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Can and Should We Try and Eliminate Disease? Part 1 – Can we? by Sandy Gottstein

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It is taken as a matter of faith (literally) by many that disease is something that should inherently be avoided. New vaccines continue to be devised, for everything under the sun it would seem, including addictions.

In order to move beyond vaccination being a faith-based approach to health and/or disease, however, there are certain questions that need to be asked and answered.

The first question that needs to be asked is can we eliminate diseases? Given that bacteria and viruses are known to mutate (1,2) when their existence is threatened, and/or change serotype, perhaps not. In fact, at least in some cases it is clear we had reached a sort of equilibrium vis à vis our ability to cope, measles being a perfect example. When first experienced (a “virgin population”), measles can be deadly, but mostly to infants and adults. After that, children carry their immunity throughout their lives, particularly if repeatedly exposed to wild virus to boost their naturally-derived immunity. As adults, when measles is usually more serious, they are normally immune, and pass on that immunity to their children. Measles vaccination interferes with this well-earned equilibrium and may well result in more, not less, serious consequences.

Moreover, while vaccines can eliminate full-blown expression of disease, they often result in subclinical or mild cases, even possibly spreading the disease. Ironically, at the same time, circulating wild virus, supposedly controlled by vaccination, is often counted on to boost vaccine-induced immunity. In other words, for measles vaccination-induced immunity, for instance, to be maintained, neither wild virus nor vaccine virus circulation should be eliminated, a real-world Catch-22. Nor can it be, since mild and subclinical cases seem to be an integral part of being vaccinated against it.

It is also not clear that subclinical and mild cases are without risks. For instance, Tove Ronne, in a 1985 Lancet article found that those who had had measles without the rash had a significant increase in serious diseases as adults. Is this relevant to the mild and subclinical measles that result from vaccination?

Vaccines, we are now also finding out, do not necessarily last a lifetime and often require booster shots in order to counteract both primary and secondary (waning immunity) vaccine failures. (As mentioned, just like with the diseases, they seem to require repeated exposure to circulating virus to maintain immunity.) Questions have been raised about our ability to successfully re-vaccinate. What will be the effect of repeated boosters? And if these boosters do not work, might we have, by shifting some of these diseases from children to adults, made them vastly more serious?

Adding to the potential gravity of our future situation, “The results of this study suggest that measles elimination in the United States has been achieved by an effective immunization program aimed at young susceptibles combined with a highly, naturally immunized adult population.” What will happen when those naturally-immune are no longer around?

While prevention of disease, at least on the surface, appears to be a laudable goal, it is not clear that it is an achievable one. Even if it were possible, however, to eliminate disease, is it a good idea? Part II of this paper will address that crucial question.


Sandy Gottstein

Date: 2-23-2011

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” – Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), paraphrasing John Philpot Curran