By Dr Steven Landau, MD FAAFP (USA)
Vaccines come and go. Some are found to be worthless, some are found to be harmful, and most are found to be extremely beneficial in preventing major and minor diseases.
Of late, COVID-19 vaccines have become popular due to the lack of proven methods to keep people alive. Millions of people died from the disease. Many people distrusted the System, saying that the figures are false, that the disease was spread intentionally due to Big Pharma and Bill Gates wanting to make profit on the vaccines, etc. What’s true is not always clear, because people do not trust the news outlets or the institutions that are making the reports.
Let’s start from the beginning. Vaccines are actually homeopathic. They are a “hair of the dog that bit you.” Similiasimilibuscurantur. Like cures like. Most vaccines are a tiny portion of the virus or bacterium that is either dead or inactivated and stimulates our immune systems to react against them. Then, when the real bug shows up, we are ready with guns blazing, white cells and antibodies all ready to conquer the invaders.
Let’s be clear. Vaccines are not perfect. The efficacy rate ranges from 95% for Covid vaccines to 50% for flue vaccines. And there are side effects for all vaccines. Sore arms, fevers, occasional rashes, and occasional severe allergic reactions and other illnesses. Even death. So why use vaccines if they can hurt people?
The reason is that even though a few people may be harmed, millions are spared disease and death. So public health officials prefer to accept a few side effects and unfortunate outcomes in order to preserve the health and well-being of thousands and millions more people who would otherwise be at risk for very severe outcomes.
Monitoring the use and side effects of vaccines is critical. And for this we have to trust our health officials. If we don’t trust them, or if we know that they are in the pay of the drug companies producing the vaccines, the all bets are off. We are off to the races with conspiracy theories, proven or unproven.
Let’s take the case of a few vaccines individually. They’re not all the same, you know. We’ll start with smallpox. Edward Jenner found that milkmaids who developed cowpox did not get small pox. “People who had smallpox had a fever and a distinctive, progressive skin rash. Most people with smallpox recovered, but about 3 out of every 10 people with the disease died. Many smallpox survivors have permanent scars over large areas of their body, especially their faces. Some are left blind.” https://www.cdc.gov/smallpox/about/index.html#:~:text=People%20who%20had%20smallpox%20had,Some%20are%20left%20blind.
Smallpox was so bad that white Europeans used to deliberately give Native Americans gifts of blankets. Unknown to the Native Americans, those blankets had been used by smallpox victims who had died, and so many of the recipients contracted the disease themselves and died, much to the delight of the invading Europeans. https://www.history.com/news/colonists-native-americans-smallpox-blankets#:~:text=North%20American%20colonists’%20warfare%20against,and%20linens%20contaminated%20with%20smallpox.
Smallpox was essentially eradicated by the widespread use of the cowpox vaccine, which involved scratching the arm a few times with a needle impregnated with a virus similar to the pus gained from the original cowpox blisters that the milkmaids used to get. The word vaccine itself comes from the Latin word vaccawhich means “cow.”Since the disease was eradicated, with the last known case in Somalis in 1977, the vaccine is no longer routinely given. A discussion of the side effects of the vaccine can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/Smallpox-Vaccine.html
Let’s talk about polio. This is another virus that causes flu-like symptoms in most people. But some, especially children, get paralyzed in their legs and even in their muscles of breathing, and then they die. It is very contagious like COVID, and like Covid spread in epidemics in various places, especially cities. People used to stay indoors to avoid it. In 1916, “Cinemas were closed, public gatherings were cancelled, and parents were told to keep children away from public places such as amusement parks, swimming pools, and beaches. Thousands fled the city to escape the epidemic.That year, there were over 27,000 cases and more than 6,000 deaths due to polio in the United States, with over 2,000 deaths in New York City alone.” https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/objects-and-stories/medicine/polio-20th-century-epidemic
Various epidemics occurred in England and elsewhere until Jonas Salk, after many years of research by many people, developed an injectable vaccine made from killed virus particles. Large numbers of people were vaccinated through public health programs, and the number of cases and deaths plummeted.
” Immediately following licensing in 1955, a mass vaccination campaign was launched. The effects of vaccination were dramatic. More than 38,000 polio cases were reported in 1954 in the United States. After just five years of vaccination, the number of paralytic polio cases had dropped to 2,525 in 1960.” Ibid. science museum.org
Eight years later, Albert Sabin developed an oral vaccine with attenuated live virus that not only prevented the disease but gave micro-disease to other people living near the vaccinated child. The development of “herd immunity” was so effective that in recent years that vaccine has been discontinued in the USA because the number of polio cases caused by vaccine contagion exceeded the number of native cases. Now we’re back to the Salk vaccine, which is injectable.
