By Dr. Anke Zimmermann, ND, FCAH
Categories of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
We have vaccines for many different infections. It is helpful to put them into different categories when evaluating their potential benefit:
1) Common childhood infections
2) Non-childhood infections - 4 types:
a) Potentially serious, easy to catch
b) Potentially serious, hard to catch
c) Not serious, easy to catch
d) Serious, but can't catch from others
Common Vaccines Available for Children
There is a slew of vaccines available for and marketed to children. Do we need them all? You decide
Common Childhood Infections
Common childhood infections such as measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox rarely cause complications in health, well-nourished children with normal immune system function. It is possible that these infections are designed to mature the immune system in some way and also assist with overall development of the child. Natural infection with these conditions confers life-long immunity and has been linked to a reduction in atopic disease (eczema) as well as cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer.
In other words, these infections produce some benefits. I believe that in the future we will recognize their value and allow children to have them after they are prepared with good nutrition, homeopathy, chiropractic and other natural health care approaches instead of vaccinating children against them.
Non-childhood infections generally do not provide any long-term benefit and are best prevented.
Potentially Serious, Easy to Catch
Not all vaccine-preventable diseases are contagious or serious. Easily contagious, serious infections obviously pose risk to others and need to be addressed as such. The only disease that qualifies in the list above is pertussis, as it is fairly contagious and can be serious in very young infants. Droplets from coughing can transmit it, even at a distance.
Potentially Serious, Hard to Catch
None of the other vaccines are for serious, easily contagious infections. Meningococcal infection, which can cause bacterial meningitis for example, is not easily transmitted at all and generally requires close contact with an infected person. Hib-B and Pneumococcal disease are organism normally present in our nose and throat and only cause invasive disease if the immune system is compromised. These diseases are not to be dismissed but should simply be kept in perspective.
Hepatitis B is transferred through contact with body fluids such as blood and reproductive fluids, not a high risk for babies and children unless the mother is Hep-B positive, which she would most likely know living in the industrialized world. HPV is also transmitted through sexual contact, not a normal concern for infants and small children.
Polio is not a threat in Canada. It is transmitted through the fecal-oral route with contaminated water or through food handled by an infected person who did not wash his or her hands properly. Modern sanitation has done wonders to reduce polio, as has better nutrition, the banning of DDT and, last but not least, vaccines. Only one in 100 persons develops paralysis from polio, but of course that is still one too many and polio and other serious infectious diseases are best prevented.
The same holds for Diphteria, there is basically no diphteria in Canada now. It was, however, a serious disease before better sanitation and the introduction of vaccines.
None of these diseases therefor pose a major or even any risk at present to the average, especially breastfed, well-nourished, healthy baby in the industrialized world.
Not Serious, but Easy to Catch
Influenza falls into this category, it is transmitted through contact, droplets or secretions and therefor fairly contagious. However, a strong immune system can prevent flu infection quite easily. The main cause of flu symptoms is low vitamin D.
Rotavirus is not usually serious but can be easy to catch. It can cause complications but the vaccine causes possibly more harm than it prevents. A better bet is breastfeeding and the use of probiotics.
Serious, but not Contagious
Tetanus is potentially very serious and can lead to death, but is entirely non-contagious so does not pose a public health threat due to infection. It is caused by certain soil bacteria but they have to be lodged deep inside the body, usually via a puncture wound, such as the proverbial stepping on a rusty nail. Not a problem in an infant as they can't walk yet.
So there you have it, vaccines demystified for the new parent. Only pertussis is a potentially serious problem for an infant and even that can be managed with vitamin D, vitamin C and homeopathy. Homeoprophylaxis can also be helpful to educate the infant's immune system against pertussis. Measles can be an issue if the mother did not have natural measles as she won't be able to pass this natural immunity on to her infant. Optimizing vitamin A and D and potentially using HP may lower the risk of catching measles. The vaccines is not given before one year anyway, but after a year the child is at reduced risk for complications from measles.
Hib and pneumococcal organisms are normally present in our bodies and only cause invasive disease if the child is immunocompromised. The best defense is to breast-feed until age 2 and to optimize vitamin A and D levels as above, as well as other nutrients with a nutrient-dense diet.
It is good to be aware of and respect these infections, but there is no need to be overly fearful of all of them, as you can see.
Dr. Anke Zimmermann, ND, FCAH, Naturopathic and Homeopathic Physician
Dr. Anke Zimmermann, ND, FCAH, Naturopathic Pediatrics
209-1061 Fort Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 5A1
Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10-6 and alternating Saturdays from 10-4