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Do they work

Do vaccines really work?

Many individuals have been duped into believing that vaccines are completely effective. We have heard chiropractors say, "Sure. I'm opposed to mandatory immunization. My kids aren't vaccinated. And there certainly are some dangerous side effects. But you have to admit that vaccines work." After considering the data available, it is inappropriate to make such a sweeping generalization.

A classic error in logic is confusing correlation with cause and effect. For example, a consistency can be observed between the presence of garbage and the presence of flies. Yet, it would be absurd to conclude that flies cause garbage. If one encountered the carcass of an animal being consumed by scavengers in the woods, it would be improper to conclude that the scavengers killed the animal. The fact that two events correlate well in space and time does not mean that one event is responsible for the other. This is known as the "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy.

The fact that the incidence of some diseases has decreased following the administration of vaccines does not mean that the vaccines are solely responsible for the decline. If you compare the declining death rates resulting from diseases for which vaccines are available with the death rates of TB, a disease for which there is no U.S. vaccination program, it becomes obvious that factors other than vaccination are operative. Even proponents of vaccination acknowledge that other factors have had a far more significant effect on the decline of infectious disease.

In the May 26, 1978 issue of Science, Mortimer noted that "Morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases in the United States have declined more than 90 percent since 1900. Factors believed to be responsible for this decline include changes in the natural history of disease, sanitation, quarantine measures, control of nonhuman vectors, antibacterial drugs, and immunization. The contributions of each of these factors differ among the various infectious diseases; except for smallpox and diphtheria control, immunization had little effect until after World War II."

A more contemporary public health problem is that of measles. Recent months have seen emotionally charged media exposés about measles epidemics in high schools and colleges. Students and parents have been encouraged, cajoled, or coerced into submitting to measles shots. The irony is that most of the cases in these epidemics had been previously immunized.

Chen et al described a measles epidemic in an Illinois high school in the American Journal of Epidemiology, January, 1989. The school's 1,873 students had a pre-outbreak vaccination level of 99.7%. Why an epidemic if vaccination "works?" The authors explained: "Despite high vaccination levels, explosive measles outbreaks may occur in secondary schools due to 1) airborne measles transmission, 2) high contact rates, 3) inaccurate school vaccination records, or 4) inadequate immunity from vaccinations at younger ages."

Is it possible that vaccination in childhood merely suppressed the expression of benign measles in childhood, allowing a more dangerous form of the disease to appear in adolescence? And what of childhood outbreaks in vaccinated populations?

In the April, 1989 issue of the Journal of the Royal College of General Practice, Hicks observed that in an outbreak of measles in a primary school, 57% of the children developing measles had a history of previous measles vaccination. Despite this, Hicks still considers loss of confidence in vaccine effectiveness "unjustified." So emotionally charged is the issue of immunization that physicians continue to support it even in situations where they have observed its failure!

The most powerful evidence offered by proponents of vaccination is the decreased incidence of infectious illnesses for which vaccines have been developed. In her book, "Immunization -- The Reality Behind the Myth," James exposes this as a classic example of post hoc reasoning. This means the belief that because A followed B, B caused A.

In his book, "How to Lie With Statistics," Huff states that "Permitting statistical treatment and the hypnotic presence of numbers and decimal points to befog causal relationships is little better than superstition." In reference to positive correlations associated with unrelated events, he observes "scantier evidence than this -- treated in the statistical mill until common sense can no longer penetrate it -- has made many a medical fortune and many a medical article in magazines, including professional ones."

Our responsibility as chiropractors

Chiropractors must be vigilant in protecting minority rights in health matters. As one jurist noted, "It's not the rights of the majority which must be protected, for these are not at risk. It is the rights of the minority which require constant vigilance." We must not permit the allopathic model to dominate our public health system.

Some chiropractors have been critical of what they perceive as an "attack" on medicine. "You should support chiropractic, not disparage medicine," they claim. I agree. Our opposition to mandatory vaccination is not an attack on medicine. Medicine is a necessary part of the health care system. Our opposition is to any mandatory medical procedure.

Further, we should oppose the sloppy process of treatment without diagnosis, and failure to screen for known contraindications to specific vaccines. We must oppose the deceit that is employed by the medical establishment and the media in implying that vaccines are completely safe and effective, and not disclosing provisions of the law that provide for exemption.

It is our duty and responsibility to effectively represent the minority viewpoint on the issue of mass vaccination. If a person wishes to accept vaccination or vaccinate a child, such a decision should be made on the basis of informed consent. Further, a proper examination for known contraindications to the vaccine should be performed. A qualified physician and life support equipment should be on site when vaccines are administered. In the case of live viral vaccines, recipients should be checked periodically to ensure that they are not capable of transmitting these laboratory created viruses to healthy, unvaccinated individuals. Those who administer and manufacture vaccines should not receive special government indemnification which is not provided to other practitioners for other procedures. If vaccination is so dangerous that malpractice and product liability insurers will not cover the procedure, it is time to rethink our public health strategies.

(Dr. Christopher Kent, president of the Council on Chiropractic Practice, is a 1973 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic. Named WCA "Chiropractic Researcher of the Year" in 1994, and recipient of that honor from the ICA in 1991 and again in 1998, Dr. Kent is director of research for EMG Consultants, Inc., and a co-founder of Paradigm Partners, Inc. and the Chiropractic Leadership Alliance. With Dr. Patrick Gentempo, Jr., Dr. Kent produces a monthly audio tape journal, "On Purpose," covering current events in science, philosophy, and politics of vital interest to the practicing chiropractor. For subscription information call 800/892-6463.)


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  • "I had become very frustrated with the way I was feeling. My headaches made me very tired and I would frequently have to nap after work or school instead of doing things I enjoyed. Occasionally, I would miss work because the pain was so severe."
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