Tuesday, June 29, 2021

COVID-19 Update

It has been six months since the last time I wrote about the ongoing pandemic. At that time the first vaccines were just beginning to roll out. I've been waiting to see how things would unfold, both in terms of the effectiveness of the vaccines, and any new information on what they are doing in and to our body before adding anything to what I provided before.

So far things have played out as I expected that they would. There is absolutely no doubt that—at least for now—mass vaccination has significantly slowed down the progression of the pandemic. Unfortunately, there is also growing evidence of potential negative health consequences resulting from the use of the mRNA and viral vector vaccines. Initially, my concerns were primarily regarding the potential for long-term reactions that would start showing up a year or two after administration of the vaccines. Aside from the typical acute reactions that can occur with any vaccine and the more serious anaphylactic reactions that seem to be more common with mRNA than other types of vaccines, what we are now also seeing are shorter-term reactions (blood clots, heart inflammation, capillary leakage, Guillaine-Barre syndrome, etc.) that could have been predicted had the vaccines been subjected to larger (more subjects), broader (more diverse subjects) and longer clinical trials.

One of my major concerns has been the increasing polarization that is occurring with regard to the pandemic and vaccinations. This includes a number of the fantastical conspiracy theories that are being propagated by some of the more extremely polarized people on the 'anti-vax' side of the spectrum. I am equally concerned about the 'pro-vax' camp demonizing anyone who chooses to look objectively at the issue rather than blindly follow the party line. Both sides are using fear to gather support and demonize anyone with a different point of view. It seems to be a sign of the times. This polarization is dividing families, friends, communities and countries. It is even dividing scientists and medical professionals. There are those among them who have genuine concerns about some of the choices being made by politicians and bureaucrats and are afraid to speak out because it could ruin their career. It's always a concern when it's not possible to have a clear open discussion about an issue. It also makes it very difficult for anyone who wants to make an informed choice. It's challenging enough given that there are still far more questions than answers. For anyone who is trying to figure out how to move in a good way with the uncertainty and risks associated with living during a global pandemic, it is not helpful that the fear factor is being ramped up by some people's attachment to particular ideologies. There's more to healing than statistics about how many people get sick, suffer severe symptoms, die and are vaccinated. What about our emotional state (fear, isolation, depression, grief), and the health of our families, communities, economies and the natural environment? This is a multi-layered challenge that necessitates our ability to work together for the greater good. If we are going to be able to move through this in a good way we need more compassion, empathy, respect, and open discussion—not polarization!

Coronavirus: Still more questions than answers.

A bit more than a week ago one of my clients sent me some very valuable information. Finally, someone who has far more knowledge than me about the vaccines and the latest research regarding their efficacy and risks has been speaking out. That person is Dr. Byram Bridle. He is an Associate Professor of Viral Immunology in the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph. He is not an anti-vaxxer by any stretch of the imagination. Part of his job is developing vaccines. Dr. Bridle is in a unique position to be able to interpret the ongoing information that is becoming available. I am very grateful that he has chosen to speak out at considerable risk to himself. He has been subjected to ongoing attacks and attempts to discredit him. Most of them are completely fabricated, but some are coming from other doctors and researchers. I have read many of the criticisms from his colleagues and so far they are baseless. They may sound logical and scientific to the less educated or anyone who has a lot invested in believing that his concerns aren't real, but they are either deliberately quoting him out of context or claiming that he is saying something that he isn't, or they are interpretations of the data that are inconsistent or don't make any sense. That doesn't mean that in the end his reasons for concern will turn out to be true, but they are valid concerns that need to be acknowledged and examined rather than denied or hidden. Fortunately, some of Dr. Bridle's colleagues have chosen to speak out in support of him as well.

Dr. Bridle's primary concern is that there is now enough evidence to suggest that the potential risks associated with giving mRNA and viral vector vaccines—the only vaccines that have been approved so far in many countries such as Canada and the US—to adolescents and children are greater than any potential benefits, both to them and to the general population. I am not going to attempt to summarize all of the valuable information that Dr. Bridle has provided. He has done an excellent job of providing a detailed summary of this information in his document COVID-19 Vaccines and Children: A Scientist's Guide for Parents. It is dense, but I strongly recommend that anyone who wants to educate themselves about COVID-19 and the vaccines that are currently available take the time to read it.

We are dealing with a new and urgent situation. It was inevitable that mistakes were going to be made. Decisions had to be made and a response put in place before we knew very much. I can only imagine how challenging that must have been for the people who had to make those decisions. However, from my perspective there was one major mistake that was made—at least in Western countries—that was completely avoidable. It seems very odd to me that, with the exception of a couple of Chinese vaccines, the mRNA and viral vector vaccines were available at least 8-9 months before any vaccines based on more conventional technologies. I am not going to speculate about why this happened, but I believe that using the pandemic as an opportunity to rush out vaccines based on untested technologies at public expense (and liability!) without having to subject them to the (under normal circumstances) required 6-8 year long-term studies doesn't make sense—even if in the end we learn that they are safe and effective. The end result is that a significant proportion of the global human population is now taking part in a massive study of the long-term safety and efficacy of previously untested vaccine technologies. It is my perspective that from the start government health agencies should have insisted that the major players in vaccine development stick to technologies that have been used for awhile and are better understood. They could have done that by telling the drug/biotech companies that they were not going to purchase any vaccines based on mRNA, viral vector or other new technologies.

There's nothing that we can do about the choices that have already been made. Nevertheless, the choice to implement a global vaccination campaign was the choice that made the most sense. The alternative would most likely have resulted in a much greater loss of life. We can only hope that the calculated risk that governments took—that any negative long-term health consequences of mRNA and viral vector vaccines will be less severe and easier to manage than an unrestrained COVID-19 epidemic—will turn out to have been a good decision. Only time will tell.

In terms of how to move with this on a personal level, there is little more that I can add to the recommendations that I made in my last post The Vaccination Controversy, Part 3: COVID-19. Since that time there has been some preliminary research supporting the use of some of the supplements that I recommended for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. I was going to include some of that information in this post, but decided against it otherwise it might have taken me another month to complete it. Suffice to say that I still stand behind all of the recommendations that I made in my previous posts regarding the prevention and treatment of both COVID-19 and any potential side-effects of vaccinations.

I have no idea how many people implemented those recommendations partially or completely. What I can say is that everyone that I know of who implemented them completely that has not been vaccinated has not contracted COVID-19 so far (including some people who had members of their household contract the virus but they did not get it), and everyone that I know of who implemented them completely that did get vaccinated has not had any significant negative reactions to whatever vaccine they received so far. Every person and situation is unique. I can not guarantee that everyone will have equally beneficial results. All I can say is that, based on my experience, implementing those or similar protocols should significantly improve the outcome for most people regardless of what choices they make with regard to vaccinations.

Before I leave the topic of prevention and treatment protocols, there is one other issue that I would like to address. There are practitioners out there—mostly medical doctors—who are recommending the prophylactic use of antiviral or antiparasitic drugs (such as ivermectin and hydroxycholoroquine). The latter drugs are not recognized as antiviral. As far as I can tell there is very little good evidence that they are useful to prevent or treat the symptoms of COVID-19 and they are associated with significant potential side-effects. Nevertheless, some practitioners are recommending the use of these medications. In particular, some are recommending veterinary grade ivermectin which is relatively easy to obtain. Although there is a lack of good clinical research, it is possible that some of these practitioners are seeing good results in their practice. I get that. Most of what I recommend is also based on my clinical experience. Nevertheless, I recommend caution around this. In my recommendations for the treatment of COVID-19 I did not mention some potentially very effective antiviral herbs because they are quite potent and can be associated with some degree of toxicity if misused. They are not the kind of recommendations that I can make in a blog that could be read by anybody. From my perspective, those herbs should only be used under the supervision of an experienced practitioner who understands them. Nevertheless, I can almost guarantee that those herbs will be more effective than ivermectin and associated with significantly less potential for toxicity if used correctly. I can understand that MDs are typically not going to be recommending herbs because they don't understand herbs, and it is unlikely that anyone is going to do any good research on herbal treatments for COVID-19 because clinical studies are expensive and herbs can't be patented. There is very little potential for financial gain (at least by pharmaceutical company standards). Consequently, they are going to recommend drugs (and sometimes supplements) because that is what they know. If you are being treated by a doctor who has experience with and believes in the efficacy of ivermectin, at least you are under appropriate medical supervision. However, because it can be obtained as a veterinary drug, I am coming across people who are self-medicating with ivermectin whenever they experience any cold-like symptoms. That is risky. Stick to well-chosen herbs. They are safer and likely to be as or more effective. However, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and manifests severe symptoms should be hospitalized and they will be given the best antiviral treatments that are available and have proven effective over the course of the pandemic.

Sadly, I have even come across people recommending particular herbs for the treatment of COVID-19 based on false or misrepresented information. There are herbs that are likely to be effective—but there is no cure-all! Every case is different. I recommend a good degree of suspicion if anyone says that a particular herb is THE cure for COVID-19. In the case that was brought to my attention, based on my clinical experience the herb in question—for which there is very little research and none of it of any significant value—is almost certainly an antiviral herb (although it wouldn't be my first choice), but the potential benefits were blown way out of proportion and the rational behind the use of the herb as far as I can tell was complete nonsense. Not surprisingly, some of the proponents of the use of the herb were also propagating conspiracy theories that information about the herb was being suppressed by drug companies. I doubt that there are very many people who work for the pharmaceutical industry who have even heard of this herb—at least not in a medical context.

Lemon balm (Melissa oficinalis) is an excellent antiviral herb. Antiviral properties are ubiquitous in the Mint family.

So, what about the people who still have chosen not to be vaccinated? They basically fall into two groups: those that have chosen to delay their decision until more information is available; and those who definitely do not want to get vaccinated. We can further break down the first group into people who still aren't sure and people who would prefer not to get vaccinated but are considering it due to family or peer pressure, or the concern that their freedom could be curtailed by the implementation of policies requiring people to be vaccinated in order to travel or participate in public events.

Initially, when people who wanted to get vaccinated asked me what vaccine I would recommend among those that were available, I told them that I really didn't like any of them but if they did not want to wait they might consider the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That was based on two reasons. Firstly, although the viral vector vaccines are developed using a new, virtually untested (by normal standards) technology, based on my understanding at that time it seemed like their mechanism of action was closer to conventional vaccines than mRNA vaccines. The second reason was because the J&J vaccine only required one shot.

