Supporting vaccinations

Dr. Stephen C. Stripe, Minot

There is a serious public health problem that is occurring globally and it is costing lives and health in North Dakota and here in Minot. People are being misinformed about vaccines. I took some of my medical students, family medicine residents and members of the Minot Skeptical Society to a chiropractor in town who is actively promoting not vaccinating children and adults for fear of autism and other imagined complications of vaccines with special public lectures. The chiropractor incorrectly stated that there are toxins in the vaccines and that the potential complications of vaccines outweigh the benefits. She was speaking outside her area of expertise. Chiropractors do not receive any training in infectious disease or immunology in their schools. In fact, a lot of chiropractic schools actively teach anti vaccine or that all diseases are caused by spinal subluxations (an unproven diagnosis). Claiming that adjusting the back will cure infections is just plain false.

Yes, vaccines have trace amounts of formaldehyde in them. Formaldehyde is produced in the body in greater quantities by metabolism than is even found in vaccines. Thimerosol, one of the toxins cited, is a preservative bound in a form called ethyl mercury. It is used in very small amounts and is rapidly cleared from the body, generally within one week. No toxic levels have ever been measured. Thimerosol was invented in the 1930s and it was called mercurochrome. It was an antiseptic that your mother, if you are as old as I am or more, put on cuts. It didn’t hurt like the other over the counter antiseptic did, tincture of iodine. It was also used by doctors to paint the back of children’s throats for strep throat and other bacterial infections, because it was safe, and was done for millions of children. Besides, in 1999 thimerosol was removed from almost all vaccines. The MMR vaccine has never had thimerosol in it. Yet the rates of autism diagnosis continued to climb. It was a single physician in England, Andrew Wakefield, who published in Lancet , a prestigious British medical journal several cases of finding measles proteins in biopsy specimens from colonoscopy of children and he alone falsely made the link to autism. A conspiracy began, but it was Wakefield who was paid a half a million pounds by a lawyer that was anxious to have some study to sue vaccine companies. Wakefield was also trying to develop his own measles vaccine. The truth came out a few years ago after many studies involving thousands of children all over the world that showed there was no relationship between vaccines/thimerasol and autism. He subsequently lost his license in England and his original paper was retracted. The scare tactics of the anti vaccine group relies on pseudoscience, wishful thinking, and other dangerous ideas.

Prior to 1500, measles wiped out one third of all people traveling on trade routes in Europe. Measles and small pox were brought to the new world by Europeans knowingly or unknowingly and it decimated the native people of the western hemisphere. When asked about small pox being eradicated, this chiropractor stated that it was hand washing that eliminated the disease. She also said that there are still cases from the vaccine itself. The last known case of wild small pox was in Ethiopia in 1979, easily wiped out by the small pox vaccine.

In the past 150 years, measles has killed 200 million people, including 345,000 children in just the year 2005. Measles has a 7 percent mortality rate or 2.2 deaths per 1,000 people. The measles vaccine was introduced in 1963. The anti vaccine groups say that the illness was fading away anyway. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Now with the anti vaccine movement measles is coming back with vengeance.

I asked the chiropractor what basis she had for her opinion and she answered “none.” That is correct, there is no basis for her opinion, but there are over 50 years of study and experiments to prove the value of vaccines. I am not attacking the chiropractor, but the ideas that she was selling.

Another source of disagreement is that some pediatricians and family medicine doctors will not see unvaccinated children. But if an unvaccinated child or person is in a waiting room with someone who couldn’t be vaccinated because of disease they have, such as cancer, immune deficiency or medications that decrease a person’s immunity, then that person who is sick and unvaccinated may die from that simple childhood illness. It is the height of selfishness to put other people at risk because you didn’t want to get vaccinated or have your child vaccinated.