There once was a time when infectious diseases claimed the lives of one in five Canadian children before age 12 . Indeed in the third world, according to the UN, infectious diseases continue to kill nearly 4 million children. For Canadians most of these deadly diseases were all but eradicated. Why? Because in the late 1940’s and 1950’s the industrial nations embarked on government driven, meaning financed, population wide childhood immunization programs with the goal of eradicating whooping cough, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, scarlet fever and tetanus.
More recently, both adult and childhood immunization programs have been introduced against meningococcus (brain) infections, influenza, pneumonia, HPV and hepatitis B to name some. Last year, the United Nations distributed TWO BILLION immunizations world wide in its battle against the infectious scourge of the earth’s impoverished children. (For information purposes, 350,000 of the deaths occurred in classified war zones from Syria to African tribal conflicts, another 350,000 were “accidents” that often include illegal childhood labor. The remaining 3 million deaths resulted from maternal malnutrition, perinatal misadventure from inadequate birthing care followed by perinatal malnourishment and childhood starvation. These aggressive programs have achieved a remarkable reduction in childhood deaths from 100 per 1000 live births to 50 deaths per 1000.
But imagine the outcry in Canada if 50 children were to die for every 1000 live births. Before we pat ourselves on the back, warning bells are sounding here at home. Documented cases of Measles and German measles are on the rise. Half the adult population is choosing not to receive influenza vaccine. Whooping cough and isolated group cases of polio are popping up again. According to Health Canada stats only 85% of Canadians are effectively immunized against these infectious agents and the shocker statistic from the UN declares we rank 28 of 29 “industrially advanced” nations in protecting our children. More disconcerting is the fact the protection rate has been steadily dropping for the past decade.
In a society boasting universal health care availability where the dollar restriction on the individual parent is non-existent, this trend is unconscionable. We’ve arrived at this point for two reasons. Apathy. Publically, what you don’t see and don’t hear will collectively fade. There’s a whole generation of physicians who have never seen measles, German measles, chicken pox and others. I remember the brain scratching we did in southwest Ontario in the late 70’s when our emergency saw the first polio case in more than 25 years. We had a quick learning curve when the other 17 cases appeared. An observant Public Health type figured it out looking at the demographic single source in an ethnic minority that didn’t practice immunization for religion reasons. These diseases are not minor inconveniences in our daily life. They all have the potential to be lethal if not diagnosed early. They can and have induced genetic defects, spontaneous abortion, organ malformation, permanent brain damage to list a few of the more serious ones. Polio and whooping cough were lethal. Survivors were severely physically disabled and neurologically challenged.
The second reason is that we live in a polluted world and swim in a daily potpourri of toxicity. People have heightened concern about what enters our bodies in the form of food additives, water contaminants and airborne microparticles. But vaccines should not be included in that debate. I do not wish to see the day when the complications of measles and meningitis prove this point. Most recently. The hypothesis has been put forward that AUTISM results from vaccine exposures. There is NO evidence of any such linkage. Autism is a complex medical issue with a multifactorial source in all likelihood. It has not been proven to be genetic as originally believed but equally implausible is the argument Mennonite children don’t have autism because they are not immunized. I sincerely empathize with parents of an autistic child. Too often they undeservedly carry a guilt they are in some way responsible for their child’s status. This is categorically untrue and they need to hear this often and loudly. More recent research has suggested a link between autism and candida and other opportunistic infections in the neonatal period when the child’s immature immune system is unable to cope.
There is current research addressing this question. I fully agree with the need to avoid all chemical exposures in the first few months of life, part of the reason the hepatitis vaccine originally recommended at birth in the U.S. is now delayed (as in Canada) until after the second month. I also agree we need to look at factors such as the egg culture in which so many vaccines are prepared as being a potential source of sensitization. But none of this constitutes a scientific or logical basis to reduce the availability and administration of proven immunity products. I think its reasonable to insist that my grand children have the same opportunities for health I enjoyed.
Dr. Dave Carll
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