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 on 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. I hope to be able to get to Part 3 in the coming weeks.

 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!

Once we are exposed to a pathogen through natural means we should acquire an immunity to it. 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.