As we now know, it fairly quickly became apparent that viral vector vaccines are associated with a potential for blood clots. What concerned me the most was that these are not normal blood clots. They most likely are related to some kind of autoimmune reaction. That got my attention. Regardless of what the statistics are for the general population, any vaccine has the potential to alter the functioning of a particular person's immune system in a negative way. My concern with the mRNA vaccines based on how they work (and lack of data) was that there may be a greater potential for those vaccines to have a negative affect on immune function. When the blood clots started showing up for viral vector vaccines it was clear that they also seem to have a greater than normal potential to alter immune function in a negative way. Initially, I didn't understand why. It wasn't until I read Dr. Bridle's report (see above) that I realized that my understanding of the mechanisms of action of viral vector vaccines was somewhat inaccurate. The mechanisms of action of viral vector vaccines are actually more like mRNA vaccines than conventional vaccines and therefore (I believe) more likely to have a greater potential for negative long-term affects on immune function. That changes the vaccine landscape for anyone who is trying to decide what vaccine is most likely to be the safest.

For anyone who is still undecided about getting a vaccination there is a bit more that can be said. If you are concerned about the potential risks of mRNA and viral vector vaccines, there are some countries who have approved more conventional protein based or inactivated virus vaccines. There is concern with the quality of research for some of these vaccines as the manufacturers have not provided sufficient evidence to back up there claims. However, there are two inactivated virus vaccines manufactured in China for which the available data is strong enough that they have been authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization. These vaccines are available in many countries. They are CoronaVac (manufacturer Sinovac) and BBIBP-CorV (manufacturer Sinopharm). The only concern that I have specifically regarding their ingredients is that they both contain aluminum hydroxide as an excipient. I am not a big fan of aluminum, but in the long run a couple of injections of a tiny amount is not that much of a concern unless someone is known to have severe acute reactions to aluminum. That being said, since the WHO authorization there is growing evidence that both of the Chinese vaccines may not be effective enough against the emerging delta variant. How the efficacy of each vaccine holds out as new variants continue to emerge is going to be an important factor in the coming months.

So far, for those of us who live in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand and most of Europe only mRNA and viral vector vaccines are available. For citizens of some of these countries it might be possible to travel to another country to obtain one of the other WHO approved vaccines. It is also important at this stage that the priority be given to the local population. We don't want the situation to arise where the locals aren't able to receive a vaccine as readily because more affluent foreigners are travelling there and willing to pay for them.

In some countries additional vaccines have been ordered (subject to approval) but have not been approved yet because their clinical studies have't progressed far enough to provide enough data to apply for emergency use. I don't know what the situation is for every country, but in Canada there are three additional vaccines that have been ordered. All of them are protein-based vaccines. The Medicago and Novavax vaccines are expected to apply for approval in Canada (and possibly in the US, at least for Novavax) in the third quarter of 2021 (July-September). Initially, the Sanofi vaccine was found to have low efficacy, so they had to reformulate. This has slowed down their studies. They are not expected to apply for approval until the fourth quarter of 2021. Both the Medicago and the Sanofi vaccines are using the GlaxoSmithKline adjuvant (additional ingredients to boost the effectiveness and preserve the vaccine). I do not have any major concerns about the ingredients of this adjuvant. However, I do have concerns about the Novavax vaccine because it contains lipid nanoparticles. There are reasons to be suspicious of vaccines that contain nanoparticles (another drawback of the mRNA and viral vector vaccines). As I have mentioned previously, nanoparticles were approved for use in many types of products before we understood how they behave in biological and ecological systems. We now know that they are accumulating in the environment and in plants and animals (including humans) but we still don't know what they do. As a result, I do not recommend using any products that contain nanoparticles (cosmetics, drugs, antimicrobial clothing, etc.) until they are better understood.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is an excellent immune stimulating herb and fairly good antiviral.
Immune stimulating properties are ubiquitous in the Aster family.

If you are concerned about receiving a vaccine based on a poorly tested technology and have not yet been vaccinated but are still considering it, you can either get one of the mRNA or viral vector vaccines and follow protocols similar to those that I have provided to minimize the potential for side-effects, or you can wait until other vaccines that are more likely to be safer become available (and also follow those protocols). At this point the most likely candidate will be the Medicago vaccine in Canada. In other countries the options are likely to be different. However, a word of caution. Anyone who gets vaccinated in order to travel should be aware that there is evidence that the risks of developing blood clots while flying are increased for anyone who has recently been vaccinated. It is probably best not to travel by air for at least two months after your second vaccination.

Once more I want to be clear that this is a numbers game that has very little meaning for the individual. Even if the risk of significant health consequences from contracting COVID-19, getting a particular vaccine, or for one vaccine compared to another is very low for the general population, although there are some known risk factors, ultimately we can never know how we are going to respond in any given situation until it happens. All we can do is do our best. As always, I recommend that you educate yourself with good sources of information but don't obsess on it. Then take a few deep breaths, calm your mind, and feel into what is the best choice for you. You'll probably need to do this multiple times. It's best if we are calm and humble. Fear and arrogance will almost certainly lead us astray.

Keep well. More to come as things continue to develop...

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Vaccination Controversy, Part 3: COVID-19

As of this week, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for emergency use in several countries and is already being administered in the UK. It will likely be approved in a growing number of countries in the coming weeks with other vaccines soon to follow. As these vaccines become available, anyone who is fortunate enough to have a choice about whether or not to be vaccinated is going to have to make a potentially difficult decision, depending on where they stand with regard to this issue.

I have already done my best to provide a broad summary of what is known and not known about vaccinations in general, and COVID-19 in particular. I am going to very briefly summarize some of that here. However, I strongly recommend that you read the more detailed analyses in The Vaccination Controversy, Part 1 of 3 and Part 2 of 3, Living With Viruses and Viral Pandemics, and COVID-19: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The detailed background information that I provided in those posts is necessary to be able to understand why I am making the recommendations that I am going to provide here.

Our knowledge base about the long-term safety of vaccines in general is relatively weak; about COVID-19 is very weak; and about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in particular is extremely weak. Let's leave aside the unsubstantiated and often extreme opinions that are out there and focus on the recommendations of medical professionals. Although often well-meaning, most of what is out there in the medical literature and practice is based on a narrow world view, and is very influenced by corporate interests. Add to this very real political and economic concerns as a result of this pandemic and what we have is a muddy picture with some data and a lot of (often contradictory) guesses and opinions. If we add in the various extreme opinions and conspiracies that are out there, it gets even more messy. Fortunately, with a bit of logic and common sense it is usually fairly easy to identify what is mostly or completely nonsense—unless we have some conscious or unconscious need to believe them. Nevertheless, for those of us who are trying to make the best choices in navigating this pandemic it can be very challenging. There are no clear choices or outcomes. 

With regard to COVID-19 vaccinations, these are my concerns (see my other posts for detailed explanations):

1. It is most likely that the degree to which vaccines are being utilized these days is one among many factors that is contributing to the growing incidence of chronic inflammatory and auto-immune conditions, and that they are affecting many people at an earlier age than was typical in the past.

2. No successful vaccine has ever been developed for a coronavirus. There is a strong possibility that any benefits that result from mass vaccination programs for COVID-19 will be temporary. Like the common cold, in the coming years this virus may continue to cycle through populations in mutated forms for which very few people have long-term immunity.

3. Due to the emergency nature of this pandemic, vaccines are and will continue to be approved without adequate long-term safety studies.

4. The majority of the vaccines that are being developed are based on novel technologies which either have never been used before (mRNA, DNA), or which have been used very minimally or not at all (genetically engineered viral vector vaccines). Essentially, pharmaceutical companies are taking advantage of this global emergency and the billions of dollars in government hand-outs that are available in order to conduct a massive experiment on a significant proportion of the global population. Vaccines based on new technologies should require even more research on their long-term safety, not less as is currently the case.

In the last few days the UK has begun administering the Pfizer mRNA vaccine and it has already become apparent that people who have a history of severe anaphylactic allergic reactions may have similar reactions triggered by this vaccine. This was not identified in the clinical studies on the vaccine because people who have these kinds of reactions were excluded from the studies. For me this is already a red flag. If this kind of vaccine can produce an immediate extreme reaction in people who suffer from a significant immune system imbalance of this nature, it is possibly evidence that the vaccine has a negative affect on the functioning of our immune system in general. This is my primary concern with this kind of vaccine. These people might be just the tip of the iceberg. It is possible that the vaccine will negatively affect immune function in a much larger proportion of people but the affect will be chronic and difficult to recognize. Unfortunately, most of the more traditional protein-based, or inactivated or attenuated virus vaccines are not as far along in their research and will not be available for some time. By that time hundreds of millions of people will have already received the more novel vaccines. Hopefully, any negative consequences of using these vaccines will be minimal.

On a positive note, there is already some evidence that people who have been exposed to other coronaviruses (such as some cold viruses) within a few months of being exposed to the COVID-19 virus may have a degree of increased resistance to the latter virus resulting in milder symptoms. Similarly, although there is evidence that some people who have contracted the COVID-19 virus do not have full immunity and may still get sick again upon subsequent exposure, they are also likely to have milder symptoms. This is consistent with other coronaviruses. Although exposure does not result in complete long-term immunity, it does seem to provide a degree of protection so that the symptoms are milder when someone contracts the virus in the future. This means that, as a growing proportion of the population is exposed to COVID-19 either by natural means or as a result of vaccinations, there is a possibility that over time this illness will become less severe and it may eventually be no more serious than a seasonal cold virus. With other viruses, natural exposure almost always results in greater immunity than immunity resulting from vaccinations. Nevertheless, even if they don't provide permanent immunity, the mass vaccination programs that are being implemented in combination with natural exposure may take the edge off the pandemic and accelerate the transformation of the COVID-19 virus into a less severe pathogen. This is the most likely best case scenario of mass vaccination.

Vaccinations might only temporarily help to control the pandemic or they may be an important part of a long-term
solution. We need to make decisions now, but it will probably be years before we know if we made the best ones. 

