Guest Column: Response to Dr. Julia on vaccines

Re: “Vaccines—safe or health risk?” I would like to submit to you my response to the above-referenced column written by Dr. Julia Whipkey-Michniewicz, N.D., which appeared in the May 31-June 6, 2006, edition of your newspaper. I don’t know what parameters for acceptance you apply to guest columns, but I was unable to limit my response to 200 words as required for a letter to the editor.

To begin, I would like to mention that I share the opinion that vaccines, their benefits and risks should be carefully considered. Parents can conscientiously decline vaccines if they feel it is the correct choice. However, I do have problems with several of the facts presented in the article. If I was forced to choose a side, I would be in the anti-vaccine camp, but I would not choose that label for myself. I am not anti-immunization. It is because of the successful immunization efforts of the past that many diseases of the past have been very nearly eradicated. We are currently living in a time of extremely low risk of these diseases, brought about in part by immunization efforts, as well as increased cleanliness standards. I find myself grateful for my ability to consider each vaccine on a case-by-case basis, and, as a result, I have found my answer to be “no” to the majority of current vaccines. I am only going into detail about my position here to let you know that I don’t disagree with Dr. Julia because I am pro-vaccine, because I am not. I disagree because of the facts she referenced in her column.

Dr. Julia cites a 1992 Journal of Epidemiology issue as stating a higher death rate among children receiving the DPT vaccination. While that fact was true at the time reported, 16 years ago, the believed cause of the many negative outcomes was removed from that combo shot several years ago, greatly decreasing the negative outcomes. If she wants to dispute DPT, she should dispute the vaccine as it is now currently manufactured and administered using more current research.

She also makes several references to the oral polio vaccine being linked to the only polio cases in the U.S. I do not dispute this fact, either. However, the oral vaccine was discontinued in the U.S. more than four years ago for precisely that reason. The only polio vaccine currently available in the U.S. is the injected killed virus version, which may have its own risks and side effects, but causing polio is not one of them.

My final point of contention with the article is her mention of her Christianity and a reference to Psalms as guiding her health choices. While those are certainly factors that many parents consider in their decision making, I don’t believe they have a place in this article. If she wants to make a scientific case against vaccines, she should use current information and data available, and perhaps write a second article on the religious factors when making health choices. Religious evidence of health guidance usually differs drastically from scientific evidence, and the two should be kept separate.

I am always happy to see this topic discussed in print, and I hope that her article invites further thought among the readers. I wouldn’t want her article to be dismissed as irrelevant due to the outdated issues I have addressed. Anyone probing deeper into this topic with just a few minutes and the Internet will see that there are many reasons that parents may choose to skip the vaccines she mentions, but one can’t skip the polio vaccine she discusses, as it is not available, and the DPT is reformulated from the risks she addressed.

Melinda Jarocki is a resident of Cherry Valley.

From the July 5-11, 2006, issue

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