Published May 9, 2016
Infant mortality, defined as death within the first year of life, is commonly accepted as one of the key gauges...
— William Wilberforce
Little is known about how vaccination affects the developing fetus and, yet, maternal vaccination with influenza and Tdap vaccines is recommended by federal health officials and medical trade organizations representing doctors administering vaccines to pregnant women.1
A recent study purporting to demonstrate that vaccination during pregnancy is perfectly safe retrospectively looked at data on 29,000 pregnant women who had all been vaccinated with the TdaP vaccine. All the study showed was that there was no difference in fetal outcome, regardless of whether the mothers had been previously vaccinated with a tetanus-containing vaccine less than two years earlier, three to five years earlier, or longer.2
It is difficult to figure how comparisons of study populations, who have all been vaccinated, demonstrates anything at all about the safety of vaccination, but that is an example of the unquestioning acceptance of vaccine policy.
The impact of vaccination on the developing immune system has not been clarified and, unfortunately, many women are being vaccinated during pregnancy despite large knowledge gaps about the safety and effectiveness of that policy.
A child’s immune system is not fully functional until about age six and continues to develop through the teen years. That is not to say an infant is without an immune system, only that it behaves in ways remarkably different from that of older children and adults.3
Current thinking is that a newborn’s immune system is “tamped down” and doesn’t mount much of a response to challenge from pathogenic viruses, bacteria, or other invaders. For a long time, the ability of newborn infants to mount an appropriate inflammatory response to an immunologic challenge was considered a “defect” of the infant’s immune system, with many scientists researching ways to overcome this intrinsic “weakness” via vaccination.4
More recently, it has been established that there are good reasons for the differences between the newborn and older child or adult immune response. The baby’s immature immune system is learning “what is self” (and so should not be attacked), “what is non-self but safe” (like beneficial bacteria and viruses), and “what is non-self but dangerous (like pathogenic disease-causing viruses or bacteria).
Vaccination violates this normal development of the newborn’s immune system by introducing elements that are so toxic that the infant’s immune system must react with inflammation. Dr. Suzanne Humphries explains it this way:
Subunit vaccines like HepB, Strep Pneumo, Hib and Meningococcal have potent ‘adjuvants’—such as aluminum. Without them, the baby’s immune system sits there and does nothing. An adjuvant creates a red-alert situation forcing the infant’s innate immune system to respond in the opposite manner to the way it should function in the first year of life. Pro-vaccine immunologists see nothing wrong with this.5
Much has been written about why the pregnant woman’s immune system doesn’t attack the alien “non-self” that is her fetus.6 7 The lack of reactivity of the unborn baby also may protect the mother from being attacked by the infant’s defense system.8 Pointing to yet another benefit to the minimal activity of the fetal/newborn immune system, animal studies suggest strongly that the normal suppression of immune reaction by the fetus also may play an important role in helping the infant to establish a strong population of beneficial gut bacteria, an important aspect of the healthy immune system.8
In that study of infant mice, the researchers deactivated the specific type of protein that was responsible for restraining the immune response in the study animals and reported that the result was “extensive inflammation.” Mice and humans have very different immune system processes of course, but it is interesting to note that those same researchers reported that human umbilical cord blood is rich in precisely the same type of immunosuppressive protein as found in the mouse study.8
Given the susceptibility of newborn infants and the relative inactivity of their immune responses, it almost miraculous that so many humans survive infancy. It is often argued that infant mortality has fallen over the last 100 years primarily as a result of vaccination, but it is also argued that the improvement in infant survival is due instead to better hygiene, nutrition, and living conditions.
If the reductions in infant mortality were attributable mainly to vaccines, infant mortality rates in the United States would not lag as they do behind those of most other developed nations. According to 2014 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Despite recent declines in infant mortality, the United States ranked 26th among the 29 OECD countries in 2010, behind most European countries as well as Japan, Korea, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand.9
Nature has its ways of protecting the newborn: During the prenatal period, and for the first few months of infancy, young infants are protected first by the mother’s immunity, which is shared with the newborn via the placenta and lasts for several months after birth, then through the billions of microorganisms picked up during the birth process as the child descends through the vaginal canal.10 This natural process will form the basis of the child’s customized microbiome that will remain with the individual throughout life, and then to a large degree through breastfeeding until the child’s own immune system takes over.
Public health officials, who promote vaccination during pregnancy, at-birth and during the first six months of life, have assumed that the immunologic protection provided by the maternal immune system to the newborn baby is something that needs to be bypassed or tampered with. Although they were not referring to vaccination, researchers out of the University of Guelph in Ontario explain that,
Adverse uterine environments experienced during fetal development can alter the projected growth pattern of various organs and systems of the body, leaving the offspring at an increased risk of metabolic disease.11
As examples of what they call the “thrifty phenotype hypothesis,” referring to a fetus’s adaptive response to maternal stressors, they cite what happens to newborns born during times of famine, which appears to signal the developing baby to divert its resources away from physical growth and toward protecting its organs, resulting in smaller babies—better equipped to survive and grow in an environment where food may be scarce.
The problems arise when the external environment doesn’t match the internal signals and the fetal adaptations turn out to be inappropriate, leading to an increased risk of metabolic disease, which includes obesity, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and type II diabetes. According to these researchers:
Various other diseases and disorders such as allergies, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, and psychological disorders are now also being linked with adverse uterine environments.11
What happens when the normal fetal environment is altered by the introduction of inflammation-inducing vaccines? To challenge an unborn or newborn infant’s immune system in this manner requires a thorough scientific understanding of the potential long-term consequences and there is no such understanding at this time.
1 Fisher BL. Vaccination During Pregnancy: Is It Safe? NVIC News Nov. 9, 2013.
2 Preidt R. Study Says Tdap Vaccine Safe During Pregnancy. Health Day News Oct. 20, 2015.
3 Humphries S. Vaccination. DrSuzanne.net.
4 Klouwenberg PK, Bont L. Neonatal and Infantile Immune Responses to Encapsulated Bacteria and Conjugate Vaccines. Clin Dev Immunol Sept. 23, 2008.
5 Humphries S. Vaccination. DrSuzanne.net.
6 Epstein RH. Your Fetus Is an Alien: So why doesn’t a pregnant woman’s body attack it? Slate July 26, 2012.
7 Erlebacher A. Maternal/Fetal Immune Interactions: Why Doesn’t the Mother Reject the Fetus? New York University School of Medicine.
8 Yong E. Newborn Immune Systems Suppressed. The Scientist Nov. 6, 2013.
9 Romm C. Why American Babies Die. The Atlantic Oct. 1, 2014.
10 Orville EO. Fetus to Newborn: The Perinatal Period. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute 2016.
11 Fisher RE et al. Fetal Programming of the Neuroendocrine-Immune System and Metabolic Disease. Journal of Pregnancy July 22, 2012.