Today, we’re going to take a look at vaccines. A lot of parents are very confused about this issue. There’s a lot of information out there and it’s hard to sort through. Some parents give up and just trust their doctors. I would urge you to have a doctor you can trust; but also to do your own research. You are the one who has to live with this decision everyday.
Vaccines: How Long Does Immunity Last?
So now we’re going to look at a major issue concerning vaccines: how long does immunity last (accordinging to the medical community)? What boosters do they recommend and why? And how does this play into our decision on when or whether to vaccinate?
Due to the large amount of information out there, we’ll look at just a few key vaccines today. These are ones that parents who choose to vaccinate usually consider “crucial,” along with a few that are newer to the market and controversial.
It is important to note that as I was conducting this research (most of which comes from WHO and all from major medical sources), I noted that the data from the WHO was extremely optimistic in terms of vaccines effectiveness. In some cases, the WHO would cite “100% and lifelong immunity,” but independent studies in medical journals said “75% and 5 years max.” The truth there seems to be that we don’t know how long protection really lasts; we are just guessing. There are no long-term studies proving that vaccines are effective. Independent studies show far less effectiveness than government position papers. There were even notes in several papers that “we assume protection continues even if antibodies fall below detectable rates.” As antibodies are the primary means of determining protection, there is no way they can logically make such a leap; yet they have.
It is also important to note that non-mainstream sources say that antibodies prove exposure to the disease, but not immunity to it.
One interesting thing I saw was that all vaccines were noted as “highly effective and very safe,” without any data citations. Studies I ran across did not always support this conclusion.
According to the WHO, up to 15% of children fail to develop immunity to the first dose, which is why a booster dose is recommended. Most babies receive their first dose around 1 year; the second is given usually before kindergarten. “Protection” is supposed to last up to 11 years. This means that assuming a child actually gains immunity (some will not even after 2 doses), it will have worn off completely by 16 years of age.
The vast majority of adults in this country are not protected (yet we haven’t seen measles outbreaks among these adults, have we?). Also according to the WHO, vitamin A supplements and adequate nutrition are key to preventing measles and complications.
According to the WHO, vitamin A also helps to prevent deaths and other complications from polio. 95% of people who get polio, though, show absolutely no symptoms; only 1 – 2% ever develop paralytic polio (and less than 1% of these are permanently affected). A single dose of the vaccine provides almost no immunity, which is why 4 are recommended; 99% of people should be “protected” after 3 doses. Length of protection is unknown, but thought to be “many years.” (This is really untestable since there are no wild cases in the U.S.)
Rubella is extremely mild and not dangerous to children. It is only potentially dangerous to pregnant women. Up to 85% of babies born to mothers who were infected before 12 weeks will be born with defects. Babies whose mothers are infected after 12, and especially after 20 weeks of gestation are usually not affected. About 95% of people who are vaccinated are then “protected.”
Another source says that only 75% of people are “protected” and that this protection wanes after 3 – 5 years. This means that babies and children who are vaccinated are likely not protected in adulthood.
This infection isn’t dangerous to children, generally. About 97% of people who are vaccinated will be “protected.” According to the WHO, this can vary from 63 – 96% (protection). A booster is generally given because one dose seems to confer 60 – 90% protection in the long term (also from WHO). It’s assumed to last around 12 years, though there are no studies about the actual length.
Contracting tetanus is highly unlikely, and is not passed from person to person. It is anaerobic (meaning it can only grow if there is no oxygen present). Unless you are on a farm contracting it is highly unlikely. Doctors also recommend tetanus shots after an injury has occurred, because it can still work to prevent after the fact. Tetanus shots are said to last around 10 years, which is why doctors recommend a booster every 10 years.
It is interesting and important to note that people who have been naturally infected do not have permanent immunity (which calls into question how a vaccine can produce lasting immunity). “Protection” is assumed to be conferred to 80 – 100% of those who receive 2 or more doses (though 5 are recommended). This vaccine also has a higher than average rate of reactions and has been linked to Guillian-Barre.
This is one of the newer on the schedule. The idea is that if babies are vaccinated, that they will be protected later when they are actually at risk, as teenagers (Hep B is spread through sexual contact, sharing needles, etc.). Unfortunately, one source estimates that “protection” lasts up to 10 years. This means that babies who are vaccinated are no longer protected when they are at greatest risk. There are no booster doses currently mandated. Approximately 90 to 95% of people get “protection” from the vaccine (according to the WHO).
This one is also newer and quite controversial. Even many parents who do choose to vaccinate choose not to get this one. It’s been reported to have a high rate of serious adverse reactions. Sources estimate protection lasts for about 5 years, but this is highly uncertain — “we don’t really know” is more accurate. Three doses are currently recommended, and there are estimates that these are “needed” to produce immunity (though no studies are cited to prove efficacy after any number of doses).
Most women are at greatest risk of HPV in their early 20s, usually from sexual behavior, but are first vaccinated at 11 – 12 years old, or as young as 9. If protection lasts about 5 years, girls are no longer protected during their greatest risk period. There is no data available on what the rate of “protection” is. (Sorry, but it seems to me if they’ve done no long-term studies that they shouldn’t be recommending it….)
The first source I check says “length of protection is unknown.” The disease is dangerous only to small children, so older children whose vaccines have been delayed may not even need it. HIB is a bacteria that lives naturally in most children, and is only dangerous if it gets into the bloodstream. It can cause a variety of different illnesses (there is no one “HIB” infection) and the same infections can be caused by other sources. Unless a culture is specifically taken there is no way to determine if HIB was the culprit.
The HIB vaccine is, as usual, assumed to confer 95 – 100% “protection” but there are no studies that determine this is the case.
So, in conclusion, I have found a lot of assumptions and shaky or non-existent science surrounding vaccine immunity, protection, length of protection, etc. It seems that the scientific community is extremely optimistic and enthusiastic, but cannot provide much evidence to support this position. In some cases the available studies contradicted the general “information” that I found on major scientific websites. There are a lot of missing pieces in the vaccination puzzle.
It’s definitely a point to consider before choosing to vaccinate.