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Vaccination questions from someone who comes from a non vaccinating community

(23 Posts)
LiftWantedAroundTheWorld Fri 28-Feb-14 20:11:59

I am genuinely and seriously interested in answers here - I have no axe to grind and no agenda either way!

I come from a fairly large community where vaccination is not really the norm. Don't want to elaborate further in case it outs me but suffice to say I am completely unvaccinated as my siblings and nearly all my childhood friends, as are the children of many many people I know. My parents are dyed in the wool 2nd generation anti-vaccinators who made this decision long before Wakefield etc.

I have 2 DC (9 and 3) who are both unvaccinated so far. Please do not leap to flame me for this. For a long time I relied heavily on my parents for support etc (had children v young and am a lone parent) and its hard to question what you have been brought up to consider as truth!

I now find myself starting to question this for various reasons. This has been a long slow process and its hard for me to find actual evidence backed up by genuine research and findings on either side. The two main questions I have are:

a) what evidence is there that vaccines work? I have seen many graphs showing a massive decline in infectious diseases before the introduction of vaccines - and also in diseases that there is no vaccine for such as scarlet fever. Is this a red herring? It seems plausible on the surface and I was brought up to believe that better nutrition and sanitation etc was behind the decline. But... whats the actual truth here??

b) what evidence is there that vaccination improves overall health outcomes for children? Ie are non vaccinated children healthier overall on a population level (which is what I have always been led to believe) ? Are there any properly done studies on this?

Thank you in advance to anyone who reads through this and please, please be gentle with me. This has been a hard thing for me to even start questioning and I genuinely want to know more.

Noggie Fri 28-Feb-14 20:26:30

Vaccination is not just about individuals being protected. It provides 'herd immunity' meaning vulnerable individuals who cannot be vaccinated benefit because disease is less common meaning they are less likely to come into contact with an infectious individual. One of the reasons why people may choose not to vaccinate is because they/their children are healthy and could probably 'cope' if infected with measles etc- unfortunately this is not helpful for vulnerable individuals who do not have the luxury of bring able to be vaccinated. Another consideration is that there can be very serious side effects caused by eg measles.

LiftWantedAroundTheWorld Fri 28-Feb-14 20:42:06

Thank you. The herd immunity argument is one of the main things that has made me start to question what I had always previously thought was a non negotiable belief. But at the end of the day most people will do what they believe is best for their child... and even though I'm seriously questioning this issue and everything I have always believed on it, I am yet to be convinced that vaccination is best for my children. But I am totally open to the idea and want to become better informed. Hence the thread. But yes that is one of the things that do make a difference on a population level and is something I want to take into account.

Though that said coming from a community where pretty much nobody was vaccinated, pretty much everybody got every childhood illness going, yet nobody suffered any long term effects... its really hard to shake off what I have seen for myself confused I'm struggling to reconcile what I saw for myself with what I hear are the risks of not vaccinating if that makes sense?

CatherinaJTV Sat 01-Mar-14 23:07:18

a) the fact that there are not 700000 kids with measles each year in the UK show you that vaccines work. It wasn't the cases that went down before vaccines, it was deaths from measles (for example), because medicine (eg antibiotics) and intensive care got better.

b) yes, health is compared, although rarely in one huge study - this blog post explains it:

Paintyfingers Sun 02-Mar-14 00:58:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PJ67 Mon 10-Mar-14 23:10:39

Hi. This is a very good thread and I have also yet to decide on some vaccinations for my younger two due to my older son having a reaction to the mmr. That's a very interesting point about the decline in scarlet fever. If there was a vaccine for this then it would be credited with causing the reduction in cases.
I am also interested in the side effects of measles. I don't doubt it is a serious illness but I haven't seen any statistics on the outbreak in Wales last year ie how many children suffered serious side effects.
I also agree that whilst herd immunity is of great benefit, I think most people would put their own children before other peoples and not vaccinate them if they weren't fully comfortable with it just because of the greater good.

