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Immunization advice from the experts

Five homeopaths answer your most frequently asked questions

Immunizations are a controversial subject. Before making decisions about them,
it's best to arm yourself with information from many different sources. To help
you in your research, we put the most frequently asked questions about immunizations
to five homeopathic experts. Here are their answers.

Q. What are the most important pieces of advice you, as a homeopath, give
to new parents contemplating vaccination for their
new baby?

Todd Hoover, MD: As parents, you are ultimately the ones most affected
by the consequences to either vaccinate or not vaccinate your child. You should
first determine the exact state law that governs this decision where you live.
If there is no provision for a religious or philosophical objection to vaccination,
your decision to not vaccinate your child could be viewed as child neglect by
the authorities in your state, resulting in direct oversight of the medical care
of your child and forced vaccination against your wishes.
     If your state allows religious or philosophical
objection to vaccination, then you have a somewhat difficult choice. After studying
the subject in depth, I believe that vaccinations represent the only long-term,
relatively effective method of preventing these very serious diseases. Some vaccines
are better than others, in terms of efficacy and side effects. All vaccines are
stressful for your child and are capable of producing side effects. The relative
health and constitution of the child is the single most predictive factor in
the likelihood of a side effect occurring. Doctors and vaccine researchers are
not inherently evil or misguided, and they constantly strive to find the safest
and most effective ways to prevent serious contagious diseases.
     Based on a thorough review of the literature, I
believe strongly that the decreased incidence of these serious diseases is linked
to improved sanitation and hygiene as well as to the introduction of vaccinations.
However, I am deeply concerned about the catastrophic rise of chronic diseases
like asthma, autism, and behavioral disorders. Much more research into the possible
relationship between vaccinations and these epidemic problems needs to be done.
At present, there is little data to support or reject any such association.
     If your state permits exemption to vaccination,
you may decide to withhold vaccinations from your child based on the simple philosophical
decision that you do not wish to inject foreign bacterial/viral matter into your
healthy child. Given that the infectious diseases for which people get vaccinated
are exceedingly rare in the U.S., it is unlikely that your child would suffer
the consequences of one of them. Be aware, however, that in some cities it is
becoming routine to remove unvaccinated children from schools whenever there
is a child with an infectious disease for which the majority are vaccinated.
In the case of chickenpox, this could result in a child being removed from school
two or four weeks a year, without recourse.
     You must decide to either vaccinate or not. You
should have agreement within the family. Your decision will have potential consequences
of either increased susceptibility to the infectious diseases (with potentially
severe results if your child does become infected) or increased exposure to potential
vaccine side effects. If there is a negative outcome, you alone will have to
live with the greatest impact of that decision. However, your family and society
will also pass judgment. If you have chosen a path that is consistent with the
majority and there is a negative outcome, you will find support in your difficulty.
If you have chosen the other path, you will quickly learn who are your true friends.

Randall Neustaedter, OMD, LAc: Consider the risks and benefits of each
vaccine. Do not accept the bland reassurances of health professionals or public
health authorities that your child will be safe if vaccinated. There is no question
that vaccines have the potential to undermine immune function in some children
who receive them. Many vaccine investigators agree that the increase in asthma,
diabetes, autism, and some autoimmune diseases is directly attributed to vaccine
use in children. Educate yourself about disease incidence, vaccine effectiveness,
and vaccine adverse effects before you agree to any vaccinations. Make an informed
choice based on your own personal research. Read books and articles about vaccine
issues. See "Vaccination Resources", May/June 2004.

Lara Sussman: When considering vaccination it is important to remember
that every family is different and that no hard and fast rule applies to everyone.
Look at your family history and see how others have reacted to vaccinations.
If there is a history of severe allergies, bowel problems, or autism, I would
think very carefully before vaccinating. Do you travel a lot with your baby?
Some countries have higher incidences of diphtheria and polio, for example, where
your baby would be more at risk if unvaccinated.
     Do your own research into the side effects of vaccinations
(e.g., our book, Vaccinations--Yes or No?) so that you can be assured that
you have made an informed decision whichever way you decide.
     Don't forget that you can choose which vaccinations
your baby has and when. Don't be bullied by the medical profession. Do make a
decision and try not to let it plague you--move on and enjoy your baby! Also,
don't forget that if you are breastfeeding, your baby will get a lot of immunity
from you and it would be unnecessary to vaccinate quite so early in their life.

