Should we vaccinate our kids?




Should we vaccinate our kids?

In a post-modern world, the spirit of the Berean’s to investigate to see if something were true (Acts 17:11), is easily trumped by emotional antidote.  However, as a YWAMer who has worked in Global Health and Primary Health Care for over 25 years and also as a father of young children, can I ask you to please don’t delay in getting caught up on your children’s and your immunizations…if not for yourselves, then for the protection of your friends and the children around you.

Most parents who are alarmed at claims on the web and allow doubt or fear to delay having their children immunized, have simply never seen the horrific nature of these diseases.

They’ve never watched a pastor and colleague without immunity die the hideous death of tetanus with every muscle contracted without release or have a week-old baby die in their arms, back arched and teeth clenched so tightly they could not even nurse.

They’ve never been around the quiet desperation of young parents of kids with whooping cough (pertussis), who’s spasms of coughing only pause long enough for one frantic “whoop” of sucked in air before continuing into another coughing spasm…spasms that continue night and day for weeks… so long that lack of food and water contribute to this disease’s high mortality in kids under two years.

They have never been in a measles epidemic where you’re  losing two babies every day despite your best care and the bulk of your time is spent helping families find child-size coffins.

They’ve just never seen innocent children die around them from these un-treatable but completely preventable diseases…but these memories remain all too fresh to me.

By the mid 1980’s we really thought we had eradicated Polio from the America’s.  We had even identified the last tragic case, a beautiful little girl in Venezuela.  And then in 1988 a Mennonite mission team from a community in Canada that refused immunizations on religious grounds, returned from a mission trip abroad carrying polio. No one on the team was paralyzed, but they infected hundreds of people within their communities of British Columbia and Alberta and caused crippling life-long paralysis in 11 of their own vulnerable children.

Trusting vaccines?

In 1999, concerns were raised that vaccines containing tiny amounts of the preservative thimerosal might increase the risk of autism and/or other neuro-developmental disorders. But researchers that year carefully compared the number of vaccinated kids with autism (prevalence) and their rate of increase (incidence) in the United States to kids in Sweden and Denmark over the past 15 years. Over that period, while the exposure to thimerosal in US kids was increasing, both Sweden and Denmark completely eliminated its use. Yet in all three countries the number and rate of increase in autism was identical. Because the samples of kids compared were so huge, the methodology was really unassailable. Medical and public health professionals immediately recognized we would have took elsewhere for the cause of autism, but the US congress, made mostly of lawyers, couldn’t let something with this much potential liability pass them by and so set up their own Vaccine Court, of course run by lawyers within the U.S. Court of Federal Claims where anyone no matter what their theory and without any cost could bring charges against vaccines.

Profits for drug companies

Vaccines have been so unprofitable for drug companies that the government must often cajole them to even keep producing them. With all their focus on finding a female viagra, they have had almost no interest in finding new vaccines until Bill Gates set up his vaccine fund 10 years ago…and he doesn’t give his funds to drug companies.

Last week after 12 years of hearing all comers, the Vaccine Court lawyers admitted they had found no evidence to support the claims. Astounding… lawyers agreeing with medical professionals that vaccines are very, very safe.

Most nations of the world have set a goal of a 95% vaccination coverage, the rate at which the World Health Organization believes measles could be eradicated (just as smallpox was eradicated 30 years ago). Finland, Sweden and Denmark have been above 95% for some time. The United States is getting very close and Switzerland and Germany have gone from the low 80’s to the high 80’s in the last 4 years. Yet last year these latter three nations had a steep rise in the number of measles cases and hospitalizations because many parents are still fearful about vaccinating their children against measles. It’s a fear that is not grounded in science, and now even 12 years of effort by the best lawyers in the US have found no evidence to support it.

So if you haven’t, you NEED to get your children vaccinated; because if you don’t, you are endangering my children. You are endangering your neighbor’s children. You are endangering all of our children. And for many of you in your late 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, but born after 1957, you need one adult “lifetime” measles booster as well.