Lonecatwithkitten Sat 15-Mar-14 13:56:04

The two biggest diseases to look at for vaccine evidence are small pox and polio. Small pox has been eradicated by worldwide vaccination and polio reduced to very low numbers. Other excellent examples are tetanus and diphtheria. Rabies would also be a good disease to research as there is good evidence relating to communities with no access to anti-toxin.
All vaccines have to go through extensive licencing including challenge studies where vaccinated individuals are exposed to the disease they are vaccinated for.

bruffin Sat 15-Mar-14 14:48:33

here is an analysis of some of the antivax graphs Measles goes in peaks and troughs and in the 60s uk there were more cases than in the 40s hpa measles notifications
this also has a lot of information about recent epidemics

Also look at whooping cough page 8 of this
in 1938 to 1940 before the introduction of the whooping cough jab there were 7123 in children aged 2 months and under

1990-1999 represented 94 deaths
2000-2006 represented 145 deaths.
in children too young to be vaccinated against whooping cough, Herd immunity prevented thousand of death a year.

Scarlet fever hasnt necessarily declinded but it is a bacterial infection and is cured by antibiotics now. It can still be pretty nasty as my exBIL found out. He was bedridden for weeks with it.

IOM adverse effects and causality of vaccines has a lot of information in as well

HermioneWeasley Sat 15-Mar-14 14:55:58

Lonecat beat me to it in terms of pointing to lack of smallpox to show that vaccines work.

OP it must be tough to face into a long held belief and question it and I admire you for doing so.

I don't believe anything could persuade me to question my extremely pro vax stance!

bruffin Sat 15-Mar-14 15:02:54

Also its worth looking at Rubella, i keep hearing i want my child to get it as it is a mild disease. They keep ignoring the fact that when there was no vaccine for Rubella a significant portion of the community didnt get it as a child, it wasnt that easy to catch and it is easily mistaken. 95% of tested rubella comes back negative. In the 1960s the were 10s of thousands of cases of pregnant women getting rubella resulting in miscarriage and still births and there were so many cases of CRS that bulge classes at had to be opened in deaf schools. There were around 8000 deaf and 6000 deaf and blind children resulting from that one epidemic. If it was just a disease of childhood why were so many pregnant women affected?

bruffin Sat 15-Mar-14 15:04:43

Sorry should clarify the figures are for the US not UK

DebbieOfMaddox Sat 15-Mar-14 15:10:20

Whooping cough isn't a great example of herd immunity, bruffin, because it wears off relatively quickly (even the link you posted states at the beginning "Pertussis results in substantial morbidity among adults and adolescents whose immunity to past childhood
vaccination or B. pertussis infection might have waned and
who have not received booster immunization for pertussis" and then on page 8 the recommendation is for health care workers or anyone else at risk to be revaccinated every two years). Obviously, yes, there's some increased herdlike immunity among small children (who have just been vaccinated and are the group small babies are most likely to be mixing with) and infants from 2 months up are likely to have been vaccinated, but "herd immunity" is a bit of a misnomer (I am approaching this from the perspective of someone whose newborn did catch whooping cough).

I don't disagree with the overall point about herd immunity, but whooping cough isn't the best example to choose.

HolidayCriminal Sat 15-Mar-14 15:18:01

I think it's easier to find evidence to slightly different questions, OP.

What evidence is there that vaccines DON'T work?

There is some. Typically about 5% of people who have been vaccinated only once will NOT have immunity in subsequent blood tests. Typically most boosters lower this to 1% chance of no immunity (as tested for antibodies in blood). Wild bouts of diseases do not always confer life long immunity, either (says she who had chickenpox twice).

what evidence is there that vaccination DON'T improves overall health outcomes for children?

There's no credible evidence that vaccination causes widespread harm.

There's plenty of anecdotal evidence of harm for those who WEREN'T vaccinated and otherwise had the best of the world's medical care available. My dad almost died from meningitis & ended up with hearing loss. DH suffered badly with pneumonia from HIb. DH uncle had asthma from a childhood bout of whooping cough. I am into family history; all 4 older siblings of my GG-grandmother died in the same week of diphtheria in 1878 (naice middle class family). Half of MN is hysterical about the dangers of chickenpox, some have graphic anecdotes to back that up.

bruffin Sat 15-Mar-14 15:42:57

Immunity from natural whooping cough as well.

