Radio Listeners ‘Angry as Hornets’ About Dr. Walt’s Comments on Childhood Vaccination

I was being interviewed about childhood vaccination on the KTIS radio station that broadcasts in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. During the interview I stated, “In my opinion, parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are committing a form of child abuse.” According to the station, my comments “stirred up a hornet’s nest.”

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One listener wrote this to KTIS:

I just heard Dr. Walt Larimore on the morning show make a statement that to not vaccinate your children is CHILD ABUSE!!! I am shocked that you have allowed someone to make such a claim on your station. My husband and I do not vaccinate our two children and they are healthier than most the other kids they are around. We have chosen to have a healthy, natural, organic lifestyle. Neither of our children has ever had an ear infection, major illness, or other issues that many kids their ages have had.

My children are happy, loveable, amazing little boys who are loved and cared for. I can’t believe you have allowed someone to claim we ABUSE our children. I am so frustrated right now after hearing that. I am a Christian who has listened to your station for many, many years. We have donated in the past to different charities and I even participate in your listener panel where we rate your songs by email.

Please have … the station does not necessarily agree with Dr. Larimore’s claims because he is making a VERY STRONG and REPREHENSIBLE statement that my husband and I are VERY offended by. (Sorry if I’m coming across too strong, I’m just very upset right now.)

Another wrote:

I was listening on KTIS radio, in Minneapolis, MN and I found your comment; that “parents who do not vacinate are abusive to their childern”, VERY offensive. I know people who don’t vacinate for very good reasons. Why did you leave no room for that thought?

Well, I’m happy to explain.

I had predicted to the station that I knew that this comment would likely stir up some significant listener reaction – both positive and negative. Indeed it did. But, if I knew that going in, why would I go ahead and purposefully say it?

Especially since I know that parents who choose not to vaccinate their children (at least for reasons that are neither based upon their religious or on the child’s allergies) often are quite offended by such a statement.

But, the issue is not whether they are offended or not. The issue is what is the truth?

I suspect the rich man was offended when Jesus told him to sell all he had. But, Jesus still told him the truth.

And, to many, the Gospel is offensive — even scandalous — yet we still lovingly tell people the truth.

Some women find it offensive, even guilt provoking, when they learn the Birth Control Pill they are taking or have taken can lead to unrecognized abortions. Yet we tell them and counsel them on how to deal with this truth. (You can read more about this in two of my past blogs: Did you know the birth control pill can cause abortions? and American Society of Reproductive Medicine Statement Confirms the Pill Causes Abortion.)

But, the fear of offense should not, in my opinion, keep us from confronting people with the truth – especially as relates to their children. People who choose to not vaccinate their children are usually wonderful and sincere people. But, in my opinion, they are sincerely wrong – as their decisions are usually based up one or more vaccine myths.

First, they put their children at significant risk for potentially fatal or disabling diseases (thus my child abuse allegation).

Second, they put the community at risk because their kids can carry and pass on these preventable diseases to other.

I remember the first baby that I delivered to an unvaccinated young woman who had developed German Measles during pregnancy. The child was born severely mentally retarded and blind. The mother and her parents were heartbroken. They had chosen to not take the vaccines that would have saved this baby and them a lifetime of grief.

I remember the young 6 year old girl I admitted to the hospital with  a bacterial infection known as Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b). Unfortunately, the infection gave her Hib meningitis. She’ll get better, thank the Lord, but her hearing is permanently affected and she’ll need hearing aides the rest of her life. Unfortunately, she was doomed to this fate because her parents had unwisely chosen not to vaccinate her. They chose not to have her take the HIB vaccine that has reduced the incidence of invasive HIB by more than 99%.

According to recent news reports, in the last few weeks, up in Minnesota (the same area of the broadcast), 5 unvaccinated children came down with invasive Hib. One died. At least three of the affected children (and perhaps all five) had not received any vaccinations, including the 7-month-old who died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Simply put, my case and the Minnesota cases were all preventable tragedies. Can you imagine the grief that the parents of the dead 7 month old must be experiencing?

