My official stance on vaccines.

I received the following email after my last post (published with her approval):

Hey Doc 🙂 First off, I love your blog. I have been following for quite some time and respect you a great deal. I read your post from The Atlantic about vaccines and was wondering what your stance on them is? Do you believe that they are healthy and necessary to a child (let alone an adult)? I haven’t received the flu vaccine for at least 8 years. I grew up in a family where my relatives are either aerospace engineers, accountants, computer nerds or doctors, and they’ve always advocated getting the flu shot… but recently I’ve been looking into alternative medicine, and am always reluctant to put ANYTHING unnatural in my body… including vaccines. What do you think?

I responded:

I’m not a huge supporter of most of western medicine, but I think vaccines are singlehandedly the most important contribution western medicine has made in the world. Hundreds of millions, if not billions, of lives in the history of humankind have been saved by smallpox, polio, diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, flu, and pneumococcal vaccinations.

And she responded:

Well, I suppose I should have been a bit more specific. My mom works for the Salk Institute, so I agree w/you that vaccines for things like the one you listed are life saving (thank’s Jonas!), but what about the flu? I’ve read so many articles from both sides, one side saying it’s unnecessary and unhealthy and the other saying that it is safe and helpful… I read (from a dot com site) that the H1N1 vaccine has been linked to a 700% increase in miscarriages/still births last year, and that most flu vaccines contain mercury. I’m sure you hear these conerns regularly, but there are so many arguments coming from both sides that after awhile I wind up thinking I can’t trust either one. Unfortunately I can’t do the research/experiments/studies myself or else I would.

My response:

The issue has been drowned in complexity and conflicting reports. Also, you’ll never, ever know how one specific vaccine will affect you personally since all the studies are done using the biases of large population statistics. Based on the history of vaccines and their marked success over the past 120 years preventing disease and death in billions of people, I’m going to error on the side of saying vaccines, as a whole, are remarkable and one of the single greatest accomplishments of humankind…even the flu vaccine.