Monday, October 17, 2011

To Vaccinate or Not?

Having a child is a confusing, world-upending time.  Your hormones are nuts, you have this tiny creature who depends on you completely for every aspect of life, and now you have to become a master at decision making.  My mom has always called me her “Fickle Pickle” for a reason: I go back and forth between two sides and can never make a decision without wavering and wondering if it was the right one.  When the decision is made, though, I tend to stick with it.  Getting there is the hard part.
With all the controversy in the media about vaccines, one cannot help but be curious as to which camp to join.  If I do not vaccinate, there is the risk that my child could contract a preventable disease.  If I DO vaccinate, my child may have a reaction that includes side effects of a mild fever or even autism.
Needless to say, I have been doing some research. 
I first read The Vaccine Book by Dr. Robert Sears.  (I would recommend this to any parent with a new baby or even one whose child had not received all the “mandated” vaccines, and also to unvaccinated adults preparing for world travel.)  It is a captivating book from the beginning, and written in easily understandable language (a. k. a., you don’t have to possess a doctorate to understand its’ contents).  It is comprehensive and unbiased, expounding upon every vaccine-preventable disease, what the disease encompasses, how common or rare it is, it talks about what the vaccine ingredients are, who manufactures them, possible side effects of the vaccine, and why people choose or choose not to get the particular vaccine. 
This was helpful, and James and I discussed vaccinating Lydia at length, but I think that in the end, he was just as unsure as I was.  I did, however, feel I gained a better understanding about vaccines from this book. 
Then there are all the print-outs I got from the doctors.  I really wonder about these, how biased they may be, b/c of who may or may not be in whose pocket.  Of course, the majority of medical doctors are pro-vaccine.  They say that the benefits far outweigh the risks.  They say that if too many people go without being vaccinated, our country, in which polio has been eradicated and (if I am remembering correctly) so has diphtheria, we risk losing the “herd immunity”.  (Herd immunity is what the population gains from the majority of the population – the herd - being vaccinated against said disease.  Anyone who is unvaccinated or in whom the vaccine is not effective is protected by those surrounding him/her that are vaccinated.)  (Information from this paragraph from: ).
And of course, there is the fact that since vaccines became a mandate in 1986, cases of autism rose from 1 in every 100,000 to 1 in every 1,100.  There have been extensive studies that have come to the conclusion that there is no way that autism is linked to vaccination, and that the coincidence of the manifestation of autistic tendencies shorty after vaccination (particularly the MMR – Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine) are just that: coincidence.  However, I have a dear friend, Dave, whose son became autistic shortly after receiving his vaccinations, and that hits really close to home.  (His son’s twin sister is not autistic.)
There are others in the anti-vaccine camp, like Jenny McCarthy, whose child became autistic after his vaccination, too.  There is a website, , on which they bash her and accuse her of being responsible for vaccine-preventable illnesses and vaccine preventable deaths, and actually have a “body count” tabulation.  I personally am proud that a celebrity is taking a stand for her child.  She saw a regression in her son after his four-year vaccinations, and I can’t say that if I were in her shoes that I would not speak out against vaccination myself.  She is angry that only two vaccines out of the thirty-six that are administered have been looked at for their possible relationship to autism.  Frankly, I think the pro-vaccine camp is glad to have a famous scapegoat.
There are ingredients in vaccines that are controversial.  I am sure that all of you reading this blog have heard of the mercury (Thimerosal) in vaccines, as well as formaldehyde (Formalin).  A lot of vaccines also contain aluminum in toxic amounts, and funky, awful ingredients like monkey kidney cells, vesicle fluid from calf skins, embryonic fluid from chickens, and yes, even human cells from aborted fetal tissue.  (Facts from :  I DO NOT want Lydia to have any aborted fetal cells in her, and I WILL NOT support the abortion industry.
Also, I personally do not understand why, shortly after birth, it is recommended that your newborn be vaccinated against Hepatitis B, an STD contracted mainly in adults who use intravenous drugs or who engage in at-risk sexual behavior.  (We chose to decline this vaccine at birth.  If Lydia or our future children find it necessary later in life, that choice will be up to them.)
Up to this point, Lydia is unvaccinated.  We declined the HepB shot in the hospital, and have so far declined all other vaccines as well.  Our pediatrician’s office even made us sign a release form saying that we were aware of the dangers of not vaccinating.  Lydia’s doctor has been very respectful of our wishes and has not pushed the issue any further with us. 
