The limits of vaccines

Tetyana Obukhanych, PhD, writes an open letter to the California legislature that is foolishly, and unconstitutionally, considering putting an end to all legal vaccine exemptions:

Dear Legislator:

My name is Tetyana Obukhanych. I hold a PhD in Immunology. I am writing this letter in the hope that it will correct several common misperceptions about vaccines in order to help you formulate a fair and balanced understanding that is supported by accepted vaccine theory and new scientific findings.

Do unvaccinated children pose a higher threat to the public than the vaccinated?

It is often stated that those who choose not to vaccinate their children for reasons of conscience endanger the rest of the public, and this is the rationale behind most of the legislation to end vaccine exemptions currently being considered by federal and state legislators country-wide. You should be aware that the nature of protection afforded by many modern vaccines – and that includes most of the vaccines recommended by the CDC for children – is not consistent with such a statement. I have outlined below the recommended vaccines that cannot prevent transmission of disease either because they are not designed to prevent the transmission of infection (rather, they are intended to prevent disease symptoms), or because they are for non-communicable diseases. People who have not received the vaccines mentioned below pose no higher threat to the general public than those who have, implying that discrimination against non-immunized children in a public school setting may not be warranted.

How often do serious vaccine adverse events happen?

It is often stated that vaccination rarely leads to serious adverse
events. Unfortunately, this statement is not supported by science. A
recent study done in Ontario, Canada, established that vaccination
actually leads to an emergency room visit for 1 in 168 children
following their 12-month vaccination appointment and for 1 in 730
children following their 18-month vaccination appointment (see appendix
for a scientific study, Item #5).

When the risk of an adverse event requiring an ER visit after
well-baby vaccinations is demonstrably so high, vaccination must remain a
choice for parents, who may understandably be unwilling to assume this
immediate risk in order to protect their children from diseases that are
generally considered mild or that their children may never be exposed

In summary: 1) due to the properties of modern vaccines,
non-vaccinated individuals pose no greater risk of transmission of
polio, diphtheria, pertussis, and numerous non-type b H. influenzae
strains than vaccinated individuals do, non-vaccinated individuals pose
virtually no danger of transmission of hepatitis B in a school setting,
and tetanus is not transmissible at all; 2) there is a significantly
elevated risk of emergency room visits after childhood vaccination
appointments attesting that vaccination is not risk-free; 3) outbreaks
of measles cannot be entirely prevented even if we had nearly perfect
vaccination compliance; and 4) an effective method of preventing measles
and other viral diseases in vaccine-ineligible infants and the
immunocompromised, immunoglobulin, is available for those who may be
exposed to these diseases.

Taken together, these four facts make it clear that discrimination in
a public school setting against children who are not vaccinated for
reasons of conscience is completely unwarranted as the vaccine status of
conscientious objectors poses no undue public health risk. 

Unlike most vaccine advocates, who invariably point to irrelevant historical statistics that a) preceded the introduction of vaccines and b) involve vaccines that are very different than the vaccines now administered today, most vaccine skeptics pay close attention to the actual vaccines and vaccine schedules that are presently relevant today. If you’re not reasonably up to date on either when the various vaccines were first introduced or the historical and current death rates, I would advise that you get yourself up to speed before leaping in and saying something both stupid and easily disproved.

And it is important to be up to speed before trying to discuss the subject, because as Dr. Obukhanych observes, the vaccines that are being given today are not the same vaccines that helped wipe out the last vestiges of the various communicable diseases that had already declined dramatically as a result of improved sewage and health care systems.

Furthermore, there is very good reason to doubt the linear efficacy of vaccines that is commonly assumed due to the presence of the 5 percent of the population who are low-vaccine responders. If one factors in the additional percent of the population that is vaccine-sensitive, which is presently unknown but is unlikely to be any smaller than the low-vaccine responder population, somewhere between 5 and 15 percent of the population are simply never going to fit the “one size fits all approach”, which means that any law that would impose such a draconian vaccine regime on the general population is unconscionable, guaranteed to cause more harm than it prevents, and certain to fail in its stated objectives.

But even if one sets aside the science and the history of vaccines, one doesn’t need to be against vaccines or even to question the idea of their unmitigated beneficence in order to strongly oppose the idea of the government universally and forcibly dictating the injection of substances for which there is no legal liability by people for whom there is no legal accountability, without consent or even parental consent, into every single infant in the nation.

And the fact is that vaccines are not an unmitigated good. Like most things, they come with costs and benefits. It is foolish, even criminal, to attempt to set public policy without taking the downside aspects into account as well as the upside ones.

Furthermore, the scare tactics of vaccine advocates are based on absolute and utter absurdities that require complete ignorance of the historical facts to take seriously. Even in a completely
unvaccinated scenario with 90 percent infection rates that assumes
absolutely no improvement in health care in 55 years, we’re talking
about 450 deaths per year.  Realistically, we’re probably talking around
200, given the advancements in medical technology. THAT is what all the
pro-vaccine scaremongers are going on about. Americans would do far better
to ban bicycles, as they would save three times more lives per year.

383,542: Automobile deaths in last 10 years
6,770: Bicycle deaths in last 10 years
0: Measles deaths in last 10 years

As it happens, since 2003, 108 more Americans have died from reactions to the measles vaccine than have died from measles. Vaccine apologists like to claim that anti-vaxxers “have blood on their hands” due to hypothetical deaths that could theoretically occur as a result of imagined transmissions of communicable diseases that haven’t actually taken place, but the fact is that they have real blood from actual deaths on their own.