Why I Hate the Vaccine Debate
If you are a regular reader of mine, you might notice the conspicuous lack of posts about vaccines (lots of you email me asking my opinion, so I know some of you wish I would be vocal about this!).
Admittedly, one of the reasons I haven’t gone there with vaccines is that it’s such a loaded issue. I have friends, readers, and clients on both sides of the debate who believe with utter conviction that the opposing side is not only incorrect in their viewpoint, but culpable in illness and even death of children.
But there is a bigger reason that I don’t broach the topic of vaccines and it’s this: Gimme’s mission is to help you provide a safer environment for your kids while maintaining your sanity. And decisions about vaccines make me crazy.
I’ve found that many holistic parenting choices came totally naturally (pun!) to me–breastfeeding longer than a year (or two), co-sleeping, not circumcising, skipping the epidural during labor (okay, that one wasn’t so easy, but still felt really great when it was over!).
Even when I opt out of the most natural path, I feel okay about that, too–Wolfie spends time in a jumparoo, Felix has loads of plastic toys, I use my Bugaboo more than my Ergo, and I am even back to using disposable diapers (wah–a little guilt on this one, but I have justified it to myself.) But vaccines–these guys I agonized over, never feeling entirely comfortable with any of my options.
In the end, I have chosen to vaccinate my children, but I space the vaccines differently from the recommendations of the AAP, and differently even from the alternative schedule provided by Dr. Sears.
An easy choice: skipping the vaccine for hep-B (which is essentially an STD) at birth. But spacing out the DTAP shot so that my infant wasn’t fully protected from whooping cough when he’s most vulnerable should he catch it? That wasn’t without excessive worry and more excessive hand washing. Jabbing a healthy toddler in the perfect, chubby thigh with the ever-controversial MMR vaccine? That one I didn’t feel so good about, either. UPDATE: My mother-in-law is a physician, and she pointed out the following after reading this post: “About hep b—it is not really an STD. It is ubiquitous in China (or used to be) because hep B pos mothers transmit it during birth, just like HIV. It is also conceivable it can be transmitted by hep b positive fathers also—hence, foregoing vaccine is fine as long as both parents/partners know they are hep b negative.” Thanks, Diane, for the important clarification!
Speaking of whooping cough (pertussis), if you are a good neurotic mom like I am, you know that the last few years have seen outbreaks all over the county, and that unvaccinated kids have been blamed for its resurgence. But you also may have seen the new study showing that vaccinated baboons still can carry and transmit the disease, meaning that while they themselves were protected after being fully vaccinated, they were still passing it around after being exposed. So perhaps the tragic pertussis deaths and serious illnesses of the last few years were not entirely the fault of the unvaccinated after all. To be clear: the results of this study do NOT suggest that the DTAP vaccine CAUSES whooping cough. (I have seen a few natural living websites and publications misinterpret the findings of this study and suggest that the DTAP shot caused the baboons to become contagious with pertussis).
This study serves as another reminder that what’s taken as “fact” when it comes to vaccine efficacy and safety is ever-shifting. I wish I had the bravery of my friends in Vermont who skip all vaccines, or the conviction of my New York City mom friends who KNOW that the AAP’s schedule is on-point.
Instead, I’ve read and read and read… and researched until I’m bleary-eyed..and listened to the opinions of doctors and experts whom I respect– yet still I remain conflicted.
So rather than judging any parents for what they choose for their own kids, I assume pure intentions and educated decisions from most of you–whether you choose to vaccinate your children or not.
Okay, I’ve busted into this topic! Let the flame-throwing begin!
Maia, Founder & CEO
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I am also very interested in the alternative vaccination schedule.
Hi! This topic just gives me so much anxiety. I feel like there is no wrong answer, just a painful personal decision that both sides feel they are doing what’s best for their child. If either option had zero risk this wouldn’t even be a discussion. You mentioned you did an alternate schedule, would you mind sharing what your schedule looked like? You touched on a few you delayed, but I am very curious of the AAP schedule where did they fall for you? Love the discussion, it makes it easier when there isn’t on polar ends of the spectrum.
