How Do Vaccines Really Work?

Maybe not quite like you think.

With permission, I am including in this blog post excerpts from the book Holistic Horsekeeping, by Madalyn Ward, D.V.M.  Over the last 20 years, Dr. Ward has been a pioneer in her research and re-education in alternative modalities in the field of veterinary medicine, and successfully puts them into practice every day. “Holistic” doesn’t necessarily mean non-traditional, however, and so her approach combines the best of both worlds in treating her patients. She is certainly not anti-vaccination, but rather in favor of a carefully tailored program for each individual animal, depending upon their environment and exposure.

First, here’s what Dr. Ward says about how vaccines work. Her specific comments pertain to horses, but the theory behind them applies to all of us, human or animal. Very enlightening!

The one to two cc’s of vaccine injected into the horse does not in and of itself provide protection from disease. This is very important to understand. It is the response of the individual horse’s immune system to the vaccine that determines whether or not the horse will be protected. The vaccine is an antigen designed to trigger a specific antibody reaction so that the next time the immune system “sees” this antigen it will react quickly to combat it. This sounds like a great plan and, with a good quality vaccine and a strong immune system, has the potential to work. The problem is that many diseases don’t produce good antigens, and toxic substances called adjuvants must be added to the vaccine in order to trigger a reaction by the immune system. These adjuvants can take several forms, including toxic heavy metals like mercury, and can cause their own problems, sometimes quite serious. Also, the immunity following many vaccines is very short-lived, requiring injections to be given as often as every two months.

Wow. And I thought — at least I used to — that the shot in and of itself was the protection. Oh dear.

So what happens in the body when we vaccinate? And why can vaccinations actually be dangerous for an animal (or us!) whose health is already compromised? Following is my favorite description ever of what goes on when a foreign invader (a vaccine, in this case) is introduced into the body. This is also from Dr. Ward’s book, with permission:

Consider the body as a country and the immune system as the army and local police in charge of protecting it. The nervous system acts as the communication network and the circulatory system makes up the highways. The army regularly protects the borders, and the police keep internal peace. Everything goes well until, without warning, there is a huge invasion of enemy paratroopers (say you inject your horse with VEW-T, Flu, Rhino, Rabies, Strangles, and Potomac Horse Fever vaccines on the same day). These invaders use the established, heretofore safe, highway system to infiltrate all areas of the country and come in several shapes and sizes, requiring specialty forces to combat them. Now, if we have a very strong army and police force [immune system], with lots of highly trained specialists, the invasion will be thwarted. However, border patrol and local peace keeping efforts may suffer temporarily. This is why it is important to give your horse several days off after any vaccine and to try not to give too many vaccinations at the same time.

Get the picture? All I can say is we need to be very careful about when and how often and for what we vaccinate — ourselves or our beloved animals. Never vaccinate when your animal is sick or compromised or is having surgery, and consider vaccinating minimally if your animal never travels or is exposed to others who might carry disease.


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    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Leta Worthington, Bobby Whitetail and Stephanie Yeh, Alan Joel. Alan Joel said: RT @herbsandanimals How Do Vaccines Really Work?: Maybe not quite like you think. With permission, I am including … […]

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