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Not Foiled: The Story of Aluminum in Vaccines

By Dr. Arthur Lavin

Aluminum has been an atom that has received a lot of concern for many years when it comes to being in vaccines, so I thought it would be helpful to present what we know about it.

Aluminum the Atom

Aluminum is an element, which means that a block of pure aluminum is made out of just one type of atom, and that atom is described by stating it has 13 protons in its nucleus, and typically, 14 neutrons.   That puts it in the same row as other familiar elements such as silicon, phosphorus, and chlorine, though different from each of these.   Pure aluminum is a metal, familiar to all in tin cans and aluminum foil.

Why any aluminum in vaccines?

The whole idea of an immunization is to get the immune system to respond to the bit of germ provided in a way that it will be ready to act if the real germ comes along, ready to act immediately, to prevent the illness from happening.

Most immunizations use dead germs or some part of the dead germ, and the immune system knows the difference between live and dead decoys.   The main live vaccines in use are the measles (MMR) and chickenpox vaccines.  Since they are live, the immune system is fully convinced this is a real infection and mounts a full response that leaves the child immune to those diseases the rest of their lives.

But with the dead vaccines, such as the meningitis vaccines (Hib, Prevnar, meningococcal) or DTaP and such, the immune system reacts but more weakly.  That’s why all dead vaccines need repeated doses, or boosters, to keep the immunity up.

A long time ago, vaccine scientists noted that if a tiny amount of aluminum salt was added, the vaccine would get the immune system to react better, providing improved protection against the disease.

We are not sure exactly what the aluminum salt does, but it helps.  Without it, a shot may last only a few weeks rather than many years.

Salt not metal

Keep in mind that the aluminum in all vaccines is a salt of aluminum, not the actual metal.   Just as salt is a salt of the metal sodium, so it looks like salt, not metal.

The amount matters

How much aluminum does a full routine regimen of vaccines contain?  The grand total for the first six months of life for all vaccines is 4 mg.

The human body contains 50-150 mg of aluminum in it.

A baby fed by breast milk will get about 8 mg in the milk.  And a baby fed formula will get about 40 mg in the milk.

I suppose if a child were getting 400 mg or more of aluminum salts extra, perhaps that could cause a problem, but given that the amount in the vaccine is half that of that received by nursing, the impact should be negligible.

Evidence for harm

The main evidence for the aluminum in vaccines causing any harm is the claim that it does.

No child has yet been identified who has had a problem proven to stem from getting aluminum from vaccines.

Groups of children with and without vaccination are comparable and very similar in their rate and success of development.

BOTTOM LINES

  1. Aluminum is a normal part of the human body, each of us have 50-150 mg of aluminum salts in our body, not the metal, the salts.
  2. Vaccines contain aluminum salts to help make the shot work, the amount used is very tiny, about half that found in breast milk.  If vaccine aluminum is bad for you, breast milk is twice as bad, which is clearly not the case.
  3. There is no evidence that the aluminum in vaccines has every caused harm to any child.

Like many other items, anti-immunization organizations like to generate claims then leave it to others to find out if they are true.  In the case of aluminum, the amount in vaccines is well below our normal load of and exposure to aluminum, and is very safe.

To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin

 

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