Shots or Not

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services advises its citizens to take this battery of vaccinations & immunizations in order to stay healthy:

Flu Influenza / Td/Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) / Shingles / Pneumococcal / MMR (Measles, mumps, rubella) / HPV (Human papillomavirus) / Chickenpox 

Contrary to their recommendation, in the past 20 years I’ve only taken 2 Tetanus boosters & have avoided the others. I’m simply not convinced that all the risks of side-affects & potential detriment to my general well being are worth the possible protection from such diseases. For me, it seems highly unlikely that I may have to deal with a Mumps outbreak. I’m willing to take the risk to not have to deal with the potential for depression &/or my kidneys failing. For me, once I hear the phrase “If suicidal thoughts occur…..” or “There is potential for liver failure…..” I’m out!

Likewise, in my many years teaching overseas the only additional immunization I take is for Hepatitis-A. This form of Hepatitis is mainly spread through consuming contaminated food/water (as from food handlers who don’t wash hands) & is very common in less developed areas.  I’ve considered the Malaria vaccine, but after checking into its adverse effects (hearing loss & night terrors), I stepped up my game with repellent use but do not take the vaccine.

When travelling back to the U.S. from the foreign location where I’ve been working, however, I do carry some medications & vaccines that will treat diseases I may have contacted prior to departure. Your doctor, hospitals, clinics & county health agencies may not be equipped to treat dysentery or parasites, & are most likely unschooled in diagnosing &/or treating tropical diseases. In fact, County Health officials in my home town (a city with 170,000+ people) told me it would take at least 2 weeks just to get the results of a simple malaria test. That’s too long to figure out, back home, why you feel so bad!

The decision to be vaccinated in your own country &/or life overseas is a personal decision that each of us has to decide for ourselves. If we make the wrong decision, we’ll have to accept the consequences of that decision. What’s your stance on this topic? Is the risk worth the cure? Do you get the recommended vaccines for travel, or just one or two? Or none of them? Please take our short Survey and scroll down to add your comments.

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18 thoughts on “Shots or Not

  1. We all try to ‘do our research’ when it comes to making medical decisions, and it is for exactly this reason that I find this blog post deeply disturbing. It can be hard to identify genuine information on the internet, and most of us do not take the time to rigorously check the credentials of every article we read. This blog is posted on a professional site for international educators, a site you would think you could trust. There is no indication that the views expressed here (using emotive language such as ‘battery’ and ‘suicidal thoughts’) are not the views of ISR, they clearly anti-vaccination and in my view dangerously wrong.

    Vaccination is presented in the blog as a personal choice between two similar options. This is not the case.

    In the first place vaccinations are not created for trivial diseases that are easy to treat, they are created for serious diseases, in some cases eg rabies there is NO cure available – if you get it, there is 100% mortality from first symptoms. So your choice is not between two similar options – on a personal level it is between a safe and simple preventative measure and what could be a fatal disease with very few treatment options available and possibly lifelong consequences even if you do survive.

    Secondly this is not simply a choice you are making for yourself. If you don’t get vaccinated it’s not just you at risk- you might survive the disease- but have passed it onto others less well than yourself (either less healthy, or less able to access medical help). Given that you are infectious for days before feeling sick yourself there is a high risk of passing a disease onto someone more vulnerable. As international educators we are likely to travel frequently and come into contact with large numbers of children – we all know about the start of term illnesses, when germs from many holiday destinations mingle in the melting pot of the classroom! – two reasons why we should be even more vigilant that most about vaccinating.

    Diseases that may seem trivial to us can have serious implications for others. You might be able to survive measles with a few consequences but 450,000 kids a year don’t, and the mortality rate if you also have cancer can be up to 70%. Rubella is kind of trivial if you are male or not pregnant. But if you pass it onto someone in the first stages of pregnancy they are likely to miscarry or have a child with congenital rubella (90% of surviving babies will be either blind, deaf, both or have severe learning disabilities).

    Mumps can cause encephalitis, pneumonia, pancreatitis as well as orchitis (testicular inflammation leading to sterility). My cousin is an ICU doctor with direct experience of treating many patients suffering from vaccine preventable diseases. Recently she had a mumps patient who was on a ventilator for 3 weeks and close to death several times. He will probably never work again. Hearing my cousin’s stories of treating these patients, and the times when she has had to break the news to parents that their child (who may have been too young to be vaccinated themselves) had died from a preventable disease, has strengthened my belief that vaccination is not simply the right choice personally, but something we all need to do in order to protect the most vulnerable.

