In the case of a serious life-threatening disease, such as polio, my opinion is to vaccinate. The risk-to-benefit ratio is clear—get the vaccine and not polio! However, with less dangerous viruses, such as the measles, and with effective tools for supporting recovery within the botanical toolbox, I believe in NOT vaccinating against these illnesses. The result is betterment of the long-term vitality of the ‘Life Force,’ and specifically the health of the immune system. Recovering from a non-life threatening virus helps our immune system to become stronger. The long-term effects of vaccination against all childhood diseases is that our immune system gets no training and is therefore not prepared to fight off invading microorganisms. Illnesses like measles and chicken pox are not life threatening except in very rare cases. Choosing to effectively deal with an acute adverse reaction to a disease that is not life threatening and does not impose a high risk of long-term damage, should one be exposed, vs. mandated exposure to risks from vaccines in general is a debate that should not be taken lightly. The environment one lives and works in, lifestyle practices, as well as frequency of travel and avoidance of those with medical conditions of compromised immunity if unvaccinated or exposed to a contagious disease, must all be carefully weighed. Above all, I believe people should be given all of the information they need to make an informed decision when it comes to vaccinations.
The Current Epidemiology of Measles in the U.S.
The measles virus is a highly contagious disease that was once considered a common childhood illness. However, following the development of a vaccine in 1963, there has been an aggressive agenda to eradicate measles. As a result of high vaccination rates, measles has not been widespread in the United States for more than a decade. Most of the measles cases reported have been in persons who were unvaccinated (200 [69%]) or who had an unknown vaccination status (58 [20%]); 30 (10%) were in persons who were vaccinated. The most important statistic of all is that no fatalities have occurred as a result of measles.1
In the recent outbreak of measles in California that began in December 2014, as of mid-February 2015, among the 110 California patients, 49 (45%) were unvaccinated; five (5%) had 1 dose of measles vaccine, seven (6%) had 2 doses, one (1%) had 3 doses, 47 (43%) had unknown or undocumented vaccination status, and one (1%) had immunoglobulin G seropositivity documented, which indicates prior vaccination or measles infection at an undetermined time. Twelve of the unvaccinated patients were infants too young to be vaccinated. Among the 37 remaining vaccine-eligible patients, 28 (67%) were intentionally unvaccinated because of personal beliefs, and one was on an alternative plan for vaccination. Among the 28 intentionally unvaccinated patients, 18 were children (aged <18 years), and 10 were adults. Patients range in age from 6 weeks to 70 years; the median age is 22 years. Among the 84 patients with known hospitalization status, 17 (20%) were hospitalized.
Evaluating the Safety of Vaccinations
The combination measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine can be used for children aged 12 months through 12 years and is reported to be effective in prevention 97% of the time. Single-antigen measles vaccine is not available.2
According to the CDC about 30,000 events related to vaccinations are reported each year. Between 10% and 15% of these reports describe serious medical events that result in hospitalization, life-threatening illness, disability, or death. For every million people vaccinated for smallpox, between 14 and 52 could have a life-threatening reaction to smallpox vaccine.3 In considering the MMR vaccine, there has been no link to risk of autism, however there is risk of seizures and thrombocytopenia (low platelet count). 4,5,6,7
The conclusion from a review study involving 67 papers gathered from data sources including PubMed, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices statements, package inserts, existing reviews, manufacturer information packets, and the 2011 Institute of Medicine consensus report on vaccine safety stated this, “We found evidence that some vaccines are associated with serious AEs; however, these events are extremely rare and must be weighed against the protective benefits that vaccines provide.”5 So although the national media keeps stating there is no risk at all, vaccines do pose a very small risk.
