Vaccinating or not vaccinating comes with responsibility to oneself, one’s children, and the community. Both vaccinated and non-vaccinated people are capable of being infected and spreading some infections. Vaccination also adds the risk of an acute vaccine reaction or long-term vaccine injury. It’s important to know the risks, benefits, and limitations of each choice and to have a ‘game plan’ in case of a vaccine adverse event or disease exposure.
When choosing not to vaccinate:
- know the risks (range of severity and frequency) of disease exposure in your area
- know how to recognize and address any serious infection that you may be exposed to
- use proper precautions when sick to avoid spreading infection: stay home, wash hands, cover sneezes and coughs, etc.
- maintain optimal nutrition and lifestyle to adequately support the immune system
When choosing to vaccinate:
all of the above, plus the following:
- be aware of vaccination risks and know how to recognize an acute vaccine reaction or long-term vaccine injury
- know how your family medical history, genetics, and mitochondrial state may impact your personal risk of a vaccine adverse event
- know what type of medical help to seek in case of a vaccine reaction or vaccine injury
- be aware that the immune system can be sensitized to food-like contaminants (baker’s yeast, bovine casein, soy peptone) ending up in vaccines due to the manufacturing process
- be aware that some vaccines may increase susceptibility to other infections*
- know about vaccine limitations (frequency of vaccine failures and duration of vaccine protection) and act accordingly to avoid spreading infections unknowingly**
*Flu vaccines increase the risk of other infections:
- Inactivated Influenza vaccine (TIV) increases the risk of other upper respiratory viral infections.
- Live influenza vaccine (LAIV) increases the risk of strep and staph carriage, and pneumococcal translocation and persistence within the Middle Ear.
**Pertussis vaccine permits colonization and spread of infection by carriers showing no or few symptoms of disease:
- Pertussis. The protective effect of the acellular pertussis vaccine against symptoms of whooping cough wanes quickly, becoming shorter with each dose. Moreover, the acellular pertussis vaccine has been found to permit colonization in those exposed to B. pertussis, and this has created the potential for even up-to-date individuals to unwittingly spread pertussis to vulnerable groups, such as infants. Please see the Pertussis page for more information.
See also the Community Immunity page for other vaccines that do not prevent the transmission of the corresponding infection.
***MMR and Varicella vaccines allow breakthrough disease from wild viruses and may result in disease from live vaccine-strain viruses:
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella). Measles and mumps outbreaks have occurred both in non-vaccinated and highly vaccinated communities, involving fully vaccinated individuals. MMR is a live vaccine and therefore the recipients have the potential to shed live virus after being vaccinated. A fraction of MMR recipients develop high fever and viral rash from the vaccine.
- Rubella is a trivial infection in the childhood, often going without symptoms. Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) happens in a fraction of cases when a non-immune pregnant woman is exposed to rubella during the first trimester. The clinical efficacy of the rubella component of MMR has not been established, and pregnant women who are exposed to rubella are offered an option of medically-indicated abortion or rubella immunoglobulin to protect the fetus from CRS.
- Varicella. A fraction of the varicella vaccine recipients develop chickenpox from the vaccine strain, and some may contract wild chickenpox later due to waning of vaccine protection. Varicella is a live vaccine; therefore, there is a potential for viral shedding following vaccination. A case of a vaccinated toddler infecting his pregnant mother with a vaccine-strain varicella has been documented. Childhood vaccination program against varicella in the USA has also led to an increase in shingles in adults.
See also the Unintended Consequences of Mass Vaccination page.