Whether or not Governor Rick Perry's controversial decision to vaccinate against the HPV virus is actually in the best interest of Texas children, it is certainly going to provide many lively debates on what constitutes moral responsibility when it comes to disease prevention. But, where State oversteps a family decision is only part of the discussion.
Vaccines have long been a contentious point for many concerned about the safety and efficacy of these chemical cocktails. They've been linked to a number of side effects and health problems, and questions surround the proven ability of long-term immunity. But they've also saved millions of lives and virtually eradicated diseases like polio.
What Are Vaccines, Anyway?
Made to stimulate the body's immune system, vaccines are comprised of antigenic material. They almost always include small trace amounts of the disease itself so that the body can build the proper antibodies for future resistance. But they also carry a number of other ingredients.
According to Rense.com those ingredients include toxic and/or controversial sources such as: Genetically modified yeast, aluminum hydroxide, aluminum phosphate, thimerosal, polysorbate 80, polyribosylribitol phosphate, ammonium sulfate, formalin, sucrose, phenol, coal tar, calf skins, gelatin, sheep blood cells, monkey kidney cells and chick embryos. Aborted human fetal tissue has been reportedly used to grow viral cultures, such as in the common Measles Mumps and Rubella vaccine.
Debate came with the discovery of vaccines and the Vaccination Acts of the 19th century where refusal to be vaccinated could result in prison time. Opponents cited mandatory immunization as unconstitutional, leading to public outcry and resistance movements led by well-respected community leaders and business owners.
Fast-forward to the 21st century and Americans are recommended to receive 14 vaccinations administered in 49 separate doses before the age of six. They include: Influenza (during pregnancy), hepatitis A and B, diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, HIB, PCV, rotavirus, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella.
While some of these diseases can present a real threat (even though cases of measles and polio are extremely rare in the U.S.), mumps, for example (also extremely rare in the U.S.), is a self-limiting disease, which means it typically runs its course and leaves the host without causing death or serious long-term health issues. And some experts suggest immune strength is built through exposure to illnesses that the body learns to fight off unassisted.
There's no denying that vaccinations equal profits for multinational pharmaceutical companies, and opponents of vaccines like the National Vaccine Information Center cite vaccines as one of the fastest growing profit segments of the pharmaceutical industry, positioned to hit $36 billion annually by 2013. According to the NVIC website, compared to the 1980s, children are now being given three times as many vaccinations and the costs have increased dramatically. "The base cost for a child to get every government recommended vaccine in a private pediatrician’s office has increased from $80 per child in 1986to a whopping $2200 per child in 2011."
Eight major pharmaceutical companies dominate the vaccine market: Merck, Pfizer, Sanofi Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Astra Zeneca, CSL Biotherapies and Emergent BioSolutions. According to the NVIC, these companies have also inoculated themselves—garnering immunity from any vaccine-related lawsuits by getting the U.S. Supreme Court to cite vaccines as 'unavoidably unsafe': "[I]n 1986, Pharma blackmailed Congress into giving them partial liability protection from vaccine injury lawsuitsby suggesting they would have to abandon the U.S. childhood vaccine market without a liability shield."
The Centers for Disease Control's website supports vaccination saying that "Unless we can "stop the leak" (eliminate the disease), it is important to keep immunizing. Even if there are only a few cases of disease today, if we take away the protection given by vaccination, more and more people will be infected and will spread disease to others. Soon we will undo the progress we have made over the years."
When scientists claimed they found a link between the rising rates of autism and vaccines, it was no longer just the radical Libertarians and hippies refusing to immunize their children. But when new research came out that disproved the connection, it not only created more questions about the causes of autism, but it also once again marginalized the anti-immunization community, even though serious side effects and risks from vaccines have long been acknowledged by the medical community.
In the 1980s, pediatrician Robert Mendelsohn, MD thought there was a strong connection between immunization and autoimmune disease, stating that “There is growing suspicion that immunization against relatively harmless childhood diseases may be responsible for the dramatic increase in autoimmune diseases since mass inoculations were introduced. These are fearful diseases such as cancer, leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, lupus erythematosus, and the Guillain-Barre syndrome.”
And what about the sexually transmitted HPV (human papillomavirus) virus that Governor Perry has been vaccinating Texas children against? The CDC states, "Most sexually active people will get HPV at some time in their lives." While there are as many as 40 types of the HPV virus, most cause no symptoms and are self-limiting. Only a few of the strains cause cervical and other cancers. A relatively new vaccine, current research shows the protection provided by the HPV inoculation only has six years of follow-up and long-term effects are unknown. The side effects acknowledged by the CDC include minor conditions such as fainting, pain and swelling at injection location, headache, nausea and fever. More serious risks include blood clots in the legs, lungs and heart, the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré Syndrome, and death.
As the seemingly more pressing health threats of modernity include food borne illnesses and antibiotic-resistant bacteria (with no known vaccines), costly and potentially deadly immunizations against negligible threats are surely going to continue to be a controversy for years to come. According to the NVIC, "After 50 years of heavy prescription drug and vaccine use, Americans are waking up to the fact that they are not healthier, but are sicker than ever before."
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