The Importance of Natural Immunity
I believe people should be given all of the information they need to make an informed decision when it comes to vaccinations. For example, research published in the Journal of Virology in November 2014 confirmed that the seasonal flu vaccine might actually weaken children’s immune systems and increase their chances of getting sick from influenza viruses not included in the vaccine. When blood samples from 27 healthy, unvaccinated children and 14 children who had received an annual flu shot were compared, the unvaccinated group naturally built up more antibodies across a wider variety of influenza strains compared to the vaccinated group.8
Obtaining natural immunity offers significant benefits for overall health and long-term vitality, but this fact seems to be completely overlooked by conventional medicine and those who advocate for mandating vaccines. Vaccine-induced immunity is very different from the body’s natural immunity. Most pathogens enter the body through the mucous membranes (the nose, mouth, digestive tract, or respiratory tract). This triggers the IgA immune system response, the body’s first line of defense, which is often sufficient for warding off the virus. But vaccines are injected into the bloodstream, bypassing the essential defense mechanisms of the immune system and disrupting the natural immunological process of recognizing, responding, and recovering from invading organisms. Ultimately, this weakens the immune system. “A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from a weakened or killed form of the microbe, its toxins or one of its surface proteins. The agent stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it and remember it so that the immune system can more readily recognize and destroy any of these organisms that it later encounters.”9
In nature, a pathogen must pass from the outside to the inside. For example, the pathogen must pass from the respiratory system and then to the other organs involved in filtering it out such as the mucus membranes, thymus, liver and spleen. Vaccines do not operate in this natural way. Instead, they trick the immune system and completely bypass the outside-to-inside process by being directly injected, thereby failing to provoke the full immune response. The cost is that our immune systems become confused, weakened and less efficient at 1) recognizing a pathogen, 2) responding well to the pathogen, 3) recovering from the pathogen (turning down the immune system once the threat is over).
The immune system is composed of two parts, and stimulating the second part (the antibody response) of the system to abnormally produce antibodies weakens the other part of the system, and thus throws the entire immunological response out of synch. This results in functionally less ability to ward off, defend and recover from both acute and chronic immunological diseases. As long ago as 1908, Eli Jones, the great Eclectic physician, regarded vaccinations as a primary cause of the cancer epidemic. According to one recent study, childhood history of measles and influenza are both independently associated with lower cancer mortality for those ages 15-60 years.10 On the other side of the fence, some experts state that vaccines might reduce the risk of other immunological diseases such as asthma. For example, a 2012 meta-analysis reported that having had tuberculosis was linked to greater risk of asthma and eczema, but past immunization with Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG) did not raise the risk.11 The proposed hypothesis is that a reduction of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) infection in BCG immunized people is due to training of innate immunity, so this vaccine might be the exception in that it mimics more what the immune system does naturally.12 BCG has also been the treatment of choice for a long time for bladder cancer. It works by activating the immune system to fight TB and it also goes after the cancer cells.
A Natural Alternative to Vaccinations
Why do we not look to nature when it comes to assisting our body’s innate capacity to heal? Botanically and nutritionally, treating measles is not very different from treating the flu or any other epidemic virus. For thirty years I have been a clinical herbalist and nutritionist and have witnessed on a daily basis the merits of herbal medicine when it comes to helping people with both acute and chronic diseases. I don’t prescribe pharmaceuticals like antibiotics, so I have had to rely on herbal medicine where others might immediately resort to drugs.
Measles related complications are extremely rare and are usually linked to under-nourishment and in particular, vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A is one of the key nutrients required for a healthy immune response to any infectious disease, including measles.13-15
According to the FDA, herbs cannot and do not treat or prevent viral pandemic diseases (or any illness for that matter). However, I recommend herbs to support the body’s natural response to and recovery from viruses, including measles.
My philosophy is first to enhance the ‘Life Force’ and build vitality with nourishing broad spectrum herbal tonics that optimize the body’s natural resistance and adaptation to stressful influences, while promoting health, longevity and total well-being. My favorite adaptogenic herbs include American ginseng, ashwagandha, eleuthero, rhodiola, and schisandra.
NOTE: During the acute phase of infection (fever and other heat signs), I have people discontinue use of their Adaptogens, but in the post infectious phase, I have them double or even triple their dosage for a week or two until the Vital Energy has returned and balanced out all internal systems.
In addition, I recommend foundational immune support with immune tonics that enhance healthy function of the immune system by promoting detoxification, increasing immune surveillance, and regulating the release of immune-modulating interferons, interleukins, T-cells and immuno-globulins. Herbs that assist in immune support include astragalus, cat’s claw, cordyceps, dong quai, echinacea, and millettia. In the case of a febrile disease such as measles, it is also important to include herbs that have heat-clearing properties and support cell-mediated response, modulate cytokine production, and assist in the formation of antibodies. Helpful botanicals include Chinese Baikal skullcap, goldenseal, coptis, feverfew, and andrographis (all of which also possess potent immune modulating support as well), as well as medicinal mushrooms including coriolus, reishi, and chaga.
In the event of exposure to the measles virus and if you are not immunized, I suggest providing immune support with herbs specific to acute infections, including targeting the virus with herbs that inhibit viral replication and those that down-regulate the overactive immune response. Some of my favorite botanicals for acute infections include propolis gum, elderberry, forsythia, honeysuckle, ginger, and yarrow. To address the rash associated with measles, I suggest a combination of quercetin, acerola, nettles leaf, and licorice extract as well as anti-inflammatory herbs such as boswellia, feverfew, turmeric, magnolia bark, and andrographis. In addition, topical treatments help to provide relief; my favorites are Silvercillin Gel, aloe vera, and calendula cream (I like it with zinc oxide, for example, Weleda diaper rash cream).