In the end, it is possible that the risks are low and there will be some or even significant benefits of vaccinations. It is also possible that the risks outweigh any potential benefits. Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure at this time and it may be years or even decades before we finally have a good sense of this—but we don't have years! We are in the midst of a global crisis that not only affects our physical and (for many people) psychological well-being, it affects our families and communities and there are significant economic and political repercussions that will get worse the longer the pandemic continues. It is a situation that requires extreme measures and some risks. Individually and collectively we need to make some very difficult decisions for which there are no clear answers.

The decision is a personal one. No one can give anyone else a clear recommendation. We also have to keep in mind that it is not just about our personal needs and beliefs. Whatever decision we make will have consequences for other people. My recommendation is that we need to do your best to look at the information that is available in a balanced way, then put it out of our mind and sit quietly and feel into the situation. Ultimately, this is a heart decision. If we are truly honest and objective we have to admit that we will never get a clear answer through logical analysis. Nevertheless, it is important that we are well-informed without becoming obsessive about it.

We also need to do our best to avoid making a decision based on fear. There are a lot of layers of fear out there: fear of the virus itself and its potential health consequences for ourselves, families and friends; fear of the potential negative health affects of vaccines, especially vaccines based on new inadequately tested technologies; fear that powerful institutions (governments, corporations, etc.) are using the pandemic (or have even orchestrated the pandemic!) in order to deprive people of their rights and freedoms. Of course, for many people there is also the fear of making the wrong decision.

It is best if we are aware of our fear and keep it out of our decision making process as much as possible; to review what is known about the potential risks of each decision and feel into what is right for us. Remember that there is no clear right or wrong answer. There simply isn't enough information. We'll know more in the coming years but we have to make a decision now. Ultimately, even if we had a lot more information we can never know for sure how each decision is going to play out in our life. Statistics are meaningless when it comes to individual real life situations. I can never know with certainty if I am one of the ones who is going experience severe symptoms from either the virus or a vaccine.

In the end, if we are concerned about the well-being of ourselves, loved ones and communities, and want to dance with this pandemic in a good way, it is my belief that we basically have three realistic choices:

1. Not get vaccinated; support our overall and immune health to reduce the likelihood of getting the virus or the severity of our symptoms if we do get it; practice safe behavior.

2. Wait at least a few months until there is more safety and efficacy data for the various vaccines and then decide whether or not to get vaccinated; support our overall and immune health to reduce the likelihood of getting the virus or the severity of our symptoms if we do get it; practice safe behavior.

3. Get vaccinated; address our overall and immune health to reduce any potential negative short- or long-term affects of the vaccine; practice safe behavior.

With all of that in mind, let's look at these three options in more detail:

Option 1: Not Getting Vaccinated

If you choose not to get vaccinated I have already provided a lot of information about what can be done to protect yourself as much as possible. Pay attention to public health recommendations about indoor and outdoor gatherings. Practice social distancing. Where a cloth mask when indoors in public spaces. Eat a healthy diet and get lots of exercise. Use herbs, supplements and probiotics wisely in order to improve your overall health and more specifically your immune health. The more we make healthy living a priority in our lives, the healthier and safer we will be.

With regard to herbs and supplements, I have already provided lots of in depth information in Living With Viruses and Viral Pandemics, including links to additional written materials and video lectures. If you follow those recommendations for boosting your immune system and preventing illness, and what to do if you get sick, you will maximize your level of protection. The herbal protocols that I have provided will reduce the likelihood that you will get sick, reduce the severity of your symptoms if you do, and increase your potential long-term immunity to COVID-19 if you are exposed to it.

Option 2: Wait and See 

If you aren't sure yet you might consider waiting a bit to see how things play out. For most of us this is also an option. It is likely that within a few months there will be more information available and it might be enough to make a more clear decision. In particular, we hope that there will be clearer information regarding the safety of these new vaccines and whether or not they provide a reasonable amount of immunity. Realistically, it could easily be 3-6 months before we have sufficient information. However, most governments are targeting higher risk groups first and predicting that vaccines probably won't start being administered to the general population until March or April. Once that begins, it is likely that the majority of the population won't be vaccinated until some time next fall. Clearly, waiting until May or June to make a final decision is a completely reasonable option for many of us. Another advantage of waiting is that by that time one or more of the vaccines that have been developed using well-established technologies will be available, although how available or whether we actually have any choice regarding which vaccine we receive is yet to be seen.

If you decide to wait a bit before making a final decision, then it is best to follow the recommendations that I provided for Option 1 (above) until you decide. If, in the end, you decide not to vaccinate, continue following those protocols. However, if you do decide at some point to get vaccinated, then you'll it's best to switch to the protocols for Option 3 (below).

Option 3: Get Vaccinated 

If you are certain that you want to get vaccinated, I still recommend that you wait a bit, if that is an option for you. Since the Pfizer vaccine is already getting approval in some countries and the Moderna vaccine will likely start rolling out in a couple of weeks as well, this means that two of the mRNA vaccines—the newest and least tested type of vaccine—are going to be out there first and we will be able to see if there are any short-term issues that arise from their use. Unfortunately, for many people—such as health care workers—there may not be any choice. If you don't have an option or you choose to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available to you, I recommend that you follow these protocols to reduce the likelihood of side-effects from the vaccination.

Until you are able to receive the vaccine, follow the protocols that I provided for Option 1 (above). Then it will be necessary to follow a much more specific protocol in order to help reduce any potential short- or long-term negative side-effects of the vaccine. These protocols may also increase the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Begin by pulsing an immune stimulant formula (see the video Immune Support and the Natural Treatment of Colds and Flu and the article Surviving and Thriving in a World Full of Viruses). I recommend taking it for one week followed by a one week break. Pulse the immune stimulant formula six times (i.e. take it six times for a period of one week with a one week break in between). You need to time this so that the day that you get vaccinated occurs at the beginning of the third week that you are taking the immune stimulant formula on the second or third day that you are taking it. This is the standard protocol for using an immune stimulant formula for a vaccine which is administered as a single dose. Most of the COVID-19 vaccines require two doses administered 21 to 28 days apart. Under these circumstances it is necessary to pulse an immune stimulant formula for a longer period of time. It is important that both vaccinations occur on the second or third day of one of the weeks when you are taking the immune stimulant formula, and that you pulse the formula two times before the first vaccination and three times after the second vaccination. This means that for double dose vaccines it will be necessary to pulse the immune stimulant formula seven or eight times, depending on the vaccination schedule.

After the last time that you pulse the immune stimulant formula, take a one week break and then begin taking an immune tonic formula. Take this formula continuously for two to three months.

Take a good quality probiotic on the weeks in between pulsing an immune stimulant formula and between switching from an immune stimulant formula to an immune tonic formula. For more information on probiotics and the best way to take them see the article Surviving and Thriving in a World Full of Viruses.

During the entire time that you are pulsing an immune stimulant formula (including on the off weeks) also take 500-1,000 mg of a mineral ascorbate (non-acidic vitamin C) that includes a good polyphenol complex (quercetin, rutin, flavonoids, anthocyanins, etc.); 1,000-2,000 IU of vitamin D3; and 15-25 mg of zinc. Take all of them twice per day with your breakfast and dinner. A low potency multivitamin and mineral taken once per day is a good idea as well. When you switch to an immune tonic formula, reduce the dose of the supplements by half (except the multivitamin). It is not necessary to continue taking these afterwards unless they are part of your regular regimen, but it still might be a good idea. 

Easter white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is one of the most important medicines of the First Nations Peoples
of Northeastern North America. In homeopathic potencies it helps to prevent the side-effects of vaccinations.

There are also two homeopathic remedies that I strongly recommend. If you are concerned about the bad press that homeopathy has been getting in the last few years, read my post Homeopathy Under Attack. The first one is Ledum palustre (Labrador tea). This is a remedy for puncture wounds. Take a dose of the 200C or 200CH potency immediately before getting vaccinated and immediately after. Then take a third dose a few hours later. This will help to reduce the pain and swelling around the injection site. I also recommend applying a good herbal ointment to the injection site several times per day as long as any pain, swelling or inflammation persists. Both the Ledum and the ointment will need to be repeated for the second vaccination, where applicable.

The second homeopathic remedy that I recommend is Thuja occidentalis (eastern white cedar). This remedy helps to reduce the acute and chronic side-effects of vaccinations. Once more, use the 200C or 200CH potency. Take the first dose about 24 hours before you get vaccinated. Take another dose about an hour before your vaccination, and then again about an hour afterwards. Take it two more times on that day (four times in total on the day that you are vaccinated). Then take it once per day for a week, and then once per week for three more weeks. For vaccines that require two doses, follow these protocols for the first vaccination and then repeat them for the second dose.

Homeopathic remedies are usually available in the form of pellets. Take the recommended number of pellets per dose for the product. It is best to allow them to dissolve slowly under your tongue and not consume anything other than water for at least 30 minutes before and 15 minutes after the dose.

Keep in mind that there are no guarantees. Following these protocols will not guarantee that you don't get COVID-19. If you do get the virus, you will experience less severe symptoms—but that doesn't mean that you won't get severe symptoms. It means that they will be less severe than they would have been if you hadn't been following these protocols. Similarly, if you follow these protocols and you get vaccinated, you will experience less and milder side-effects as a result of the vaccination, but that doesn't mean that you will not experience any side-effects. Some people won't but others will—and they might be relatively severe. Regardless, you can be sure that they will be less severe than they would have been if you had not been following these protocols. The bottom line is that everyone's situation is unique and we can't predict outcomes with certainty.

The concerns that I have expressed are very real. Nevertheless, we are dealing with an urgent crisis that requires extreme measures. Many people have and will become sick, some of them seriously, and many people have died as a result of this virus. Many people are also experiencing a lot of stress due to the pandemic, the restrictions and for some a reduction or loss of their source of livelihood. There are also people who are out there every day—from health care workers to cashiers—putting their health at risk in order to serve others. My gratitude and prayers go out to all of them. In spite of my concerns, I hope that in the end any negative results of vaccinations are minimal and that they do help to bring this pandemic under control.

COVID-19 is a wake-up call. For those of us who are listening and heed the call, it is a reminder of the importance of prioritizing our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being; of living in good relationship with ourselves, families, communities and the Living World. In many ways it will be a different world when we get through this. Let's hope that it's a better one!

