International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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6th European Vegetarian Congress
Bussolengo, Italy, September 21 - 26, 1997

Vegetarians and Vaccinations
Giuseppe Cocca

Surgeon, expert in fruitarianism and fasting therapy, and member of AVI Scientific Committee

In this talk I'd like share with you some certainties and some doubts about medicine and vaccinations.

But before I talk about vaccinations I'd like to answer a question I have been asked at this Congress: are cereals an essential part of our diet, especially for babies under two years of age? I've got a little girl aged two and a half, who has had a diet based on her mother's milk (up to age 18 months) and fruit, then with the addition of goat's milk; only in the last few months has she started to have cereals. Her present diet consists of 90% fruit and 10% vegetables, and under the heading of fruit I am including oil-seeds, pistachios, almonds and hazelnuts. Personally I don't believe that cereals are an important part of the human diet, and I would describe them not as a staple but as a whim.

We should also not forget the important part played in the child's growth by the basic food of love, peace of mind and trust, and I know Dr Proietti agrees with me about this. It is fundamentally important - at least as much so as food - in that if the baby does not have peace of mind the digestive system does not function properly and food cannot be absorbed properly. Yet paradoxically it is true that stress can speed up the child's growth, as happens with non-free range animals. I don't want to go into that here though, because it is a subject that should be dealt with in depth.

Let's move on to vaccinations then, a subject about which there have always been many doubts and perplexities. Orthodox medicine has always maintained that they are harmless and definitely beneficial. Let's pause for a moment to consider what we mean by the term "vaccination". In Italy it has always been taken to mean "protection", but actually vaccinate means "contaminate": in other words, we have to contaminate our children so that their immune systems can fight something, and then it depends on the child's strength whether they are or are not able to react to the contamination. I'd also like you to think about one fact that may seem unimportant: at the moment in Italy we tend to vaccinate children during their first three months of life. Why so early, when the immune system is not properly established before the age of two? There is actually a deep reason for this: if children lose speech or hearing after vaccination, who can they get angry with? But if such reactions are noted only two or three years later, no-one will make the link between the damage and the vaccinations. Obviously my viewpoint is not exactly impartial, since I do not intend to speak against vaccinations, but I would at least like to bring possible vaccination-related problems to your attention.

Vegetarians are critical of vaccinations, both for ethical and health reasons. Most vaccines are produced using animal organs (such as monkey's kidneys, sheep's stomachs, rabbit's or dog's spinal cords), animal products (such as hen or duck eggs), cells and human tissues or other genetic manipulations. The animals most commonly used to produce vaccines are monkeys, horses, rabbits, sheep and dogs. This is where we come to an ethical problem: do we really have the right to kill hundreds of thousands of animals for vaccinations? But if in the future they invented vaccinations made from GM products, should we accept them? In this case no more animals would be killed, and genetic manipulation means the vaccines are safe. And so we come to another question: are vaccines really safe? And are they really useful?

I chose not to have my daughter vaccinated. I could have made out a false certificate, as many doctors do here in Italy, but I preferred a different route. I asked my USL (Local Health Authority) for some information, who responded by reporting me to the Juvenile Court in the Marches, the region where my daughter is registered, who agreed with me, finding that I was right not to have my daughter vaccinated. This is the information I had asked the Health Authority for: what is the real likelihood of my daughter getting diphtheria, polio, tetanus or hepatitis B, and if she caught them what would the consequences be? And also: how many children of my daughter's age fall ill in our Comune, in our Local Health Authority, and in our Region? And do the children who fall ill get better, or are there lasting consequences? I wanted these data to find out what evidence there is of the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, that is how many children are immunised, and for how long, after vaccination? There is a difference between vaccination and immunisation: vaccination means contamination, whereas immunisation means creating an antibody against a particular bacterium or virus which we should in theory have been vaccinated against.

So I wanted to know how many people are immunised. I asked this because not all vaccinated people are actually immunised - and I base this statement on data supplied by orthodox medicine itself. I then wanted to find out about recent research and checks on the effectiveness and harmlessness of vaccines. And lastly, what adverse reactions are there to vaccines, how often do they occur, and what examinations are carried out by my Local Health Authority before vaccination to anticipate adverse reactions, and what examinations are carried out after vaccination to check on their harmlessness? I received no answer to these questions, for the simple reason that vaccinations are an "article of faith". They certainly were an article of faith when they were used to combat past epidemics, and since those days they have never been checked out for effectiveness, dangerousness or harmlessness. I also pointed out to the Authority that neonatal tetanus in Italy died out before the introduction of antitetanus injections simply because of improved hygiene; diphtheria died out at least ten years ago; and even more importantly I mentioned the discovery by Dr Massimo Montinari of Bari University of a close link between serious pathologies of the central nervous system and damage to the immune system - our immune system is undermined by vaccines, antibiotics, antipyretics, x-rays, synthetic drugs, animal proteins and fats, sugars, additives, preservatives and so on. What am I leading up to? Remember that vaccination is one of the fundamental pillars of faith holding up orthodox medicine: if faith in vaccinations collapses, it will bring the whole edifice of medical orthodoxy crashing down.

