Controversy Wednesday: VACCINATION

17 Nov

My precious little pincushion.

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 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 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.

We had the discussion, and I totally tracked with him.  “These vaccines are so new,” he reasoned.  “How can anyone know what they’re doing to us in the long term?” 

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:

  • 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, 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:

  1. If the vaccine is less than 10 years old, we skip on it, as there is just too much unknown there.
  2. 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?

23 Responses to “Controversy Wednesday: VACCINATION”

  1. mamasowould November 17, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    There is a pertussis EPIDEMIC right now. and 10 dead babies THIS YEAR alone from it. Give him the shots. This from a Santa Maria native who now practices in LA (His mom is a beloved pediatrician in SM, as well…)

  2. lifeintheboomerlane November 17, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    Seabass is absolutely beautiful. I vote for the shots.

    • jaimeclewis November 17, 2010 at 10:43 am #

      Isn’t he though?

      • mamasowould November 17, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

        Careful here…you are setting yourself up for a tatted-up-multiple-piercings-greasy-haired adolescence. It’s murphy’s law, and I’m not talking about the dog.

      • mamasowould November 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

        (Which of course he may not make it to if he’s not vaccinated…just sayin’) 😉

  3. M November 17, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    I get really frustrated with people who don’t vaccinate their children. Because their child can get sick and pass his disease on my child who might be too young for that particular vaccination and could DIE. I HATE getting shots and am deathly afraid of needles, but I got my flu shot and a pertussis shot when my daughter was born because of how harmful it could be if she got it. Yeah it hurt and sucked and that’s what it will be like for her when she gets a plethora of shots next week for her two month visit, but in the long run 30 seconds of crying versus a life threatening illness? I’ll take the former thank you.

    • R November 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

      What M said…I totally agree.

      Thinking about my baby getting measles before he can get the MMR gets me very very very upset! We vaccinate on schedule for everything that is transmissible by air.

  4. Jim November 17, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    Vaccinate! Vaccinate!
    Don’t be late!
    Lest you child never grow up
    or learn how to skate!

    And besides – what a headache when it comes to public school if you don’t have your shots.

  5. Carrie November 17, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    I agree with you. We had a similar journey trying to decide what to do. I found Dr. Sears’ book so helpful and in the end we went with the recommended AAP schedule as well (thanks to Dr. Awesome). It’s killer to see her cry like that though. No one likes that. I’m gearing myself up for her 4 month shots next week….

  6. romina November 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    I am against all flu vaccinations. Too many negative ingredients subject to spoil in wrong temperature. Too many miscarriages by pregnant women as a result. Or Gulliame -Barre syndrome. A cousin of mine has had swine flu 3 times. It’s just a strong flu.nothing like what it was hyped up to be.

  7. Donna November 17, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    I recently went a little nutso researching vaccinations. Being in the “all natural childbirth crowd”, many moms were opting out of vaccinations which made me feel like a bad mom that we decided to give our baby vaccinations. What really helped me out was watching: Frontline’s documentary on the subject. I encourage you to watch it if you haven’t already. It was great.

  8. Hannah Rubalcava November 17, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    i vote for vaccinations- all of them. a little story. A friend of ours, with 10 year old twins (not vaccinated) came to visit when sofia was very young. the next day they called in a panic that their kids had the chicken pox. a first my heart skipped a beat, and then I comfortably realized that yes, indeed we vaccinated against chicken pox. i realize chicken pox is minor- but imagine had it been one of the other things- I think of vaccinations as a little safety bubble!

  9. Keilah November 17, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    I vaccinated Kira up until 2 years old. Enzo was born and had his first round of shots. Then we found out he had Cerebral Palsy, from a stroke in utero. I started researching on my own about vaccinations. I held off from his shots and hers for the next year. I could not bear to give him something that could possibly make his condition worse. At his year check up the doctor asked if we were finally going to do shots. I mustered up my strength and said “No”. He huffed and puffed for about a minute. Then proceeded to tell me that out of all of them (about 10 different immunizations), he really should get just this one. I do not really remember what one he said, I was too furious. Are you kidding me? After pushing all of these shots for three years now, since Kira was born, you are now telling me they are not necessary?!? I knew then that we would never vaccinate.
    If the kids get sick, we do not run to the doctor over every little sniffle or sneeze. Instead, I feed them food to boost their immune system, fresh extracted juice. Fevers are okay, I do not Tylenol them up over a 100 degree temp. They have not had to see a doctor for a cold or sickness for almost two years. They are five and three.

    Enzo was actually exposed to Chicken pox from a fellow student and did not get them. The student had the vaccination and still got Chicken Pox, but Enzo did not.

    I am sure I have ruffled feathers with all of the above. You asked what I think and you got it. You do not have to agree and I am okay with that.

    • jaimeclewis November 17, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

      To the contrary, Keilah. I can completely see your train of thought and I respect how you’ve handled this! And you’ve totally convicted me on the Tylenol. I’ve given Seabass a good amount this past week for his fevers, and felt rotten doing it every time.

  10. Lindsay November 18, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    I just finished a public health degree, and so I am quite familiar with this debate. It helps to think about it this way- is your child at greater risk of an adverse effect from the vaccine or the disease the vaccine protects against?