Due to the immediate concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccines, I have interjected this into this series of posts on vaccinations. The series will now consist of four posts. The last one (which is half done) will address childhood vaccinations. I will also continue to provide updates on the pandemic in additional posts, if necessary.

Keep well!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

COVID-19: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It's been eight months since my last post and a lot has happened since then. At the time I was cautiously optimistic that we'd be able to get this pandemic under control more quickly. I thought that it would peak in Europe by mid April and in North America by early to mid May, and that by June we'd be able to lighten some of the restrictions, which we did to some degree. Of course, it would play out differently in other countries depending on when it started and the local response to it. At this point I have to admit that I was overly optimistic. This virus is far more contagious than I expected and many of the governments of countries that were affected later who had the opportunity to watch this play out elsewhere did not take advantage of the delay and prepare in advance for the arrival of the virus in their region. Now, as the second wave is well under way, it is apparent that in spite of everything that we've learned this pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better.

Like it or not, we live in a world where global pandemics are inevitable. It was never a question of if, but of when and how bad. When the H1N1 and SARS-CoV pandemics occurred, I was expecting them to be far worse. I was surprised and grateful that they were able to be contained as quickly as they were. When the current pandemic began, given how it started and that it was another corona virus, I was more optimistic that we would be able to contain it more quickly given how the last two outbreaks played out. That has not turned out to be the case. This virus is far more difficult to control.

One of the major challenges is that, due to the lack of adequate testing capacity, we don't really know how many people are infected with the virus who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. There could be many more people out there who are or have been infected by the virus than the number that have tested positive. Having a higher number of unrecognized COVID-19 cases has two important consequences, one negative and one positive. The negative consequence is that it will be much more difficult to control the spread of the virus, which is proving to be the case. The positive is that it is possible that the virus is less harmful than it appears, since there may be a much larger number of people who contract it and have minor or possibly no symptoms. Unfortunately, we still really don't know. The situation is even more complicated by the fact that there were already several cold and flu viruses circulating before COVID-19 arrived, and this is still the case. Unless we test everyone it is impossible to know who has what.

We are now well into the second wave which is turning out to be much greater than the first wave. This is inevitable. It is partly the result of the natural way that a viral pandemic of this nature plays out, and it is also driven by opening up and reducing restrictions due to economic concerns, pandemic restriction fatigue resulting in a portion of the population not following public health guidelines as strictly as they should, and extremists disseminating conspiracy theories.

Like it or not, COVID-19 is here to stay.

We live in a complex world. When we feel a sense of loss of control it is human nature that we tend to look for simple linear answers to blame things on. It's a way of not taking responsibility, creating an illusory sense of control by thinking we know the answers, and having something to point at and direct our fear and anger. This is not productive. It is a big, mysterious world that we live in and our ability to control our lives is limited. Most of these stories start with a few facts, add a good dose of paranoia, and blow it up into something that is highly unlikely and can't be verified. There is no doubt that there are very powerful people, companies and organizations in the world that are doing their best to manipulate things in order to maintain their power and wealth. Ultimately, even they aren't really in control. Nature always has the last word! Are some of these conspiracies true or even partly true? Maybe, but who cares? What is the point worrying about something that may or may not be true, can't be verified, and over which we have no control? We think that we are empowering ourselves but we are actually disempowering ourselves. We are succumbing to unnecessary fear and anxiety, and possibly not acting on the things that can really make a difference in our lives. The net result is less physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being, not more.

Even though the pandemic response has at best been based on educated guesses, there is some good news. At the very least we are learning more about this illness and how to treat it. Although with the second wave the number of infections is going up, the number of fatalities is decreasing in many areas. We are also getting a better sense of what works and what doesn't help slow down the spread of this illness.

There are also some mistakes that have been made. In many areas they restricted access to public outdoor spaces. The risks of spreading the virus in these environments are almost zero if people practice social distancing, which is not hard to do. We need fresh air, exercise and time in Nature—now more than ever! This is not only important with regard to our physical health. We have seen consequences of the pandemic restrictions on peoples emotional state. We are much better off taking a walk in the woods than staying inside surfing the Internet. This is something that public authorities should be encouraging, not discouraging.

Another concern is the constantly changing narrative. I realize that governments and public health authorities are doing their best to provide up-to-date information, but presenting ever-changing scenarios about how things are or could play out as if they are based on fact and not just educated guesses has backfired—and yet they are still doing it! This approach frustrates people who are just trying to get by. Some people react with a lot of anxiety and fear; living their lives in accordance with the worst case scenario. Others have stopped trusting the information that is out there and aren't taking the restrictions seriously. This approach has also provided more fodder for the conspiracy theorists. It's time for the medical and political pundits to admit that they really don't know, while urging appropriate levels of caution.

There is so much invested in the belief that one or more vaccines will bring an end to the pandemic that there is a
very real concern that vaccine approval will be rushed without an appropriate level of testing to ensure safety.

My biggest concern in all of this is that the medical and political authorities are putting all of their eggs in one basket: vaccines. The basic approach has been maintaining the minimum restrictions necessary to prevent health care facilities from becoming overwhelmed and keep the economy stuttering along while waiting for the magic bullet(s) that are going to make this thing go away. There are some serious concerns with this path. Firstly, in spite of the enormous resources that are being poured into vaccine research in order to accelerate the development of something that potentially works, the process is still being rushed. There is a very real danger that some or all of any vaccines that are approved will roll out without adequate safety testing. No matter how much money we throw at it, the bottom line is that vaccine development takes time. The goal of getting vaccines approved by late 2020 or early 2021 is unrealistic. On top of that, some of these vaccines are using new technologies. These products should require greater testing, not less. Yet at this time the two front runners produced by Moderna and Pfizer are both using previously untested mRNA technology. These vaccines contain the genetic material that will allow our cells to produce the antigens. With this approach there is a significant potential for long-term negative affects on immune function and possibly in other organs. There are other vaccines that aren't as far along in research process that are also using mRNA and other novel technologies, such as genetically engineered ingredients and nanoparticles. The latter two are not quite as new as the mRNA vaccines, but they are new enough. Some of them have only been used in animal vaccines or very minimally in human vaccines [for excellent up-to-date information on the different vaccines, how they work, and at what stage they are at in the research process see the New York Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker]. We are beginning to learn a little bit about nanoparticles, and the news isn't great. They behave in novel, unpredictable ways in organisms and ecosystems. They are accumulating in the bodies of plants, animals and humans and we really don't know what the consequences of that are. In addition, in order to be able to purchase these experimental vaccines, governments have been forced to sign agreements absolving the manufacturers of any liability should the vaccines end up causing any negative health consequences.

To be fair, in the end one or more of these vaccines may turn out to be relatively safe and effective, but the potential for harm is very real. Without an appropriate level of caution it could turn out that the 'cure' is worse than the disease. It would be a horrible tragedy if we don't discover that until hundreds of millions of people have been injected with these things. We need long-term safety studies before any vaccines are approved, and even longer for those based on new technologies. These kinds of studies typically take 2-3 years. Yet Moderna and Pfizer have applied for emergency drug approval in the US and other countries. If they succeed it will result in even less testing. There are billions or possibly even trillions of dollars at stake here and these companies are using the current pandemic panic to ensure that they get a piece of the pie. At the same time, politicians are so desperate to get the economy rolling again and returning to 'normal' that they are succumbing to the pressure to rush the process. Politicians are not trained to be able to analyze data from medical research. They rely on the advice of expert advisors and this can be very difficult when there are a lot of 'experts' who have a vested interest in these vaccines getting approved, not to mention that the data is provided by the companies themselves. There have been many cases of unsafe medications being approved based on data that was manipulated by the manufacturers. However, the political pressure is going to make it challenging for politicians and bureaucrats to ignore opinions that tell them what they want to hear—that there's a quicker way out of this mess! There are a lot of unknowns and a lot of things at stake. I wouldn't want to have to be making those decisions.

There is another less obvious concern about all of this. There are dozens of other vaccine contenders out there, many of which utilize technologies that have been in use for a long time and are better understood. If the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are approved, it could effectively shut down research on other vaccines. This is because clinical trials require a placebo group. Who would want to subject themselves to a trial where they might be getting a placebo when there are already one or more vaccines that are approved? This might even be considered unethical by the boards that approve these trials.

There is one other more fundamental consideration. No one has ever developed a successful vaccine for a corona virus! This is because these viruses tend to mutate relatively quickly and by the time they come around again (like the corona viruses that cause some types of seasonal colds) they are sufficiently different so that previous exposure does not result in long-term immunity. In the real world (without human meddling) the way it usually plays out when a novel corona virus jumps from another species to humans is that it returns in a slightly mutated form in regular cycles. Initially, it may be more contagious and deadly, but over time it becomes less severe. This is because, although previous exposure does not result in complete immunity like it does for most people with some other viruses such as measles, our body is still better able to handle the virus as a result of previous exposure. There is already some evidence with COVID-19 that even a recent infection with a different corona virus might result in less severe symptoms. So, even without a vaccine there is a strong possibility that over time as more people get the virus it will just become another seasonal cold virus that cycles through.

What this means is that it is very likely that even if a safe and effective vaccine can be developed, its efficacy will be temporary. Initially they might help to take the edge off the pandemic, but it won't be a permanent solution. Nevertheless, it could accelerate the process by which the virus becomes less severe. It's difficult to say because it is often the case that this process works better from natural infection than from vaccination. Nevertheless, COVID-19 vaccines are going to be part of our reality in the coming year. We can only hope that they will help to control the pandemic with minimum negative consequences.

Black elder flower (Sambucus nigra) is an excellent antiviral and immune stimulant herb
that also lowers fever and supports normal respiratory function.

In the mean time, even if the pandemic plays out the way I have indicated, slowing down the spread of this virus is still very important to help protect vulnerable populations and prevent our health care systems from getting overwhelmed. This is our best option until we reach the necessary threshold of herd immunity through natural infection and possibly with the help of one or more vaccines. At that point, hopefully, the severity of symptoms associated with this virus will be similar to common cold or flu viruses.

