Allergies and anaphylaxis

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Posted by: stak
Tags: books
Posted on: 2012-01-08 00:11:26

So I recently read The Peanut Allergy Epidemic by Heather Fraser. The thesis of the book is that the rise in nut allergies in the developed world in recent years is directly caused by vaccinations. And not just allergies, but also asthma, ADHD, and autism (collectively known as the 4 "A"s).

The reasoning behind the claim is pretty solid, in my opinion. Not only does the author present lots of statistics comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated populations, but also rules out other possible causes. But of course, statistics are very hard to get right, and can often be bent to prove whatever you want.

What I found more convincing is the actual explanation of why this happens. In the book, she claims that:
1) vaccines often contains additives (such as peanut oil, for example) to increase their shelf life.
2) These additives may contain proteins. In the case of peanut oil, it may have peanut proteins.
3) Injecting the vaccine into the human body allows the protein to enter the bloodstream without first passing through the digestive system. This renders the person hypersensitive to those proteins (i.e. induces the allergy).
4) Later, when the individual encounters those proteins again, it triggers the allergic reaction.

I'm sure that of the four claims above, you're likely to consider claims 1 and 2 as pretty reasonable, and claims 3 and 4 as more suspect. To help convince you, I point you to the Nobel Prize lecture given by Charles Richet in 1913 when he won the Nobel Prize for his work on anaphylaxis. (His work was also described in the book). It may be a tad on the technical side, but it's still very readable, and I encourage you to at least skim it if you're interested in this topic. He basically showed that anaphylaxis (which is what happens in a severe allergic reaction) can be induced in precisely the circumstances described in claims 3 and 4 above.

And if even that's not enough for you, consider this quote from the book:

A rare admission by Japanese doctors confirmed that there was a causal link between the outbreak of gelatin allergy and the gelatin contained in a new diptheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP). Japanese doctors acknowledged that an outbreak of gelatin allergy in children was indeed caused by pediatric vaccination.

Nothing could be more convincing than the doctors who are administering the vaccine admitting it causes allergies.

After reading this book, I realized that what surprised me the most was not that vaccinations cause allergies, but that this has been "known" for so long without the general public knowing about it. It's kind of ridiculous if you think about it - Richet said pretty much the same thing 99 years ago, and got a Nobel Prize for it! I couldn't help but compare it to when I found out about William Banting, who in 1863, discovered that carbs make people fat. That has been known for over a century and it's still not what I would consider "undisputed public knowledge", as it should be.

But I digress. Getting back to the vaccines, it's pretty clear to me that poorly concocted vaccines (i.e. ones that contain lots of proteins from additives) induce allergies and probably the other 3 "A"s as well. However, that doesn't mean that all vaccinations are bad. It just means that we should take this risk into consideration when deciding whether or not to get vaccinated. There may be diseases for which vaccines are just not worth it anymore because the risk from the disease is less than the risk from the vaccine.

Unfortunately, the book isn't that well-written, and the first few chapters are particularly annoying to get through, so I wouldn't recommend it to just anybody. That being said, if this topic interests you, you should definitely grab a copy of the book and read it.

Posted by varun at 2012-01-11 22:51:39
Perhaps for the common flu or some such, but in many cases, the reason we as a society have made efforts to vaccinate against certain diseases is because the debilitating effects of the disease are so much worse.

And it seems to me the correct solution maybe to encourage companies to use different preservatives (mitigate), rather than just try to balance out the risk of the current set (adapt).
[ Reply to this ]
Posted by stak at 2012-04-12 21:40:26
For some vaccines at least, you're probably right.
[ Reply to this ]
Posted by stak at 2012-02-15 20:34:18
Also related: Personally I think doctors are within their rights to do this. I wonder if anything will come of it though.
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