Nicholas Nossaman, MD, DHt: Immunization issues are not black and white,
as public health authorities or anti-vaccine-at-any-cost advocates would have
us believe. All vaccines are artificial disease products, accompanied with preservatives
of varying potential toxicity. Their introduction into the body is a serious
proposition. On the other hand, the likelihood of death or serious damage from
these vaccine-targeted diseases varies with each disease--many of them involve
tremendous suffering, some are permanently damaging, and some are fatal.
     The immunization decision is a gamble: not immunizing,
with the potential consequences of getting the disease, versus immunizing and
facing the potential adverse consequences of receiving the vaccine. Health department
risk-benefit statistics clearly favor immunizations. However, I know from experience
that in addition to the children who are obviously damaged by an immunization,
there are many others with a variety of subtle but serious vaccine reactions.
These children would never officially be classified as having had adverse reactions,
but it's clear that they have been weakened in some way by that vaccine. Herein
lies the gray area of vaccine consequences.
     Some immunizations are better risks, or gambles,
than others. The effectiveness of immunizing the population lies in coverage
of the largest portion possible of the "herd," to limit spread of these targeted
diseases. Nonetheless, the decision to immunize rightly belongs to the individual--or
the parent, in case of children.
     I have serious concerns about the shift in the
ecology of the population by immunologic eradication of certain diseases, which
has been followed by the incidence of new illnesses, heretofore unknown. Whether
vaccines have contributed to this shift is an open question, but worthy of consideration
in the array of modifications of our environment which have taken place in this
and the past century.
     Another ecological consideration is that vaccines
have limited years of effectiveness, regularly underestimated by public health
authorities (for example, the shorter than expected duration of immunity to measles
from the measles vaccine, with the requirement for immunization of college-age
people who had been vaccinated in their childhood). Also, when people contract
these vaccine-
targeted diseases later in life (such as measles and chickenpox), they tend to
get more severe cases. This is one of the many areas in which we must be very
careful about trying to gain dominion over Nature.

Q. I have chosen to vaccinate my child. Should I give a homeopathic remedy
before and/or after each vaccination to protect them from side effects? If so,
what remedy and how should I give it?

Todd Hoover, MD: The best anecdotal evidence for giving a homeopathic
remedy after vaccination comes from the use of Thuja occidentalis after smallpox
vaccination, where it reportedly prevented some of the serious side effects common
to that vaccination. Many homeopaths have extrapolated that experience into using
Thuja after all vaccinations. The logic of this choice is dubious.
     For about three years I used Thuja, Silicea, or
Arnica in my practice routinely after vaccination. I found no observable difference
in the subsequent nine years when I did not use any routine remedies. I noted
that when children are of specific constitutional types such as Silicea, Thuja,
Medorrhinum, and Stramonium, they are more susceptible to the stress of vaccination
and develop symptoms consistent with their constitution. Strong consideration
should be given to the prophylactic use of these remedies for these specific
children at the time of vaccination. If these children are not treated prophylactically
and subsequently develop symptoms, the symptoms will usually disappear after
they receive their constitutional remedy.

Randall Neustaedter, OMD, LAc: I do not recommend the routine use of homeopathic
remedies for any purpose. Homeopathic prescriptions are based upon presenting
symptoms. If no symptoms are present, then do not treat. I recommend using Vitamins
C, A, and D to prevent complications of vaccines. Thuja is specific to smallpox
vaccine reactions. If symptoms of fever, lethargy, or worse develop after a vaccine,
then treat with the homeopathic medicine most similar to the symptoms, whether
it is Aconite, Belladonna, Gelsemium, Cuprum, or any other indicated medicine.

