Let me start with this: I have chosen to vaccinate my children. That said, I’m annoyed by the media coverage of this issue and also by the viciousness coming from many pro-vaxxers.
My anti-vax friends are pretty quiet these days (and I wish they wouldn’t be), but not so with the pro-vaxers. These moms are not only keeping their kids out of playgroups–even here in New York City where there is no measles outbreak yet–but they are also furious with anyone who admits any doubt about the long-term safety of the standard vaccination schedule. In fact, if you question the recommendations of the AAP at all, you are anti-science and basically a climate-change denier and a creationist, apparently.
What’s up with this?
As I have written before, vaccinations are my least favorite parenting decision, and the one over which I have agonized most. In the end, it made sense to me to vaccinate my kids, but we spaced the shots out and seriously delayed some of them (like the hep-B immunization, which is recommended at birth). Does my decision to vaccinate my children mean that I think anyone who skips the MMR vaccine is an anti-science nutbag who gets all health advice from Jenny McCarthy? Um, no.
I have pages of notes that I’ve wanted to massage into a blog post on this topic, but thanks to sick kids and other professional commitments, I haven’t had time to write one yet, despite your many emails asking where Gimme the Good Stuff stands on this important issue.
But I also didn’t want to be completely silent during a time when it seems people want to talk about little else, so here is a summary of my stance:
- I am always going to be skeptical of the medical and pharmaceutical industry, mostly because they have a long history of retracting their recommendations (antibiotics, mammograms, hormone-replacement therapy, etc.).
- This doesn’t mean that the AAP and CDC are wrong about vaccine recommendations, but it means they might be.
- Overall, I would describe myself as agnostic about vaccines–I don’t know that they carry with them long-term risks, but the assurances of the medical establishment don’t mean much to me.
- All this said, I believe in vaccinating, since the risks of vaccines are unknown, whereas the risks of the diseases they prevent are real. I am particularly in favor of the vaccines for measles, polio, pertussis, Hib, and Pc.
- I wish pediatricians would be more willing to discuss the ins and outs of each vaccine and the disease against which it protects. Instead, most simply insist that there is zero potential for any long-term downside to vaccines, and–in the words of our first pediatrician–it’s “Russian roulette” to delay a single shot, even something like hepatitis B for a newborn. I think many parents would actually opt IN to vaccinating against some of the scariest diseases if they could get better, more detailed information from experts on the risks, benefits, and unknowns.
(If you want to hear people articulate my feelings on this better than I can do myself, here’s a clip of Bill Maher and Marianne Williamson discussing measles and vaccinations the other night).
Stay sane and healthy,