The timing of this discussion…er, monologue, is not a coincidence. Seabass gets his 6-month shots today. Hoo-ray.
A dear friend once told me about taking his daughter for her shots at three years of age. “You think it’s bad when they’re infants?” he guffawed. “Just wait ’till they can look deep into your eyes and plead ‘Why daddy?'”
I had never had a flu shot – or even given it much thought – until I was pregnant. With the swine flu breaking out all around me this time last year, I suddenly cared very much about vaccines. Very, very much.
I did some of my own “research,” which included poking around on the BabyCenter.com chat boards and such. I scoff at the word research because, when it comes to the internet, I almost feel like there’s no such thing. Everything is conjecture. Everything is open for interpretation. And God only knows where most of it really comes from.
Witness an article from something called Examiner.com stating that doctors are coming out to discredit the need for a vaccine because the H1N1 pandemic “may have in fact been a hoax.”
While our administration and countries across the globe have been “pushing” pregnant women to the front of the line for the H1N1, we are now discovering much heartache from those who listened, received the vaccine and now are sure it caused them to lose their unborn child.
Articles like these make me nuts. In the name of rigorous journalism, these writers plant ideas in my head that may or may not be true, and in the meantime, freak me out to the point of neurosis. The fact that the website is called “Examiner” is a nice touch, too. Gives it an air of credibility even though it’s basically a wiki. (And speaking of wikis, notice that the author even cites a Wikipedia page as a reference source. Come. On.)
So anyway, back to my vaccination. I was very much divided. On the one hand, I had my OB telling me to get not only the swine flu vaccine, but the seasonal flu vaccine as well. “I’m not going to demand that you get these shots,” he said, “but I am going to strongly recommend it.”
On the other hand, I had the onus of internet nay-sayers…and Jake. That’s right, you guessed it. Jake is anti-vaccine.
It’s one thing to think about yourself and your own safety as an individual. Frankly, if this were just about me, I’d say screw the vaccine and pass the mint jelly.
But it is something entirely different to think about a child for whom you are responsible and utterly head-over-heels. Of course, all of this talk inevitably led to concerns about vaccinating the wee Seabass. All I wanted to do was protect him. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? Oh, the ignorance.
“It’s only one set of shots one time, right?” Jake asked me. “And we just have to pick which ones we do and don’t want him to get, right?”
I didn’t have the foggiest idea. Again, after the tiniest amount of “research,” I wanted to hurl myself out a window. It is LOADS of shots on SEVERAL occasions. To make matters worse, there are groups out there claiming that vaccines do horrible, unspeakable things to some children who receive them:
- SafeMinds.org says vaccines cause autism.
- But Dr. Paul Offit says “no way, dude!”
- Then there’s some other guy with the wonderfully curious name of Seth Mnookin whose next book, The Panic Virus, details the implications of battling infectious diseases.
- Then there’s Jenny McCarthy running around through it all with GenerationRescue.org, which asserts that vaccines can indeed cause autism. (By the by, WHY am I listening to you Miss McCarthy? Because your son is autistic and you were in Playboy? Hmm.)
- And then there are comments and blog posts and forums with all of us moms trying to figure it out. It’s maddening.
In the end, I told Jake I couldn’t defer to research. “Basically,” I said, “I can find a fact to defend any argument I choose. So I leave this up to you.” And here is what he decided:
- If the vaccine is less than 10 years old, we skip on it, as there is just too much unknown there.
- If the doctor (whether my OB or Seabass’ pediatrician, Dr. Awesome) doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other about a particular vaccine, we skip it.
Well, so far we haven’t encountered any vaccines younger than 10 years, and our doctors have urged us to go through with vaccinations. So we’ve been textbook. We didn’t even choose to get creative with scheduling Seabass’ shots like Dr. Sears recommends. So boring.
In the end, we’ve decided that we have doctors for a reason. Yes, they fail us sometimes, and yes, it’s hard to trust anyone to know all the answers. But I really believe these people still know better than the internet does. At the very least, they can hold our shaky parent hands and look in our bloodshot parent eyes and reassure us that whichever decision we make will be our own and no one else’s. Now, which website can claim that level of sincerity?
I’ll never forget hearing a medical student describe her training: “Patients want so badly to believe that medicine is a matter of black and white, but I’m learning that it’s all just shades of gray.” Scary. And also, oddly reassuring.
Enough outta me. What do you think?