Issues

Moderate Meds: The Case for the Vaccination Middle Ground

Image © Shutterstock

Editor's Note:

Dr. Paul Thomas, M.D., is the co-author, with Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., of The Vaccine-Friendly Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health – From Pregnancy Through Your Child’s Teen Years. He joins Signature to make the case for the middle ground when it comes to vaccinating our children.

I grew up in Zimbabwe, the son of missionaries, with an idyllic childhood in many ways. But life was also harsh: poverty, malnutrition, lack of clean water, no sewer systems, and little accessible medical care were part of our village lives. Because of these hardships, I saw more deaths during my childhood than most Americans see in a lifetime.

The death that hit me hardest was my playmate Taurai’s. One day my mom told me Taurai was in the hospital; the next day he was dead from complications from measles.

That was over fifty years ago, but I still miss him and wonder: If Taurai had received a measles vaccine, might his life have been spared? I decided to become a doctor because I wanted to be in a healing profession; I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.

I read voraciously and I’m always looking for answers to medical questions, gathering information about new medications, and trying to educate myself about how doctors can do better. My opinion – that vaccines are one important part of preventative medicine – comes both from firsthand experience and from an exhaustive literature review that I’ve been conducting for over two decades. But even though I have a healthy respect for vaccines, I also understand that that not all vaccines are right for all children and that some people could be healthier and have better immune systems if they choose to forgo some, or even all, vaccines.

That may sound like a radical statement from a doctor who actively recommends vaccines for the 13,000 children in his integrative pediatric practice. But the more studies I read and the more observations I make from my clinical practice, the more I see that something is amiss with America’s current vaccination program and the state of children’s health.

I have scientific, evidence-based concerns about how the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has continued to add vaccines onto the current childhood vaccine schedule. In 1983 children, ages zero to eighteen were given a total of eleven vaccines. Today we are giving children at least fifty-five vaccines in the same time period. I am going to lay my cards on the table: I believe that the current CDC vaccination schedule may be doing America’s children more harm than good.

It took me years to allow myself to see what was right in front of me: The children in my practice who were following my medical advice – the advice that was passed down to me by the CDC and the AAP (the American Academy of Pediatricians) – were getting sicker and sicker. I began seeing more ADD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, diabetes, asthma, allergies, autoimmune disorders, and developmental delays in my practice ever year. And I witnessed the epidemic rise of autism. In the 1980s, it occurred in something like one in ten thousand people; today, America’s autism rate is one in forty-five. And when a pediatrician is getting poor patient outcomes, he has a responsibility to look critically at the medical advice he is giving to his patients to be sure his recommendations are not part of the problem.

You may think vaccination is a black-and-white issue. You’ve heard doctors and scientists argue that vaccines are safe and effective and that the benefits of childhood vaccination outweigh the harms. Then there are concerned parents and “vaccine deniers” who believe that their children have been injured by vaccines.

The truth is an increasing number of my medical colleagues are as concerned as I am about the current CDC vaccine schedule. When you start looking for studies that prove that the current vaccine schedule as it is given in America today is safe, you realize that the data does not exist.

While vaccines are thoroughly tested before they are used on the public, they’re tested one at a time. If there’s a problem with giving vaccines in combination with other vaccines, or if we are overloading our infants with too many vaccines too soon, we really cannot know about it until after the vaccine is in widespread use. And once a vaccine is on the CDC’s vaccine schedule, it is almost impossible to get it off.

There is a strong scientific case for choosing to skip some vaccines, delay others, and give some on schedule. A doctor must take into consideration his patient’s personal risk factors, the disease prevalence in the community, and what is best for society as a whole. No one wants to see a return of infectious diseases, which is a real concern if we stop vaccinating. But if we can give vaccines on a gentler, slower schedule, and simultaneously reduce our autism rates – which most of the families in my practice do – then our entire society benefits.