I just need to correct what i said above as it was a while back since i looked at the graph properly
the 7123 figure was for children under 1 and about 35 % of them were 2 months and under. It was actually around 2500 2 months and under that died from pertussis in 1938-1940. that figure was down to 70 odd over a 2000-2006. Even in the recent growth in cases there have not been anything like the number of deaths in those too young to be immunised as there were prior to immunisation.

bruffin Sat 15-Mar-14 15:43:47

"Immunity from natural whooping cough wanes as well"

beegirl100 Fri 21-Mar-14 11:12:19

I would be interested in seeing some scientific evidence of the pros and cons of vaccinating children. Surely with all the parents complaining of their children developing gut problems, learning difficulties, etc etc the scientists would want to look into this if only to prove themselves right?
But come one people, we can't be so stupid as to think the sharp increase in learning problems and gut problems in kids and increase in vaccines (over 20 for under two year olds) has nothing in common.
Please let there be a proper medical and scientific trial be done so we know once and for all.

PigletJohn Fri 21-Mar-14 11:28:37

that's interesting, beegirl.

People keep doing studies to try to find evidence that the MMR lies stories are true, and they keep failing. Anyone who could find good evidence would get a Nobel prize. Are you holding out for a study that gives the results you want?

squishysquirmy Fri 21-Mar-14 11:54:24

bee girl: I think that there have been hundreds of proper medical and scientific trials into the safety of vaccines.

Previous posters have answered your questions much better than I have, but I am interested when you say that your community have caught every childhood disease going. I would expect that you have in fact been protected from some of the nastier illnesses due to never being exposed to infected individuals - thanks to herd immunity of the wider population.

AllMimsyWereTheBorogroves Fri 21-Mar-14 12:05:07

Is there an increase in learning problems? I'm in my 50s and I would say there's been an increase/change in diagnosis.

squishysquirmy Fri 21-Mar-14 12:16:01

I know that your community's anti-vac stance preceeds Wakefield, but if you are looking for evidence of vaccinations effectiveness it may be helpful to look into what happened because of the scare - a drop in the number of vaccinated children to was eventually followed by an increase in the prevalence of those diseases several years later.

Ubik1 Fri 21-Mar-14 12:22:29

polio reduced to very low number

Yes my mother recalls being banned from the public paddling pools in the local park in the 1950's/60's because her mother feared polio. An aunty actually had it.

MIL recalls measles - two weeks in a darkened room, very ill and unpleasant.

PigletJohn Fri 21-Mar-14 12:49:56

I knew two people who had polio, both survived but have limps and no children. They must be in their sixties.

sashh Sun 23-Mar-14 09:48:50

Please let there be a proper medical and scientific trial be done so we know once and for all.

There have been hundreds.

A complete waste of money that could have been spent on finding out something we don't know.


Sanitation stops people coming in to contact with some substances that cause harm, but only for as long as the sanitation is in place, this is why after natural disasters when a lot of people are living together in unsanitary conditions you get (or before vaccination you got) epidemics of things like cholera.

Polio is currently making its way back via Syria. Children have not been vaccinated and people are living in refugee camps. The only other two countries with outbreaks are both places that don't have effective vaccination.

Some interesting reading is looking at the history of vaccination/immunisation. And of course it doesn't happen in isolation.

Some periods of history / some places create situations where an outbreak of a disease can become an epidemic more easily.

So living on a farm in the middle of nowhere you would be exposed to some diseases from soil and water, but a contagious disease may have to be 'brought in' from outside, but then it can only infect the people on the farm.

Move the same family to a town, have the parents work in factories and send the children to school and their chances of contracting something from another person increases and of course their opportunity to pass it on also increases.

Physiologically the people are exactly the same and have the same immune systems but they come in to contact with more 'bugs'.

Knowledge of how diseases 'work' and which ones are contagious also plays a part. We know it is easy to pass chicken pox on so we isolate people with it.

But that isolation does depend on living conditions, you may know that your child should be isolated but if you are living in a tent in a refugee camp how do you do that?

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