You see in the US a baby needs to be 12 months to get the measles vaccine. That means that except for what immunity they got from breastfeeding which drops off after 6-7 months, infants are protected from the measles only because everyone they come in contact with, we hope, has already been vaccinated. Infants hide in the herd of other vaccinated people. If adults continue to refuse to vaccinate their children, we will continue to see a rise in measles outbreaks, and measles can be deadly.

We feel for the parents of autistic children. It must be incredibly frustrating not knowing the cause of your child’s illness. But please don’t endanger all of our children based on a myth.

The UofN-Kona will soon recommend students to be fully immunized before arriving for classes, although those traveling to some locations could need one or two more.

We’ve prepared a new vaccine checklist of recommended vaccines for our staff and students that you can print off and take to your personal physician or travel health clinic for specific recommendations.

This checklist is for college students living in dorms and those traveling abroad and it has been updated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention just two weeks ago, but you can always refer to their website for the most current recommendations.



While the public feedback on this article has been only positive, some anonymous feedback was much less so, but I wanted to address their comments.  Since these fine folks wanted to be anonymous, I will let them remain so.

[anonymous comment March 11, 2009]
“When a child is vaccinated, it doesn’t prevent them from getting an illness. Take the flu shot for instance – a huge medical industry money maker – they admit that they can’t possibly have the right flu strain in one season, so they just poke people up with one they ‘think’ will hit that season. I’ve never had a flu shot and i’ve never had the flu during flu season – when loads of people I know who get a flu shot end up getting the flu.” 

Vaccines don’t prevent the disease? 
As an International Program Evaluator I’ve interviewed many mothers in Bolivia (60 focus groups, 180 interviews) who told us, “Before we started immunizations, every family in our village had experienced at least one child death from measles, since we started immunizations two years ago, not a single child has died.”

I don’t think I can add to that.

As many know, the flu, like the common cold, is caused by many related influenza viruses. But while the common cold rarely causes death, the flu kills nearly 40,000 people each year in the US alone.[]

Therefore, I try to get the yearly vaccine because I know it will contain 5-6 of the strains from SE Asia last year that the CDC deems most likely to cause a US flu outbreak this year. While some vaccines, including the flu vaccine, do turn a profit for their makers, the profit margin on childhood vaccines is fairly thin…so much so that Merc has recently stopped making several single-antigen vaccines even though there was still a demand for them, because they were just not worth their time.

See: Flu shot-Your best bet for avoiding influenza

[anonymous comment March 11, 2009]
“I’ve had the flu before and there’s nothing wrong with our bodies going through natural sicknesses.”

True enough, as the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” However the 80-100 million people influenza killed in the 1918 flu pandemic might have preferred to be less strong and not have died, if there had been a flu vaccine available at the time.

[anonymous comment March 11, 2009]
“I’m not going to pump myself or my kids full of synthetic stuff ‘just in case’ or because of guys like this [Mr. Robbins] who are actually quite ignorant to the reality of immunizations… and if he has a health background, it makes me wonder where he got his education.”

It doesn’t sound like my background or education will be a big factor to you in what you decide, however for what its worth, I hold a
• B.S in Microbiology from Baylor and Southern Arkansas University
• a 2 year Graduate Diploma in International Health from the University of the Nations and
• a Masters in Public Health (MPH) from the 

Tulane School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine

I have worked with vaccination programs since 1985, where I started training rural health promotors and helping increase access by improving the “cold chain” in rural Guatemala. Over the years, I’ve assisted with the vaccination programs in another 10 developing nations and been a consultant with the CoreGroup [], UNICEF, & the CDC in setting up the national office charged with the (ultimately successful) polio eradication effort in Liberia.

Of course, our 25 YWAM Primary Health Care related courses around world, all strongly promote immunizations.[]

Several of our UofN-CERT members also volunteer with our Hawaii island’s Medical Reserver Corps to provide a surge capacity to immunize our counties school children against seasonal flu each year. 

[anonymous comment March 11, 2009]
“It’s appalling to me that (UofN) Kona would even consider making recommendations that one come to that campus only if you have all your shots.”

The UofN-Kona has always recommended that students be up on their immunizations, but previously had waited until students were preparing to go on outreach before addressing specific vaccines that might be especially needed for their field work. It is always a daunting job for school staff to coordinate and some of the immunizations such as Hepatitis A & B require a substantial waiting period between doses. Clearly some students will continue arrive still lacking some of the recommended vaccines, but the recommendations are there for their benefit.