For more detailed information on some of the specific herbs see my past post entitled “Herbal Protection for Acute Viral Infections.”
For general support, I suggest extra zinc 20-40 mg. daily, Vitamin D 2000-5000K daily, and a non-denatured high quality whey protein concentrate rich in colostrum and magnesium glutamine chelate.
Concluding Thoughts On Vaccines
There really hasn’t been enough good research into the safety and the potential consequences of vaccines. The truth is that we don’t know all of the answers, and it certainly appears that each vaccine needs to be evaluated individually. Some vaccines come with more risks than others, and some diseases are more dangerous than others. What I do know is that we cannot trust one hundred percent what we are told by modern medicine or the government. Remember that we were told that DDT was completely safe, that formula was just as good as mother’s milk, and that tonsils served no purpose, so they should be removed.
At the same time, conventional medicine warns us that herbs are dangerous and ineffective, and that they interact with pharmaceuticals so they shouldn’t be used. The powers that be ignore the fact that up until recent times, herbal medicine was the primary medicine of every civilization since the beginning of time. Much of the world today still relies on herbal medicines for their wellbeing. There are no easy answers to the question of vaccinations, but we deserve better research and more options.
- Vaccine Side Effects and Adverse Events, posted on line, July 31, 2014, http://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/vaccine-side-effects-and-adverse-events
- 19 States, 3 Provinces (USA and Canada) -Measles update on 183 US and 29 Canadian cases, February 21, 2015 DG Alerts, CDC, WHO, PHAC, CPHD
- Paul A. Gastañaduy, MD1, Susan B. Redd1, Amy Parker Fiebelkorn, MSN1, Jennifer S. Rota, MPH1, Paul A. Rota, PhD1, William J. Bellini, PhD1, Jane F. Seward, MBBS1, Gregory S. Wallace, MD, Measles — United States, January 1–May 23, 2014 Weekly, June 6, 2014 / 63(22);496-499; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the CDC.
- Maglione MA , Das L , Raaen L , Smith A , Chari R , Newberry S , Shanman R , Perry T , Goetz MB , Gidengil C. Safety of vaccines used for routine immunization of U.S. children: a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2014 Aug;134(2):325-37. doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-1079. Epub 2014 Jul 1.
- Demicheli V , Rivetti A, Debalini MG, Di Pietrantonj C. Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children; Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Feb 15;2:CD004407. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004407.pub3.
- Owatanapanich S, Wanlapakorn N, Tangsiri R, Poovorawan Y. Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination induced thrombocytopenia: a case report and review of the literature; Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. 2014 Sep;45(5):1053-7.
- Bertuola F, Morando C, Menniti-Ippolito F, Da Cas R, Capuano A, Perilongo G, Da Dalt L. Association between drug and vaccine use and acute immune thrombocytopenia in childhood: a case-control study in Italy; Drug Saf. 2010 Jan 1;33(1):65-72. doi: 10.2165/11530350-000000000-00000.
- Tennant PW, Parker L, Thomas JE, Craft SA, Pearce MS. Childhood infectious disease and premature death from cancer: a prospective cohort study. Eur J Epidemiol. 2013 Mar;28(3):257-65. doi: 10.1007/s10654-013-9775-1.
- Flohr C, Nagel G, Weinmayr G, Kleiner A, Williams HC, Aït-Khaled N, Strachan DP; ISAAC Phase Two Study Group. Tuberculosis, bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccination, and allergic disease: findings from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase Two. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2012 Jun;23(4):324-31.
- Eisenhut M.Reduction of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in Bacillus Calmette Guerin immunized people is due to training of innate immunity, Med Hypotheses. 2015 Mar;84(3):189-93. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2014.12.019. Epub 2015 Jan 10.
- Olson JA. Vitamin A, retinoids, and carotenoids. In: Shils M, Young V.eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. Philadelphia, PA: Lea and Febiger; 1988:292-312
- Barclay AJC, Foster A, Sommer A. Vitamin A supplements and mortality related to measles: a randomized clinical trial. Br Med J. 1987;294:294-296.
- Bendich, Vitamin A Treatment of Measles, PEDIATRICS Vol. 91 No. 5 May 1, 1993 pp. 1014 -1015, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS