In 2007 I had thought it a grand idea for my 3 daughters to go to the clinic where I worked as a family physician and start their HPV series. At that time, I was a fairly traditional allopathic practitioner, although the seeds of doubt regarding the growing list of childhood immunizations had been planted about 10 years earlier while researching the newly released chickenpox vaccination for a grand rounds project. I did, however, readily support the “traditional” vaccine cocktails, and dutifully repeated what I had learned in medical school to my patients. Now that preventing cervical cancer was all the rage, as mother and doctor, I was going to protect my daughters! After all, I had received a fine education from the local drug rep about the miracle known as Gardasil, and how it was going to rescue my girls from the risk of getting cervical cancer. The world of medicine was indeed creating lifesaving interventions, and how convenient that I could learn about them over my lunch hour.
The girls came together, and all 3 felt a bit woozy after the first Gardasil injection. I laughed, called them woosies, and didn’t think much about it afterwards.
The oldest, A, was 18 at the time. She came back 2 months later for her second Gardasil injection. She just about passed out and needed to lie down prior to leaving the clinic. She didn’t feel well for several days after – light headed, dizzy, vision blurry, headache, and “just not right”. A few weeks later she developed hives that lasted for 3 or 4 days, accompanied by feeling quite faint. That episode was blown off – everyone gets a mysterious case of hives every now and then, never knowing what triggered it…right?
The hives came back, each time with greater intensity and frequency over the next few months. Sometimes she did pass out. Sometimes she had swelling in her face and mouth. Sometimes she had wheezing. The usual allergy medications were used without effect. We were going crazy trying to figure out what the cause was – she had no history of anything other than seasonal allergies in the past. So elimination diet it was. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to convince an 18 year old to eliminate the basic necessities of life such as Skittles and Doritos? We eliminated dairy, food colors, food flavors, soda, artificial sweeteners, and finally I mandated, that if it wasn’t directly from a live animal or plant she was not to eat it. A was miserable enough that she actually listened to me. The hives continued on, seemingly random, but at times predictably worsened if she slipped up and grabbed some forbidden prepackaged food. It made no sense, and I was getting quite angry with myself for not being able to identify the offending substance.
It is a cosmic coincidence that within that time span, I had begun researching vaccine safety. And the light bulb went off in my head that her hives had started fairly soon after the Gardasil vaccination. One day at work, A called me, crying her eyes out – she said she had been so good, not eating anything artificial, and was having a particularly bad day. I grabbed the package insert from one of the vials and began reading the ingredients, determined to solve the cause of her symptoms. After all, the immune system will create a response to everything in that shot, not simply to the viral particles that are intended. As I scanned the list, I stopped at Polysorbate 80. That was a familiar ingredient. I have seen it on the labels of just about every prepacked food item available. Then I looked up Polysorbate 80. It can cause anaphylactoid reactions via histamine release. That’s a fancy way of saying it can cause hives, low blood pressure, and other allergy symptoms associated with histamine (think bee stings).
When I came home that night, she had a list of everything she ate. An Oreo YoCrunch was on the list. As I began admonishing her for eating something processed, she said she didn’t eat the Oreo part, just the yogurt – because she thought yogurt was healthy. I grabbed one out of our fridge and scanned the ingredient list. Polysorbate. Could this be it? Had her body created an immune response to the polysorbate, and now was reacting whenever she ate something that contained it?
We eliminated anything with polysorbate or potassium sorbate. Over the course of the next 4 months the episodes of hives subsided. Slip ups in watching labels came with the price of a reaction. Seven years later, she still occasionally will get episodes of being lightheaded or off balance.
I was stunned. Did researchers ever think to evaluate the immune response to the “inactive” vaccine ingredients and how they could cross react with substances people are commonly exposed too? My attention jumped from vaccine to vaccine as I finally pored over the journal articles myself. Who created this junk science? How could any self-respecting scientist or doctor claim that trials without placebo, or with pitiful follow up for adverse events, were sufficient evidence of safety and efficacy? How could world renowned medical journals that physicians were supposed to trust publish these poorly put together studies? And then I grew angry. I like to consider myself a fairly intelligent person, yet I was so easily led down the path of blind faith in what “experts” were telling me. It wasn’t just the Gardasil vaccine – it was all of them. My newly opened eyes started to bear witness to the adverse events of many of the other immunizations I had delivered, and my practice radically changed to delaying them at least until age 2, if choosing to vaccinate at all.
Needless to say, none of my daughters completed their series. And no other patient ever received Gardasil on my order. I educate parents and young women on the dangers of the vaccine (and they go way beyond the polysorbate story). I plead with the mothers of 11 and 12 year olds to not listen to the news, to not listen to the school nurse. I pray that I have not done permanent damage to my daughters and many other girls via the “education” I received from a drug rep and the media, instead of researching the topic myself.
About the author: Dr. Gayl Hamilton was raised in New York City, graduated with a Biology degree from SUNY Buffalo, and received her MD degree from the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Medicine. Her family life and 5 children led her to settling in Southern Wisconsin, where she completed residency at the UW Wausau Family Medicine program. Her professional experience continued in a variety of settings until she left traditional family practice in order to pursue a more holistic and wellness-based practice. She is also a strong supporter of reviving midwifery and safe home birth. To learn more about Dr. Hamilton: The Art of Medicine Naturally or Family Practice Midwifery.
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