Childhood Vaccinations: One Mama’s Thoughts

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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!

So here are some facts that I have learned from the US Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

* 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.

Poor baby. 😦

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).

Our little pharmacy

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.

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18 responses »

  1. You gotta do what is best for you. There will always be a little voice in my head that wonders if taking 2 rounds of penicillin while I was pregnant (an UTI and an infected earlobe) could have caused my son’s UPJ obstruction. Modern day advances and technologies are both a blessing and curse.

    • Yes. And what is best for one person, with their history and such may not be best for the next. I think the trick lies in knowledge. It’s not wise to freak out and panic because some celebrity says that vaccines cause autism. Neither is it wise to accept everything the doctor says as gospel. Sometimes we need to take the time to find things out for ourselves so that we can be empowered to know what is best for us.

  2. It’s funny, although the vaccines=autism connection has been discounted (and the doctor who wrote the study stripped of his medical license) there are ‘stories’ that remain. And, like your wise chiropractor there are people who listen. I think sitting on the fence re-vaccines is a reasonable approach – there is so much we don’t know. As we live in an increasingly toxic (external) environment, what is happening to our ability to process internal toxins?

    I feel an overwhelming urge to re-read Rachael Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ now;)

    • I think that, as a whole, people need to be more aware that EVERY drug has a side effect. Even something as “simple” as aspirin or cough syrup. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good and useful… just that we need to be educated about what we put in our bodies. I think that you used a great phrase, “what is happening to our ability to process internal toxins?” Could this be a part of why there are so many allergies and respiratory problems in our children’s generation?
      I’m not familiar with that book. What is it about?

  3. first, i’m so sorry that your cute little guy has been through so much trauma!

    i’m with you on the vaccines. research research research, then pick and choose. my kids are 14 and 11. when they were vaccinated, i didn’t know enough to question it. i wish i had. my daughter has food allergies and should never have received the vaccinations that were grown in albumen. i wonder if any of your drs. – esp. the chiro, mentioned allergies as a cause for your son’s attacks (esp. since they were increasingly severe). allergies are such an obvious cause for so much of this stuff, yet doctors remain hard-pressed to acknowledge them. perhaps your son is allergic to something in the pertussis vaccine? as part of your research, i recommend kenneth bock’s “Healing the 4 A disorders.” it’s about allergies, adhd, autism and asthma and how their increasing incidents are connected by a variety of environmental/societal causes, including vaccinations. you don’t have to take every word as truth, but it’s definately worthwhile to hear this side of the argument, esp. since your son’s episodes were so severe. the pharmeceutical industry has a lot of lobbying and PR money behind it, so it’s hard to know what’s true and what isn’t. it’s a shame that dr. wakefield (the dr. who published the fraudulent study on autism and vaccines) ever got involved, because he discredited the whole argument. there is SO MUCH anecdotal evidence from parents connecting the vaccines to autism. this evidence warrants a serious (non fraudulent) study. although no one ever admitted any fault, thimerosal (containing mercury) has been removed or reduced from most vaccines (see fda http://www.fda.gov/biologicsbloodvaccines/safetyavailability/vaccinesafety/ucm096228.htm). why remove it if there wasn’t a problem?

    sorry i’m writing a book! i guess my point is: thanks for the level-headed post on this important subject, and look into the allergies (IGG and IGE) with your chiro or another alternative dr. a traditional allergist won’t look at the whole picture.

    good luck!

    • Thank you for all the info! Write a book any time. I love hearing other people’s thoughts. I’ve learned so much from fellow bloggers! We haven’t done any allergy testing. I will definitely continue to talk with Dr. Ashley about all this. 🙂

  4. As a Pediatric ICU nurse, I have a very different take on vaccines. Maybe this is because I have seen children die or be on a ventilator from such simple things as chicken pox and pertussis. Just so you know, Hep B is more commonly passed through blood and newborns ARE in contact with blood during the birthing process, hence why the push for the Hep B vaccine. Many people can be a Hep B carrier and not know it at all with no symptoms. It is a disease that is so on the rise, that i suspect it will surpass AIDS in the near future. Unfortunately, we don’t have a vaccine for HIV or AIDS. As a health care worker, we are mandated to get the Hep B and the flu shot. We don’t have a choice. Either get them or don’t work. Now, considering I spend most of the respiratory season exposed to the flu and RSV, I don’t mind, but I can see where some people would rather not choose to get some vaccines. Not vaccinating your children at all, however, I think puts them at even greater risk for things that we can avoid and it is hard for me as I see children at their worst when they contract diseases that could have been avoided. I agree that you should research each vaccine and actually talk to a pediatric intensivist to see which ones they recommend. They are smart ones! So do I believe in vaccines…yes. Just my two cents.

    As for your little guy….keep your head up. Lots of kiddos get diagnosed with asthma and grow out of it (I was unfortunate and didn’t but then again I was a preemie) but also make sure anyone around your darling little one WASHES THEIR HANDS. This is simple practice can really reduce respiratory issues in babies and is often overlooked when everyone wants to pick up a cutie like yours. Also, has he been swabbed for RSV? It is so common this time of year.

    • Ah! Now HIV/AIDS… THAT vaccine would be worth the risk of side effects! Can you imagine the impact it would make? All over the world but ESPECIALLY in areas like Africa! I am not against vaccines. I couldn’t agree with you more about the dangers of not protecting your children. I just think the “one size fits all” approach that is taken so frequently in our country is a bad idea. I also think it would be nice for pharmaceuticals to NOT be a for-profit business, but that’s a whole other can of worms.
      Thanks for the good wishes. He’s a strong little guy. He was swabbed for RSV once, with the first really bad episode, and they told us it was “inconclusive.” We’re hoping, with cold and flu season behind us to have a chance, over the summer, for him to grow and heal.
      Thanks also for the work you do. Nursing is such a vitally important and under-appreciated job. We’d all be lost without good nurses!

  5. Thank you so much for a non-biased post on vaccinating your children. I vaccinate, on schedule, and will continue to do so unless there’s new reasoning to change my mind. I started my research before my little miss was born and will before every new vaccine one of us will get. I think every parent, whether they vaccinate or not, should atleast do some research.

  6. Pingback: High Fevers Scare My Crap Out « lazyhippiemama

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