Social distancing is a no brainer where appropriate, and there is now plenty of research that indicates that masks are effective in helping to control the spread of the virus. A lot of the masks that people are wearing aren't perfect because they allow air in and out along their edges. In order for them to work best we need to be drawing air in and out through the fabric. Nevertheless, research has demonstrated that even this imperfect option still helps a lot. What seems to work best are multi layered reusable cloth masks. It's best to have more than one and to wash them regularly if you are out in public a lot. Paper masks aren't any better and are resulting in a lot of unnecessary litter and landfill (see: 'Astonishing' Number of Masks Thrown Out During Pandemic and this study). You can also increase the effectiveness of a mask by tying a knot in the elastics that go around your ears so that they fit a bit more tightly.

Transmission by touching surfaces is proving to be a minor vector. However, when we are in public spaces it's a good idea to be careful about touching our eyes or the inside of our nose. It's still a good idea to wash our hands or use hand sanitizer when we are not in our home environment. Gloves are a complete waste—more litter and landfill—as they do not prevent the spread. The place for gloves is for health care professionals and personal support workers who can change them between seeing the people that they are providing services for. When washing our hands, soap and water is good enough. 'Antimicrobial' soaps are not necessary. Also, use natural hand sanitizers. There's a lot of unhealthy ingredients in the commercial products. I recommend you bring your own with you and don't use the ones provided at the entrances of stores and public places.

Like everyone else, I am making some educated guesses about how this is likely to play out. I could be partly or completely wrong. However, the one thing that you can count on is that it is a balanced educated guess, not one based on an extreme point of view, a potential for economic gain, or some other conscious or unconscious hidden agenda. I'm just trying to present as balanced a perspective as possible from my years of experience in order to help you to make the best decisions that you can.

That brings me to the next point, which is my long neglected blog post series on vaccinations. I apologize for this. I don't do sound bites regarding complex subjects. I like to be as comprehensive as possible. It can take me days to write one of my longer posts, and writing isn't something that I particularly enjoy. Not to mention that my life is pretty busy and I rarely have sufficient blocks of time for this kind of thing. That being said, by organizing a bunch of materials that were already available I was able to get out some decent information in my last post that many people found helpful moving into the pandemic. The good news is that I can reference some of that in my vaccine post, which will make it easier to complete. Since questions about vaccines are going to be front and centre as we move into the next chapter of our pandemic saga, I am going to do my best to get that next post on vaccinations done before any COVID-19 vaccine hits the streets. I had intended to do it as a three part series. What was to be the last part largely addresses childhood vaccinations because until recently that was the primary area of concern. However, the pandemic has become the primary concern with regard to vaccinations at this time. As a result, I am going to address this from the perspective of COVID-19 in Part 3 of the series and I will then discuss childhood vaccinations in Part 4. In the interim, I strongly recommend that you read The Vaccination Controversy, Part 1 of 3 and Part 2 of 3.

I still stand by all of the recommendations that I made in my first post on this pandemic (see Living With Viruses and Viral Pandemics). It's all there and there isn't much more to add to it. In spite of what some people are saying, there are lots of things that we can do to increase our overall level of health and vitality, and our immune function in particular. As I said in my previous post, there are no quick fixes. Being healthy is a way of life. This is a great time to start prioritizing our health if we haven't been already. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Living With Viruses and Viral Pandemics

I have been getting a lot of questions from people who are concerned and frightened about the current COVID-19 pandemic. This is a serious situation and it is not surprising that people are afraid. I have some good resources available that combined can provide a lot of information that people who are interested should find helpful. I have been working the last couple of days to coordinate them so that I can provide something fairly comprehensive.

Before I get into that, I would like to say that the situation is serious but does not warrant the kind of panic that has been occurring in some areas. As potential pandemics go, it could be a lot worse if we were dealing with a much more deadly virus. The primary concern with COVID-19 is that is it extremely contagious compared to similar viruses that have shown up in the recent past and therefore much more difficult to control. The two major challenges are for high risk individuals—which is primarily people over 60 with pre-existing respiratory conditions and those who are immune-compromised for some reason—and slowing down the spread of the virus so that the number of people requiring hospitalization does not overwhelm our health care system and the people who need it can get the support that they require. Providing extra protection for high risk individuals and following the basic guidelines that are being recommended—hand washing, minimizing travel, social distancing, self-quarantining if you have symptoms or have been exposed to confirmed cases—are all very important. However, fear and anxiety are not helpful. One of the most important things that we can do is whatever works for us to calm down and change the story, because fear is contagious and one of the most powerful factors that has the potential to reduce our immune function and increase our susceptibility to the virus.

Unfortunately, we live in a world that is the perfect environment for the development of global pandemics. We are lucky that other potentially more serious pandemics such as SARS-CoV were a lot less contagious have been averted so far. However, unless we start thinking long-term, in the coming decades it is quite possible that this is going to become more common. Hopefully, we will learn on an individual and societal level how to live in better relationship and thereby reduce this potential in the future. We also need to understand that we are all in this together. Running to the store and clearing out various products is not in the spirit of cooperation, mutual respect and compassion. The only way we can move through this crisis in a good way is through cooperation—locally and globally.

Although this is a serious situation, we also need to put it in perspective. For example, in recent years the number of confirmed cases of influenza in Canada has been around 40,000. The actual number is probably much higher as this statistic only includes people for whom the diagnosis was confirmed. The flu results in about 12,200 hospitalizations annually and 3,500 deaths—and this is with widespread implementation of vaccination programs. Approximately 42% of Canadians over 18 years of age were vaccinated. With the various measures that have been put it place, hopefully the number of people infected with COVID-19 will be lower than that. Overall, the mortality rate that is about double that of the flu. However, assuming some degree of effectiveness of the flu vaccine, that means that in all likelihood the mortality rate of COVID-19 would be similar to influenza if there were no flu vaccine. Keep in mind that when people throw around statistics like this what we call "the flu" is actually caused by a number of different viruses. In any given year it is possible that more than one of these viruses could move through the population. Therefore in some years these statistics are based on more than one virus. Also, it is very clear that the mortality rate of this virus can be much higher than that in some areas depending on the population and the rapidness and degree to which measures to contain it are put into place.

Common purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Along with the other Echinacea species,
these North American herbs are probably the best known immune stimulating herbs in the world. 

Again, I am not attempting to downplay the seriousness of the current pandemic, only to put it in perspective. The degree of fear that is out there does not reflect the actual risk. This is not surprising because we are dealing with an unknown. We tend to be a lot more relaxed about things that we are familiar with. Yes, it is important that we do what we can to prevent the spread of this illness and to increase our capacity to deal with the virus if we get it, but all of these will work much better if we are able to deal with the pandemic in a calm manner. That is no consolation to the people who have been significantly affected by this, and, as we've seen, there are some regions where the affects of this virus have been far more deadly. My prayers go out to everyone who is suffering or has lost loved ones.

It is important to realize that there are no magic bullets and anyone who claims to have a "cure" is misguided or dishonest. Even the mad rush to produce a vaccine is unlikely to be successful. No one has ever been able to create a successful vaccine for a corona virus. They mutate too quickly for a vaccine to be effective. Assuming that a safe and effective vaccine could be produced, its value would be to temporarily slow down the spread of the current pandemic. The next time this virus comes around—and it probably will—the vaccine will probably be useless. That isn't to say that it wouldn't be beneficial to have another tool that might temporarily slow down the spread of the virus. However, by the time the vaccine goes through the rigorous testing necessary to ensure some degree of safety and efficacy and they are able to produce and distribute enough if it, it will almost certainly be too late. There is also a real risk that misguided politicians and the pharmaceutical industry looking for quick profits will rush a vaccine into use and not subject it to sufficient testing, thereby potentially putting the public at additional risk. It can take a year or more to put a new vaccine through the necessary testing and clinical trials to ensure that it is relatively safe and effective. I'm not suggesting that the numerous researchers who are working on this do not have the public interest in mind. There are many medical researchers who are working around the clock to play their part within their area of expertise. However, where there is a lot of fear and a potential for enormous profits there is also a potential for things to go sideways.

That being said, where the medical pundits and media have been doing a serious disservice to the public and potentially contributing to the spread of the virus has been in that some of them have been denying that there are means of improving our body defenses and potential resistance to the virus outside of the paradigm of Western 'scientific' medicine. Partly this is a reaction to the unscrupulous people who through ignorance and/or a desire to profit from the current pandemic have been claiming to have all sorts of "cures" for this virus. Unfortunately, there really is a lot of garbage information out there and it can be very difficult to navigate through it and identify what makes sense and what doesn't. However, what the so-called 'experts' forget is that their concern that various 'natural' treatments have not been subjected to repeatable high quality clinical trials also applies to a significant proportion of mainstream medical treatments (for more information see my previous post Homeopathy Under Attack). Also, directly or indirectly, all modern medical drugs and practices have their roots in traditional healing systems and practices. As modern people we tend to look upon people who lived two-, three-, four- or ten thousand years ago as if they were primitive and had limited reasoning capacity. The truth is, although they hadn't yet developed the technologies that we take for granted, they were not very different from us. They were also much more aware and attuned to the world that they lived in. Traditional peoples do not practice things unless they work. This is a necessity. Their survival depends on it. We have many natural healing traditions throughout the world that are based on the cumulative wisdom of thousands of years of observation and practice, and more recently augmented by many of the discoveries of modern medical science. They provide a wealth of information and experience from which we can benefit during this pandemic—if we are able to discriminate between the good information from the not so good, and always keep in mind that what works for some people might not work as well for others and nobody has all of the answers.

Although there is no "cure" for this virus, in addition to the public health recommendations and measures that are being implemented, there are many things that we can do to improve our overall health and the functioning of our body defenses in order to help reduce the frequency, severity and spread of this illness—but there are no guarantees! We can only do what we can and hope for the best. Implementing these recommendations in the short-term will certainly help, but we must never forget that health is a way of life. It's much better to live in a good way—in good relationship with our body and the world that we live in—than to try to catch up in a crisis situation. This pandemic is therefore an excellent opportunity for learning.

To provide some helpful guidance I have coordinated a number of resources. The more of them that you utilize, the more complete will be your understanding of how you can help to protect yourself and your family during this pandemic and into the future. I realize that, unfortunately, some of these recommendations include herbs and supplements, or eating organic foods which are more expensive and not everyone can afford them. Do the best you can. Most of these are simple lifestyle recommendations that anyone can implement.