So, I stand by my charge that choosing NOT to vaccinate your children against fatal or disabling diseases (at least without sincere religious or allergic reasons) is a form of child abuse.

And, as more and more parents realize this, there is a growing backlash against the antivaccine movement (what some call the “antivaccine crazies“). In fact, a new book defending vaccines, written by a doctor infuriated at the now disproven claim that they or vaccine preservatives cause autism, is galvanizing even more backlash against the antivaccine movement in the United States.

Stunningly, according to a report in the New York Times, the author of this book, Paul A. Offit, has actually had many death threats. Unbelievable. You can read about it here.

Accusing loving and sincere parents, who choose not to vaccinate their children, of “a form of child abuse,” is NOT an easy thing to do. In fact, it would be easier not to.

Some might think it would be kinder no to. But, in my opinion, it’s the truth and parents who love their children need to hear and at least consider it.

BTW, you can read more about these Vaccine Myths by going to my website and click on “Dr. Walt’s Blog,” at the top of the page and enter “Vaccine Myths” into the search box to read my explanation of the 13 most prevalent vaccine myths. Or, just go here to view the first blog in the series. And then click on the hyperlinks at the bottom of each page to read the rest of the myths.

Also, I’ve blogged on the very popular idea of delaying vaccines promoted by Dr. Sears. You can read my blog on that topic here. Although I don’t recommend a delayed schedule, if parents insist upon it, after informed consent, I’ll use it. Although I don’t think it’s particularly wise, I think it’s a much better option than no vaccines.

So, that’s my defense. I hope you’ll take the time to post a comment and let me know what you think? Do you agree? Disagree?
By the way, I DO NOT post anonymous comments.

Here are other blogs in this series you might find useful:

16 thoughts on “Radio Listeners ‘Angry as Hornets’ About Dr. Walt’s Comments on Childhood Vaccination

  • Dave Szum

    I think child neglect is a better term than child abuse. Child abuse implies an active antagonism toward the child. Child neglect implies a mental laziness or inattentiveness. In this case, you (rightfully) point out that these folks have good intentions, however, they lack the attentiveness (or mental discipline) to truly research a topic. In some ways, they are letting themselves be distracted by fads and fashions that are blended with enough truth to be plausible. For example, one response talks about the choice of an organic lifestyle. I do tend to agree that some health problems do seem to occur with the use of growth hormones, genetic modification, and the like on our food sources. Your point is very focused on your position on vaccines while their interpretation is on a whole organic lifestyle (some of which has value). It may be worthwhile to write a well researched article (that is understandable to the lay person) on what a good organic lifestyle would really look like. Just a thought…..

    Blessings,

    dave szum

  • sarah

    I agree with your comments Dr. Walt, I wish all parents would vaccinate their children. It scares me that some of these rare diseases may comeback because a few parents choose not to vaccinate. They are not only putting their own children at risk but other children with whom they come into contact.

  • Michelle Leichty

    Dr. Walt, You are making your stance quite clear here, and I applaud you for it. I would tend to not want to offend anyone, and be more wishy-washy on the subject.

    Personally, my husband and I chose to delay vaccinations for our children – waiting several months to start the recommended schedule. All my children, even my youngest who tested positive for an egg allergy AFTER his rounds of vaccines were completed, are healthy, happy children. I attribute that more to lots of love, breastfeeding for at least a year, sound nutrition and supplementation and limiting sugar/sweets than to vaccines.

    I do wonder if perhaps vaccines, combined with good nutrition & supplementation would help children be healthier, and the community be healthier. I wonder of the children who do suffer side effects from vaccines do so because their immune systems are so compromised already, even as infants & toddlers.

    It’s unfortunate that passion and soundbites tend to drown out a more reasonable debate about this topic.

