Vaccines—Yes or No?
Editor’s Note: Mississippi Christian Living has followed the debate in the Mississippi Legislature over religious exemptions for parents who choose not to vaccinate. We take no side on this issue, but we do think both sides have valid concerns and BOTH sides deserve to be heard.
Answered by Anita Henderson MD, FAAP
MCL: Why is it important to vaccinate my child?
Dr. Henderson: Vaccines save lives and help keep children healthy. Vaccines given over the last 50 years have saved millions of lives. Vaccine-preventable diseases are still present in the U.S. today but have declined dramatically.
Before the pertussis vaccine, there were about 200,000 cases of pertussis in the U.S. every year. In 2016, there were about 5,000 cases and that is a 98% decrease due to the vaccine. Pertussis is whooping cough and is dangerous and life-threatening—especially in infants. When enough children go unvaccinated, an illness like pertussis can begin to infect children too young to get their shots or children who have cancer or have otherwise compromised immune systems.
In other parts of the world many vaccine-preventable diseases that are rarely seen in the U.S. are still common, and so it is important to immunize and protect all our children.
MCL: Are vaccines safe and effective?
Dr. Henderson: Vaccines are licensed by the FDA. They are tested for effectiveness and safety and are not licensed until they meet standards in both areas. Those studies are again reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Center for Disease Control, and the American Academy of Family Physicians before they are officially recommended for children.
Once recommended, they continue to be monitored for side effects and effectiveness. Mild side effects such as low-grade fever or soreness at the injection site may occur but serious side effects rarely do. Most vaccines are between 90 and 99% effective in preventing disease. Even if a vaccinated child does get the disease through exposure to it, the infection is usually a much milder and less serious illness because his or her body’s immune system can quickly fight off that infection.
MCL: What vaccinations are required in Mississippi?
Dr. Henderson: Mississippi requires 5 vaccines against 9 diseases to qualify for school entry: Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTaP–5 doses), Polio (4 doses), Hepatitis B (3 doses), Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR–2 doses) and Varicella (Chickenpox–2 doses).
If your child has had a reaction to a vaccine or is allergic to a component of a vaccine your pediatrician can complete and submit a medical exemption form. Mississippi does not accept philosophical exemptions only medical exemptions.
MCL: Do vaccines cause autism or SIDS?
Dr. Henderson: Vaccines do not cause autism or SIDS. Mississippi has one of the highest vaccination rates and one of the lowest autism rates. Numerous studies have been done over the last 20 years and the conclusion is there is no link between vaccines and autism. Vaccines do not cause SIDS, and in fact some studies have shown that vaccines lower the incidence of SIDS. Other ways to lower the risk of SIDS include making sure your baby sleeps in a safe environment, ALONE, on his or her BACK, in their own CRIB, in a smoke-free home. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS. My pediatric group of 10 pediatricians has all vaccinated our children on the recommended schedule because we know that vaccines save lives and prevent disease.
* This information comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Mississippi State Department of Health. Additional info can be found at the AAP website for families HealthyChildren.org. Always consult your personal pediatrician for advice and answers regarding your child’s health.
Anita Henderson, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician who has practiced with the Pediatric Clinic, a division of Hattiesburg Clinic for 21 years. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, completed medical school at University of Mississippi Medical Center, and her residency in Pediatrics at Vanderbilt. She is a member of First Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg.
Answered by Scott Guidry, MD
MCL: Why are so many parents questioning vaccines?
Dr. Guidry: Parents are alarmed at the explosion of recommended childhood vaccines to over 70 doses for 16 diseases, with hundreds more in development. Mississippi’s vaccine law is the most burdensome in the nation, mandating 21 doses of vaccines by just 6 months for daycare attendance.
In 1986, Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (42 U.S.C. § 300aa-11.), which indemnified vaccine makers and doctors from liability for vaccine-related injuries and death. Since then, the vaccine schedule has more than quadrupled, while the federal government has paid out $3.75 billion to families who suffered vaccine damages, using funds supplied by a vaccine tax.
Concerned moms and dads are reading safety science and manufacturers’ package inserts. It is disturbing to learn that the Hepatitis B vaccine given in the first hour of life, for example, was followed for only 4 days before hitting the market.
An environment of intense pressure to vaccinate serves to undermine the doctor/patient relationship and contributes to mistrust. Many parents report feeling “cornered” at their child’s doctor visits and coerced by the inflexible state requirements. Vaccine safety should be paramount and something we are free to discuss. We all want what is best for our children, and by shutting down the conversation we convey that the vaccine program is priority over our children’s well-being.
MCL: Is vaccine safety science really settled?
Dr. Guidry: While vaccines are promoted as safe and effective, they are pharmaceutical drugs with side effects. Vaccines are one-size-fits-all medicine, but children are different. Doctors cannot predict which child will be harmed. Inflexible mandates threaten the health of those children.
In a private meeting arranged by the Trump Administration, the disturbing results of an investigation by Bobby Kennedy, Jr.’s Vaccine Safety Project was presented to top officials from Health and Human Services at the National Institutes of Health in May 2017. The information highlighted many shortcomings and failures of the vaccine safety program. To read the documented results of the complete investigation please refer to The Vaccine Safety White Papers.1
There are serious concerns. Vaccines are not required to undergo long-term double-blind inert-placebo controlled trials to evaluate safety. Not a single clinical trial for vaccines given to our children had a control group receiving an inert placebo. In addition, most vaccines currently on the market were approved based on studies with follow-up periods of only a few days or weeks.
MCL: Is it dangerous to relax Mississippi’s vaccine mandates?
Dr. Guidry: Propaganda claiming it is dangerous to relax Mississippi’s vaccine mandates for school is unfounded, as we look at other states whose vaccine uptake remains extremely high despite their vaccine laws offering religious exemptions.
It is important to understand that while Mississippi has only medical exemptions, 47 other states, including all of our bordering states, currently offer religious and/or personal belief exemptions and have for decades, since vaccine mandates began. Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee all grant easily obtained religious vaccine exemptions. These religious exemptions account for merely .6% of all kindergarteners in those states.2
MCL: Why should Mississippi offer parents a religious exemption?
Dr. Guidry: Many Christian families believe our vaccine laws violate First Amendment rights, by prohibiting a religious exemption to compulsory childhood vaccinations.
Among other potentially objectionable media, vaccines are cultured on the cell lines of aborted babies. In order to replenish older cell lines for continued vaccine research and production, new ones are being developed in China using “water-bag” abortion.3 According to the US Centers for Disease Control, vaccines contain human diploid cells, cellular debris, animal protein and/or the DNA of aborted babies. This is plainly stated under their Vaccine Excipient List, 4 as well as in the ingredients list on the vaccine package insert.
Families deserve the freedom to prayerfully consider how to vaccinate their children without government coercion.
Scott P. Guidry, MD, has been a practicing certified general surgeon for 25 years in South Mississippi. He is a graduate of LSU Medical School, and completed his surgery residency at UMMC in Jackson, MS, and is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Guidry is a devoted Christian father of a vaccine-injured and recovered son. He is dedicated to the principle of informed voluntary consent and an advocate for Mississippi Parents for Vaccine Rights. (MPVR.org) and Mississippi Healthcare Professionals for Informed Consent (MHPIC.org).