Last night, Lydia got a fever of 102.  She was absolutely pitiful.  My girl is a wiggle-worm, and whenever she is awake, she’s moving.  She lay on my chest for at least an hour last night awake and still.  She would look up at me like, “Mommy, I don’t feel good,” and it was awful b/c I didn’t really know what to do.  James got her a cool cloth for her forehead and that seemed to help her feel a little bit better.  I grabbed one of my references, and it said that when babies in her specific age group get a fever that high, to call the doctor.  So I did.  The doc on call asked me if she had been vaccinated and I said no, and then she kind of made me a little worried when she mentioned the pneumococcal virus.  I asked how it can manifest, and she said it could be anything from cold symptoms, to an ear infection, to meningitis. 
All from a “vaccine preventable” disease.  The thing is, though, that there are many strains of pneumococcal virus, and the vaccine only defends against one strain.  I like how it was put that “Vaccines are safe and effective, however they are neither perfectly safe nor perfectly effective”.  This was said by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) .  Serious complications from pneumococcal virus are rare, however. 
Last night, I asked James what he seriously thought of vaccinating Lydia, and his conclusion was that he and I were both vaccinated and we are both fine.   And it’s not that I don’t agree with him, but then I found out today that he and I were only required to have 10 vaccinations, encompassing about 7 diseases.  Now, the mandate is for 36 vaccines, against 16 diseases (if I am counting right).  Wow.  That’s a big difference in just 30 years. 
There are excellent arguments for each side, but I don’t know that I am fully sold on either.  I watched a video on Netflix put out by PBS Frontline, called, “The Vaccine War” ( ).  On this video, there was a baby that was just over a month old who had caught Whooping Cough (Pertussis).  Whooping Cough causes the windpipe to constrict, and a baby’s windpipe is already so narrow…  The paramedics had to insert a tube down her throat and supply oxygen through her nostrils just so she could breathe.  It was heartbreaking to watch her on video.  (She recovered, thank goodness, but only narrowly escaped death.)  That video made me rethink my desire to not vaccinate.
Then, of course, there are the countless parents whose children suffered adverse side effects after inoculation, either due to the vaccines themselves or because the children were genetically predisposed prior to their shots, and the vaccines triggered something within their chemistry to go haywire.  And, as afore mentioned, there are the questionable and downright abominable ingredients, though not every vaccine contains them.
Anyhow, I was just telling my husband that I am unsure as to which camp is best for our family.  I just want my daughter to be healthy and live a long life.  I don’t want to make a choice for her that could impact her life in a negative way forever; if I vaccinate and she has a terrible reaction, I’d feel like I made the wrong choice, but if I do not she could contract a vaccine preventable illness and could suffer irreparable damage from that, too.  Which choice is right?
Even as I draw this article to a close, I still cannot answer that question entirely for myself.  For the time being, we have decided to put Lydia’s vaccinations on hold until she is done breastfeeding.  Then we will pick and choose the vaccines that we feel are most important for her to have at that time.  I know we will not vaccinate against polio, as it is not a real threat in this country.  If, later on in life, she chooses to travel the world, that is something that she will need to get, and the choice is up to her at that point.  I also know that I will not permit any aborted human fetal cells to be injected into her.  And if it is up to me, I’d rather she contract the Chicken Pox at an early age b/c the vaccine doesn’t always do the trick, and it is SO much worse to have it as an adult. 
For the time being, that is all I know for sure.  In the meantime, I will continue to do research in the hopes that I can come up with some more concrete answers.  Please post your thoughts and decisions on here, and THANK YOU to Tawny, Jenn, and Sarah W. for all the information and inspiration – keep it coming!!   


Joleen said...

way to go! thank you for all the helpful information. We delayed Noah's vaccines and are only giving him certain ones. Every time we go to the pediatricians we always get questioned and lectured to our decision. Noah is now 10 months and has only been vaccinated for the whooping cough and we got the shot done separately and not joined with others.

Nancy Cook said...

Stevie, Once again I am so incredibly proud of you! This particular blog post was a real education for me; I never knew about certain ingredients in the vaccines, and I commend you for the depths to which you've gone to educate yourself for the sake of Lydia's health and well-being. (You also know MY stand on abortion...) Motherhood is an on-going challenge, and it appears that you are meeting it head-on! I love you, my "fickle-pickle!"