Thursday, January 12, 2012

Can Vaccines Overwhelm The Immune System?

Question:  I still feel that I am overwhelming my child’s immune system by exposing it to too many antigens.

Answer:  Some people believe that this could lead to various problems related to interactions between the vaccines, or maybe putting the immune system in a state of shock. Therefore, they follow a delayed or selective vaccination schedule. The reality is that our bodies are continuously exposed to microbes. If you count all the human cells in your body, and then all the bacterial cells, the bacteria outnumber us 10 to 1.  Every time you brush your teeth, you are introducing hundreds of thousands of
antigens into your bloodstream.  Even an infant is able to respond to the equivalent of about 10,000 vaccines at once
.  Neonates develop the capacity to respond to foreign antigens before they are born. B and T cells are present by 14 weeks’ gestation and express an enormous array of antigen-specific receptors.



Question:  Why are there some PhDs out there that are against vaccinations?  Isn’t their argument legitimate?

Answer:  People should be very careful about making sure they get an accurate picture of what the data is regarding the benefits and risks of vaccines. Any yahoo can promote reading "both sides of the issue" as though scientists are evenly split about these issues. They are not.  After all, there are people with PhDs in mathematics and astronomy that are arguing that the earth is actually the center of the universe (http://galileowaswrong.com/galileowaswrong/).  You can always find contrary opinions. Science is about developing new hypotheses, and those that are supported by the data will be accepted over time.




Question:  Do you vaccinate your children?  Why or why not? 

Answer:  Yes, I vaccinate my children and I get vaccinated myself.  I study bacterial diseases for a living.  I know what the risks are, and the benefits, to my family and society. Bad things do happen occasionally after vaccines, ranging from soreness to allergic reactions, encephalitis and death.  These things are extremely rare and it is nearly impossible to predict who will have these reactions.  It is very sad.  But the risks are far greater when we don't vaccinate. In my opinion, the anti-vaccine movement is one of the more damning evidences of the historical and scientific ignorance (and arguably ingratitude) of modern society. Jonas Salk was a national hero in 1955 when his vaccine against polio was proven effective against a disease that Americans feared more than anything else except an atomic bomb. Now vaccine researchers and producers are viewed with hostility and subjected to attacks on their credibility, and some even receive death threats.


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