In following the vaccine debate, I've observed what seem like two completely different versions of reality. For those perplexed by this, here's a brief guide to a basic issue underlying this long-standing controversy: biological individuality. If properly understood, it can create the ground for reconciliation.
Have you ever noticed that feet come in all shapes and sizes?
Why do you adore spicy food while your beloved hates it?
How come your friend can handle a lot more alcohol than you?
So whence cometh the assumption that we're all completely unique on the outside, but exactly the same inside?
Most people don't even react to coffee the same way!
If my calm and collected pal Charlie drinks any caffeine whatsoever, he morphs into a jittery Mr. Hyde--complete with road rage. My friend Lynn sleeps like a baby even after an evening expresso. Me? If I drink caffeine after lunch, I'm up watching Sex and the City re-runs until 1 A.M.
Our differing reactions to coffee are just one of thousands that reveal that what's going on inside of each one of us is just as distinct as our outer appearance. Scientists call this biochemical individuality.
Excepting water, no food, drug, or substance is good for all of the people all of the time. What's helpful for some, can be useless or harmful for others. Yet medical research tends towards majority rule. If it's statistically proven to work for some, then we leap forward to assume it must be great for everyone--despite all the common sense evidence about how totally unique each one of us is.
Let's look at one subset of people who can't handle things others can handle. People with allergies. I first heard the word "allergy," at a kid's birthday party when a tot named Maddy refused the strawberry shortcake, pronouncing dolefully, "I'm allergic." The same to chocolate cake.
Was an allergy some kind of curse? I sadly wondered.
To the non-allergic, allergies can seem mysterious, unmanly, or even non-existent. But a good number of people are indeed sensitive, intolerant, or outright allergic to common foods, toxins, viruses, bacteria, adjutants-- any ingredient that interacts poorly with individual biochemistry. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 25% of Americans, 60 million people have recognized allergies--and that's not counting all of the individual sensitivities.
Beyond that, we've all been exposed to various stuff that differentiates our immune response capacity from our neighbor's. Tests reveal that fetuses are filled with environmental toxins, metals, you name it, all received in utero--which can impact immune response. Diet and lifestyle factors, even the internal bacteria we harbor, all influence health, resilience, and immune competence--together determining how each person will react to a drug, shot, or food.
That's why when high risk health decisions face us, it's vital to evaluate all relevant factors. However, apart from a vanguard group of integrative physicians, doctors don't routinely study factors acting in synergy within an individual. Therefore, despite statistical predictions of how a majority will react to a vaccination, it's impossible to accurately predict how any individual will respond.
Nor has mainstream medical science defined those at higher risk for adverse reactions, so people only find out after they get the shot-- leading some to consider autistic children--well, guinea pigs.
If for some, vaccines are a significant contributing factor, many adults will soon have an opportunity to join a similar experiment thanks to the Swine Flu vaccine, which a recent lawsuit filed in New York State claims has not undergone the substantive safety testing mandated by the FDA. Last week. on behalf of New York health workers, attorney James S. Turner, asked for a restraining order until "carefully conducted double blind placebo controlled studies trials (are) done in accordance with FDA regulations, and...reviewed by FDA scientists." A New York judge halted the vaccine mandate in response. For more information, go to www.citizens.org
Despite tremendous scientific advances, medical research does not capture the totality of individual variation. Most statistical results routinely ignore a great many operative factors since they are harder to study. That's why reactions to any substance--including vaccinations--differ. So who has the criteria and the right to decide?
Mounting health care costs require that we all become empowered and active for our health. We need a medical science that accounts for individual variations in response--so that we can better predict the risk factors for adverse outcomes, helping us to screen those at risk. Turner questions whether the vaccine should be ever mandated, because it removes the individual right to make this crucial health decision--based on our unique individual health profile.
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