Lara Sussman: There are two options open to you if you decide to vaccinate.
The first is to give the disease in remedy form (i.e., the nosode) immediately
before and after you vaccinate to ensure as much as possible that your child
will suffer fewer side effects. It is best if you see a homeopath who can prescribe
the remedies for you rather than doing it yourself.
     The second option is to vaccinate and wait and
see if there are any obvious side effects and then see your homeopath who will
prescribe the appropriate remedy for your child, depending on the side effects
and your child's constitution. The problem with this approach is that first,
you may not pick up on the more subtle side effects of the vaccine, and second,
if your child suffers a delayed side effect, say three weeks after the vaccination,
you might not realize that this reaction was caused by the vaccine. Don't forget
to take your baby to a homeopath before you vaccinate so that the homeopath has
a chance to see your child before and after vaccinations to get a good idea of
any changes in their health or personality.

Susan Curtis: The following remedies will help with any localized or short-term
effects; if you suspect that any longer term problems date from the time of a
vaccination then you will need to consult a qualified homeopath for an individualized
     Remedies for the immediate side-effects of vaccination:
Aconite. Symptoms brought on by fear or trauma following the vaccination itself.
The symptoms could include feverishness, sleeplessness, earache, or cold symptoms.
Belladonna. Fever or convulsions following a vaccination.
Ledum. Swelling or localized pain at the site of the injection.
     The chosen remedy should be given in the 30C potency
3 times a day for 2--3 days depending on the severity of the reaction. As with
all homeopathic remedies, the remedy should be stopped once signs of improvement
are noticed.

Q. Will a homeopathic remedy for the side effects of the vaccination antidote
the vaccination?

Todd Hoover MD: No. Not in my experience or understanding. The bigger
concern would be that the vaccination stress would potentially "antidote" the
constitutional remedy.

Lara Sussman: Giving the nosode before and after the vaccination will
not antidote the vaccine. Remember, however, that no conventional vaccine gives
100% coverage. Some only ensure 75% protection while others like the MMR ensure
about 90%.

Q. I have chosen not to vaccinate my child. How can I best protect him/her
in general?

Todd Hoover, MD: The best protection for both vaccinated and unvaccinated
children revolves around making them as healthy and resilient as possible. Good
nutrition, solid family environment, loving care, fresh air, and exercise go
a long way to fostering strong children. Solid constitutional homeopathic care
can also improve the strength of the child.

Randall Neustaedter, OMD: Keep your children healthy and stop being afraid
of these diseases. Fear is an outmoded response to childhood infectious disease.
Promote the strength of your child's immune system instead, and avoid things
that can weaken it. This will prevent complications of diseases.
     Keep your child's diet clean. Avoid foods that
promote inflammatory reactions. Do not give your child partially hydrogenated
fats, the ones contained in packaged snack foods. Read labels of prepared foods
and you will find these fats in crackers, chips, cookies, and desserts. These
fats promote inflammation and prevent healthy fatty acids from being incorporated
into cells. Stop feeding your child fried foods. The oils are rancid. Stay away
from fast food burger palaces. Supplement your child's diet with omega-3 fats
in the form of fish oil supplements, cod liver oil, or Neuromins (made from algae).
     Avoid foods with added sugar. Stop giving your
child sugared breakfast cereals, sodas, cookies, and ice cream. Corn syrup is
especially difficult for the body to metabolize. Read labels. Corn syrup is everywhere.
Use fruit spreads instead of jam. Offer lots of fresh and dried fruits or fruit
rolls. Use whole grains and whole wheat bread rather than products made with "wheat
flour," which means white flour. Use organic fruits, vegetables, dairy products,
and juices whenever possible, and your child will not be eating pesticides that
injure the liver.

Lara Sussman: It is important if you decide not to vaccinate that you
are responsible about your child's health. This means ensuring a good healthy
diet. Nobody's perfect, but junk food all day every day is going to weaken their
general vitality. Also make sure that your child gets enough exercise and fresh
air which is so important for their health. Your child will really benefit from
seeing a homeopath who can give a constitutional remedy which will strengthen
your child's resistance to disease.

Q. I have chosen not to vaccinate my child. How can I protect them against
specific diseases such as measles or whooping cough?