The Covid vaccine is highly variable. Some, like Pfizer, depend on creating immunity against a small portion of the virus coat. Others depend on killed virus. They all work somewhat, and like all vaccines, have some side effects. For example, the Pfizer vaccine occasionally causes severe anaphylactic allergic responses that can be life-threatening. For this reason, we were all told to wait in our chairs 15 minutes after our jab to make sure we were OK, and paramedics and nurses stood by to handle the ones that were not OK.
It turned out that the Covid vaccines in the US led to dramatically fewer hospitalizations and deaths.
“Using representative data from 192 509 hospitalizations (see Table 1 for demographic information), monthly COVID-19–associated hospitalization rates ranged from 3.5 times to 17.7 times higher in unvaccinated persons than vaccinated persons regardless of booster dose status. From January to April 2022, when the Omicron variant was predominant, hospitalization rates were 10.5 times higher in unvaccinated persons and 2.5 times higher in vaccinated persons with no booster dose, respectively, compared with those who had received a booster dose. Among sampled cases, vaccinated hospitalized patients with COVID-19 were older than those who were unvaccinated (median [IQR] age, 70 [58-80] years vs 58 [46-70] years, respectively; P < .001) and more likely to have 3 or more underlying medical conditions (1926 [77.8%] vs 4124 [51.6%], respectively; P < .001).”
“A large US study published by The BMJ today finds that fewer people die from covid-19 in better vaccinated communities.
The findings, based on data across 2,558 counties in 48 US states, show that counties with high vaccine coverage had a more than 80% reduction in death rates compared with largely unvaccinated counties.”
Public health officials need to constantly weigh and re-weigh the balance between individual freedom and collective interest.
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. “
Poem by John Donne
And according to P.R. Sarkar, “Society is a collective entity and does not belong to an individual. The goal of society is to strive to promote the collective welfare. When individuals realize the imperative need to sacrifice for the collective interest, then and then only is it possible to establish a strong and healthy society.”
From Prout in a Nutshell Part 21, Ranchi 1960.
“Vaccines do not cause autism.
- Some people have had concerns that ASD might be linked to the vaccines children receive, but studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing ASD. The National Academy of Medicine, formerly known as Institute of Medicine, reviewed the safety of 8 vaccines to children and adults. The review found that with rare exceptions, these vaccines are very safe.”
It turns out that the initial so-called “studies” purporting to show that MMR vaccines caused autism were not only poorly done, but were actually outright fraud. Please see:
“Indian J Psychiatry. 2011 Apr-Jun; 53(2): 95–96.
The MMR vaccine and autism: Sensation, refutation, retraction, and fraud
In 1998, Andrew Wakefield and 12 of his colleagues published a case series in the Lancet, which suggested that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine may predispose to behavioral regression and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Despite the small sample size (n=12), the uncontrolled design, and the speculative nature of the conclusions, the paper received wide publicity, and MMR vaccination rates began to drop because parents were concerned about the risk of autism after vaccination.
Almost immediately afterward, epidemiological studies were conducted and published, refuting the posited link between MMR vaccination and autism.[3,4] The logic that the MMR vaccine may trigger autism was also questioned because a temporal link between the two is almost predestined: both events, by design (MMR vaccine) or definition (autism), occur in early childhood.
Are there alternatives to vaccines? Of course there are. Good public health measures, hand washing and masks are quite effective in many cases. Good individual health measures, including exercise, yoga and meditation and hand washing are also very effective. Homeopathy was found to be very effective in preventing Leptospirosis in Cuba.
“In 2007 and 2008, Cuban health officials conducted large homoeoprophylaxis interventions against rising rates of leptospirosis caused by extensive hurricane damage. Published results showed that the interventions were highly successful”
Certainly Ayurvedic and other treatments can help ameliorate diseases in individual cases. For them to be acknowledged as effective, proper controlled studies need to demonstrate their efficacy in sizeable populations, and then compare them to vaccination and other modalities. Where diseases are not serious or damaging to society, or where treatments are highly effective, vaccination is not necessary.
We conclude that vaccinations are a necessary evil because in general, when properly applied and monitored, they benefit society and the individuals within it more than they harm. Of course these need to be revisited and re-evaluated from time to time because diseases change, people’s biology changes, viruses and bacteria change, and social environments change.
Mandatory vaccination, in my opinion, has limited usefulness in well-established cases where the vaccine is known to be highly effective, with very few side effects, and where the disease it prevents is highly contagious and causes severe problems to the individual and to society.And of course, some people should not be getting specific vaccines, due to specific medical conditions like allergies.
In my opinion, individuals who refuse vaccination for themselves and their children on religious or non-medical grounds need to be held responsible for the medical bills incurred when they get the disease. Of course, in countries without universal health care, like India and the USA, this doesn’t apply so much because their health care systems are a hodge podge of financial inequality, and so logic doesn’t apply there. This is a matter for another discourse.
Best wishes for good health and happiness, and for development on all three planes of material, psychic and spiritual endeavour.
Dr Steven Landau can be contacted at