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Why Aren't Americans Getting Vaccinated?

Trust Busters

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but apparently federal health officials are very disappointed with us. It seems that we’re just not lining up in appropriately vast numbers to receive the 11 vaccines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for all adults.

What – do you want whooping cough? The flu? No? Then don’t just sit there – go to your doctor and ask for the human pincushion treatment. These shots may not actually keep you from coming down with whooping cough or flu or any other ailments, but you’ll make the folks at the CDC very happy.

Fear for sale

If you’ve got a large inventory of vaccines to move, there’s only one logical place to start: Heap on the fear, and keep it coming.

CDC official Dr. Anne Schuchat recently told the Associated Press that people who pass on vaccinations “are leaving themselves needlessly vulnerable to significant illness, long- term suffering, and even death.”

Illness. Suffering. Death. Just try to top that sales pitch!

The AP article notes that most adults can’t even name the diseases that might be prevented with a few shots in the arm. And for those of you who are not sufficiently frightened, the AP kindly features some of the most overlooked vaccines.

Like the shingles vaccine, for instance. If you’re over 60 and you had chicken pox as a child, you’re vulnerable to a virus that may be lying dormant in the roots of nerves, ready to surprise you with a particularly painful resurgence. So why not roll up your sleeve for the shingles shot? Well, for one thing, the vaccine costs around $150, and some insurance carriers might not cover that. And for another thing, you can help prevent shingles with a vitamin supplement.

In the E-Alert “Routine Rejected” (11/22/06), I asked HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., his opinion of the shingles vaccine, and he told me he wouldn’t take it for a king’s ransom because “all vaccinations are suspect until they’ve been monitored for decades.” In addition, Dr. Spreen believes that 500 micrograms per day of vitamin B-12 may offer all the protection you need against shingles, because B-12 protects the nerves.

One less five more

To test Dr. Spreen’s note that vaccine safety is revealed only after years of use, just take a look at Gardasil – widely touted as a “cervical cancer vaccine.” That sales pitch is misleading, of course, because Gardasil actually helps prevent the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is just one of the causes of cervical cancer. So saying it prevents cervical cancer is like saying you won’t be in a car accident if you wear a seat belt.

But that metaphor is a little off the mark because your seat belt won’t kill you.

In an HSI On the Spot blog posting last month, Michele Cagan noted that at least 180 women have fainted after getting the vaccine. But that’s the least of the problems linked to Gardasil. Michele also provides a grim box score of adverse reactions that have been recorded in less than two years by the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (maintained by the CDC and the FDA):

  • 1,981 emergency room visits
  • 143 hospitalizations
  • 68 cases of permanent disability
  • 51 life-threatening events
  • 5 deaths

The CDC, the media, plenty of doctors, and a few state governments are pressing young women to get the Gardasil vaccine (which costs about $300). But you won’t find these pro-Gardasil camps making a big deal over the alarming side effects of the drug.

The AP reports that only about 10 percent of U.S. women between the ages of 18 and 26 have received the Gardasil vaccine. And if those VAERS numbers grow it’s going to be even harder to convince that reluctant 90 percent that the risk is worth the long shot chance that cervical cancer will be prevented.

And I think that’s the CDC’s vaccine problem in a nutshell. Even though the mainstream media outlets are largely silent about Gardasil’s problems, the word is getting out. And over the past few years, with several high profile drugs proving to be dangerous or ineffective or both, people are no longer putting blind trust in drugs and vaccines the way they once did.

Remember when people used to say, “They wouldn’t sell it if it were bad for you”?

When was the last time you heard anyone seriously make that ridiculous claim?

“Too Many Adults Skip Vaccines, Officials Say” The Associated Press, 1/23/08,