Todd Hoover, MD: If your unvaccinated child is exposed to a highly infectious
disease, you should consult your homeopath. Avoidance of the exposure is the
simplest and most direct course. If this is impossible (as in the case of whooping
cough which is carried in the adult population), prophylactic use of specific
homeopathic remedies may be useful. Studies on preventive use of homeopathic
remedies have demonstrated short-term efficacy, up to several weeks. The exact
effectiveness is not clear, but it is certainly not 100%. The best homeopathic
remedy in this situation is chosen based upon the specific nature of the infectious
disease, at that time. Homeopathic remedies based upon the disease organism or
the historical data have also been used with varying efficacy.

Randall Neustaedter, OMD, LAc: Breastfeeding is the best protection you
can provide for your infant. Continue for at least six to twelve months if possible.
The longer you breastfeed, the more benefit your child will experience. Breastfeeding
prevents infections and the complications of childhood illness.
     Seek out a homeopathic practitioner, naturopathic
physician, or an acupuncturist familiar with treating children. He or she will
provide treatments that build immune function and the strength and health of
the vital force.

Lara Sussman: If you do not vaccinate against common diseases like measles
and whooping cough, you have to be aware that your child may catch these diseases.
And they often benefit as a result: parents repeatedly report that their children
experience a physical or mental developmental growth spurt following a childhood
     Read up on the signs and symptoms of each disease
so that you can prepare yourself. One option is to see a homeopath who can give
you nosodes, which are a homeopathic remedies made from the particular disease.
These won't prevent your child from getting the disease but may lead to a milder
case with fewer complications.

Susan Curtis: There have always been a minority of people who have chosen
not to vaccinate themselves or their children. In the case of the MMR vaccine
(for measles, mumps, and rubella), this minority has grown in recent years. In
parts of the United Kingdom, the use of the MMR vaccine has dropped from 97%
to 65% due to a well-publicized link made by Dr. A. Wakefield at The Royal Free
Hospital in London between the MMR vaccine given to infants and a type of bowel
disease that can lead to autism. [Wakefield, et al., Lancet, 1998; 351(9103):637--41]
     If you choose not to immunize, then you will want
to know about homeopathic prophylaxis: the method of taking homeopathic remedies
to prevent a disease. The theory is that you take a particular remedy into your
system, so that it is ready to act should you come into contact with the corresponding
disease. The disease will therefore not get a chance to establish itself and
you will not experience any symptoms, or you will experience a milder case of
the disease. If the action of the homeopathic remedy isn't needed, the body simply
doesn't utilize it. [For more specific information about prophylaxis, see Susan
Curtis' answer to the next question?Ed.]

Q. I have heard that instead of conventional vaccinations, I can use homeopathic
remedies to immunize my child. Is this true and if so, how do they work and how
should they be given?

Todd Hoover, MD: On review of the available evidence, it appears that
some homeopathic remedies are capable of preventing some diseases over the short
run (i.e., for several weeks). The best-designed study on homeopathic prevention
of disease was done on tularemia in mice. [Jonas, W.B., "Do Homeopathic Nosodes
Protect Against Infection? An Experimental Test." Alternative Therapies in
Health and Medicine
1999 Sep; 5(5):36--40] It showed a partial effectiveness
of homeopathy of approximately 22% compared to approximately 100% effectiveness
of the vaccine. There have been well-documented studies on meningococcal meningitis
prevention with homeopathy and good anecdotal reports on the prevention of smallpox.
     There have also been studies that showed no effect
of homeopathy in the prevention of influenza and whooping cough. Homeopathic
remedies clearly appear to have some effect, but better studies are needed before
any blanket recommendation can be considered. Additionally, all of the positive
studies to date were conducted over a short exposure period after treatment.
There have been no studies that have shown long-term efficacy of homeopathic
remedies to prevent these diseases.
     The remedies are usually given in low potency (6C
or 12C) on a repeated basis during the exposure. You should remember that occasionally
symptoms could result when taking a remedy on a repeated basis, and if this happens
it is best to simply stop the remedy and seek professional homeopathic advice.