  • Sarah,

    Thanks for the comment. However, in a number of areas of our country these rare disease have made a come back because of the decision of parents to not vaccinate their children. We’ve seen outbreaks of diptheria (whooping cough), Hib (Haemophilus Influenza Type B), measles, influenza, and mumps.

    I find that most parents that don’t vaccinate their children don’t realize that they are then allowing their children to potentially spread illnesses to their family, friends, and community.

    In my view, a choice not to vaccinate your children is incredibly selfish. It’s neglectful to the child (to use Dave Szum’s wording — see comment above) and potentially dangerous to the church body and the community.

    Blessings.

    Dr. Walt

  • Michelle,

    So good to hear from you. Give Glen and the kids my very best. I appreciate your insight and observations. However, it’s important to note that all of the cases I mention in the blog were kids that were well nourished and well taken care of. Most of the diseases we vaccinate for are not respecters of class or health status. Yes, less healthy children are at more risk — but even the healthiest of children are at significant risk.

    I appreciate you writing. Blessings to you all.

    Dr. Walt

  • Shawna

    Dear Dr. Walt,
    Thank you for being very clear on the risks of not immunizing. I have been very concerned as I watch many well meaning parents choose not to immunize. Unfortunately many of them have come to such strong conclusions because of the myths that it seems futile to discuss with them. Maybe in the future I’ll send them to your blog when it comes up and tell them we can talk after they take time to read!

    I can see how child neglect would be better received which would help parents be more open to listening to the rest of what you have to say.

    We personally vaccinated our kids on time in spite of their prematurity and had our child with asthma take a few extra vaccines to prevent pneumonia. We are SO glad we chose to protect them from the things we can. There are so many things in this world that parents can’t protect there children from. Why not give them a leg up on the things that are easily available to protect them from?

    Shawna

  • Dean

    Your information is incorrect. Two of the children were vaccinated on schedule. One had not completed the series of 3 shots (had 2 shots already). Two of the 3 who had meningitis were vaccinated, so according to the numbers, a child is twice as likely to get meningitis if vaccinated on schedule. Also, what was the treatment protocol of the one who passed away? Was the child put on a very strong IV antibiotic regimen? The AMA admits doctors kill over 100,000 people a year with prescriptions and in hospitals. How was the baby diagnosed? Was the diagnosis correct? Hib is found in just about everyone. The children were unvaccinated for Hib, but nowhere does it state they were totally unvaccinated. As a matter of fact, the CDC states the 5 were “mostly unimmunized or partially immunized.” How do you know the one child who passed did not have a vaccine reaction or die from a bad treatment protocol?

    There are many unanswered questions. The cases occurred over 12 months and none is related to another (5 different counties). That’s important since the big fear is spreading it.

    You are spreading fear. Why don’t you talk about all the horrific deaths and maimed children as a result of vaccination? Go read VAERS for Gardasil alone and read about thousands of healthy young girls having terrible reactions. Over 10,000 reported reactions and 6% considered serious. Let’s keep in mind, reactions are woefully underreported, especially since doctors often refuse to believe reactions occur. They just call it something else. My brother-in-law had half his face go paralyzed a day after a tetanus shot. The doctor called it Bell’s Palsy and said no way it was related to the shot. The doctor wouldn’t even consider it. How often does that happen?

    Calling non-vaccinating parents child abusers is horrific. Have you ever suffered a serious vaccine reaction? I have. If you had, you would probably wake up like thousands of other people who had to learn that vaccines aren’t harmless the hard way. A friend of mine’s little boy died last year. He was 7. He was totally normal and doing great until his two year old shots. He had a horrible reaction. Got very sick. He struggled with his health after that all the time. Of course, the doctors say no way to it being related to vaccines, but the mom knew her son. She knew what happened. How many more children will die from vaccination, and they just call it something else?