If you did not get the hep B vaccine at birth, did you ever get it for your baby and if so when did they have it?
Thanks so much!
I am a trustee and board member of the Foundation for the Advancement in Cancer Therapies, http://www.rethinkingcancer.org. Our mandate is the prevention of illness, and help to the ill, so they may recover as quickly and safely as possible. We use only nutrition and elimination of toxins from the patient’s body as a means to help the patient get well. Our results are stellar, even with patients who were told they were terminal. We have found that many of the ingredients in vaccines contribute to illness, often permanent and debilitating illnesses. Many vaccines contain neurotoxins and carcinogens, teratogens and mutagens. While we feel people should have free choice as to any med they take….medication or vaccination, we also feel that people should do due diligence and inform themselves about any chemical substance offered to them by medical personnel as a remedy or preventative measure. We advise against using pharmaceutical drugs, but we feel everyone should have the right of informed medical choice. Freedom of informed choice is the bedrock of real democracy. We are staunchly against force-medicating anyone, and we respect the Nuremberg Code, which upholds the right of informed medical choice.
This is definitely a grenade subject (pull the pin, step back and watch the fireworks begin!) & I think it brave of you to have pulled the pin. I agree that it is best to educate ourselves, make the best decision we can and move on, respecting ourselves and others.
I do want to point out that, having personal experience with disastrous side effects of Dtap, I am equally cautious now in thinking about it. I have a dear, very healthy, good-living, landscaping friend who developed the debilitating nervous system disease CIDP within a week of getting her Ttap vaccine. After a week in the ICU, many in rehab and a year of indescribable pain, two years out she still needs to get an iv drip every 3 weeks to control the disease, which has been shown in her case, to have been a direct result of the Dtap vaccine. She will likely get a large settlement from the government, who keeps a large pile of cash on hand to compensate people who get bad reactions. This is not a fringe thing. It is called, “The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.”
So. That small # of people who get horrible reactions feels impersonal and insignificant, until you or someone you know and love get their lives turned upside down from it.
I still deeply respect anyone’s decision in this matter, just have a healthy respect for the “possible side effects may include…” statements.
Thanks for your efforts and care.
I don’t agree or disagree but want to point out that pertussis is a bacterial infection, and there is no vaccine that can prevent a bacterial infection, it just minimizes the effects of a body’s reaction to the bacterial toxoid but does not prevent the infection. This leads me to my next point, people become infected but with minimal symptoms, this leads them to then be misdiagnosed instead of being placed on antibiotics to fight the infection, thus becoming silent carriers which then passes on the bacteria to high risk categories. The pertussis vaccine does not effect herd immunity like some of the viral vaccinations, nor does it protect one from infection – it only minimizes or helps prevent the side effects of the bacteria. A good reference to researching individual vaccines is a vaccine insert, it may also give you an idea of why cancer is on the rise in adolescents.
You may also want to check out your state laws, most are all or nothing by the time they are school aged. So spacing now might create a cocktail of 5 vaccines in a week when they start school to catch up, the school doesn’t care that you are on an alternate schedule, they care what CDC and AAP say.
With the exception of hep B, I find all the newborn vaccines valuable. You already mentioned pertussis, and we can watch a video of a newborn with pertussis to reinforce that. Hib and pneumococcal have decreased the incidence of newborn/infant meningitis significantly. Meningitis isn’t an easy walk in the park either. IPV prevents polio, which if infected during childhood leads to paralysis (a la iron lung wards), and Rotavirus doesn’t protect you from just a simple diarrhea, but a very serious one that has led to death from dehydration of many an infant. Other vaccines, I feel are more negotiable; they all have their risks and benefits. I vaccinated my kid with everything using the aap guidelines because I didn’t know better and because I wanted to get it over with while he was still small enough to not remember, and because I’m probably a pretty good vector.