Now I would like to ask you: what exactly is an illness? We have always been taught that an illness is simply something we pick up, something we "get" - for example, "I got flu" - but there is another way to see it. Some say that an illness is "constructed": in other words, in order to fall in I have to do something to construct the illness. The illness could, then, be a form of reaction. Are we sure that the responsibility for illness really lies with bacteria or viruses, or is it something else? Why is one person struck down by an illness, and another person not? Why do two people have different levels of susceptibility or resistance to the same virus? What does it mean to be susceptible or resistant? This is the point. Orthodox medicine has concentrated its efforts into finding out what drugs can be used to combat an illness, but by asking this question we are ignoring the problems of what illness is and what it depends on. We are only searching for drugs. What is a drug? It is a chemical which does not belong in the human body, chosen to alleviate pain or keep symptoms at bay. But do you really believe that a drug is a treatment? I am starting from the assumption that health is a gift to be found within us all. We don't have to "find" our health, but we should avoid damaging our health by unwise behaviour. If we allowed our bodies' vital energies to do their work, good health would be automatic. What we actually need to do to stay well is so simple that it hardly seems necessary to say it. We must live in harmony with nature, we must love, eat well, respect life cycles, sleep, have satisfying work, get on with others. If we fall ill, let's ask ourselves which of these areas we are falling short in. In what way can we improve? Put simply, we need to improve our lives. This is the key, banal though it may seem. I am an expert in fasting therapy, which is about self-rediscovery through resting body and mind, regaining our energies in a state of inner peace. I would now like to answer a question I was very struck by, from a lady who says she has cancer although she is vegetarian. Certainly vegetarianism is not enough to stop us falling ill, but illness is an incentive to inner growth: if we treat it as an opportunity it can be valuable to us, otherwise it will lead us inevitably to death.

Questions:

Q: What does your fasting therapy consist of?

A: My method is based on a fruit-based preparation for fasting, then a hydric fast, in which only water is drunk, and then a fruitarian diet. Rather than all-out diet therapy, my Centre runs health courses, one-week or two-week courses. The hydric fasts never last longer than 3 weeks. The other diets are detoxifying ones.

Q: Do you use magnesium chloride?

A: I have never used it, because personally I have not had to treat children with polio or diphtheria. For us hygienists, diet is a fundamental part of preventive medicine. I always advise an organic diet containing plenty of sprouts, precisely because of the problem of the products of the earth lacking magnesium.

Q: Are parents in Italy free to send a non-vaccinated child to school?

A: I would repeat that I won my case at the Ancona Juvenile Court, but as a private citizen, not as a doctor.

Contribution from Dr Proietti

We have not exactly a law, but a circular from the Minister of Public Instruction to the provincial Directors of Education which removes the obligation to vaccinate children in order for them to attend school. This does not apply to day nurseries and nursery schools, for which vaccination remains mandatory. I should point out that non-vaccinated children cannot infect vaccinated ones: the risk, if there is one, is for the non-vaccinated child. So the refusal to accept non-vaccinated children in schools is not medically justified, but blackmail used to impose a law of compulsoriness.

To conclude, I would like to emphasise that vaccinations can be very dangerous, because they undermine the immune system and it takes many years to recover after vaccination. Let's remember that our immune systems are principally undermined by vaccinations, wrong diet, emotions, drugs, and so on, so we should not be surprised as adults we fall ill or are lacking in vitality. We talk about the longer average lifespan: we say that people live longer than they used to, but do not mention that people now in their 70s and 80s were born in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s, and lived through shortages of food, with little or no meat, no vaccinations, few drugs; and they certainly have a very different way of life from those who grew up in the 1960s. Will the children of today live as long, seeing that at the moment people in their 40s are already starting to have health problems?

- translations by Hugh Rees, Milan - commissioned by Associazione Vegetariana Italiana (AVI)