Vaccines are a pretty touchy topic. Many believe that they are unsafe, cause diseases like autism, and that too many are given to children at once, overloading the immune system with toxins. Many others also believe that vaccines are perfectly safe, are keeping many diseases at bay, and should be given without a second thought. And then, there are people like me, who stand in between. I personally do not believe that all vaccines are unsafe, but I do not plan to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ vaccine protocol. Please note that I am not a doctor, and you should really talk to your health care professional before taking difficult decisions like this one.
First, let’s discuss the safety of vaccines. There is no doubt in my mind that when they were loaded with preservatives and mercury, there was a real potential for overloading a small child’s immune system and causing a whole host of side effects. However, things are evolving in a positive way.
Are vaccines safe?
It’s important to know that most of the chemicals we used to be against (like thimerosal and co.) have been removed from most vaccines. Apparently, the reason why it took so long was because vaccines were widely used in third world countries to prevent many contagious illnesses, and if we, the wealthy West, had removed thimerosal, we would have been accused of dumping harmful substances on the poor. I think that’s ridiculous, we should have removed thimerosal from all vaccines, regardless of the cost. But, the fact is that most vaccines don’t have this mercury-like compound in them anymore.
Do vaccines cause autism?
I have seen many, many studies which show that there is no direct link between vaccines and autism, because the number of children who develop autism does not go up with vaccination, and there are children who never got vaccination who nevertheless were diagnosed with autism. However, this does not necessarily mean that vaccines do not ever cause autism, it could just mean that the number of children affected by vaccines is too small, and that other causes of autism overwhelmingly overshadow the role vaccines play in the development of the disorder. There seems to be some merit to this theory, because a link may have been found between mitochondrial defects and vaccines. Put simply, if you do have a mitochondrial defect and get vaccinated, your chances of becoming autistic go up compared to someone without the defect who got the same vaccine. However, such defects are extremely rare, and you should decide whether your chances of being affected is higher than your chances of developing a disease. You can also test for it.
Why wouldn’t doctors drink the vaccine additives as requested by Jock Doubleday?
Many years ago, someone challenged doctors to drink the vaccine additives. No doctor would, thus “showing” that they didn’t trust vaccines themselves. However, the problem is that people like Jock who spent too much time with “alternative” people sometimes forget how mainstream people think, and develop extreme distrust towards them (and in many cases, such distrust is very much warranted).
In this case though, I think we have 2 sides, the Jock Doubleday/anti-vaccine crowd who want the mainstream medical community to drink the vaccine additives since they believe them to be perfectly safe and therefore should be able to drink them without a second thought, and the medical community/pro-vaccine crowd who sees Jock and the anti-vaccine squad as a bunch of weird people who are willing to do anything to show that vaccines are harmful, not matter what they might do in order to disprove the theory, including drinking the additives. So, in my opinion, I don’t think that the fact that doctors aren’t accepting the challenge necessarily means that they believe deep down that vaccines are harmful. Also, many doctors get vaccinated, or vaccinate their kids (actually every doctor I know vaccinates his children).
Why are vaccines given to children at such a young age?
A lot of doctors fear that parents might forget to immunize their children, and so they give them a lot of vaccines right away, while the child is still in their office. I think it all comes from the good intention of wanting to protect the child. Also, children are put in daycare centers at an increasingly young age, and are therefore exposed to many illnesses. Still, I do think that vaccines are a shock to the immune system, and that very young children should not be immunized when they are so little. In any case, I would feel more comfortable if the child was breast-fed rather than formula-fed, as he or she would have a stronger immune system.
How can we delay vaccinations and still keep our children safe?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has a vaccine schedule, and Dr Sears has an alternative schedule. I have my own schedule. Remember to talk to a doctor you trust, and read a lot about the subject. I can’t be held responsible for what’s written here, because I am not a doctor nor am I an expert in vaccines. I am just a concerned mother. But, I do believe that we can both delay vaccinations and keep our children safe by looking at the risk factors, the environment, how soon they will go to daycare/spend a lot of time with other children, when they will stop drinking breast milk, and more.
Which vaccines am I going to delay beyond the AAP’s and Dr Sears’ schedule?
There are 2 vaccines I felt completely comfortable delaying (2).
– Hepatitis B: According to the government NDDIC’s website, “people who develop acute hepatitis B are generally not treated with antiviral drugs because, depending on their age at infection, the disease often resolves on its own. Infected newborns are most likely to progress to chronic hepatitis B, but by young adulthood, most people with acute infection recover spontaneously. Severe acute hepatitis B can be treated with an antiviral drug such as lamivudine.”
Obviously, there is an issue with newborns and young children, which may make us want to vaccinate early. But, how do you get hepatitis B? According to the same website, “hepatitis B is spread through contact with infected blood, through sex with an infected person, and from mother to child during childbirth, whether the delivery is vaginal or via cesarean section.”
Clearly, a newborn has no issue in our case because neither my husband nor I have hepatitis B. Sex isn’t an issue for many years either, and in my opinion, the same goes with infected blood.
What did I do for my own kids? I wasn’t going to vaccinate for a long time, if at all. However, when my husband took Franklin to get a hepatitis A shot because we were traveling to a country where the disease is endemic, he got confused and gave him hepatitis B instead. I ended up giving him the boosters later, since we were already down that path. Nicholas hasn’t had the vaccine.
– Hepatitis A: “Hepatitis A is spread primarily through food or water contaminated by feces from an infected person. Rarely, it spreads through contact with infected blood.” Because for the first 3 years, my child do not go to daycare, and I generally cook all the food, I would in theory skip the hepatitis A vaccine until the child is 3 years old.
