Cow tissue extract? Monkey kidney cells? Human blood serum? Does that sound like stuff you would want to pay someone to inject into your child? Consider this excerpt from Dr. Sears' The Vaccine Book:
"In August 2002 and February 2003 a popular pediatric news publication, Infectious Diseases in Children, published reports from experts across the country who met to discuss this issue. Between 1955 and 1963, some of the monkey kidney cells used for the injected polio vaccine, the oral polio vaccine, and the adenovirus vaccine (used for the military...) were contaminated with SV-40 virus, which is known to cause several types of brain tumors, bone cancer, lumphoma, and mesothelioma cancer in animals. This virus has also been discovered in this same cancers in humans. The SV-40 viruses present in some human tumors today have been determined to be genetically identical to those in vaccines fifty years ago. Although the SV-40 virus is found in human tumors, it is not known if the virus causes the tumors or just happens to be living within the tumors. It is known, however, that the virus triggers these tumors in animals. It is estimated that almost 30 million people were injected with a vaccine containing this virus during that eight-year period. Statistical population studies have not shown that these 30 million people had any higher rates of these cancers than the general population. In 1980, 150 newborns were given a hepatitis A vaccine that also was contaminated with the SV-40 virus.
"Monkey kidney cells are still used to make the polio vaccine. Numerous other animals and human tissues are used in many vaccines. Now we know to test the monkeys to make sure they are free of SV-40 virus and other known viruses, so the polio vaccine today is safer. All animal and human tissues are carefully screened for all known infectious diseases. Some vaccine critics are still worried, however, that there may be other viruses or other infectious agents (called 'prions,' 'slow viruses,' or 'virus particles') that are much smaller than viruses and that we don't yet know how to screen for. Mad cow disease (a rare brain-wasting condition that can affect humans) is one such agent, and we didn't even know it existed until the 1980s. We'd been using cow tissues to make vaccines for decades before that. Were humans injected with that prion? Critics worry that we will discover such contamination in the future, just as the SV-40 virus contamination was found long after the fact," (191-192).
While there is no research or evidence to shore up these concerns, there is also no good evidence to debunk them.
The DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis) vaccine comes in three brands: Daptacel, Tripedia, and Infanrix. Of these, Tripedia and Infanrix use cow tissue extract. Daptacel does not. As we will see in the next post, there are other controversial and potentially harmful ingredients in Daptacel, but, to my mind, Diphtheria and Pertussis (Whooping Cough) are such serious concerns in an infant that the benefits outweigh the risks. There is also a Tdap booster for teenagers and adults which avoids the cow extract: Adacel.
The Rotavirus vaccine (both RotaTeq and the new Rotarix brand) contains traces of the culture composed of monkey kidney cells in which the live virus was grown, and, in the case of RotaTeq, fetal cow blood as well. These being the only two versions of the Rotavirus vaccine available, if the vaccine is going to be administered, animal tissues can't be avoided. Also, even though Rotarix lacks the fetal cow blood, RotaTeq seems preferable to me as it should be more effective, theoretically, and has been around longer and, thus, put through its paces.
At the end of the day, though, a judgment call must be made as to whether or not to administer a Rotavirus vaccine period based on the likelihood of encountering the disease and the severity of its effects. Let's see what Dr. Sears has to say:
"Besides the flu, this is the most common of all the vaccine-preventable diseases right now. Since most children catch this illness during their first few years of life, it's not a question of will your child catch it, it's a matter of when will he catch it and how severe will it be. Getting this vaccine will decrease your child's chance of catching the disease. This can be a very serious disease in infants during the first year of life. The vaccine decreases the severity of the illness when it does strike," (69).
Even though our baby will be at a lower risk of catching the disease seeing as we plan to breastfeed and don't foresee a need for daycare, in my opinion the risk is just too high and we're going to have to bite the bullet when it comes to this particular vaccine.
Though the MMR, Varicella (Chicken Pox), and Hepatitis A vaccines contain human and animal tissues as well, as we saw in the last post, these vaccines have already been ruled out for administration as a result of aborted human fetal tissue being used in their production.
The Flu vaccine comes in many different varieties, but all of them contain tissue from the chicken embryos used to grow the viruses. The bottom line for our family is that the risk of fatality from the flu is very, very low, even in infants and children. While unpleasant if contracted, the ingredients in the vaccine (including mercury) are too strange and the potential for side effects too high for it to be worth it in my book.
It should be clarified that I have no medical expertise and that the views expressed in this post are simply my own personal opinions formed on the basis of what I have learned about vaccines. While it seems to me to make sense to avoid animal and human tissues wherever possible by choosing a particular brand, as of right now this is only possible in the case of the important DTaP vaccine. It is up to new parents to decide whether or not the benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to the Rotavirus, Polio, and Flu vaccines. The key, though, as always, is to stay informed.