Elecampane (Inula helenium) is another effective immune stimulating herb from the Aster family.
It is also an excellent herb for lung conditions. It aids expectoration and reduces lung inflammation.

Introduction to the Online Lecture Series

This is a lecture that I released free to the public in December 2012. It provides some general background health information that creates a context for the other lectures. It focuses on how we relate to life and the world—which is the foundation of healing! This content is important for all of the lectures. I did it as a stand-alone lecture so that I wouldn't have to repeat the content in every lecture.

You can access the Introductory Lecture here.

Immune Support & the Natural Treatment of Colds and Flu

This was the first of the online lectures that was also released in December 2012. Although the content concerns colds and flu, all of the information is also applicable to COVID-19. The lecture also has a supplementary handout that provides some additional information on putting together herbal formulations for respiratory viral infections. Although this is a stand-alone lecture, I feel that you will get even more out of it if you watch the Introductory Lecture first.

Keep in mind that, although the general principles can be applied anywhere, I can only recommend herbs that I personally use and have experience with. I have also limited it to those that are more readily available and easy to use. The herbs that I use are mostly limited to plants that grow or can be grown in the region where I live. Many of these are available in most countries, but not all of them. If you live in a region where some of these herbs are not available it will be necessary to substitute herbs from your region in accordance with the principles presented in the lecture.

Given the need for good information at this time, yesterday I opened up this lecture so that it is now free to anyone who wants to view it on YouTube. You can access the Colds and Flu lecture here.

Surviving and Thriving in a World Full of Viruses

Periodically the editor of Vitality Magazine will call me up in response to some global health concern and ask me to write an article about it. In November 2001 I was asked to write about herbs that can help us in the event of a global viral pandemic. This was in response to some kind of novel flu epidemic that was occurring at that time. Then again in November 2014 I was asked to update the original article when there was a lot of concern about an Ebola epidemic.

Instead of writing an article from scratch, I have taken the 2014 version of this article and updated and expanded it in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. If you'd rather read an article than watch a video this might be more to your liking. However, the article and the video are not exactly the same and each touches upon some things that are not covered in the other. For the most complete perspective I strongly recommend that you watch the video (preferably the introduction as well) and read the article.

Also, since I first published this post on March 16, I have updated this article seven times, the last update being April 5. If you downloaded the article previous to that you might want to download the latest version as it has some new content. The most recent version is V8.

You can access the Surviving and Thriving article here.

I hope that you find these resources helpful. I feel that you will get the greatest benefit if you watch the Introductory Lecture video, then watch the Colds and Flu video (the supplementary handout mostly relates to the last part of the video) and then read the Surviving and Thriving article; or you could read the article first and then watch the videos.

As disrupting as this pandemic is—and potentially tragic for some people—it is also an opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities. Mother Earth is also getting a much needed break from the onslaught of human activity. There are lots of stories circulating about how quickly air and water quality is improving in some regions at this time. The healing capacity of the Earth is inspiring and humbling. Nevertheless, the amount of change that is necessary to help bring our individual and collective lives back into good relationship is enormous—but if we all do our best to play our part it is not beyond what is possible.

Stay calm and be well—and if you get some down time due to the various disruptions that are occurring, try to spend more time in Nature. It will help you to get some needed peace and perspective.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Vaccination Controversy, Part 2 of 3

I have finally manage to find some time to nurture this neglected series. I've received many inquiries about when I am going to finish them since I posted Part 1 (three years ago!). I am sorry that it has taken so long. I wrote Part 1 after researching some of the more recent literature on vaccinations and reading a few books that were recommended to me. At the time—while it was all fresh in my mind—I had a clear picture of what I was going to say in all three posts. Then life took me in other directions. I attempted to pick it up a few times but by then had completely forgotten much of what I had intended to include in Part 2.

I don't have time at the moment to do another extensive literature review or reread those books. Nevertheless, I am feeling the need to complete this. There are many people who have been patiently waiting. I have decided to carry on by doing a shorter (but not short!) version of Part 2 than I had originally intended.

 As I mentioned in Part 1, determining the real pros and cons of vaccinations at this stage when almost the entire population has been vaccinated for generations is extremely difficult, probably impossible. There is also not a lot of motivation from researchers to investigate this issue. Pretty much the entire medical profession has been fully indoctrinated into the pro-vaccination dogma. From their point of view there is nothing to research. In addition, with the corporatization of the global political landscape, universities and governments have a lot less money to invest in research and rely heavily on industry to do the research for them or to fund it. The pharmaceutical industry certainly doesn't want to do any research that might cast doubt on the safety and efficacy of vaccinations. They've already done such an effective job—using fear, money and political influence—convincing politicians and bureaucrats of the necessity of vaccinations that those that govern us don't see a lot of point investing public funds to explore this issue. As a result, publicly funded vaccination programs are basically a blank cheque to the pharmaceutical industry. What other drug is recommended for everyone? ...and governments and publicly funded institutions pay for the advertising and distribution as well! Is it any wonder that the pharmaceutical industry is attempting to develop a vaccination for just about everything?

I'm probably starting to sound like one of the anti-government/anti-industry conspiracy theorists. I wish this was just another conspiracy theory, but unfortunately it is not. It is a very realistic assessment of the current environment in which we are trying to make an educated decision about the potential benefits and risks of vaccinations. The point I am trying to make is that from every angle the cards are stacked against us. Even if, in the end, it turns out that the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the risks and concerns, in the current medical and sociopolitical environment it is probably impossible to determine if this actually the case.

So...let's begin with the potential benefits of vaccinations. Basically, there are two: they may prevent someone from developing an illness upon exposure to a pathogen for which they have been vaccinated; they may reduce the incidence of or even eliminate a disease. As I mentioned in Part 1, there are many complex factors that have contributed to the reduction of infectious illnesses and it is impossible to accurately determine the degree to which each factor has contributed. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that vaccination programs have made a major contribution to the reduction of many of these illnesses.

Vaccinations against influenza viruses are not very effective and, when they do work,
only provide temporary immunity because flu viruses mutate very rapidly. 

That being said, it is also clear that many of them are not as effective as medical professionals would have us believe. Consider this: there is a huge push at the moment to see to it that every child is vaccinated. In spite of that, these efforts have not been completely successful because there are some parents who for various reasons have chosen not to have their children vaccinated. Having been unsuccessful at convincing these parents, medical and public health health representatives have attempted to put additional pressure on them by promoting fear in the parents who have chosen to vaccinate their children; fear that the non-vaccinated children are putting the vaccinated kids at risk. If these vaccinations are as effective as is being claimed, then the parents of the vaccinated children would not need to be concerned. If one of the illnesses for which their children had been vaccinated were to move through their community, only the non-vaccinated children would be at risk. That turns out not to be the case.

I have a personal experience that illustrates this. When my oldest son was three years old we lived in a small town that had an alternative school. The families whose children went to the school tended to not be your typical mainstream families. One of the consequences of this is that only about half of the children in the school were vaccinated. My son was not old enough to go to the school yet, but several days per week he attended a preschool that was connected to the alternative school. All of the other children in the preschool had older siblings who attended the school.

At that time measles moved through the community. All of the non-vaccinated children ended up getting sick except my son, although he was exposed through the other children in the preschool. It is probable that the reason he didn't develop the illness was because as soon as I heard that there was a measles outbreak I implemented herbal and other protocols to boost his immune system and continued them until the outbreak was over. My being an herbalist gave my son an advantage because we can not expect the other parents to have the same level of depth of knowledge and experience about how to prevent their children from contracting the illness. However, had they known some very simple protocols—which I will be covering in Part 3—the outcome would have probably been very different.

The families whose children attended the school tended to live relatively healthy lifestyles and eat well, at least, more so than "typical" North American families. Not surprisingly, the measles moved fairly quickly through the non-vaccinated children and they all had relatively mild cases—similar to the way it occurred when I was a child before there was a vaccine for measles.

The families that did choose to vaccinate their children tended to have similar diets and lifestyles. About 30-40% of these children still got the measles in spite of being vaccinated, and the symptoms among the vaccinated children tended to be more severe. There were three cases of children who developed pneumonia on top of the measles. All of these were among the vaccinated children. In one of these cases it was the third time the child had been infected since being vaccinated, and the second time that he developed pneumonia as well.

There are several important factors that are important in this example that I will elaborate upon later. Firstly, the vaccine was not 100% effective in preventing the development of symptoms. In this case it was more like 60-70% effective. Secondly, the non-vaccinated children were from middle class families who lived a relatively healthy lifestyle and their symptoms were mild to moderate. Thirdly, the vaccinated children were from families living a similar lifestyle. The only major difference was that their children were vaccinated, and yet if these children developed symptoms they were more likely to be moderate to severe. This would seem to indicate that for those children for whom the vaccination did not produce immunity their immune systems were weaker and less able to respond to the infection, or their immune systems were so weak that even with immunity they weren't able to respond efficiently to the infection—more on this later.

The second potential benefit of vaccinations—whether or not they can potentially completely eliminate an illness—is even more difficult to assess. This is partly contingent on the effectiveness of the vaccine, as this varies. It also depends on the capacity of the virus to mutate. Any organism that is capable of mutating can potentially change into a new form for which any immunity resulting from the vaccine becomes useless. Also, for those illnesses that potentially can be eliminated, it seems that this is only possible if pretty much everyone is vaccinated.

All things considered, the larger question here is: do the potential benefits of vaccinations outweigh the potential risks?

Before looking at what we can determine about the potential risks of vaccinations I would like to begin with a very brief overview of what normal exposure to a pathogenic organism looks like.

We are exposed to millions of viruses and other pathogens every day. In spite of that, most of the time we do not develop any symptoms. This is because very few of them penetrate far enough and are able to reproduce to a degree necessary to produce an obvious infection. Many of them are controlled, weakened or killed by friendly microorganisms that are normal inhabitants of our body microbiome. Others are trapped in mucus, destroyed by stomach acid, or weakened or killed by antimicrobial substances in our body secretions. Some are killed by immune cells that wander around our mucus membranes. If they manage to penetrate the outer layers of our body membranes they may also be eliminated by immune cells wandering through our body fluids or embedded in our connective tissues. As you can see, there are many defenses that a pathogen must penetrate in order to make it through to our general circulation. Fortunately, very few make it that far, which is why we aren't sick all the time. If an organism is able to persist and reproduce, initially our various non-specific defences will engage with it and then within 4-7 days immune responses that specifically attack that pathogen—such as the production of antibodies—will be created. These significantly ramp up the response to the organism. The exception here is when a pathogen is transmitted directly into our blood, such as through wounds, insect bites and unclean hypodermic needles. These kinds of infections bypass many of our peripheral defenses, but they are engaged with by immune cells found throughout our blood and lymphatic fluids and in very high concentrations in our liver, spleen and lymph nodes.

