Thursday, July 18, 2013

vaccinations: a third way

Parents tend to feel passionately about vaccinations.  There seems to a lot at stake, no matter where you stand.  If you don't want your children vaccinated, you generally have strong reasons:  you don't want foreign matter in their bodies, you don't believe our current aggressive schedule has been researched well or long enough, or you believe that getting some illnesses and recovering is the natural way of life.  If you do vaccinate your children, you feel equally strongly:  you don't want other people riding on your responsible decisions through herd immunity, you don't want a non-vaccinated child infecting your immuno-compromised child who cannot be vaccinated, and you think that vaccinations save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering.

I think everyone is right.

How is that possible?

I believe that we haven't been vaccinating long enough to know what all the long-term effects will be, especially for the most recent vaccines like Gardasil.  I do know that one of the original polio vaccines could possibly cause cancer.   I do think that, historically, we often got sick with very serious diseases.  Many children died.  The ones who lived developed stronger immune systems, although they also sometimes had lifelong disabilities as a result of these illnesses.  So yes, they made us stronger as a species, but they also caused a lot of suffering.  I do know that the United States has a much more aggressive vaccination schedule than many other countries.  I don't like the idea of strange foreign matter in my children's bodies.  With that said, however, it's not like I police every single thing my daughter eats.  She has eaten plenty of GMO goldfish crackers, eats candy like it's going out of style at her Memaw's house, and gets the occasional sip of diet soda.

I guess "ambivalence" would be a good word to describe my feelings toward vaccinations.  I feel like it's socially responsible to vaccinate, and I don't take that lightly.  I think our society has been infected with an insidious way of thinking that says, "What can I get from society/government/other people?" instead of "What can I give to my community/country/other people?"  And I don't mean welfare.  I mean ripping off underprivileged populations so that we can get even greedier.  But I won't get off on that tangent today!

So, I'm neither gung-ho about the standard vax schedule, nor willing to completely avoid vaccinating.  That's where Dr. Sear's Vaccine Book comes in!

This is an in-depth look at each individual vaccine (because several of our single shots have up to five vaccinations in them).  It examines the ingredients, possible side effects, likelihood of getting the disease and how severe the implications of infection may be.  He offers alternative schedules and emphasizes that practices like breastfeeding and keeping your children out of daycare are factors that can make a big difference in whether they need inoculation.

When I was pregnant with Todd, I sat down with Dr. Sears' book and the State of Tennessee vaccination requirements for public school.  Knowing that I wouldn't follow the standard schedule, I crafted one for him that still managed to fit in all the required shots, but at a slower pace and spaced out from one another.  My guideline is that I don't want him to have more than one shot at a time.  I think that pertussis presents one of the most serious threats to infants, so we stay on schedule with the DTaP (which is actually three vaccines at once!).  The others I fit in around it.  Here is what I came up with:

And I shared it with our family doctor at our first appointment when Todd was five days old.  She supports us and our decisions, and knows that I made them with lots of research and the understanding that unvaccinated and vaccinated kids alike may get these illnesses anyway.

Like I said, people feel strongly about this issue.  A fellow pastor whose daughter is fully vaccinated got sick with whooping cough.  The other parents at her school were furious:  why didn't they vaccinate their daughter against the disease?!  Now their children might get sick!  When he explained that she was fully vaccinated, and sometimes children still get these illnesses, the parents were shocked.  They seemed to think that vaccines were a guarantee that their children would never get sick.  The likelihood is severely reduced, but it is still possible!

Our slowed-down schedule is one way that I feel like I can address both sides of that issue.


Elizabeth said...

I have met this author and another good resource. Written by a Louisiana pediatrician.
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children's Vaccinations
Stephanie Cave (Author), Deborah Mitchell (Author)

Emily said...

Thanks for that! I have heard of this book, and appreciate more recommendations to make informed decisions.

mama foosa said...

after a lot of researching, I thought I was at peace with the delayed schedule for my daughter...and now that she's one month away from 6 months and the beginning of vaccines, i'm getting cold feet. I feel like it's a prison sentence or something for her.
I would love to be a good citizen and do my part to keep all those healthy who aren't able to vaccinate for whatever reason - but to me, it just absolutely doesn't feel right. I truly feel like we're about to see change as more and more research comes out and more and more parents are questioning the system.

also, my younger brother (17 and fully vaxed) had pertussis this April. When he was most contagious (showing flu-like symptoms before the coughing starts) both my kids (a 2 month old not vaxed at all and a 2 year old who is behind on his dtap) were exposed to him multiple times. neither came down with it. this could be a combination of luck and other things, but i truly believe these vaccines don't do all the magic things we're made to believe they do.

and all that to say, i think it's awesome that you're giving the schedule so much thought and your pedi is on board with the one you've come up with.