  • Michael

    Dr Walt,

    I agree with your general point that vaccines can help save lives however you belittle the legitimate concerns of well-meaning parents who want to vaccinate their kids but are concerned about the real risks that harmful ingredients in vaccines pose.

    As a pro-life advocate myself, I find it interesting that you use the example of why it is necessary to confront women who take the Birth Control Pill with the fact that it can cause abortions to illustrate why we must also confront parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids with the fact that “they put their children at significant risk for potentially fatal or disabling diseases”.

    Well your example is more apt to describe the anguish of parents who have to make a decision about vaccinating their kids while contending with the attitude of the medical establishment (yourself included on this particular issue) who attack, undermine and question the motives of parents who question the safety of vaccines — when all they want is what is best for their children.

    Parents are rightly concerned that vaccines, which are synthetic preparations foreign to the body (just like the Birth Control Pill) are injected into the body alongside preservatives such as thimerosal (a mercury compound) and formaldehyde (a carcinogen used to embalm corpses) and adjuvants without which the vaccine cannot work such as aluminium (a metal that accumulates in body tissue and is associated with altered function of the blood-brain barrier especially in baby boys between birth and two years of age) and squalene (linked to the Gulf War syndrome in a court ruling by a US Federal judge).

    And just like the Birth Control Pill, vaccines have been proven to cause extreme harm in some of the people who receive them, moreso in children. Evidence of harm includes painful adverse reactions that routinely cause alarming swelling around the injection site and cause babies to cry for many hours but is considered normal by most doctors, swelling of the brain, autoimmune disorders, death, and Autism Spectrum Disorders where kids who were developing normally prior to being injected with a vaccine lose most of their cognitive and learning abilities after having been injected with the vaccine. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) proves the harm vaccines can cause is real, as does the Hanah Poling case where US health officials conceded that childhood vaccines contributed to her development of Autism. This is just one out of many such cases.

    So on the vaccine issue; I share the sentiment you expressed on the Birth Control Pill issue: that until vaccines are shown NOT to cause life-threatening reactions in our children, it’s time for parents, physicians, ethicists and politicians to make a stand and insist that well-defined long term studies are done to study the cumulative effect on children of taking so many of these vaccines and for harmful ingredients to be removed from vaccines and safer alternatives used instead.

    We can no longer afford to risk the lives of our children for the convenience of the pharmaceutical industy which makes billions from the sale of vaccines; and for the arrogance of the medical establishment which unfairly castigates parents who have a right to be concerned — especially since a mass vaccination programme is unnecessary in mordern society when good nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months at least and a selective/delayed, user-friendly vaccination schedule can work together well to ensure an health child.

  • Michael,

    You must be kidding me. There are NOT dozens of studies testifying to the safety and effectiveness of childhood vaccines. There are NOT hundreds of studies. There are thousands. If you’re interested in learning more, read my blog, “The ABCs of Childhood Vaccine Safety” here: http://www.drwalt.com/blog/2009/02/06/abcs-of-childhood-vaccine-safety/.

    Vaccines are created slowly and carefully. Research, lab tests, and tests on human volunteers take years (usually 10 or more years) for each vaccine.

    At every step, safety and effectiveness are checked, double-checked and triple-checked.

    Even after a vaccine is licensed, the FDA and the CDC keep gathering information on adverse events and overall vaccine safety.

    When it comes to protecting children against disease and ill health—which is of prime importance to parents and health professionals—vaccines are widely regarded as one of the most effective ways to prevent many common childhood illnesses.

    Childhood vaccinations in the United States have dramatically reduced diseases such as whooping cough, mumps, polio, smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, and chicken pox. Because we have so little experience with these diseases today (smallpox, for example, hasn’t been seen for decades), it is easy to forget how serious these illnesses can be.

    Unfortunately, some of the most easily accessed information confuses the issue. More than two-thirds of adults in the United States use the Internet to find health-related information. Yet research shows that less than 20 percent of medical information on the Internet is reliable and authoritative according to medical profession standards.

