Is discrimination against conscientious vaccine objectors the only practical solution?
The majority of measles cases in recent US outbreaks (including the recent Disneyland outbreak) are adults and very young babies, whereas in the pre-vaccination era, measles occurred mainly between the ages 1 and 15. Natural exposure to measles was followed by lifelong immunity from re-infection, whereas vaccine immunity wanes over time, leaving adults unprotected by their childhood shots. Measles is more dangerous for infants and for adults than for school-aged children.
Despite high chances of exposure in the pre-vaccination era, measles practically never happened in babies much younger than one year of age due to the robust maternal immunity transfer mechanism. The vulnerability of very young babies to measles today is the direct outcome of the prolonged mass vaccination campaign of the past, during which their mothers, themselves vaccinated in their childhood, were not able to experience measles naturally at a safe school age and establish the lifelong immunity that would also be transferred to their babies and protect them from measles for the first year of life.
Luckily, a therapeutic backup exists to mimic now-eroded maternal immunity. Infants as well as other vulnerable or immunocompromised individuals, are eligible to receive immunoglobulin, a potentially life-saving measure that supplies antibodies directed against the virus to prevent or ameliorate disease upon exposure (see appendix, Item #8).
In summary: 1) due to the properties of modern vaccines, non-vaccinated individuals pose no greater risk of transmission of polio, diphtheria, pertussis, and numerous non-type b H. influenzae strains than vaccinated individuals do, non-vaccinated individuals pose virtually no danger of transmission of hepatitis B in a school setting, and tetanus is not transmissible at all; 2) there is a significantly elevated risk of emergency room visits after childhood vaccination appointments attesting that vaccination is not risk-free; 3) outbreaks of measles cannot be entirely prevented even if we had nearly perfect vaccination compliance; and 4) an effective method of preventing measles and other viral diseases in vaccine-ineligible infants and the immunocompromised, immunoglobulin, is available for those who may be exposed to these diseases.
Taken together, these four facts make it clear that discrimination in a public school setting against children who are not vaccinated for reasons of conscience is completely unwarranted as the vaccine status of conscientious objectors poses no undue public health risk.
~ Tetyana Obukhanych, PhD
Tetyana Obukhanych, PhD, is the author of the book Vaccine Illusion. She has studied immunology in some of the world’s most prestigious medical institutions. She earned her PhD in Immunology at the Rockefeller University in New York and did postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA and Stanford University in California.
Dr. Obukhanych offers online classes for those who want to gain deeper understanding of how the immune system works and whether the immunologic benefits of vaccines are worth the risks: Natural Immunity Fundamentals.
Item #1. The Cuba IPV Study collaborative group. (2007) Randomized controlled trial of inactivated poliovirus vaccine in Cuba. N Engl J Med 356:1536-44
The table below from the Cuban IPV study documents that 91% of children receiving no IPV (control group B) were colonized with live attenuated poliovirus upon deliberate experimental inoculation. Children who were vaccinated with IPV (groups A and C) were similarly colonized at the rate of 94-97%. High counts of live virus were recovered from the stool of children in all groups. These results make it clear that IPV cannot be relied upon for the control of polioviruses.
Item #2. Warfel et al. (2014) Acellular pertussis vaccines protect against disease but fail to prevent infection and transmission in a nonhuman primate model.Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111:787-92
“Baboons vaccinated with aP were protected from severe pertussis-associated symptoms but not from colonization, did not clear the infection faster than naïve [unvaccinated] animals, and readily transmitted B. pertussis to unvaccinated contacts. By comparison, previously infected [naturally-immune] animals were not colonized upon secondary infection.”
Item #3. Meeting of the Board of Scientific Counselors, Office of Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Harkins Global Communication Center, Atlanta, Georgia, December 11-12, 2013
Resurgence of Pertussis (p.6)
“Findings indicated that 85% of the isolates [from six Enhanced Pertussis Surveillance Sites and from epidemics in Washington and Vermont in 2012] were PRN-deficient and vaccinated patients had significantly higher odds than unvaccinated patients of being infected with PRN-deficient strains. Moreover, when patients with up-to-date DTaP vaccinations were compared to unvaccinated patients, the odds of being infected with PRN-deficient strains increased, suggesting that PRN-bacteria may have a selective advantage in infecting DTaP-vaccinated persons.”
Item #4. Rubach et al. (2011) Increasing incidence of invasive Haemophilus influenzae disease in adults, Utah, USA. Emerg Infect Dis 17:1645-50
The chart below from Rubach et al. shows the number of invasive cases of H. influenzae(all types) in Utah in the decade of childhood vaccination for Hib.
Item #5. Wilson et al. (2011) Adverse events following 12 and 18 month vaccinations: a population-based, self-controlled case series analysis. PLoS One 6:e27897
“Four to 12 days post 12 month vaccination, children had a 1.33 (1.29-1.38) increased relative incidence of the combined endpoint compared to the control period, or at least one event during the risk interval for every 168 children vaccinated. Ten to 12 days post 18 month vaccination, the relative incidence was 1.25 (95%, 1.17-1.33) which represented at least one excess event for every 730 children vaccinated. The primary reason for increased events was statistically significant elevations in emergency room visits following all vaccinations.”
Item #6. De Serres et al. (2013) Largest measles epidemic in North America in a decade–Quebec, Canada, 2011: contribution of susceptibility, serendipity, and superspreading events. J Infect Dis 207:990-98
“The largest measles epidemic in North America in the last decade occurred in 2011 in Quebec, Canada.”
“A super-spreading event triggered by 1 importation resulted in sustained transmission and 678 cases.”
“The index case patient was a 30-39-year old adult, after returning to Canada from the Caribbean. The index case patient received measles vaccine in childhood.”
“Provincial [Quebec] vaccine coverage surveys conducted in 2006, 2008, and 2010 consistently showed that by 24 months of age, approximately 96% of children had received 1 dose and approximately 85% had received 2 doses of measles vaccine, increasing to 97% and 90%, respectively, by 28 months of age. With additional first and second doses administered between 28 and 59 months of age, population measles vaccine coverage is even higher by school entry.”
“Among adolescents, 22% [of measles cases] had received 2 vaccine doses. Outbreak investigation showed this proportion to have been an underestimate; active case finding identified 130% more cases among 2-dose recipients.”