© Jean Ghantous
I read with great interest the recent 'measles epidemic' articles that addressed the vaccine debate from the point of view of a cancer parent. My interest is the result of being a cancer parent myself - my little girl has been battling leukemia on and off for the past 10 years. I read these articles, and I became angry. Very, very angry. Once again, the government and drug companies are exploiting the plight of children stricken by cancer to achieve a profit-driven end without actually helping them. In fact, this profitable end could cause great harm, even increasing
the rates of pediatric leukemia, if their obvious goal of a federally mandated vaccination protocol is achieved. I am a seasoned Momcologist, a term the research-driven cancer parents call themselves. We are the cancer equivalent of Thinking Moms, critical thinkers. I have done extensive reading on the etiology of leukemia, its connection to autoimmune disease, and how vaccines and natural disease may influence these sorts of childhood illnesses. Come connect the dots with me.
Clearly, I empathize with the raw fear the parents in these articles have that their immunocompromised children may contract an illness that could be devastating. I have walked for years in their shoes. I get it. However, the parents in these articles are either grossly misinformed, or their comments have been edited with bias. Let's get some facts straight about cancer treatment and infection. One of the first things we were warned about after my daughter's diagnosis was live-virus vaccination. No one in the family was to receive a live-virus vaccine while my daughter was on treatment because these viruses can
shed (1, 2, 3, 4), some for as much as four weeks (5), potentially infecting the immunocompromised patient with disastrous results. That includes the measles vaccine (MMR II and ProQuad), the intranasal flu vaccine, and the chicken pox shot. In fact, my other children were able to get medical waivers not
to receive vaccines because of my daughter's illness. I know my child is much more likely to encounter a peer at school who has been recently vaccinated with a live-virus vaccine than she is to encounter natural disease from an unvaccinated child'
If my child were at a stage of treatment in which she was very immunocompromised, she would not
be in school. My daughter missed most of fourth grade and a good portion of fifth, not because she
was so sick, but because others were sick. Despite a nearly 100% vaccine compliance rate at our school, there were regular outbreaks of shingles, occurring after chicken pox vaccine boosters, influenza and other illnesses. Please note that, even in areas in which vaccine compliance is extremely high, there are still outbreaks of disease that are not
caused by the unvaccinated (6).
The most deadly threats for a child during intensive cancer treatment lie right within his or her own
body. Immunocompromised pediatric cancer patients are far more likely to die from opportunistic infections that originate from overgrowths of fungi, mold and bacteria(7) than they are from vaccine-related viral infections. When I searched to find the last recorded incidence of a child dying of measles (because that is the hated disease du jour) while undergoing cancer treatment, well, I couldn't find one. I did, however, find at least one death in the immunocompromised from the measles vaccine
(8), with no indication of when it or they occurred. There hasn't been a recorded death in the U.S. from measles in the past 10 years. (9) In fact, measles infection may actually be curative
of some blood cancers (10, 11), presumably by initiating normal immune system defenses. The measles virus as an actual treatment has also been explored in other malignancies (12, 13).
There is evidence that the "hygiene theory" of the immune system may have some relevance to to vaccines. It has been found that more "hygienic" populations, i.e. kids who have had fewer exposures to everyday germs, are at higher risk for some illnesses. The idea being that the immune system needs to "learn" how to respond appropriately by coming in contact with common bugs in order to develop properly. Industrialized countries that have a decrease in infectious burden over less developed nations nevertheless show an increase
in allergies and autoimmune disease. "The leading idea is that some infectious agents — notably those that co-evolved with us — are able to protect us against a large spectrum of immune-related disorders." (14) Are we trading benign, transient illnesses that were once considered normal childhood rites of passage, illnesses that appear to be protective for more serious disease, for a lifetime of chronic illness, even death?