Sometimes vaccines fail — or worse

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

November 2012

Today's medical school graduates will probably never see a patient with the diseases that crippled or killed their great-aunts and uncles before they emerged from childhood. Polio, measles, smallpox, chickenpox, congenital rubella (German measles) and meningitis are only a few examples. Older pediatricians who have seen babies and young children die of these diseases, sometimes painfully and agonizingly, are frustrated by the many parents that have refused to immunize their children against infections that seem to have vanished. At the same time they appreciate the parents' concern. A child is likely to receive more than 40 doses of vaccines by entry into first grade. Needles always cause pain and tears, the latter sometimes in Mom.

Prescription drugs occasionally kill or injure patients; so do vaccines. A faulty polio vaccine crippled scores of children and killed 10 in 1955. Every childhood death is a tragedy but the number of children who have died as the result of a vaccine in the past half century amounts to hundreds; lives saved by vaccines can be numbered in millions.

Some alleged complications never occurred, such as the cases of autism blamed on measles/mumps/rubella vaccine. In spite of more than a dozen studies that found no link and the retraction of such claims by those who first made them and the journal that published them, the public is hard to convince otherwise.

I'd like to offer a perspective that is seldom voiced and that is impossible to verify. If a child has a severe reaction to a vaccine virus it is likely that the stronger natural, disease-causing virus would have caused severe, possibly fatal illness.

Some vaccine tragedies have occurred in children who entered the world with a defective immune system. Until the advent of stem cell transplants and gene therapy, children with such a near-total absence of natural immunity never survived. The vaccine exposed the defect but the outcome was fatal.

Vaccine-induced immunity seldom lasts a lifetime so that booster doses may be necessary. Whooping cough (pertussis) is an example. Immunity begins to wane in adolescence and has led to numerous cases among young adults. They in turn can infect infants below the age of 3 months, who have the highest risk of serious or fatal disease.

Diseases that used to occur primarily during childhood may rise again in middle age among those whose infections were vaccine-induced. "Second childhood" is about to take on an entirely different meaning.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at