Ending the Vitriol over Vaccines.

13 Jul

 

There is nothing on social media that comes close to matching the topic of  ‘vaccinations’ for its ability to provoke extremist arguments, outrage and personal insults in the comments columns.

To the mainstream extremist,  the parents who do not vaccinate their children are selfish pariahs – propagating preventable diseases which can maim and kill in great numbers, as they did in ‘the bad old days’ before medical science took its firm control, preventing the human race and its children from unnecessary death and debilitation.

To the anti-vaccine extremist, this is all a dastardly plot by Big Pharma and the New World Order to dumb down the populace, poisoning them with mercury and aluminium and fetal bits and pieces, while profiteering from a plethora of new diseases created by multiple unnecessary vaccinations.

The mainstream extremist will not go to the movie  ‘Vaxxed’ and will tell those that go they are contributing to the deaths of children.

The anti-vaccine extremist will say the movie doesn’t go far enough. All vaccinations are unnecessary for all humans and animals, or whatever race or breed.

Of course, neither is likely to shift their entrenched position.

I was invited to the Auckland showing of ‘Vaxxed’ in April this year.  I had already seen it on one of its many short-lived free YouTube showings –  but was interested to see exactly who was being attracted to this first public screening. It was important for me to go.

For many years, I have had parents coming to me asking questions about vaccine safety. And I have witnessed three severely vaccine injured patients, all officially confirmed by orthodox, mainstream colleagues. Small numbers, but devastating to the patients and families involved -in all cases producing lifelong debilities.

And this has led me to inviting a full discussion of the whole subject of vaccinations during a consultation, together with a joint scrutiny of the written inserts that accompany each vaccination. I do my best to de-jargonise the information, putting adverse effects into a context based on my studies and practice over 42 years. This may take an hour, with parents leaving with internet links to the pertinent facts.

The people coming to me as a doctor are not extremists. Some are heading towards not vaccinating their children at all. After true informed consent, frequently these parents opt for some but not all vaccinations. A few change their minds completely. Most of my advice comes from a personal scrutiny of the literature past and present, but I do explain own bias towards certain vaccines. As a student in the early 70s, I witnessed a child die of diphtheria. Similarly, I have watched on helplessly as  neonates succumb to whooping cough/pertussis. These tragedies stay with a doctor.

But also, in the 80s I administered a cholera vaccination to a middle aged man travelling overseas. He never went on his trip.He developed the life threatening Guillain-Barré Syndrome , ending up in a ventilator in ICU. He didn’t die, but he nearly did.

Serious side effects do occur from vaccinations – all doctors will acknowledge this. And so the true argument rests whether the risks to a community by not vaccinating outweigh the known fact that  small numbers will inevitably suffer serious often lifelong health issues from the vaccination.

This is the discussion we should be having. Presumably, the vast majority of us -including the extremists from both sides -are demanding safety for our children. And so it really shouldn’t be too hard.

But we should also be mature enough to examine the whole debate from a 2017 perspective. Is the baby born today exactly the same, with the same immune system, as the baby born in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s? We now know that the environmental toxic load on a child before birth is different, with studies correlating this with effects on the child’s brain development. These toxins are different from those in the past. Let’s talk about this.

We also now know that gut health and brain development are related. That the imprudent use of antibiotics in a young child adversely affects gut bacteria. Does this alter the child’s susceptibility to environmental toxins? And we now know the emotional state of mothers and fathers, and previous generations, can be passed onto new born babies ‘epigenetically’. What does this do to the sensitivity of a child’s central nervous system?

We live in a rapidly changing, increasingly complex world. Time we acknowledged this with wisdom and humility. We must admit what we don’t know, as much as what we are learning.

The intelligent parent consulting me often knows some or all this, and queries whether all the vaccines that they are scheduled to give their child are going to be safe. Are they adding to this load? They wonder whether the timings, and whether the combinations are ideal. What else is in the injections?

At the screening of Vaxxed, these were the topics of discussion amongst those around me. In the Q and A session that followed the movie, there was one person who expressed a dogmatic ‘no- vaccination at any cost’ message. But only one.

We are now well and truly immersed in the information-for-all age. As a doctor who still works part time in general practice dictated to by the ‘6 minutes of meaningful consultation time’, I realise our health system has not adapted to this brave new world.  I notice the vast gulf developing between what is ‘prescribed’ by the health authorities for the good of the majority, and what is truly needed by the individual intelligent informed patient and parent.

More than ever, parents need time to make these vital decisions on behalf of their precious children. Brief sound bites and dogmatic statements from health professionals are not enough.

We the nurses and doctors do have the power to change this. Let’s demand that parents are given the time to be properly informed. The science can and must be explained.  The questions must be listened to and answered.

Safer more effective health promotion, including safer more effective vaccination programmes, will result.

Censoring movies, patronising proclamations, and emotionally charged hakas will never work.

Good old common sense will.

 

 

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