What did I do for my own kids? Franklin got the vaccine at 12 months or so, because we were traveling to Lebanon where hepatitis A is common. Nicholas has never had it.
There are 3 more vaccines that I think I better delayed or skipped (3).
– Mumps: I did not want to give the MMR vaccine, which combines the vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella. Frankly, it’s a disease where complications are very rare, even though contracting it is as easy as contracting the flu. And, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Fortunately, most children and adults recover from an uncomplicated case of mumps within about two weeks.” It doesn’t seem to be a very serious disease.
– Rubella: I did not want to give the MMR vaccine, which combines the vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella. Rubella is characterized by a red rash, and according to the Mayo Clinic, “Because of widespread use of the vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared rubella eliminated in the United States, but cautions parents to make sure their children are vaccinated to prevent its re-emergence.” I don’t want to be the one who brought the disease back, but rubella is not a very serious disease from what I understand. It can however be very dangerous if pregnant women contract it.
What did I do for my own kids? I looked high and low for a place to give my kids just the measles vaccine, which comes with rubella and mumps in its traditional form. But, I couldn’t find it, even with very open minded doctors. It’s just too expensive for them to stock. So, when Franklin was 2 1/2, I gave him the MMR vaccine on its own. Nicholas has never had it yet.
– Varicella: Varicella is basically chickenpox, which can turn into shingles later on. Varicella is not very serious. I had it, my husband had it, and the truth is that the itchy rash really sucks. You can’t leave the house, you can’t do anything, because you might contaminate others. And if you don’t get it, and get it as a teen or adult, it can be very serious (while it’s OK when you are younger). If my children do not get chickenpox, I will have them vaccinated later on to prevent teen or adult varicella.
What did I do for my own kids? Neither kids got vaccinated. In order for Franklin to attend preschool, I watched a government mandated video and signed a paper saying I understood the risks of not vaccinating.
There are 2 vaccines I definitely give early (2):
– Diphtheria Tetanus Acellular Pertussis (DTaP): Frankly, my main focus here is tetanus, but apparently, it is difficult to get this vaccine in an isolated form. So, in the interest of making sure my children avoid tetanus, I vaccinated.
What did I do for my own kids? They both got this as their first vaccine at 2 months. With Franklin, this was his first exposure to it. With Nicholas, I got the vaccine while pregnant in the last few weeks of pregnancy, as it protects the baby for 2 months after birth against whooping cough. Since Nicholas has a brother in preschool who constantly brings germs home, I wanted to keep him safe.
– Pneumococcal vaccine: I was on the fence about this one, because I think that a healthy immune system, breast milk, good food and low exposure to at-risk populations reduce the risks of pneumococcal infections. However, both the AAP and Dr Sears recommend vaccinating early, and such illnesses are one of the most common causes of death in the US. What did I do for my own kids? They both got it between 2 months and 6 months of age.
What about the other vaccines?
I think that the other vaccines are not as important as the ones I discussed above, and so I am delaying them. Also, I have organized the list so that no more than 2 vaccines are given in a given month. These other vaccines are:
– Rotavirus: According to the CDC, “Rotavirus was the leading cause of severe diarrhea in U.S. infants and young children before rotavirus vaccine was introduced for U.S. infants in 2006. Prior to that, almost all children in the United States were infected with rotavirus before their 5th birthday. Each year in the United States in the pre-vaccine period, rotavirus was responsible for more than 400,000 doctor visits; more than 200,000 emergency room visits; 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations; and 20 to 60 deaths in children younger than 5 years of age.”
Now, the issue with rotavirus is that it’s not really a potentially deadly disease, in my opinion. I’m ready to bet that the 20 to 60 deaths were caused by dehydration and lack of care. But, severe diarrhea and vomiting isn’t fun at all.
What did I do for my own kids? They both got it between 2 months and 6 months. It’s an oral vaccines, so less/no pain for them.
– Haemophilus influenzae type b: According to the WHO, “Before immunization programmes began in the early 1990s, Hib was demonstrated to be the leading cause of childhood bacterial meningitis in nearly all countries in which appropriate studies were performed, including Australia, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States of America. Systematic vaccination has now virtually eliminated Hib disease in industrialized nations.”
-> Some people say diseases disappeared not because of vaccine but because of improved sanitary conditions. This may be true in some cases, but not all obviously, since the data is from 1990.
– Polio: Polio is pretty rare now. To be frank, I am ambivalent about this one. According to the Mayo Clinic, “In the U.S., the last case of wild polio — polio caused naturally, not by a vaccine containing live virus — occurred in 1979.” It’s not something we should really have to worry about, since it has been pretty much eradicated in the US, but if a child does get it, it’s really serious. But, I am a nomad at heart and want to travel the world — and my family lives in Lebanon, and there are still cases of polio going around.
– Measles: According to the Mayo Clinic, “Also called rubeola, measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. While death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine, the disease still kills several hundred thousand people a year, most under the age of 5. ”
What did I do for my own kids? They both got the above vaccines before 6 months of age, except for MMR. I gave that a little before Franklin turned 3. I feel that these are the most important ones, and for the others, I really think good nutrition, breastmilk, avoiding others when there’s an outbreak, etc., is better than immunizing.
So, as you can see, by 6 months, we’re done with the important 5 vaccines I mentioned. Then, it’s boosters only. I don’t think that 5 vaccines (as in 5 shots/oral, not 5 diseases) is overwhelming to the child.
Did you vaccinate your children? Do you plan to? Do you have your own alternative schedule?