Excerpted from LILIPOH
Author: Joseph Cooney, MD
Issue: Winter 2016: Biodynamic Food & Farming - Issue #82, Vol. 21
We’ve had many conversations with parents regarding their concerns over the decision of whether or not to vaccinate their children. They are actually quite torn about it. On one hand, the medical world makes the argument that you are either crazy or selfish not to vaccinate. Vaccines help us avoid acute illness and, in doing so, lower death rates. It’s a no brainer, right? Not necessarily, because on the other hand, these parents hear about the association with declining acute illness in childhood and the growing chronic illness, allergy, and immune dysfunction in children and adults. They simply want what’s best for their child and they’re not sure what to do. How can we resolve this? Now with mandatory vaccination being advanced in some places, the issue is begging for review and reflection.
But aren’t vaccines accepted by scientific consensus?
The fact that vaccine policy is generally accepted as safe and effective today does not protect it from being subjected to a shift in the field that will change the scientific consensus. Nor does that fact protect it from being subjected to scrutiny or debate. The medical world often makes the mistake of not recognizing which conclusions are firm or not. Many a young doctor in training hears the tale of the sage physician who warned the upstart doctors that “half of what we know now is wrong, we just don't know which half.”
Experience plays this shifting field out in modern medicine. A major example in my career is the reversal of the decades-long recommendation for women to take replacement hormones at menopause. We thought we could improve on nature with our science. Now replacement synthetic hormones are discouraged because the natural state of menopause was found to be protective against breast cancer and heart disease. The list of therapeutic interventions that were once accepted but are now defunct is long enough to give one serious pause. For crying out loud, it took science decades to reach consensus that tobacco was bad for your health. Furthermore, bottle feeding with formula was once thought of as 'scientific' and modern and superior to breast feeding. 80% of women stopped breastfeeding during that time in the last century. The modern day reversal of this trend is a signature event for the movement of rediscovery of nature's deeply complex and wholly inclusive quality. Nature knows best.
Many herald vaccines as the number one public health achievement of the 20th century and attribute the longevity shift over the century to them and antibiotics. However, the great advances in life expectancy are far more attributable to public health interventions like sanitation, labor laws, providing clean water, and hygienic measures than to medical advances, vaccines, or any internal intervention. One report estimates that medicine can claim only 3% of the improvement in longevity. Moreover, it should be remembered that modern medical intervention comes with risk. A landmark study from the Institute of Medicine in 1999 estimates death from errors in hospitals as high as 98,000 lives per year. In fact, other researchers identify the healthcare system as the third leading cause of death per year when additionally considering deaths from prescription drugs and unnecessary surgery. Because the healthcare system is a for-profit system, we are invited to gloss over the facts. Intervening in the public health by taking on environmental projects to make society more habitable is warranted and welcome. However, when entering the sacred sphere of the body, it is most prudent to proceed humbly, conservatively, and with many questions.
“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many.” –Phaedrus (Roman poet)
Rudolf Steiner held the premise that several of the typical childhood illnesses are essential for the development of the growing child. If we avoid all of the typical childhood illnesses, our organism is unchallenged and doesn’t gain whatever it would from facing and overcoming the illness. This notion challenges the core of the mainstream argument but a lot of people can connect with it intuitively, and it’s supported by scientific data.
We can observe that, as the acute inflammations of childhood are avoided, chronic immune disorders take their place. The 2007 asthma guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services show that certain infections in childhood reduce the incidence of asthma: measles and hepatitis A amongst them. When these are avoided with a vaccine, the asthma prevention is lost. Almost everyone gets exposed to hepatitis A in developing countries. The usual immunity rate is 90%. Most interesting, children under 6 usually have no symptoms at all with an infection of hepatitis A. Complications are rare in hepatitis A at all ages. Survival rate is greater than 99.9%. Asthma, on the other hand, is increasing in incidence, carries with it substantial morbidity, is a major financial burden to the healthcare system, and has links to autism.
Read more here.