Injection by mosquito! This is one way that an infectious organism can naturally make it directly into our general circulation.
It is still less of an onslaught on our immune system than vaccinations because a mosquito bite contains
a lot less antigen and doesn't come with all the chemicals—but they are injecting live parasites!

For some pathogens—particularly viruses—once we are exposed to them by natural means we should acquire an immunity to them. This means that the specific immune responses remain dormant and can be activated much more quickly than upon first exposure. As a result, with subsequent exposure the immune response is much more rapid and vigorous. For many pathogens naturally acquired immunity lasts a lifetime—unless the organism has the capacity to mutate. Examples of the latter include cold and flu viruses.

Immunity can be acquired even if a person is not aware of any symptoms of an illness. In these situations the general defenses will have brought the pathogen under control before it is able to reproduce to a level requiring a vigorous enough response to produce symptoms. Nevertheless, our immune system will still develop specific immunity in response to exposure to the pathogen even though it may already be under control or eliminated. If we are present with our body—instead of constantly distracted by our thoughts and smartphones—there are usually signs when our immune system is activated in this way. These often take the form of sluggishness and possibly some mild stiffness or achiness, or a very low fever that we barely notice. If our immune system is strong and the pathogen not particularly aggressive, we might feel this way for a few hours or days and then it resolves without the development and any significant symptoms. However, when we feel this it is very important to take note. We don't know if it will resolve or if it is a precursor to something more intense. This is the most important time to intervene with herbal and other protocols to support our body defenses. If we respond right away we may be able to avoid what would otherwise develop into more significant symptoms, or if they do develop, the intensity and duration will likely be reduced. This is something that I will discuss more in Part 3.

Getting back to the original discussion, as you can see in most cases only a very small percentage of pathogens ever make it into our general circulation and have the potential to result in the development of what we would consider an illness. Prior to this they are subjected to various defenses that help control or eliminate them and initiate processes that naturally ramp up our response.

Exposure to pathogens through vaccinations is a very unnatural process. Instead of passing through a series of defenses and activating a natural sequence of responses, a large quantity of antigen—dead or alive—is injected directly into our blood along with a bunch of toxic chemicals. In addition, under normal circumstances we will almost always be dealing with a single pathogen that we have been exposed to in a natural way, whereas with many vaccinations these days we are being injected with antigens from multiple pathogens at the same time. Even if this does result in immunity, the scale of this unnatural assault on our immune system has the potential to negatively affect immune function in the long-term. All of this is an important backdrop to understanding the potential negative health consequences of vaccinations.

Before going any further I need to mention oral vaccines. This type of vaccine is not available for most of the illnesses for which vaccination programs exist. The major disadvantage of oral vaccines is that they usually require the use of live pathogens—although they may be weakened. As a result, the potential of the recipient to develop the illness after being vaccinated is significantly higher. This is even more of an issue for vaccination programs in poorer countries where much of the population may be immune compromised due to inadequate diet, lack of clean water and less hygienic conditions. This has the potential to increase the number of people who contract the illness from the oral vaccine.

Nevertheless, oral vaccines are a much more natural means of administration. Overall, they are likely to have less long-term negative health consequences and are more likely to produce immunity. Many of the risks that I am about to discuss are only applicable to injected vaccines. However, this is how that vast majority of vaccines are administered.

Let's begin the discussion of risks by looking at the potential risks to the individual. The first type of risk is contracting the illness from the vaccine. This is relatively rare and I believe it is not a risk for all vaccines. It is more likely to occur with vaccines produced from live organisms.

The second type of risk is an immediate acute response. These kinds of symptoms are often mild, such as swelling and/or pain around the injection site, low energy, mild fever, etc. They occur fairly soon after the vaccination and are the result of the immediate immune response to the substances that have been injected. However, they can sometimes be severe. Of particular concern are high fevers and meningitis that may result in seizures which can sometimes lead to long-term health consequences and even be fatal.

Another type of immediate immune reactions that can occur are allergic reactions to ingredients that are either added to the vaccine or are residues from the medium in which the organism is grown. An example of the latter is egg protein. Allergic reactions can also be mild to extreme.

Vaccines can contain toxic substances such as mercury. It is unlikely that these substances are in sufficient quantity to  produce an acute toxic reaction. I am not aware of any such cases. However, these substances do have the potential to result in long-term health consequences. This is even more likely if the person being vaccinated has high tissue concentrations of the substance from other sources. In the case of mercury, that can be from mercury amalgam fillings or from dietary sources such as fish. These substances also add to the stress on the immune system along with the antigens being injected. As a result, it is possible that these other ingredients may contribute to some of the other side-effects of the vaccines.

Thimerosal is a mercury containing substance that is used as a preservative in some vaccines.
It has been reduced or eliminated in many of them.

The third type of risks are delayed reactions. These tend to be more systemic than local, and generally look very similar to some of the immediate reactions. Once more they can include low energy and fever, which can sometimes be severe enough to produce seizures. What differentiates these reactions is that they can occur days or even weeks after the vaccinations. With the exception of immediate localized responses, it is quite possible that these delayed reactions are more common than immediate reactions. This is very significant as these kinds of reactions were not reported in the past because the accepted belief by medical professionals was that reactions that occurred more than 24 hours after a vaccination were not due to the vaccine. As an herbalist I never accepted this belief and I witnessed delayed reactions where the relationship between the reactions and vaccinations was unquestionable but denied by medical doctors. More recently the belief that reactions to vaccinations can't occur beyond 24 hours has been demonstrated to be false. Nevertheless, the attitude is still prevalent among most medical professionals and they are not likely to report a reaction if it occurs more than a few days after the vaccination. Unfortunately, even though the mainstream medical profession claims to be science-based, it often takes decades before the latest science percolates down to the front line practitioners. Even if they do understand that these reactions can take weeks to occur, the longer the delay before the onset of symptoms the more challenging it is to know for sure to what degree the vaccinations were implicated.

One of the most important consequences of all of this is that the available statistics on adverse reactions to vaccinations are not accurate. Due to a lack or under-reporting of delayed reactions it is likely that the risks are at least double if not many more times greater than what they are believed to be.

Up to this point I have been discussing risks that result from the initial immune response to vaccinations. It does often take some time for any obvious symptoms to manifest, but these are still initial reactions. I am now going to address potential long-term risks.

Long-term reactions fall into two general categories. The first are long-term health consequences that result from extreme short-term reactions. As I mentioned, the most common extreme initial reactions, whether they are immediate or delayed, are allergic reactions, high fevers and seizures. Aside from being potentially life-threatening, these kinds of reactions can result in damage to tissues and organs such as neural tissue in the brain. The results can be subtle or extreme and it can be challenging to clearly associate them with vaccinations. Over the years controversies have arisen regarding the possibility of a relationship between vaccinations and a number of conditions, such as Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) and autism. Upon analysis of the data medical scientists have concluded that there is no relationship. At the other end of the extreme there are people claiming that there is a conspiracy to cover up the relationship. As far as I can tell the data is inconclusive, but there could be a relationship that is difficult to demonstrate. For instance, a recent study indicates that SUID is on the rise. Researchers have no idea why. It is possible that this could be due to some kind of immune reaction and the recent trend towards giving vaccinations to very young infants may be a factor. Either way, extreme acute reactions can be very serious and for those children who survive them the possibility of long-term consequences is very real. Unfortunately, these kinds of relationships are very difficult to assess and there isn't a lot of will on the part of medical scientists to delve too deeply into them compared to other kinds of research. That being said, to claim outright that there is no research being done or there is a cover-up is also an exaggeration. There have been cases where recently developed vaccines have been pulled from use due to adverse reactions. This recently occurred with the dengue vaccine. Nevertheless, it is often the case that the seriousness of the risks aren't recognized or acted upon until many people have already received it—as was also the case with the dengue vaccine. For this reason, whatever choices you make regarding whether or not to vaccinate your children (or yourself) I strongly recommend that you consider avoiding any recently developed vaccines until they have been in use for some time (at least five years).

I agree that, all things considered, the number of people who experience significant negative health consequences of the kinds that I have discussed so far is fairly low, although probably several times larger than what is currently accepted. However, even if we had very good statistics on all of these negative reactions to vaccinations and they turned out to be 3, 4 or even 10 times what is currently believed, medical health professionals would still argue that the benefits far outweigh the negatives; that the number of children that are negatively affected is very small compared to the number who are benefited, and the overall benefits to society. This is small consolation if it is your child who is harmed by vaccinations, but the same is true if it is your child who is harmed or dies from an illness that could have been prevented by a vaccine. The issue is not black and white—and people are not statistics!

I am now going to delve into an area that is much more insidious. It relates to some of the issues that I have already discussed. Based on my experience and observations, it is my belief that the ingredients, number, and the way vaccines are administered has a significant negative impact on the functioning of our immune system. The end result is that, although they may provide some protection from developing the illness for which we are vaccinated (the degree to which depending on the person, the illness and the vaccine), they increase our susceptibility to other infections for which we have not been vaccinated and are also one of the major factors contributing to the increasing incidence of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.

As difficult is this is to prove in scientific studies in a world where almost everyone has been vaccinated for generations, there is some evidence for this in the scientific literature. Sometimes unusual patterns emerge when new vaccines are introduced, as happened when a particular swine flu vaccine was used in 2009 [see: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=narcolepsy-confirmed-as-a-autoimmune-disease]. This was an unusual situation where the connection was more clear. Nevertheless, it demonstrates that a vaccine can result in an increased incidence of a particular autoimmune condition and therefore it is very likely that this is more than just an isolated situation. It could be very common even if it is difficult to demonstrate. If you are feeling like reading something very dense, there were a couple of analyses done that look at other possible correlations [see: http://www.discoverymedicine.com/Hedi-Orbach/2010/02/04/vaccines-and-autoimmune-diseases-of-the-adult/; and https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a69b/f88358f2fc057b1597cf8e5a868ed38c4e47.pdf]. These correlations are sometimes inconclusive, but the fact that they are observable at all and in some cases indisputable suggests that this is much more common than we think.