Most universities in the United States now require entering students to have the meningitis vaccine. The UofN-Kona campus has not required this…but then we have had a student in the hospital this year with meningitis which we regret since it might have been preventable.

[anonymous comment March 11, 2009]
“…[The] article tries to fill people with guilt [implying that] if I decide not to get my child vaccinated that [other] kids could get sick, how is it my fault?

The article related the facts of the Canadian polio outbreak in 1988 among a religious community who chose to not be vaccinated, went on a mission trip and returned carrying the polio virus, which went on to infect hundreds of unimmunized people in their unvaccinated communities and caused the life-long polio paralysis in 11 of their vulnerable children. It is not my opinion, but that of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

[Canada Communicable Disease Report, Public Health Agency of Canada]

[anonymous comment April 8, 2009]
“I know we need vaccines when we travel internationally, but do we really need them if we stay home in a developed nation?”

See my response above. Most people consider Canada a relatively developed nation.

[anonymous comment April 20, 2009]
“He’s pumping his kids full of toxic chemicals, how is he not putting my child in harm by doing that?”

For the same reason I would recommend most women (especially those expecting) take supplemental iron and use iodized salt.
Even though both iron and sodium are toxic at high levels, at low levels they are very helpful, as are many substances at low levels (copper, zinc).  

And I can’t think of a single case where one person taking vitamins or minerals would be dangerous to another person who chooses not to.  In the same way, unless the child is severely immune compromised, the danger is not from the kids that are being immunized, but from the disease itself passed on by those who are not protected.
WHO-Multiple-micronutrient supplementation for women during pregnancy []

[anonymous comment April 8, 2009]
“Why are you so passionate about this?”

I think it’s best summed up by the quote (also printed above) from a Bolivian mother I interviewed while evaluating a collaborative Food For the Hungry/YWAM Child Survival project.

When asked if they would continue the immunization program after our project staff left, she said, “Before you [FH/YWAM] came, every family in our village had lost at least one child from measles. For two years since we’ve been immunizing our children, not a single child has died.” Then she added, “Why would we ever go back to not immunizing our children?”

[anonymous comment April 20, 2009]
“The thing that makes me most mad about this article is that it’s just one person’s [Mr. Robbins] opinion and it’s not supported by any sources.”

In the article, I did reference the Center for Disease Control’s current comprehensive vaccine recommendations website, but as that was only one source, I will include a few (37) additional sources who strongly support the recommendations of the article:


Ambulatory Pediatric Association

American Academy of Family Physicians

American Academy of Pediatrics

American College Health Association

American Medical Association

American Nurses Association

Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine

Infectious Diseases Society of America

National Association of School Nurses

National Medical Association


Albert B. Sabin Vaccine Institute

All Kids Count

Allied Vaccine Group

Bill and Melinda Gates Children’s Vaccine Program

Every Child By Two

Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization

Immunization Action Coalition

Institute for Vaccine Safety Johns Hopkins University

Institute of Medicine

National Alliance for Hispanic Health

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

National Network for Immunization Information

National Partnership for Immunization

Vaccine Education Center at CHOP


Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

CDC National Immunization Program

CDC National Center for Infectious Diseases

Food and Drug Administration

National Association of City and County Health


National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

National Vaccine Program Office

Pan American Health Organization

Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System

World Health Organization


I recognize that childhood immunizations represent a complex decision of weighing benefits and risks, just as the decision to allow our maturing children to start walking alone to the store presents risks to be weighed against the benefits.

The bottom line is we can only recommend.

Parents in most of the United States can take the option of declaring that vaccines are against their religion and skipping them altogether. Of the 3.7 million US kids entering kindergarden, nearly 1,300 parents did just that. As a percentage, that is still pretty small, but it takes only a few people to cause an outbreak that can put large numbers of lives at risk.

As Dr. Lance Rodewald, director of the CDC’s Immunization Services Division, recently said, “When you choose not to get a vaccine, you’re not just making a choice for yourself, you’re making a choice for the person sitting next to you,”.



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