While I was trying to decipher the possible risk of triggering an autoimmune disease in my kids with a dose or two of Gardasil (see previous post), I got this question stuck in my head. What’s the window? When can you say something could realistically be an adverse event or side effect caused by a vaccine, and when do you toss it back out into the sea of chance?
I got my answer. Six weeks. Unless you’re enrolled in a long-term study, of course—not that any study of Gardasil has thus far been all that lengthy—or unless a pattern becomes truly unmistakable.
So if you drop dead the minute you get a shot, well hot damn, it’s an adverse event. But if you slowly develop rheumatoid arthritis, and get diagnosed a couple of years later, it’s just, well damn. And didn’t your grandma have that anyway? (Let’s not worry about the predisposition/trigger thing.)
Then again, if you drop dead from a blood clot a day after you get Gardasil, and you’re on birth control, well, maybe the CDC will get suspicious and start casting the fish eye over all the other VAERS reports of young healthy women suddenly popping clots. But seven weeks later, definitely blame it on the Pill as a known side-effect, or so I’m told.
And that’s fair enough. At a time when the internet’s being constantly churned by conspiracy theorists and shyster and not-so-shyster lawyers looking to bring multi-million dollar lawsuits, it’s not unreasonable to say, look, we need to be sure that the problem was caused by Vaccine X; we can’t be wandering off into blame-everything-on-it land. And while I do believe that profits play a big role in drug and vaccine development and marketing, I also know that many researchers out there are truly dedicated to “fixing” diseases.
But it reminds me of my mother-in-law laughing at me for buying organic milk. “WE never bothered about any of that nonsense,” she snickered.
And because I can occasionally be kind, I only thought about replying “sure, and you’ve had cancer three times”.
I suspect that any intelligent person could look at Gardasil in isolation and say, as does the CDC, hey, statistically we’re not seeing any more cases of (fill in the blank) than we might reasonably expect in the population.
What I’m wondering is, why do we look at everything in isolation? Isn’t there a pretty strong chance that vaccines could have a cumulative effect as we pile them on? I mean, all I got when I was a kid was the smallpox and oral polio vaccines; for the rest, I just got the disease and got over it. Then we added vaccines against rubella et al; then we got to ditch small pox (yay!) but added a cornucopia of mandatory vaccines. Suddenly hepatitis B was mandatory, wait, add chicken pox, and Prevnar, And what’s that meningitis one for adolescents? Oh, and here’s Gardasil. That’s a good idea. Add Gardasil to the list of recommended vaccines, quick!
That’s an awful lot of foreign bodies and adjuvants zooming into our kids’ systems, along with all the other ingredients of our daily chemical soup slurp.
I wonder about another thing, too. Like all—ahem—midcentury moderns, I vividly remember getting that ugly smallpox vaccine. And wiping out smallpox was undoubtedly a great triumph. But did that vaccine permanently alter the genetic material I passed onto my kids? Will my grandchildren and yours pay a price for generations of multiple vaccines as they’re plagued by ever-rising rates of puzzling auto-immune diseases that can’t specifically be tied to any one cause? Will it be like the statin-diabetes connection, where you fix one thing only to see another—maybe—develop on the cure’s back? Or are all vaccines totally benign?
I honestly don’t know. I’m just curious here, and I’m not an anti-science or anti-medicine nut. But what worries me is that I don’t believe anyone else knows how this all adds up, either.
My only answer, personally, is to do the best I can without getting crazy. So MMR and polio, yes, particularly since we travel overseas, but the chicken pox vaccine seemed unnecessary and my kids survived the disease quite happily. I think Gardasil is unnecessary, too, as long as my daughters get regular check-ups; although I could change my mind if evidence to the contrary becomes clear. So far it’s going in the other direction. But I’ll keep looking.
What about you? Do you think that every vaccination that comes down the pike is good, or do you pick and choose?