In the New Testament (Revelation 3:16) we are told that it’s better to be “hot or cold. If you are lukewarm I will spit you from my mouth.” I’m pretty sure that this is in reference to our love for God. I hope. I’m pretty passionate about that. But if it’s not I’m in big trouble. I live my life sitting on the fence. I rarely agree 100% with anyone. I think there is almost always an exception to the rule. Ever see that movie, “Despicable Me?” Gru says, “Don’t touch ANYTHING!” And the little girl says, “May we touch the air?” That’s me.
So, knowing that about me, I’m going to write about something I alluded to in my very first post. Do I vaccinate my children?
Vaccines have saved millions (billions?) of lives. My husband’s grandfather suffered his entire adult life because he contracted polio as a young man. Thank God for the polio vaccine! I can’t imagine watching my children go through that. I think vaccines are one of the most amazing, helpful, wonderful, fabulous, beneficial inventions of the modern age.
But we’ve all heard the rumors: Autism, paralysis, brain damage, respiratory problems and SIDS. Scary stuff! Every bit as scary as the effects of the illnesses we are trying to protect our precious children from!
* Children in the United States are usually given vaccinations against 14 diseases. Some of them, like polio, are extremely serious, debilitating, life-threatening illnesses. Some of them, like varicella (chicken pox) are miserable but really not that serious if there are no other health concerns. Has anyone ever died from it? Yes. But it’s more likely that your child will get struck by lightning. Really! Rubella? The CDC says that it can cause, “Rash and fever for two to three days (mild disease in children and young adults)” Uhm. Well. I don’t WANT my kid to suffer. But REALLY? I hope the marketing/lobbyist from that drug company got a big bonus because he really deserves it for making that sale to the American public. Some very serious illnesses, like smallpox, no longer need to be vaccinated against because we have achieved “herd immunity.” Meaning that we’ve effectively removed it from the human population through the use of vaccines in the past.
* Some shots, like the annual flu shot, have a low rate of effectiveness because the flu (like all viruses) mutates. There are hundreds of strains of “flu.” The vaccination may protect against the one or two that doctors guess are going to be most prevalent in any given year.
* The first vaccination given to a newborn baby in the US is the hepatitis B shot. Children get it in the first 24 hours of life. This protects against a disease almost exclusively transmitted by sexual activity or IV drug use. Which (I didn’t read this on the CDC site – I’m just guessing) are really rare activities in the first 24 hours of a newborn’s life!!!
* The MOST effective shots are about 90% effective. So you are not ENTIRELY protected from anything, ever. AND there are vaccines that USED TO BE more effective than they are because, again, viruses mutate and adapt.
I remember sitting in the doctor’s office with my newborn daughter almost 8 years ago and asking about the rumors I’d heard regarding vaccines. His response? ”I believe that there are risks and it would be wrong to tell you otherwise. But I feel like the benefits of protecting your child against serious diseases that are easy to catch far outweigh the 1 in a million risks of something going wrong.” So I trusted him. He went to medical school, for goodness sakes! I could barely pronounce the names of the diseases she was being vaccinated against. So she got the full schedule. After all, I thought, they wouldn’t be giving drugs to our children if they weren’t important. Everything has been fine. She is a very healthy little girl.
But things are changing in our lives.
My son was born last June. He is a big baby – a beautiful, strong boy. But he has had some serious respiratory issues. The first time was last fall. He went for a check up and he was fine. A week or so later he had a little cough, a bit of a fever, a runny nose. I put off going to the doctor because I figured they would just say, “It’s a cold. Give him plenty of fluids.” But the cough turned into a real hack and he started spitting stuff up and wheezing. So we went to the doctor and she said he had bronchitis and put him on antibiotics. A week or two later he was better.
Fast forward a month or so and repeat the scenario. Except this time he needed the antibiotics AND albuterol (a “rescue” drug that helps open the air passages in the lungs). He got better.
And repeat again. This time? The antibiotics and Albuterol didn’t work and his breathing was so poor that his lips were turning blue and you could see his muscles pulling in between his ribs when he breathed. So she added a second round of antibiotics and inhaled steroids and finally, he got better again.
And repeat again. And again.
The last time we were in the emergency room where we found out that our baby’s oxygen levels were well below normal and we needed THREE antibiotics, an inhaled steroid, an oral steroid and Singulair (not even sure exactly what Singular is, except that it’s a “maintenance drug” often given to people with breathing difficulties).
The pediatrician admitted that she was in over her head and needed to consult with a specialist as each episode was obviously worse than the one before. However, before sending us off to the Children’s Hospital she noted that the very worse “spells” ALWAYS occurred about a week after a pertussis vaccine was given. Hmmmm…..
So last week we saw the specialist who examined our boy and said that he has asthma (which is probably due to our family history of asthma, but is becoming freakishly common around the world) and that his little lungs have taken such a beating in his short life that you can actually see the damage on an x-ray. Now he’s on regular breathing treatments and maintenance drugs (MORE drugs. Drugs to fix the damage from drugs? Blarg!!!) in the hopes that we can open his little air passages up enough that they can heal. The doctor says that he is hopeful that, if we can heal his body, we’ll be able to wean him OFF the drugs and, when his airways are bigger, he’ll be well again. I am glad for that. But could this have been caused by vaccines? I had to ask. His response? ”Maybe. I have never heard of a specific case where such a connection was proven. But it could be. There are a lot of doctors with stories.” Again, hmmmmm…….
A little internet searching tells me that we are not the only family to see a connection between pertussis vaccinations and serious, sometimes even fatal, breathing issues.
I talked to my family’s chiropractor about this. Dr. Ashley rocks! She is the hippie I want to be when I grow up. (Ironically, she’s probably 10 years younger than me). She does not sit on the fence. She has strong opinions about health and nutrition, organics, western medicine, and more. She is quick to share them but never judgemental toward those who make different choices. Know what she taught me? It’s possible, and maybe advisable, to sit on the fence when it comes to vaccines.
It is possible, legal, and acceptable to get only some of the shots. Or to space them further apart so that a child’s immune system doesn’t get so “overloaded.” She told me that many parents wait until a child is 3 years old and their bodies have had a chance to mature somewhat past the infanthood stage before getting any shots at all.
I was stunned! It never occurred to me that vaccination didn’t need to be an “all or nothing” choice!
I came home and did a bit of research on my own and learned that the well-known doctor, William Sears, recommends that doctors offer parents these choices. Most children do just fine with the “standard” schedule of shots. But not all! And it is OK to refuse certain shots or to ask the doctor for an alternative schedule. I also learned that there is no law that REQUIRES a person to be vaccinated. Parents may have to fill out special paperwork to get permission to send an unvaccinated child to public school, but the paperwork is out there. You just have to ask for it.
I have no medical training. I’m just a mother who wants what’s best for the 2 biggest blessings in my life. So my answer to the question? Yes. We have vaccinated our children. And we will continue to vaccinate them. Thank God for the gift of protection against horrible sickness! But we will space their shots further apart. And we will research each vaccine before we allow it to be administered. And we will exercise our right to choose which drugs our children receive. And that is the best answer I know to the question of childhood vaccinations.