I want to spend the next few weeks really delving into the dynamics of the argument against vaccines. A Facebook friend shared an article about the hazards of vaccines, under the premise of copious toxins within vaccines that will surely sicken your child or change his or her baseline constitution. It is an easy claim, and when you read the information sheets provided with vaccines the ingredient list can be overwhelming. However, without thorough research regarding vaccine ingredients and their innocuous presence in our general environment, the argument carries little weight.

I believe there is some truth to old wives tales – kind of like when someone tells you they are joking but you know the joke carries some honest thought. Do you know the old wives tale about eating a pound of dirt before you die? What tinge of truth does this tale parlay? Well, let me tell you how I see it apply to health today. The immune system, as complex and intelligent as it is, needs exposure to the non-host to function properly. It needs to see a virus, microbacteria or other ubiquitous non-self particle to create disease fighting agents, to arm itself against future attacks, to recognize that thy self is not thy enemy. I have heard the argument multiple times that vaccines are harmful to children because of the “toxins” that they contain. By toxins, do we mean, attenuated disease – the kind of exposure that generates an immune response so as to prevent actual, debilitating disease or do we mean additives? If we are talking about additives, let’s explore this on a deeper level – what are the effects, if any, of the additional ingredients in a vaccine? What is the actual purpose of these ingredients and are they harmful?

Let’s take one of the vaccines we give to newborns, 2 month olds and 6 month olds – the Hepatitis B vaccine. This vaccine is formulated by complex laboratory means – involving growing a strain of yeast primed with the Hep B Surface Antigen. The yeast grows on a medium containing soy peptone, dextrose, amino acids and mineral salts. The Hep B surface antigen protein is then released from the yeast via disruptive mechanisms and then is treated in a phosphate buffer with formaldehyde and then coprecipitated with alum to form a stable bulk vaccine. Super complicated and possibly more information than you needed – but how much of the formaldehyde and alum remain in an individual vaccine dose and what effect do they have?

Approximately, 0.5mg of aluminum hydroxide, which is a tiny amount, is the average residual amount of alum in a vaccine – on par with what you will get via a glass of purified water, a dill pickle, or a teaspoon of Maalox! The most important point here, is that it is extremely important to differentiate what constitutes a toxin at large quantities versus a benign ingredient in miniscule amounts.

Per data sheets, <15 mcg of formaldehyde remains in a dose vial of the Hepatitis B vaccine. This is an incredibly small unit — <15 micrograms is markedly less than a milligram, which is the amount of formaldehyde you will find naturally occurring in these foods – apples (6-22 mg/kg), pears (38-60 mg/kg), bananas (~16 mg/kg), tomatoes (6-13 mg/kg)…. I am not making this up! Please follow the link (http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/whatsnew/whatsnew_fa/files/formaldehyde.pdf) to view a compiled list of foods with naturally occurring formaldehyde. “To consume as much formaldehyde as is present in a 100 gram apple, you would need to drink at least 20 liters of mineral water that had been stored in a PET [polyethylene terephthalate] bottle,” per Dr. Ian Musgrave.” Obviously the concern about formaldehyde from food packaging is significantly overrated, unless we are willing to place ‘potential cancer hazard’ stickers on fresh fruit and vegetables.”6

“When your body digests that apple, or other citric fruits and vegetables, it breaks down the methanol and converts it into low levels of formaldehyde. This chemical is so vital to our normal metabolic processes, in fact, that at any given moment a sample of blood will contain roughly 2-3μg of formaldehyde, which is regularly produced as a byproduct of important gene expression processes.’ 6 This is not to mention the amount of formaldehyde we inhale just by living in a busy city with some degree of pollution, as well as exposures through household cleaning products and cosmetics application.

The amount in a vaccine is honestly irrelevant by comparison.

But of course, if we can minimize exposure to any chemical that at high levels can be harmful, we should. So, why do vaccine manufacturers even need to use these ingredients in a vaccine at all? Well, because viruses and bacteria are ridiculously hardy and the formaldehyde helps to denature the pathogen, so that you don’t contract the actual disease. But if not because of the additives, why do some children get so fussy or feverish with vaccines? Simply because vaccines truly stimulate an immune response. It’s how you know the vaccine is working – it’s as if initially you have contracted an illness, but then it fails to sicken you. The immune system recognizes the onslaught, builds its defense and because the virus or bacteria has been properly deactivated, you don’t actually become ill. It is not an insignificant thing to say that you have successfully generated the defense that will literally protect you the next time, if ever, you see this pathogen.

Unless you raise your child in a bubble, they will be exposed to less than wholesome ingredients, a pound of dirt in a sense… but I like knowing that the alum and formaldehyde in my children’s’, patients’ and personal vaccines, carries a benefit much further reaching than an apple eaten on a sidewalk of a busy street with a side of dill pickles and a glass of purified water. The aluminum and formaldehyde in that seemingly benign (albeit weird) combination seems hardly worth it!

 

1 http://www.fda.gov/downloads/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/ApprovedProducts/UCM110114.pdf

2 http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/ucm187810.htm

3 http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/intheworkplace/formaldehyde

4 http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/whatsnew/whatsnew_fa/files/formaldehyde.pdf (pdf compiled by the Chinese government – primary informative source is the World Health Organization)

5 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15764336

6 http://www.medicaldaily.com/formaldehyde-food-packaging-may-contaminate-your-food-doesnt-make-it-dangerous-269728