    Also, due to the way Internet search engines link websites—which has little or nothing to do with quality—well-meaning but unsuspecting parents searching the Web may be sent first to inaccurate, misleading, or downright false information.

    Researchers in 2002 searched the Internet for vaccination advice and concluded there is a high probability that parents will encounter elaborate, inflammatory and highly inaccurate anti-vaccination material.

    Researchers also found that the content on many sites was biased rhetoric or was scientifically invalid.

    Because of this, professional medical groups are becoming increasingly concerned about groups that oppose vaccinations and use the Internet to unethically campaign for their cause.

    Regarding your irrational statement that “a mass vaccination programme is unnecessary in modern society,” I can only shake my head in incredulity. What a foolish, foolish statement.

    What’s the truth?

    It’s really not difficult to understand. At a time when most parents are having their children vaccinated, parents who refuse to vaccinate wrongly think that their children are probably
    safe without the vaccine and that their refusal does not affect other children.

    Although the disease may still occur in small numbers, chances are low that any children—vaccinated or not—will get the disease.

    However, as increasing numbers of parents choose not to vaccinate, everything changes. When
    vaccination levels fall below 90 percent or so in any given region, parents who do not vaccinate their children put their children and other unvaccinated children at higher risk for the illness.

    For example, in the United States, unvaccinated children are about twenty-two times as likely to acquire measles and six times as likely to acquire whooping cough as vaccinated children.

    Falling vaccination rates, which as of this writing are occurring in many areas of the United States, lend credibility to fears that previously common and now preventable diseases will once again affect our children.

    In 2002, a dramatic example surfaced in Europe. Consider the facts:

    • Fewer than five health care providers opposed to vaccinating children against measles are believed to be responsible for a measles epidemic in the district of Coburg in the German state of Bavaria.
    • Coburg has a population of fewer than 100,000 people, but more than 1,100 of them contracted measles in 2002.
    • About 90 percent of the cases were in children ages fourteen or younger, and several children required hospitalization.
    • Seventy-six percent of children in Coburg had been vaccinated, but at least 90 percent of children in a given population need to be immunized to effectively combat measles epidemics.

    The possibility of similar outbreaks of preventable infectious diseases frightens me — and it should you.

    Immunizations are essential for highly healthy children.

    It’s okay for parents to be concerned. But, it’s not okay for them to make foolish or unwise decisions — especially when those decisions are based upon inaccurate of false information.

    Dr. Walt

  • Dean,

    Thanks for writing. Unfortunately, you misrepresent the math, as is not uncommon among those who spread vaccine myths such as “Preventable Diseases Occur More Often in Vaccinated People Than in Unvaccinated People.”

    Superficially speaking, on the uninformed surface, this statement may seem true. However, it is important to understand why.

    Medical doctors Paul Offit and Louis Bell explain:

    Let’s say that among 100 young adults living in a college dormitory, 95 were vaccinated against measles and 5 were not. An outbreak of measles then strikes. Six of the 95 vaccinated people get measles, as do 4 of the 5 unvaccinated ones.

    This would seem to indicate that vaccinated people get measles more commonly than unvaccinated people.

    But let’s look more critically. The attack rate for measles in the unvaccinated group was 80 percent (4 of 5), whereas the attack rate for vaccinated people was only 6 percent (6 of 95).

    So people were much less likely to get measles if they received the measles vaccine.

    A study recently reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that unvaccinated people were thirty-five times as likely to get measles as vaccinated people.

    As you understand these truths, you’ll see that you math changes dramatically, simply because of the denominator. There are many more children vaccinated in the area of the Hib breakout than unvaccinated.

    Therefore the risk was much greater in the unvaccinated children.

    Worse yet, it may have been the unvaccinated children that carried the Hib to the children who had either been incompletely vaccinated or who had not responded to the vaccine series.

    So, your argument actually makes my case.

    Thanks for the help.

