"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pertussis: An Unbiased Look

While I never intended to write a series on vaccines, I have been studying the subject intensely, as I do every 3 years (i.e. when I am pregnant).  Pertussis is, for me, one of the most worrisome diseases one can vaccinate against.  There have been outbreaks all over the country, it seems, over the past few years, and we saw one of our dear friends' 2-year-old go through it a few years back.

Note that this is a pro-vaccination bulletin, which outlines the problems with current pertussis vaccines:

"Be careful about reading health books.  You may die of a misprint." 
~Mark Twain


  1. Bread and Honey,

    I thought you might be interested in this story and video in light of the pertussis outbreaks nationwide. Public health experts in San Diego are using text-message reminders to increase the immunization rate among 1-year-olds:


  2. Unfortunately, pertussis is one of the least effective vaccines, meaning that it is more dependent on widespread vaccination coverage to limit the spread through the population, since each individual can't count on the protection if exposed. The whole cell pertuss vax was more effective, but had significant side effects. Boosters help renew the protection, but getting compliance to a new schedule takes time and of course they still aren't perfect.

  3. Becky-

    That is one way to look at it. But could any manufacturer of any other product of any type get away with that? Vaccines are a billion-dollar industry and I think it is a suspicious state to declare that since "we can't create a good product, so MORE people need to use it" to make it even marginally effective... meaning of course, more money for the manufacturers of the ineffective product... well, this is unethical to me. If a product is not effective, dump it and create a new product and in the meantime give parents better education on how to self-care for the disease.

    I have seen many families with children suffering from pertussis, and, as reason would have it, the families with a healthy lifestyle and excellent diet had a much easier time of it versus formula-feeding, McDonald's eating, sedentary families. NONE of the children whose parents used alternative hcp's for help and who also had a healthy lifestyle were hospitalized, or even close. The children I knew who needed to be hospitalized for the illness were from the unhealthy lifestyle group.

    Obviously I am not a medical researcher, but I trust to my God-given reason. Vaccines are not a panacea for lazy parenting and unhealthy lifestyles, but that's generally how they are treated when you get right down to it.

    1. But vaccines are designed to work on the basis of a population, even while they also offer individual protection. The effectiveness of every vaccine depends to some degree on herd immunity and a high rate of immunization in the population to maximize the health of the population as a whole. It isn't that the pertussis vaccine is bad, it is that it isn't nearly as good as the vaccines for most other vaccine preventable diseases, and thus it is even more sensitive to herd immunity.

    2. You're right. Vaccines are a billion dollar business but, in fact, count for only around 2% of pharma profits. If you look at the drugs that make the greatest profits (using their pretax margin as a guide) then you'll see that none is a preventative drug.

      No the pertussis vaccine is not the best vaccine available but it does offer increased protection against s disease which can be deadly in infants and young children. As Becky quite rightly points out, all vaccines work on a population basis. Don't we owe it to infants to protect them by cocooning them? Doing so also has the added bonus of protecting oneself.
      You ask, " could any manufacturer of any other product of any type get away with that?" well yes and they do it all the time. What we are talking about here is improving the vaccine's safety at some cost to its efficacy. Car manufacturers, as one example, may have to sacrifice some performance or fuel economy to incorporate ever better safety features. The same is true of manufacturers of household appliances etc.That doesn't make the new products useless.
      You argue that families with "healthy lifestyles" weather pertussis better than those who make poor health choices.Wouldn't that likely be the case whatever the disease but why not take steps to prevent pertussis in the first instance?

      You say "Vaccines are not a panacea for lazy parenting and unhealthy lifestyles, but that's generally how they are treated when you get right down to it" That is an offensive and ridiculous generalisation. I vaccinate my child because I take my parental responsibilities very seriously indeed as do other parents I know who take the trouble to ensure that their children are vaccinated on time, every time.

  4. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion on the subject. Public health policies, according to my understanding, are developed to take care of the lowest common denominator. Not that everyone using public health schedules and policies are the lowest common denominator! But lazy- maybe uninformed would be 'nicer'- parents who feed their kids crap and don't get their kids moving enough... ya, I think they should probably vaccinate....

    And no, I do not agree that preventing disease is always the healthiest way to keep the immune system strong. Natural disease builds up immunity better than the false particles we inject in vaccines, whose immunity wears off over time.

    As an individual, I do not agree 100% that herd immunity is even effective, as many doctors will agree when you ask and discuss the matter privately. There are 2 issues: do vaccines work? and, are vaccines really the best way to deal with certain diseases? My response to those 2 questions is probably not the mainstream parent's opinion.

    A great book I highly recommend is "Vaccination is Not Immunization" which addresses the question of whether vaccines are good for your child's long-term immune system health. Whether vaccines work the way most people suppose them to is another question in which I am way too pregnant and tired and busy to engage in public debate.

    And as I mentioned, I have seen several families nurse babies and toddlers through whooping cough and while it is not fun, even the least healthy amongst them was never near death. And yes, I'm willing to deal with the consequences should my children contract most of the vaccine-preventable diseases, maybe massive polio outbreaks notwithstanding.

    Also, the whole protect the weak by injecting your kid with toxins thing... every time I hear that argument I think of the Sanhedrin saying about Jesus- isn't it better that 1 man die for the nation...??? No. Not.

    Again, I encourage all parents to read, read, read, talk to as many different doctors and other parents as possible, and then decide for yourself.

  5. I also want to add that many families have amazing success using sodium ascorbate during whooping cough. Just like vitamin C for colds... no big pharma wants info like that published ANYWHERE reputable. Because ain't nobody makin' millions or billions on vitamin C pills. (And studies showing effective treatment of the common cold by vitamin C were suppressed and rejected by journals like the Lancet and NEMJ during the 70's. Some rally good anecdotes on that were in several of Adelle Davis' books.) Until our healthcare system is fueled by good intentions and not by $$$, I will be ever-wary of manufactured drugs. Period. Because most of them are band-aid solutions for symptoms that allow doctors to avoid addressing underlying issues.

    My PA recently admitted she has so many patients with recurring staph infections that have morphed to resist all pharmeceutical agents that she asked my advice on homeopathics and essential oils. Because even 'real' health care providers get sick of putting band-aids on serious problems and they get disillusioned with the great big pharmaceutical promises they've been fed.

    To each his own! I am not a conspiracy theorist and I am, in fact, a capitalist. But the day forced vaccines stop being a for-profit business is the day... well, it's never going to happen in my lifetime, so I won't even extrapolate further.