stuff without a second thought so it is inconsistent to start worrying about micrograms of things, even if we do inject them into tiny infants. On this argument, again, we are at the mercy of the people who explain it to us.
The circumstantial evidence damning vaccines is, to me, the most serious but it is circumstantial and it is presented by a lobby group so there is a question mark over just how serious I should get about that.
For years I watched the debate, for years I wondered just what is the right approach and then one day the anti-immunisation lobby hit a chord with me:
The normal pathway of disease into the body is not via a needle into muscle.
Disease is normally introduced into the body through contaminated hands in mouths or on eyes. Sometimes it is introduced through droplet transmission (coughing & sneezing). On comparitively rare occasions it is introduced by blood to blood contact or sexual activity.
This idea that we are trying to stimulate the body's natural defences by a completely unnatural method of disease introduction is where the anti-immunisation lobby win me. It does not mean that I wouldn't immunise my child, it does not mean that I can't see the life saving benefits of vaccinations. It does mean that the science is flawed. It does give the lobbyists credibility. It does mean that I think seriously before vaccinating and it does mean that I will pursue other means of immune support.
With the release of the H1N1 vaccine I say no, my family will not be vaccinated. I will not cave to the scaremongers, I will not listen to my government's appalling accusations that if I refuse I put others at risk (others can get their jabs and if it's all as good as we are told they won't need my compliance)
I will trust in the protective power of the immune system, I will trust in good sleep and good nutrition, I will hope for good hygiene and in the event that we get sick I will believe in the resilience of the human body. I will believe that by not subjecting my family to genetically altered viral material, preserved in unpronouncable chemicals and introduced violently into the body, bypassing all early defence mechanisms I have given them their best possible chance of being healthy enough to fight off a bug that is admittedly very unpleasant but ultimately not usually serious.


  1. Thanks for posting this!

    We've been going around about the "Hinny" vaccine (as we call it here at Chez Weatherinthestreets).

    I'm a firm believer in vaccinations against the serious childhood diseases--and even got the seasonal flu vaccine for us all--

    but the Hinny vaccine?

    I think I'm with you on this one.

  2. hi leah, it seems to be the topic of the day, i have talked about it with my parents and with an ols work friend.
    of course, i write from a privileged position. it is easy to be wary when the kids are big enough to be past the danger point for lots of horror stuff and i doubt i would refuse vaccination for the big ones but i do have concerns about the mounting list of scheduled vaccines for the wee ones while their systems are as yet poorly developed

  3. been trying to figure why you call it the hinny vaccine.....

    duh kylie! finally got it
    personalised number plates confuse me too

  4. Oh yeah--they confuse me too! In fact, when Sarge first said "Hinny" I didn't get it either!

  5. Don't think I agree with you on this one. It's natural for diseases and toxins to be introduced through the skin via punctures e.g. wild animals, mosquitoes, rats, snakes etc. Nothing unusual about it except the needle. I think vaccines have prevented disease on a colossal scale with very few adverse reactions (often, as in the recent British death from cervical cancer vaccine, because of a serious underlying medical condition).

    But then again I don't have children. If I did, I might have a different opinion.

  6. oh nick,
    you just blew my argument out of the water!
    it's probably not concern for the kids that motivates me on this one and more a deep distrust of the power mongers.
    vaccination has been a wonderful thing but we still need to ask questions.

  7. I agree--we do need to ask questions.

    My concern is with the power mongers and Hedgie's safety.

    But I'm not sure what I think yet...

    I go back and forth...

  8. I feel if my mother had been vaccinated against the german measles i wouldn't have been born with rubella. I was born with servere hearing loss and a hole in the heart that was fixed after i was born and never have any trouble with my heart and the retinas are scared which freaks out optometrists when they look into my eyes until i tell them what caused it.
    so i'm one of the luckier ones and i think i must be one of the last lot of my generation to get rubella.

  9. I'm on the other side on this one, Kylie, but we can still be friends. :)

  10. It's great that you are thinking about it. So many parents offer their children for vaccination without even knowing what they are attending for. I know this because I administer vacccines in a weekly immunisation clinic. It is refreshing when a parent actually asks about the vacines to be given!Most parents are very trusting of what is 'government recommended'. I think on the whole the departments of health have integrity and I don't buy the anti-immunistaion cries of profiteering.(but you never know). Kylie, I don't think we will ever know if we have interfered too much with the immune system over the years. With the massive hike in cases of asthma and diabetes, one certainly wonders. Undoubtedly medical science has changed our lives irrevocably- much is for the better. Millions of children die every year in Africa when a vaccine proven to be safe (MMR) would save them. In the UK adjuvants and thiomersal have been taken out of all the childhood vaccines- because of the ongoing rumbling debate about autism, although the link is unproven. When a child is affected by autism, as one of my nephews is, the questions are always there as to the cause. However, most of the swine flu vaccines bought by the UK government will contain thiomersal which is needed as a preservative to enable the vaccine to be presented as multi-dose vials (to save time in production) and to prevent bacteria contaminating the vials as they are drawn up by the likes of me! It all comes down to rik/benefit asseessment. You are so wise to assess the risks to your healthy children- and it is for every parent to do the same. If I had a child with severe asthma or other illness or who was immunocompromised in any way, I would not hesitate to vaccinate with any H1N1 vaccine, though it should be remembered that trials are still ongoing in children. It is not compulsory in UK and although only 13% of healthcare workers in UK take up the recommendation to be vaccinated, I will be one of them as I do not want to be a vehicle for transmission.

    Good post Kyles- this has been on my mind for many weeks now- we talk of little else at work!!!

  11. Isn't it scary ... I have several friends whose first experience of sickness in their child has been vaccine-related. It's not always the easiest/best route to take.

  12. I have a new name for you - Kontrovercial Kyles :)

  13. God, I always knew Cinnamon was smart. Damn!

    Thoughtful post. I read every word. I suffer with chronic pain and have been advised to get the flu shot every year. I debate. I do. I nearly died from the flu in 1996 and have had every flu shot since. This year, I'm not so sure. I have an odd feeling. And you know me...I'm pretty aware. Kylie, this is an amazing post. Amazing. I don't even have kids and I'm running around as if I do!!!

    Love you baby. XO

  14. jo
    theres no doubt rubella is an important one. i'm sorry that happened to you and i'm glad those days are behind us


  15. megan,
    i switch sides all the time!

  16. cinnamon,
    thanks for taking the time to write all of that!
    it seems that things are a bit different in the UK, probably a bit more considered
    i'll never quite get my head around this one, never really have a definite opinion.....
    it's just a good thing the kids are old enough now to have good immune systems so they can cope better with a shot if needed and cope with illness too


  17. ellie,
    nice to see you here!
    i'm sorry about your friends and i hope it isnt/wasnt overly serious.
    it's a sticky subject so it's a good idea to keep questioning....

  18. hi suzie!
    you took a break from the dreaded facebook!
    i'll never make my mind up on the vaccination issue but i dont think we'll be getting this one

    now, get outta that nightie!

  19. Awesome post!

    I can't help but keep thinking, "A shot in the hinny?"

    Where I stand? Get the usual...the seasonal stuff...I won't be getting the other.

    The risks parents take in not vaccinating their children I believe are far greater than not taking that chance.

    There is too much out there to really perform in life while being scared. You gotta give it your best shot. ;)


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