    Dr. Walt

  • Nancy

    Wow, this is certainly a hot topic on both sides of the issue.
    Please do not criticize me for asking some honest questions~ I am not trying to “stir up the hornet’s nest”.
    I am interested in Dr. Walt’s response to the Gardsil vaccine question. I believe (please correct me here if I am wrong) there have been numerous serious adverse reactions reported to reputable agencies (not simply interenet sites).
    I can see your point on basic childhood diseases & vaccines. However, what is troubling to me is why there are now 38 vaccines for 15 diseases required for kindergarten versus 11 for 8 diseases 15 years ago. It just seems to my “uneducated mind” that this dramatic increase has to have some negative effect on a child’s developing immune system.
    My last conern is the alarming rise of autoimmune diseases in this country in both children & adults. Could there possibly be a correlation between the number of required vaccines & these auto-immune diseases? I am wondering if any studies have been or could be done on this topic.

  • Hello Nancy,

    Thanks for the note and the questions. I’ll try to address each one:

    1) Regarding the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, if you search for “Gardasil” in my blog search box, you can find four blogs of mine on the topic. I share, in those blogs, many concerns about Gardasil. I do not consider this a “childhood vaccine,” but and “adolescent vaccine” or “adult vaccine.” I am concerned about the data regarding adverse reactions.

    2) The fact that there are more vaccines is neither confusing nor troubling. We are now able to protect from diseases that have been around for a long time with newer vaccines. To me, this is not bad news, but good news. In the same way that we have new drugs for diabetes and heart disease, and new antibiotics for bacterial illnesses, and new anti-viral drugs for viral sicknesses is all very good news and I thank the Lord for them all.

    If you read my recent blog on the ABCs of Vaccine Safety, you’ll learn about the incredibly long process it takes to license a vaccine.

    And, to date, the hundreds and hundreds of studies have shown the current vaccines to be safe and effective — even when given in combination.

    3) I share your concern about auto-immune diseases. However, to date, not a single study has found an association between childhood immunizations and auto-immune diseases. If one is found, you can be sure that I’d report it immediately.

    I don’t have a dog in the vaccine safety debate. I don’t make a dime one way or the other. I’m just interested in evidenced-based truth — along with helping my patients and the parents who read my website and books raise and nurture highly healthy children and teens.

    Blessings.

    Dr. Walt

  • Christine L Carpenter

    Dr. Walt,

    My daughter had a severe reaction to the dpt vaccination causing brain damage. As a result the rest of my children and grandchildren have gotten a dt vaccination instead. This is scarry too, as wooping cough can be deadly.

    I heard that for dogs and cats some people are having their pets imunity tested and that sometimes they do not need the vaccinations.

    Is this possible for humans? Seems to me less would be better if natural imunity existed.

    Thank you, Christine

  • Christine,

    Thanks for the note. My heart grieves for you daughter’s brain damage. Our oldest child, Kate, has cerebral palsy, and we know the path you walk.

    Whether or not the DPT vaccine caused this problem, that vaccine has been off the market here in the U.S. for quite some time.

    The new vaccine, with a purified acellular pertussis (whooping cough) component, is called DTaP, and was approved in the U.S. in 2001.

    Concerning “Vaccine Myth #6: It’s Better to Be Naturally Infected Than Immunized,” read my blog on this myth at http://www.drwalt.com/blog/2008/05/21/vaccine-myth-6-its-better-to-be-naturally-infected-than-immunized/.

    Dr. Walt

  • Christine L Carpenter

    Dear Dr. Walt,

    I think they were implying that a blood test could show that a dog already has immunity to some diseases, without having actually contracted the disease.

    For example small pox killing massive numbers of Native Americians. Did some people have a natural immunity to small pox even befor the vaccine?

    If so could those naturally immune people skip the vaccine?

    Would a test like that show people today that, yes their child is at risk for whooping cough, but not for diphtheria?

    Thank you for your consideration,Christine

Comments are closed.