How Do Vaccines Fit into a Natural Lifestyle?

Perhaps you value following a natural lifestyle and intend to raise your child that way. That may mean, among other things, extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, growing and eating organic food, and using environmentally friendly house-cleaning products. Some parents think that vaccines, which are produced in laboratories and administered in doctors’ offices and health clinics, are unnatural, and that it is better for their child to catch the disease and create immunity that way.

But catching preventable diseases can have dire consequences. The Great Flu Pandemic in 1918, for instance, infected 500 million people globally and killed 3% to 5% of the world’s total population.(Tauenberger, J. K., Morens, D. M. “1918 Influenza: The Mother of All Pandemics.” Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2006; 12(1):15–22)

The Ebola outbreak in 2013–2015, which primarily affected West Africa, infected nearly 29,000 people and caused over 11,000 deaths. Closer to home, the measles outbreak in the United States in 2015 infected 159 people across 18 states and Washington, DC.

Before the measles vaccine, nearly every American became infected and hundreds died from it each year.

Because we live in a time and place with access to good medical care and treatments, it is unlikely that your child will die from measles or any other vaccine- preventable diseases.

However, getting sick and requiring treatment negatively affect your entire family’s quality of life. You and your child will be forced to miss several days or even weeks of work and school as your child receives treatment and is isolated to keep from infecting other children. Your child may suffer long-term effects from the treatment or disease, like an increased resistance to antibiotics, scarring on the skin from chicken pox or measles, shortness of breath from whooping cough (pertussis), sterility from mumps, liver damage from hepatitis B, or kidney problems from pneumococcal disease.

Vaccines actually benefit natural health in the following ways:

  • Discourage formation of superbugs. Because vaccines introduce the immune system to a small part of the disease, which then triggers your body to build up its own immunity to the disease, vaccines discourage formation of super bugs. Treatment for a disease, on the other hand, selects for resistance and strong infections: When a virus or bacterium is defeated initially by antibiotics or antivirals, a small amount of virus or bacteria may still linger without causing disease. Those few remaining bugs tend to be more resilient. As they remultiply in the future, they are increasingly resistant to prior treatment and become superbugs. Vaccines, on the other hand, prompt the body to use its own immunity to defeat the virus or bacterium and prevent the development of superbugs.

  • Teach our bodies to fight illnesses naturally. Vaccination gives the human body the tools to build up its own immunity against a particular disease. If, after vaccination, our bodies encounter a particular disease in the world, they will know how to fight it because our immune system has already filled in the definition for that disease (see “What Are Vaccines, and How Do They Work?”).

  • Reduce total pharmaceutical usage. Vaccines contain very few immunological components and ingredients, especially compared to antibiotics. If, instead of vaccination, your child contracts a disease, the treatment received could include antibiotics, antivirals, and perhaps other drugs with far more ingredients and components. These treatments can have significant side effects, from stomach upset with diarrhea and yeast infections to rashes and liver and kidney complications.

  • Reduce environmental pollution. If your child requires hospitalization or any outpatient procedures to treat a vaccine-preventable disease, you will be increasing the amount of environmental waste. From disposable gloves and IV bags to single-use surgical devices and frequent bedsheet changes, the amount of garbage, water, and electricity required to sustain a single patient’s treatment is astonishing. If your child is vaccinated, all of that waste is avoided.