Are Vaccines Safe and Effective?

McAlister_image_blogAmanda McAlister, Certified Herbalist

Are vaccines safe and effective? With over 70 brands of vaccines on the market, each containing some combination of just as many possible ingredients, it would be absurd to answer this question with a definitive “yes” or “no.”  For the critical- thinking parent, the question must be answered for each vaccine by examining the ingredients used, known side effects, and risks of the disease it is meant to protect against. The subject may seem vast and overwhelming at first, with infinite conflicting studies and vehement opinions around every corner. I suggest starting with the basics. Let’s look at the four most commonly questioned vaccine ingredients.

Human And Animal Tissues

Obviously, biological ingredients are vigorously screened for known infectious agents.  The concern comes from infectious agents we DON’T know about. For instance, animal cells used in the polio vaccine from 1955-1963 contained the then unknown SV-40 virus. This virus has been shown to cause cancers in lab animals and to be living in cancerous tumors in humans. The Mad Cow Disease virus wasn’t discovered until the late 1980s. We now screen for both of these life-threatening viruses, but what about pathogens we don’t know to screen for?

Thimerosal (Mercury)

Thimerosal was used extensively as a preservative in vaccines until the early 2000s. It now only occurs in one childhood vaccine (SanofiPasteur’s Diphtheria/Tetanus) in “trace amounts” (≤ 3 μg), but is still used in full quantities in flu shots. No scientific study has proven it to be safe. Additionally, several studies have shown a correlation between Thimerosal use in vaccines and increased incidences of autism, though correlation does not necessarily mean causation.

Formalin (Formaldehyde)

This is the same chemical used to preserve frogs in science class and to embalm human corpses. All health agencies list formaldehyde as a carcinogen that can cause kidney and genetic damage; though research has been done only on inhaled formaldehyde. Little information exists on the effects of injection. It occurs in “trace amounts” in vaccines.


Aluminum is used as an adjuvant in vaccines; the immune system recognizes the vaccine better when aluminum is present. No one has ever measured the levels of aluminum absorption into the bloodstream, the excretion into the urine, and out of the body when injected into infants. We do know that injection of more than 4 mcg per kg of body weight will accumulate in the body at levels associated with central nervous system and bone toxicity (Aluminum amount in vaccines = 0.1-1.5 mg).

Injected aluminum bypasses the protective mechanism of the GI tract and is deposited in human tissues. Studies have shown that aluminum may accumulate in the bone, urine, and plasma of infants receiving IV solutions. The FDA requires aluminum warning labels on injectable medications, but not vaccines … why?

These ingredients can sound pretty frightening. And so can Polio and Tetanus.  The next step is to learn about the diseases vaccines are meant to protect against. Come to my class on March 25th and we will discuss them and much more!