Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stop Blaming the Poor Peanut

You may have heard that peanuts are responsible for more deaths than any other food. Don't believe it. Peanuts are perfectly safe. People eat them all the time and have no problems whatsoever. My husband and I have eaten them our whole lives, and our children eat them, too. Not only have we never once gotten sick from a peanut, we find them to be quite tasty and a healthy source of protein. Why, whenever I have a low blood sugar moment, a spoonful of peanut butter sets me to rights quicker than anything else can. Less than half a percent of people even claim to have this so-called peanut allergy. If you ask me, these individuals were probably sick already and their symptoms have nothing to do with peanuts. The fact that peanut consumption appears to trigger them is most likely coincidental. All this unwarranted negative publicity for the noble peanut could do irreparable harm to the peanut industry, putting farmers out of business and depriving society of a valuable nutritional resource.

If you think I'm completely, er, nuts, then you'll understand my frustration with the reaction of the medical/scientific community to the suggestion that there might be a link between vaccines and some forms of autism. While I don't believe that vaccines caused my son's autism, I can't rule out the possibility that, due to some genetic flaw or predisposition, they may have been a contributing factor. I have a friend, however, with two sons who disappeared into autism immediately after receiving the MMR vaccine. For people like her, there is no need for a scientific study to prove what she has seen with her own eyes. This is no wild coincidence; this is a definite link.

This is Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist who recently lost his medical license due to the fact that he refused to recant the conclusions of a study he conducted that found vaccine strain measles infection in the intestines of children with autism and bowel disease. You may have heard of him. If you have, you will likely have heard that his findings have never been replicated. This is not true. They have never been replicated in a published study, but they have indeed been replicated by doctors here in the US. Dr. Wakefield has never suggested that parents avoid vaccinating their children--quite the contrary--but he has been blamed for the drop in vaccine rates and a subsequent rise in measles infections among children, particularly in the UK.

Vaccines are a relatively new intervention when compared to the entire history of medicine. How arrogant to assume that we have it all figured out already; that we can say with such confidence that we know all of the potential effects they will have on the human body. We continue to heap them upon our little ones in alarming quantities, because the vast majority of children seem to have no trouble whatsoever in tolerating the brief assault on their immune systems. But what if, as with the poor maligned peanut, there is a small percentage--less than half a percent--whose bodies do not respond in the typical way? What if the immune system is already misfiring in these individuals in ways that have not yet been detected? Why is it considered sacrilege to suggest that the current vaccine program might not be the right fit for everyone? After all, it is completely unnecessary for 99.5% of the population to avoid peanuts, but for the rest, they are deadly. The CDC's unwillingness to truly investigate this only keeps the question alive for everyone. Research could help to reveal markers that could be screened for to identify which individuals are most susceptible and should be vaccinated by a different schedule, at older ages, with single instead of combination vaccines. This research is not being done. Instead, money is being put into retrospective surveys aimed at demonstrating the lack of a statistical link between vaccines and autism. This is insulting and I feel like I am back in the days of Galileo with scientists being silenced in an attempt to preserve the status quo.

As I said, I do not believe vaccines caused my son to have autism. However, my husband and I have been a good deal more cautious in approaching the vaccination of his two younger brothers. We are following a different vaccination schedule than the recommended one. I realize this means we are trying to strike a very precarious balance between protecting our children from disease and avoiding potential environmental triggers for developmental delays. However, until the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics get behind some real research to address this issue, I have no confidence in their recommendations. Here are the guidelines we follow, developed by Dr. Stephanie Cave (an amazing mother of a child with autism who got tired of being dismissed by medical professionals who told her, "You're not a doctor," so she became one).

    Vaccine Recommendations

  •    Do not vaccinate child if he/she:
  •    is having fever (even low-grade), or runny nose/ diarrhea/constipation, or any other illness, or still recovering from an infection, or on antibiotics for other reasons. You may postpone vaccination to another day.
  •    had any bad reaction or deterioration in health after previous vaccination.
  •    had any past history of immune system disorder, severe allergies, convulsions or neurological disorders, vaccine reactions.
  •    Always have full information on the vaccine's side effects.
  •    Ask the doctor on how to identify a vaccine reaction.
  •    Know the vaccine manufacturer's name and lot number.
  •    Report any side effect to the doctor, NVIC, and VAERS.
  •    Always ask for single dose, mercury-free (no thimerosal) vaccines.
  •    Ask for separate vials of measles, mumps, and rubella, and give them separately, months apart.

    Recommended vaccine schedule: (By Stephanie Cave, M.D. - DAN! Practitioner and Vaccine Expert)

    Birth - Hepatitis B only if mom is Hepatitis B Positive; otherwise, no vaccine shot.  
    4 months - Hib, IPV  
    5 months - DTaP 
    6 months - Hib, IPV  
    7 months - DTaP  
    8 months - Hib  
    9 months - DTaP  
    15 months - Measles  
    17 months - Hib, IPV  
    18 months - DTaP  
    24 months - Prevnar (1 dose only)  
    27 months - Rubella  
    30 months - Mumps  
    4 years - Varicella (if not immune already)  
    4 - 5 years - Hepatitis B series, DTaP, IPV boosters; test titers for MMR and do not give unless not immune. Immunize only for vaccines found to be negative.

  •    Ask the doctor to check vaccine titers to check for immunity before giving boosters.
  •    If you have to vaccinate, give the following:
         Vitamin A (cod liver oil) 1 tbsp for three days before and on the day of the shot.      
         Vitamin C 100 mg twice daily for infants and 300mg twice daily for toddlers for three days before and on the day of the shot.

    NVIC (National Vaccine Information Center) 
    421-E Church Street  
    Vienna, VA 22180  
    Tel (703)9380342  

    VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System)  
    P.O.Box 1100  
    Rockville, MD 20849-1100  
    24-hr toll free info line (800)822-7967 
    Email: info@vaers.org  
    Fax: (877)721-0366