from A Guide to Child Health by Michaela Glöckler and Wolfgang Goebel Chapter 7.4
Copyright © Floris Books, Edinburgh, 1990
Floris Books, 15 Harrison Gardens, Edinburgh, EH11 1SH, Great Britain
Anthroposophic Press, RR4, Box 94A1 Hudson, NY 12534 USA
Artificial immunization is carried out for two main reasons: first, to protect individuals from the danger of certain infectious diseases; and second, because mankind feels threatened by epidemic diseases.
The reader may be surprised to find the whole question of immunization approached here quite differently from what is common practice. We prefer parents to decide for themselves which immunizations their children shall have, and with this aim in mind, we try to provide parents with the most important facts and considerations both for and against each type of immunization. In this way we hope that the parent’s decisions will be based on knowledge of the individual child and not merely on the debatable results of statistical research. Complete freedom of decision does not of course exist where local regulations make immunization obligatory. However, even then, where immunizations are contraindicated because of underlying conditions in the child, this must also be taken into account.
The principles of artificial immunization are easy to understand. The object is to prevent certain infectious diseases. This is achieved by increasing the amount of antibodies which are similar to (or the same as) the antibodies produced by the organism when overcoming the disease. The two main methods are passive and active immunization. With passive immunization, specific antibodies from other humans are injected as vaccine. These immunizing substances are soon broken down in the organism so that immunization lasts for about two months.
With active immunization, the body is stimulated (by an injection or other means) to produce its own antibodies. Active immunization affords protection against the illness for an indefinite length of time which varies with each individual but can last for several years.
Vaccines which are capable of multiplying, are know as live vaccines. Those made from material or metabolites of the infecting agent are know as dead vaccines. Both types are used in active immunization.
Immunization reduces the death rate of an infectious disease very considerably, and also reduces at the same time the general likelihood of infection within a population. Unlike other preventative measures such as a holiday by the sea or in the mountains, immunization does not improve the general health of an individual.
Immunization is worthwhile when it can avert the risk of disease but it is only justifiable when no fresh major dangers follow from it. The value of immunization can be assessed by weighing up the following considerations.
On the one hand, the degree of danger of the disease must be understood. By this we mean, how prevalent is the disease, how grave are the possible complications, is the disease epidemic, how high is the death rate?
On the other hand, the degree and quality of immunization should be considered: that is, how long will it last, how effective is it, what is the likelihood of complications, and what are the know side effects?
Immunization can be regarded as worthwhile when the disease in question is liable to run a dangerous course, and when the immunization is good and lasts a long time. Complications resulting from immunization are an acceptable risk only when the illness itself is highly dangerous.
It must be stressed that the following discussions on specific immunizations are based on current knowledge of the situation in the western world. Conditions elsewhere and as time progresses will vary considerably. Changes in recommendations appear to be inevitable as there is constant research into the risks and effectiveness of vaccines. [The book has a descriptive list of each immunization, and what to consider with each one.]
Above all, we wish to emphasize that the decision to immunize or not, when taken by parents or doctors, should be based in every case on the available knowledge about the individual child.
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