Before going any further, once more I need to provide some background. In my over three decades of practice there is one pattern that I have consistently observed: the number of people suffering from chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions is increasing and the age at which they are developing is getting younger. This is not just something I've observed. It is well documented in the medical literature. The question is: why? Almost everyone who has contemplated this has their pet hypothesis: it's vaccinations; it's parasites; it's eating grains! Some of these hypotheses are complete nonsense. Other proposed factors are correlated, but they are actually results of something deeper rather than causes. Still others are directly related but not the whole problem.

In our modern society we tend to look on the world through an artificial linear lens. We look for nice neat solutions: black and white. In reality, the world is a big, complex, mysterious place where everything is interconnected. Not surprisingly, the causes of these unfortunate health trends are also very complex.

I could go into the deeper social, ecological, philosophical and spiritual roots of this—which I have done to some degree in other posts—but I am going to try to be as succinct as possible. Basically, the human world on many levels is very unhealthy and out of balance. If we want to sum up some of the major the causes of the rising—if not accelerating—incidence of immune weakness and dysfunction, and chronic inflammatory diseases they are: toxins in our air, water and food; poor diet; lack of exercise; not enough sleep; too much stress; disconnection from Nature. For each one of us there is a complex interaction of expressions of all of these factors that negatively affects our health. Their affects accumulate throughout our life, and via epigenetic and other mechanisms they accumulate from generation to generation. As a result, each generation is becoming weaker than the previous one and they are being born into a world where many of these factors are getting worse. Each generation therefore has more to deal with and less resources with which to do so. That being said, I am making sweeping generalizations here. These are trends. For each of us how they play out in our life depends on how we live.

This is the broader context in which we must examine the vaccination issue. If we all lived in a relatively stress-free and pollution-free world, ate a great diet, got lots of exercise, and had a harmonious relationship with our fellow human beings and Nature, this would be a very different discussion. But we do not! I've already explained earlier in this post why vaccinations are unnatural and put an intense stress load on our immune system. It is my belief that, in combination with all of these other factors that are out of balance, vaccinations add to the overall stress load on our immune system resulting in a population that is suffering from a greater incidence of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases—and other serious chronic illnesses such as various cancers— and becoming less capable of responding to new infectious illnesses that are likely to develop.

All of that may sound pretty scary, but the last paragraph also includes the potential solutions. Many of the factors that I mentioned that are contributing to this are factors that we can change. That will be the subject of Part 3, including how to protect our kids if they are not vaccinate, or how to reduce the negative affects of vaccinations if we do choose to have them vaccinated.

Up to this point I have focused on the potential negative health consequences of vaccinations in the individual. There are a couple more layers to this discussion. Firstly, we have known for a long time that the misuse and overuse of antibiotics has led to the development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. What is not common knowledge is that there is some evidence suggesting that in the process of developing antibiotic resistance bacteria can also become more aggressive [see: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/super-superbugs-antibiotic-resistant-bacteria-may-be-deadlier/]. This is not surprising. Micro-organisms are very versatile and have an incredible capacity to adapt and mutate. It is to be expected that an aggressive attack by something like an antibiotic will not only stimulate them to adapt, but that they will develop adaptions that increase their capacity to survive in other ways as well, making them more difficult for our immune system to keep in check.

Most vaccines have been developed for viral infections but they are developing vaccines for bacterial infections as well. We have to wonder, will vaccinations that increase the percentage of the population that has immunity to a particular strain of bacteria stimulate the bacteria to adapt and mutate in ways that make them better able to overcome our body defenses? ...and might this occur with viruses as well? Recent evidence is beginning to demonstrate that this is a real possibility. For instance, the global effort to eradicate polio has led to the development of a mutation of the virus for which the polio vaccine does not provide immunity [see: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141104111408.htm]. What's more, this strain is more aggressive and has a much higher mortality rate. The development of other more aggressive strains of viruses in response to vaccinations has been demonstrated as well [see: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150727143139.htm]. The bottom line here is that there is a potential that vaccinations could lead to the development of more serious outbreaks of some illnesses by either stimulating a virus to mutate in order to survive the increase of immunity in it's host population (us!), or reducing the proportion of the population of a virus for which the vaccine does provide immunity in favour of an already existing strain of the virus for which the vaccine doesn't work.

The last point I would like to make has to do with the desire to completely eradicate an illness. The evidence demonstrates that this is possible with some illnesses. It has already been accomplished with smallpox. I suspect that this is not possible with every illness for which a vaccination can be created, but that the pharmaceutical industry will exaggerate this potential. This means that we need to develop clear, unbiased criteria to determine which illnesses can be eradicated through aggressive vaccination programs and which ones can not. However, once we have determined this we need to also ask ourselves whether or not eliminating the illness is even desirable?

The devastation caused by smallpox is legendary. There are likely few people who would not agree that we are better off without it. But what about measles? Chicken pox? Mumps? When I was a child these conditions circulated through different communities in cycles. Everyone was exposed multiple times. Some people got sick and others didn't, but pretty much everyone ended up with a life-long immunity. Serious complications were very rare and were primarily related to high fevers. Keep in mind I'm talking about North America. Illnesses like these can be much more serious when they occur among a stressed out or immune compromised population, like in a poor, war-torn country.

Smallpox is an example of an illness that has been completely eradicated 
largely as a result of an aggressive vaccination program.

The point I am making here is that some of these illnesses may actually be good for us! I suspect that exposure to regular cyclic childhood illnesses such as colds and influenza—and even measles, chicken pox and mumps—are important for the normal development of our immune system. In order to survive and thrive, everything needs stress. Without it we weaken and wither away, just like our muscles if we don't get enough exercise. Too little stress leads to weakness; too much stress is overwhelming; but moderate stress is good.

In our society we set ourselves apart from the world. We live in the illusion that we are separate and can keep the world at bay and control it according to our desires. We do so at our peril and we are surrounded by the consequences of our belief in this fallacy. Everything is interconnected! In the case of our body, it is more like an ecosystem than a distinct entity: a microcosm within the macrocosm. Instead of acting as if we are separate and everything is trying to kill us, we need to learn—as individuals and as a society—how to live in good relationship.

There are some researchers who have begun to think outside the box of us vs. them. In relation to our health, what they are finding is that our obsession with cleanliness and sterility is hurting us. A growing body of evidence is accumulating that infants and young children need to have a certain amount of exposure to micro-organisms in order for their immune system to develop properly. If they don't get this they will be more prone to chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions as they get older. Sound familiar! This is what has become known as the "hygiene hypothesis". I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on this here, but it is an important understanding if we want our children to have the capacity to deal with common infectious illnesses and reduce their likelihood of developing chronic illnesses as they grow up. For a more detailed discussion of of the hygiene hypothesis I recommend that you read my post How Clean is Too Clean?. Although the hygiene hypothesis focuses primarily on bacteria, it is my belief that it applies to viruses as well; that some of the milder childhood viral illnesses are good stress for the development of our kid's immune systems whereas too many and inappropriately administered vaccines are bad stress.

This brings me to the end of this part of the discussion. In the context of these posts it is only possible for me to delve into these complex issues in a very broad-strokes way. The potential benefits and risks are different for different vaccines. Some vaccines that have been developed have already been pulled because they were clearly not very effective and/or associated with more obvious risks. Others have been modified to reduce their risks (such as reducing or eliminating toxic ingredients like mercury). As a supplement, I strongly recommend that you learn more about the specifics of individual vaccines. There are a couple of books that I recommend that can provide more details. Most of the literature is extremely biased. To date I have only come across two books that are balanced enough to be worth reading. Unfortunately, I read these books just before I posted Part 1 of this series and do not have time to reread them at the moment. As a result, I am left with my general impressions of the books and can't offer much more than that. They are also a bit out of date. Many new vaccines have been developed since these books were published. It is also possible that other books have been published since I wrote Part 1 that are as good and more up-to-date, although this is not very likely given the extremely polarized nature of the debate.

The first book that I recommend is Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent's Guide. The author, Aviva Romm, is an herbalist and midwife who also became a medical doctor. She has the unique perspective of being able to approach this issue from both a more natural and a medical perspective. Of the two books I would say that this one is the most balanced. She presents both sides of the issue and leaves it up to the reader to make their own decision. Although Aviva does her best to be as unbiased as possible, reading between the lines it seems to me that she is slightly more in favour of reducing or not vaccinating, but she doesn't push her personal view on the reader. The book also provides a lot of excellent general information about how to support immune function and overall health so as to give children a greater capacity to deal with infectious diseases. Her approach to herbalism is different than mine—I would say more medical model—and I don't always fully agree with her herbal recommendations, nevertheless it is an excellent book overall.

The second book that I recommend is The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child by Robert Sears. He is a medical doctor and definitely more in favour of vaccinating, however, he also does a great job presenting the issues in a fairly balanced way and is supportive of alternative or reduced vaccination regimens. This book also provides a lot more information on individual vaccines including their ingredients.

In order to be in the best position to navigate this issue I recommend that you read both of these books.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the US has up-to-date information on the potential risks of specific vaccines on their website [see: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm]. In light of what I've already stated, I believe that these risks are a lot greater than they know or admit, but for the most part still relatively small. Of course, the potential contribution of vaccinations to chronic immune weakness and dysfunction—which I feel is a much more serious concern—is not addressed or acknowledged. Nevertheless, these "small" risks, whether it is from getting vaccinated or not getting vaccinated, are very real. Statistics mean nothing on a case-by-case basis. No parent knows if their child is going to be the 1 in 100,000.

In Part 3 I will be providing information about how you can nurture the development of your children's immune system through diet, lifestyle and herbs. As I indicated, I can not give you a clear answer about whether or not you should vaccinate your children. This is a personal choice. However, the information that I will provide will help reduce the risks associated with childhood illnesses should you decide not to vaccinate your children, and also help increase the effectiveness and reduce the potential side-effects of vaccinations should you decide to make that choice. I'll also offer some recommendations for how to modify the vaccination protocols to reduce the risks.