    Other posts have already referred to ‘herd immunity’. This is what happens when a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease – most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak. Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines—such as infants, pregnant women, or immunocompromised individuals—get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained. When significant proportions of people decide not to vaccinate, for example as a result of the completed discredited work of Andrew Wakefield, or after reading blog posts like this, written without a shred of scientific evidence and presented on a professional forum, this herd immunity is lost and outbreaks of diseases occur.

    Not impressed ISR, not impressed at all.


  2. Not nearly as deadly as obesity, smoking and alcoholism! Don’t believe the CDC…who is funding their research? Oh, the same Big Pharma who develops and sells the vaccines, that’s who!


  3. Please do some research on the topic and check the credentials of the authors. There are a lot of urban myths surrounding risks of vaccinations. The risk is worth the reward!


    1. Really??? I would say the opposite; DO your research about the side effects and consequences before compromising your health by getting all of these mostly senseless vaccines. The risk is most often NOT the reward according to all of the numerous stories I have heard. No thanks!


  4. My health department in the USA recommended hepatitis (2 shots) because I traveled while teaching abroad. If I were in a country that did not test for it in blood transfusions, and I needed one after an accident, I would be thankful.


  5. I have been teaching in China for 6 years and haven’t had any inoculations. Never heard of anyone catching anything bad. Spend most of my time in big centres, like Shanghai. When travelling in remote areas, I am careful.


  6. I am a biologist in addition to being an international educator. Not every vaccine suggested is necessary, and it depends on where you are going and who you plan to interact with. Everyone (even non-travelers) should have MMR unless you have a specific allergy to it; this helps reduce the risk of spread due to herd effect. Unless you plan on handling animals in a country, rabies is not necessary.

    If you are going to a developing country you should have Hep A & Hep B. I don’t do any malaria prophylactics because they don’t prevent malaria. They give you enough time to get treated if you happen to get it. Malaria treatment in a country you may be in is inexpensive, easy to get and has no long-term side effects. It can make you feel pretty bad for a couple of days, but beats being ill for the long-term.

    If you plan on doing any type of service in local communities, you will be exposed to other diseases and you should make sure that you are protected from any you might come into contact with.


  7. I have spent most of my life teaching overseas, often in under developed countries. I am shocked by the number of young teachers from the “first world” who often arrive seemingly unaware of deadly diseases such as malaria, typhoid, hepatitis, bilharzia, rabies, aids etc.from which the locals frequently die and to which they are exposed regularly like everyone else. I think it is the responsibilty of the school to inform staff of risks and for teachers to take precautions. Living in a country is different from taking a two week holiday in a hotel.I have known many teachers and their children get these life-threatening diseases. Local healthcare is often inadequate resulting in poor treatment, medical evacuation and lengthy time out of the classroom and maybe permanent damage to health as a result of drugs used for treatment.


  8. I have all of my vaccines for everything. Why? Because in many of the countries I have worked in they want to see your immunization record, and some of the countries won’t let you in without them, especially if you are going to Africa and you need Yellow Fever. No immunization, no entry. As for Milaria, I’ve taken the malaria pills while others have not and they have suffered (and continue to suffer) the impact of it. And one of the schools did have an outbreak of one of the common childhood illnesses that could have been prevented with vaccinations. The school had to shut down for two weeks. So. To cut a long story short, In my opinion if you don’t vaccinate you are asking for trouble.


  9. Side effects of some International teaching: ‘can cause liver failure and thoughts of suicide’. I would hate to see the entire list…

    It is my understanding that inoculations not only protect me but my students. Like this author, I’ve got some miles and experience behind me and I’ve never know anyone who suffered an adverse effect from common inoculations. I’m concerned about the generations of students whose parents forgo jabs for them. They grow up susceptible to a range of communicable diseases that their peers are immunised against.


  10. Just like diseases, vaccines too can turn out to be dangerous for your health or even worse. The best vaccine is the type of food you eat and your life style!


  11. …are the people who choose to fight disease by vaccinating the obese, diabetics I see on the streets here at home who smoke, drink & dabble in recreational drugs? God forbid they get Mumps!


    1. Mummalea, that was not the question posted by this blog, and I think you show a distinct lack of empathy with that response rather than keeping to point.


    2. Sad that otherwise intelligent people put themselves and others -including children -at risk due to paranoia. Most doctors and health care professionals encourage vaccination.


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