Pediatrics

vaccinations – how to make an informed decision

When I get asked about vaccinations, my only advice is to consider the options and make an informed decision. It can be a very hard to decision to make for some parents. And yet for others, it is very easy. There are many parents who have personally witnessed their child’s health decline after vaccinations, yet public health appears to confirm that prevention and eradication of certain diseases is thanks to vaccines.

The main factors to consider in vaccination include: The probability of acquiring the disease, the risk of significant disease caused by the organism, the additives to the vaccine, the report efficacy of the vaccine, our knowledge of the organism that causes the disease, and how vaccines influence the developing immune system.

There are two major types of immune protection: innate immunity and acquired. Innate immunity is non-selective and protects the person regardless of previous exposure. This includes mucosal immunity, the skin barrier, components of the digestive system and first-line cells of the immune system, fever and inflammation. Acquired immunity is more specific, and requires previous exposure(s) for the immune system to recognize self from non-self. It creates a memory, so that when the body encounters the pathogen, it reacts more quickly. There are two arms of the acquired immune system: cell mediated and humoral. Cell mediated (Th1) is more localized while humoral (Th2) is systemic. Both need to be activated during an immune reaction, however once the body recovers after the infection, the balance of these arms need to occur. If balance does not occur and one arm becomes more dominant, studies have shown that in cell mediated dominance, autoimmune pathology may result, and if there is humoral dominance, allergies and eczema may result.

Another point to consider is the route of exposure. Vaccines are giving intra-muscularly, where memory is created in the blood and lymph, however most pathogens are acquired via the gastro-intestinal tract. And so, the memory of IgA, or immune cells of the gastro-intestinal tract, are not activated.

This article from New Zealand talks about the rise in pertussis cases, despite vaccination. http://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/6747743/Disease-strikes-vaccinated-children. In fact, it appears that pertussis outbreak comes in waves, similarly to what seems to be happening with measles. However, the CDC continues to recommend the vaccine as prevention.

When thinking about vaccination, the decision for or against is personal. However, keep in mind that not any one drug, medication, or vaccine can prevent disease. The immune system, in conjunction with the neurological, hormonal, and digestive system, are all interconnected. And even more so, with added stress and cortisol.

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