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Vaccinations and autoimmune diseases

Posted Sep 14 2008 1:28pm

A few weeks ago I posted on the issue of chicken pox vaccinations for children. I got an interesting comment that brought up the issue of heavy metals in vaccinations, so I thought I'd open the topic up for larger discussion: how safe are vaccines? Are they worth the risk?

As I say in my comment, I take this issue very seriously. Vaccinations have been linked to autoimmune diseases. In 1976, one type of influenza vaccine was clearly linked with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), which is related to my own illness, CIDP. ( See this article on adverse effects of vaccinations on the CDC's website.)

That said, the risk of developing GBS from the current flu vaccine is about 1 or 2 cases per million people vaccinated. This is much lower than your risk of developing severe influenza if you are not vaccinated. According to Neurologist Gareth J. Parry, "It is importantly remember that the risk of developing new GBS, having a recurrence of GBS or developing a relapse of CIDP are all considerably greater following an infectious illness such as influenza than it is after vaccination."

As for the issue of heavy metals, the ingredient in question is thimerosal, a mercury compound used as a preservative in some vaccinations. Thimerosal in vaccinations has been linked to autism. The medical establishment reports that the evidence is inconclusive; however, many parents of autistic children say symptoms arose shortly after a vaccination. In fact, thousands or parents have filed lawsuits making that claim. The lawsuits are still pending, but it does look like more research needs to be done on this subject. ( Read what the National Autism Association has to say about thimerosal.)

Meanwhile, according to the FDA thimerosal has been removed from or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines routinely recommended for children 6 years of age and younger, with the exception of inactivated influenza vaccine.

I do think a great deal more research needs to be done on the safety of vaccines. However, I still believe that we should vaccinate against severe diseases like polio and smallpox. The health risks of not vaccinating are too great. Take a look at what the CDC says would happen if we did not vaccinate against severe illnesses.

What do you think? Has the rise in autism and other autoimmune diseases made you nervous about vaccinations? Do you feel there are some vaccinations that are not worth the risk? Where do you go for vaccination information?

By the way, I found this Cookie Magazine article on the vaccination debate and this their interview with Amanda Peet -- and the ensuing debate -- interesting.

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