Randall Neustaedter, OMD, LAc: There is some meager evidence that nosodes
or other epidemic remedies may prevent or mitigate the symptoms of disease during
an epidemic or following exposure; some surveys have been done on the remedies
Pertussin for whooping cough, Influenzinum for influenza, Oscillococcinum for
influenza, Menigococcinum for meningitis, and Lathyrus for polio. There is also
a long history in homeopathy of using a remedy that fits most of the cases during
an epidemic (i.e., the genus epidemicus remedy) to prevent serious disease in
those who might be exposed. There is no evidence that nosodes provide any long-term
protection, however. Classical homeopaths are generally averse to giving remedies
routinely that have no relevance to an individual's presenting symptoms because
of the possibility of disruption of the case.

Nicholas Nossaman, MD, DHt: I am not aware of reliable evidence of the
effectiveness of homeopathic immunizations, though I know there are various protocols
throughout the world for doing so. I'm concerned that repeated doses of the potentized
vaccine materials, as advocated in some of these protocols, could result in proving
symptoms along with no guarantee of protection.

Lara Sussman: There is nothing that you can use homeopathically that will
ensure that your child would not get the disease if exposed to it. However, nosodes,
which are remedies made from the particular disease, may help result in a less
severe case. Homeopaths believe that children benefit greatly from catching the
common childhood diseases and as long as they are healthy and nursed well through
the illness, they will be fine and show a developmental leap physically and mentally
after they have recovered. I have certainly seen this in my own children.

Susan Curtis: Homeopathic prophylaxis is not the same as vaccination,
and the immune system is not "armed" long-term against the disease. The homeopathic
remedies are taken immediately after direct contact or during an outbreak, and
protection would not be expected to last beyond a few days.
     Unfortunately, few systematic clinical trials have
been carried out with homeopathic prophylaxis. There are, however, a number of
clinical reports of its efficacy to be found in homeopathic books. The eminent
British homeopath, Dorothy Shepherd (1871--1952), writes that the homeopathic
remedy Pertussin was given daily for 2 weeks to 364 cases after contact with
whooping cough and not one child developed the disease. [Shepherd, Dorothy. Homeopathy
in Epidemic Diseases
.] Leslie Speight writes of another doctor in 1850 who
gave Lathyrus sativa to 82 people who were in close proximity to a polio outbreak
with 12 people in direct contact, and not one developed the disease. [Speight,
Phyllis. Homeopathy and Immunization.] There are many accounts in current
farming journals of homeopathic veterinarians getting excellent results by giving
homeopathic nosodes to farm animals in order to prevent common farm diseases.
[Day, Christopher. Homoeopathic Treatment of Beef and Dairy Cattle.]
     There is never any absolute guarantee that you
will not get a disease, whatever measures you take, because there is always a
possibility that you are exceptionally susceptible to a particular disease. In
addition, if your immune system is already under strain, then you will be more
susceptible to any disease.
     Prophylactic remedies may be any of the range of
homeopathic remedies made from plants, animal products, or minerals, or they
may be a special type of remedy known as a nosode. Nosodes are made from diseased
body tissue or discharges such as saliva. Like any other homeopathic remedy,
the process of potentization renders them chemically harmless but homeopathically
     The choice of remedy to be given is based on the
recorded experiences of homeopaths over the years. For example, the use of the
nosode Pertussin in the prevention of whooping cough is well-recorded by a number
of homeopaths over a 60-year period, whereas the most commonly used prophylactic
for polio is Lathyrus, which is not a nosode but a remedy made from a plant.
     It is only appropriate to give the prophylactic
remedy during an outbreak or if you suspect exposure to the disease. Certain
prophylactics should also be taken if traveling to parts of the world where the
disease is prevalent. The tetanus prophylactic need only be given following a
deep, puncture wound or any serious injury where the skin is broken and infection
is a possibility.
     The homeopathic prophylactic remedies for the main
diseases for which children are vaccinated are listed here. For a complete list
and also for the main remedies used to treat the illnesses themselves, see my
book, Homeopathic Alternatives to Immunization.
     Diphtheria: Pyrogenium nosode
     Measles: Morbillinum nosode
     Haemophilus influenza B: Haemophilus influenza
B nosode
     Mumps: Parotidinum nosode
     Polio: Lathyrus sativa
     Rubella: Rubella nosode
     Tetanus: Ledum palustre
     Whooping Cough (Pertussis): Pertussin nosode
     Homeopathic prophylactics are usually taken in
the 30C potency, and should be taken 2 times a week (e.g., one dose on Monday
and one dose on Thursday) for the duration of an outbreak, or 2 times a week
for 3 weeks following direct exposure to the disease.
[Most nosode remedies are available by prescription only in the U.S. You are
strongly advised to consult a well-trained homeopath. --Ed.]

