Doctors are obliged to advise their patients according to the recommendations of STIKO (Committee on Vaccination). I will first tell you the recommendations concerning vaccination according to STIKO and then outline the pros and cons.
The following vaccinations should be carried out in adults according to STIKO:
Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis: In each case, every 10 years if a primary vaccination series exists.
Flu (Influenza): A yearly vaccination is recommended for everybody over 60 years, as well as for individuals with a chronic disease of the respiratory organs, the heart, or the immune system (immune deficiency). Furthermore, there is a recommendation for people suffering from diabetes and chronic liver and kidney disease.
Pneumonia by pneumococcus: This vaccination is carried out every 5 years and is valid for the same categories of people as listed under the flu. Many people do not know that you can be vaccinated against this most common form of pneumonia.
Measles, mumps, rubella: Measles and mumps are not only childhood diseases; they can also occur in adults. Therefore, it should always be checked whether a vaccination exists.
TBE: The tick-borne encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain and meninges. The disease is transmitted by ticks. The disease doesn’t occur in the area around Bonn, but in other areas of Germany – Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg as well as abroad. Whether vaccination is useful has to be decided on an individual basis.
Further vaccinations for special risk groups, long-distance travelers as well as children should also be discussed individually.
About some diseases, I would like to give you some important information and data:
Flu: Each year 10% of the population worldwide is affected by flu, 70% of them are healthy adults. In Germany alone about 8 to 15 thousand people die from it every year. Characteristic for the real flu (influenza) is the sudden onset of severe symptoms. There is hardly any other viral infection, which makes you feel ill so quickly from one moment to the next.
In the 20th Century, there have been three major influenza pandemics (pandemic = severe epidemics spreading across all continents), the last in 1968/1969. The occurrence of the next pandemic is only a matter of time. The new virus can spread twice as fast because air travel and agglomerations have greatly increased.
The protective effect of a flu vaccine is 70% to 90%.
Pneumococci rank among the most dangerous bacterial pathogens. Every year in Germany alone 12,000 people die from the consequences of this infection. The highest risk group are young children and people over 60 years. Despite antibiotics, such infections often run hard. 30 to 50% of pneumonia in the elderly are caused by pneumococcus. Since 1983, the pneumococcal vaccination is advised for all chronically ill. In 1998 the recommendation was extended to all people over 60.
Measles: In 2011, the number of measles cases has more than doubled in Germany (2010: 780 diseases; 2011: 1607 cases).
In about every 10th case, hospitalization due to complications is necessary, 1% of patients retain permanently damaged. Even today in Germany, every 1000th child dies. 139,000 people have died worldwide from measles in 2010.
Dangerous complications are encephalitis (brain inflammation), mumps meningitis (meningitis) and inflammation of the gonads, which can result in infertility.
In 2006, in a large measles outbreak, 2,300 people were affected, 414 of them so badly that they had to be hospitalized. 2 people died, some retained lifelong damage.
Haemophilus influenza (Hib): Since the introduction of vaccination in 1990, the disease has drastically decreased. Now, the often fatal disease rarely occurs.
In the years prior to vaccination, there were 1,000 to 2,000 cases annually; in the mid-90s, there were only about 50 reported cases (2011: 11 cases)
Why vaccinations are seen critical by naturopaths?
Preliminary a quote from Mark Twain. He said, "Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” At the present time, I think this does especially refer to the internet because nowhere there are so many unproven claims that are simply spread and can cause damage.
Vaccinators justify their position with the following arguments:
The greatest enemy of vaccinations is their success. Infectious diseases such as measles, mumps and polio disappear from the consciousness of people, because they (due to the effect of vaccinations) rarely occur.
The diseases are belittled – but the possible side effects of vaccinations are overrated.
Vaccinations are neglected by the general population, but in a small part they are discussed with almost religious fanaticism.
The globalized world travels. The germs travel with them.
A mother who opted for the vaccination of her children once told me an argument, which I have not heard in this form before:
"Should my child after this vaccination with an attenuated vaccine have serious signs of infection, I have to assume that my child would have even died of a real infection. Therefore, my decision was correct." That sounds logical.
Opponents of vaccination often cite the following arguments:
Why are vaccinations viewed critically? A good question – because immunization is practiced according to a naturopathic principle: treat the same with the same. So what should be wrong in vaccinations?
Approximately 3% of the population are opposing vaccination and justify it with the following arguments:
- The effectiveness of vaccination has never been proved: Here I would like to contradict with the example of polio: Only the public recommendation of the polio vaccine in 1962 led to a drastic decline in polio cases. 1961 there were almost 4,700 cases of paralysis and 305 deaths; in 1965 there were already fewer than 65 diseases. The last indigenous case was reported in 1990 in Germany. Since 2002 the whole of Europe is considered polio-free.
- Vaccines contain dangerous mercury. However, now all standard vaccinations free of thiomersal (a mercury compound).
- Further arguments are:
• Vaccinations damage the immune system.
• Vaccinations cause autism, diabetes, Crohn's disease.
• Vaccinations cause sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
• Vaccinations can transmit pathogens.
• Vaccinations trigger allergy and atopic dermatitis.
• After vaccinations homeopathy is no longer effective.
I am very interested in this topic and found no studies that prove these fears. I often hear the reply that such studies and results are never published due to pressure from lobbyists. I wonder, however, why they are so well-known?
Many naturopathic therapists fear that the immune system is weakened by an exaggerated vaccination policy and also by an excessive use of antibiotics. As the whole person grows with his tasks, in the same way the immune system grows when it is challenged. So if even small diseases are treated with antibiotics, a weakened immune system is a possible logical consequence. I think a careful use of antibiotics is very important.
Above I have listed the dreaded consequences of vaccination. Personally, I think a careful use of antibiotics is very important and even as a naturopath, I recommend (though not fully) vaccinations.
I purposely show you both sides of the coin, because I am convinced that the question of sense and nonsense of vaccination can not be answered dogmatically. The issue is now being discussed in some parts of the population with an almost religious fanaticism and young parents are greatly unsettled.
The vaccinators and the opponents of vaccination must equally bear in mind that the question has to be decided individually. We humans are not equal. Someone who is prone to infections or suffering from chronic respiratory diseases or has gone through cancer or has a weakened immune system should prefer the protection of a vaccine. On the other hand, vaccination can have side effects and a doctor should explain them in each individual case. Everybody has to take the decision for himself. Fears of childhood diseases and also fears of vaccine side effects are both bad counselors. Try to gain neutral information. I hope this post can help a little. Arguments for and against vaccination are often more ideological than scientific.
If you are unsure, seek advice from your general practitioner or pediatrician.
As a modification of the Mark Twain’s quotation, I would like to conclude by saying: Beware of dogmatists and fanatics, you could die of misinformation!