Doctor goes from coaxing parents into vaccinating kids to defending their right NOT to
-by Julie Wilson
The following is an excerpt from Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and The Forgotten History. It begins with a word from a Dr. Jayne L. M. Donegan, who transitioned from vaccine advocate to vaccine skeptic:
Vaccination is regarded as the most important health advance in the 20th century by most health professionals and laypeople. Although the dramatic decreases in morbidity and mortality from diseases that occurred in the course of the 20th century have been credited to the introduction of specific vaccines, scant acknowledgment has been given to improving social conditions. ...
It was a received "article of faith" for me and my contemporaries, that vaccination was the single most useful health intervention that had ever been introduced. Along with all my medical and nursing colleagues, I was taught that vaccines were the reason children and adults stopped dying from diseases for which there are vaccines.
We were told that other diseases, such as scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, typhus, typhoid, cholera, and so on, for which there are no vaccines at the time, diminished both in incidence and mortality (ability to kill) due to better social conditions.
You would think—as medical students who are supposed to be moderately intelligent—that some of us would have asked, "But if deaths from these diseases decreased due to improved social conditions, mightn't the ones for which there are vaccines also have decreased at the same time, for the same reason?" But we didn't. ...
Along with most doctors, I regarded parents who would not vaccinate their children as ignorant or, if not ignorant, sociopathic, for withholding what I believed was a lifesaving intervention and putting everybody else at risk by reducing herd immunity.
Indeed, at special clinics in the 1980s, I used to counsel parents who wouldn't vaccinate their children against whooping cough—which was regarded as the problematic vaccine in those days. I acknowledged that there were dangers associated with the vaccine. I was a truthful doctor, but I told them the official line: that the disease was 10 times more likely to cause death or disability than the vaccine, so any sane person would choose to vaccinate.
In 1994 there was a massive measles/rubella vaccination campaign in the UK. Seven million schoolchildren were vaccinated against measles and rubella to protect them from an epidemic of measles, which was said to be imminent.
In those days, there was only one measles shot in the schedule—it is a live viral vaccine and was supposed to be like the wild measles virus. We were told, "One dose and you are immune for life."
I did realize that one shot, however, might not protect every child—no vaccine is one hundred percent effective—but the chief medical officer said that even two shots of this "one-shot vaccine" would not necessarily protect children when the epidemic came and that they would need a third.
He also said that the best way to vaccinate children was en masse to "break the chain of transmission."
This left me in a quandary. Obviously, the risk-to-benefit ratio of the vaccine was in favor of the vaccine if it was safer than the disease and if it stopped your child from getting the disease. This is what most parents expect to happen and certainly what they are encouraged to believe.
But if children can have the one-shot vaccine twice and still get the disease so they need to have a third shot, this means they can be exposed to all the risks of the vaccine two or three times ...and at the same time, all the risks of the disease as well.
Did I need to reevaluate what I had been saying to parents?
This was the start of my long, slow journey researching vaccination and disease ecology and learning about other models and philosophies of health and natural hygiene such as those used by the great pioneers who cleaned up our cities and built clean water supplies and sewage systems.
For example, by the 1950s when the whooping cough vaccine was introduced, data showed that whooping cough was killing only 1 percent of the numbers of people who used to die in England and Wales 50 years before. Official data showed that the same happened with measles.
... I came to the gradual realization that it was true what people on the outside had been telling me, that health is the only immunity.
We get infectious diseases when our bodies need to have a periodic cleanout.
Children, especially, benefit from childhood spotty rashes, or exanthems as they are called, at appropriate times in order to make developmental leaps, so long as they are treated appropriately. In my experience, the worst complications of childhood infections are caused by standard medical treatment, which involves suppression of all the symptoms.
Has this knowledge helped my career? It has certainly enabled me to give better advice to parents about treating childhood illness and to be able to provide parents with enough information to give truly informed consent for medical interventions such as vaccination.
My research also led me to being asked, in 2002, to act as an expert witness for the mothers of two unvaccinated children whose absent fathers were applying to the court for a vaccination enforcement order.
Dr. Donegan nearly lost her career over the case. An appeals judge called her report "junk science"; subsequently, she was charged with professional misconduct and threatened with losing her license.
However, the UK's General Medical Council exonerated her three years later, stating that Donegan was in fact "objective, independent and unbiased" in her court reporting.
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