Q. My college-age son plans to travel the world for a year. There is a long
list of recommended vaccinations from the health department. What should he do?

Todd Hoover, MD: Consult a travel health specialist regarding not only
the countries to be visited, but also the specific areas in the country where
he would be spending time; travel to Capetown, South Africa, for a month is very
different than a month in the bush country. Additionally, a visit to the homeopath
to discuss the alternatives is wise. Many homeopaths will be happy to put together
a first-aid homeopathic travel kit in addition to giving advice about immunizations.

Randall Neustaedter, OMD, LAc: Vaccines for international travel fall
into three general categories:
1. Routine vaccines normally given in childhood that may have lapsed or never
been received.
2. Exotic vaccines recommended for travel to specific countries.
3. Required vaccines for entry into specific countries. (Yellow fever is the
only vaccine currently in this category.)
Here is a simple formula for vaccine decisions prior to international travel.
First, gather information about current disease incidence in the city, province,
or specific area of a country on your itinerary (see "Vaccination Resources",
May/June 2004). Second, decide if the risks from vaccines for this disease outweigh
your risk of exposure and significant illness.
Third, determine whether the vaccine's efficacy is high enough to warrant risking
its side effects.

Government-recommended Immunization Schedule
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control currently recommend that, from birth to
18 months of age, a child receive 20 shots comprising 30 immunizations. These
shots are to immunize against Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Haemophilus
influenza type B, Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Chickenpox, and Pneumonia.
Additional booster shots are recommended for children between 18 months and 18

About the five homeopaths:
Todd A. Hoover, MD, is a board certified
family physician and homeopath practicing in Narberth, Pennsylvania for over
10 years. He is a graduate of Jefferson Medical College and the New England School
of Homeopathy. Dr. Hoover currently serves as Vice President of the American
Institute of Homeopathy, President of the Council on Homeopathic Education, and
Member of the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States. He has lectured
and published on the subject of homeopathic vaccination and prophylaxis. He is
also a yoga teacher, father, avid cyclist, and "full-time explorer of things

Randall Neustaedter, OMD, LAc,
has practiced homeopathy and Oriental medicine for over 25 years, specializing
in child health care. He is a licensed acupuncturist and received his Doctorate
in Oriental medicine in Hong Kong. He is author of The Vaccine Guide: Risks
and Benefits for Children and Adults
. He publishes a free email newsletter.
Subscribe with a message to

Lara Sussman completed pre-clinical
medicine before having her first child. She is training to be a homeopath, and
has an MSc in child development. She and her husband Will Sussman are authors
of the books Vaccinations--Yes or No? and MMR?Understand your Choices,
available from their website, Will
and Lara have two children and a new baby to be born in May.

Nicholas Nossaman, MD, DHt, graduated
from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in1968 and has been practicing
homeopathic medicine in Denver, Colorado, since 1976. He is a former board member
and president of the National Center for Homeopathy and the American Institute
of Homeopathy and is a member of the Rhus Tox study group of Homeopatia Internationalis.
His other interests include Jungian psychology, photography, watercolors, golf,
pantomime, and poetry.

Susan Curtis, RSHom, practices at
the Neal's Yard Remedies Therapy Rooms in London's
Covent Garden. She is the author of numerous books including Handbook of Homoeopathic
Alternatives to Immunisation and Surviving with Natural Remedies
, available
from homeopathic booksellers and distributors in the U.S.