    Younger people (me included) grew up with these vaccines and didn’t have the chance to see many of these diseases in action. When you actually know someone who has died from one of these diseases, you feel differently. After living in Sierra Leone for the past 5 months, I can tell you that my fear of polio certainly outweighs my fear of the minute risk of a negative reaction from the polio vaccine.

    As mentioned by someone else, the whooping cough epidemic in California is an example of what can happen when parents choose not to vaccinate. Life-threatening diseases that we never really worry about anymore- polio, measles, whooping cough, etc.- can and do come back.

    Also, I’m getting a little tired of hearing about the autism-vaccine link. How many times do people have to be told that there is no link before they believe it? Part of the problem is that public health professionals have to say things like “there is probably no connection” or “we did not find evidence to support a link”…which is researcher-speak for “THERE IS NO LINK, PEOPLE! THAT GUY WHO WROTE THAT STUDY WAS IRRESPONSIBLE AND WRONG.” This wasn’t even a debate at school. It was more like, “This is what can happen when people do bad research and the public doesn’t pay attention.”

    Sorry for writing so much. I can never stop myself from jumping into this debate.

    • jaimeclewis November 18, 2010 at 7:24 am #

      Nothing to apologize for whatsoever. You clearly know your stuff. And you’ve reinforced our decision, so thank you.

    • Harry 404 November 19, 2010 at 10:12 am #

      Lindsay’s reply is so right-on. People have forgotten that prior to World-War II, in the United States of America, the infant mortality rate was 25%. One in four, People! The reason the rate is so low nowadays is attributable to vaccines and antibiotics. No other reason.

      Sure there are infinitesimally small risks to vaccines, but these pale in comparison to the risks of the original diseases (mumps, measles, rubella, polio etc.)

  11. marinasleeps November 18, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    I have vaccinated. I choose to because our pediatrician recommends it.
    Gotta do what the dr ordered right?

  12. sophieredhead November 19, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    I am a nurse who doesn’t always agree with “doing it just because.” However, I get a flu shot every single year. Yes, the Guillian-Barre side effect is scary to think about, but the actual increased risk is 1 case per million vaccines. Of the people who get GB(from the vaccine or other unknown causes) 80% recover completely. I don’t know the mortality rates of influenza off the top of my head, but I do know they are significantly higher than that.
    The only reason people who choose not to vaccinate are able to do so is that most parents choose *to* vaccinate.

  13. AKeo November 21, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    I feel like this is the damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of thing. But I also think there are other things out there – in our food, our clothes, our homes – that we have yet to know are more harmful than any vaccine we can poke our babies with. Sunshine, fresh air, and water are even killers these days (2 out of 3 due to human impact)!
    There is no way to protect our children from every environmental factor that may do something harmful. Heck, the creek water I drank from ages 7-10 will probably have some impact on my child – and probably be the death of me.

  14. cd December 6, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    I found your site via a link at NursingFreedom’s FB page. I’m with the vaccinators (is that a word?)

    There was never any question that I’d vaccinate my child. Especially since the link between Autism and vaccines has be debunked about a million different ways from Tuesday.

    But what I found/find especially compelling are the often forgotten needs of the small population of children who cannot be vaccinated because of immune disorders (because of disease or cancer treatments, etc). Those kids frequently end up isolated because they depend on herd immunity that’s getting weaker thanks to those with the luxury of choosing not to vaccinate their kids. An immune-suppressed kiddo can’t go to public school if the school allows parents to opt out of vaccines. The kiddo might have a hard time finding a day care (which, by the way, gives this issue feminist repercussions if moms have to stay home from work to provide care; and economic repercussions if either parent is out of the workforce).

    Vaccines protect the vaccinated and they protect “the herd” – that is, all of us. Not vaccinating based on shoddy, false internet science (paging Ms. McCarthy) is selfish and the harm caused might be on an innocent party.

  15. Erwin Alber March 24, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    Vaccination is an organised criminal enterprise dressed up as disease prevention. Vaccines have never prevented anything apart from health, sanity and common sense.

    “Belief in immunization is a form of delusional insanity.”
    Dr Herbert Shelton, USA

    Vaccines and Brain Development
    Dr Russell Blaylock MD

    Vaccination Information Network (VINE) 14,000 subscribers

  16. jenny April 23, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    We have chosen not to vaccinate while our kids were babies for a few reasons. 1. Vaccinations are preserved with a form of mercury which is poisoness. 2. Many vaccinations are for diseases which are not life-threatening or even around in the US (we do not travel w/ our babies or young kids) 3. Many potential effects of the vaccinations are worse than the diseases they supposedly prevent. 4. Baby’s immume systems are not meant to handle the vaccines and all the extra ingredients in them. My job as a new mom was to keep my baby close and not expose them to anything that could harm them. 5. Researching online can provide info for either side. Doctors and nurses are trained to say/believe that vaccinations are the only way. 6. We have friends who didnt know they had a CHOICE re: vaccinating their baby, their baby lost conciousness and had to be rushed to the ER following a vaccine. The side-effect warnings are real and extremely hazardous to our baby’s health!
    We just couldnt see our barely 5lb, early baby girl being able to handle vaccinations. We kept them home with us, always when sick and didnt expose them to anything.
    Finally, being a mom is wonderful and tough. I think we each have to do what we believe is best for our kids. They are OUR responsibility, not the doctors or anyone elses. They need us to watch out for them and protect them when they are vulnerable, even when it is inconvenient for us.

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