The Vaccine Question

Posted by  | Sunday, July 20, 2008  at 8:55 PM  
It seems like the question of whether or not to vaccinate is really taking center stage in recent years. Even since my son was born two years ago, Jenny McCarthy has written a book about her experience with her son and autism. There have been supreme court decisions, books, Oprah specials and commercial campaigns making the public very aware of autism and the possible link to vaccinations. The link between vaccinations (specifically the MMR) and autism is probably the most "famous" debate, but it's not the only concern with vaccinations.

Before I go any further, let me encourage you all to remember our purpose of this blog. We are seeking to simply share information with you, not make a decision for you. In fact, the authors of this blog all have different approaches to vaccines. My hope is that this information will give you a starting point to consider the issue for your family and children.

Becoming a parent involves so many decisions that we have to make for our children. Many parents don't even think to question something like vaccinations that their doctor assures them are necessary and safe. I certainly didn't question vaccines when my son was born and he has been fully vaccinated since birth. With the coming of our second child, I began to learn more and more about dangers associated with vaccinations. We now have a new plan for vaccinating Adeline. She will receive most of the recommended vaccinations, just not all at once. You can visit the CDC's (Centers for Disease Control) and the AAP's (American Academy of Pediatrics) websites to see the recommended course for immunizations.

So, where should you start in getting more information about vaccines?

I HIGHLY recommend that you do two things:

1. Print out a copy of the immunization schedule from either of the above websites. I also got a copy of the schedule that my pediatrician's office follows as well. It helped me to keep it all straight as I learned about each vaccination.

2. Get a copy of this book:

It is written by Dr. Sears (well one of them at least!) and is VERY helpful. He clearly states that it is not an "anti-vaccine" book. It is (in my opinion) as close as you can get to an unbiased presentation of concerns surrounding each vaccination. He gives reasons and support FOR and AGAINST each vaccination. He also does not even address the autism link, yet still fills the entire book with other issues with each vaccine! In short, his recommendation is a delayed vaccination schedule. He gives examples of such schedules in his book.

Here is what was written on Amazon:

"Sears, coauthor of several books in the Sears Parenting series, addresses one of today's most controversial and worrisome questions. Sears' goal is "to give you a balanced look at pros and cons of vaccination so that you can make an educated decision." Sears does not advocate for or rail against vaccination, stating it doesn't have to be an all or nothing decision-there are choices. The first 12 chapters discuss each vaccination in the childhood series, providing explanation of the relative disease, how the vaccine is made and points to assess a child's at-risk level when considering if the vaccine is necessary. Sears does offer guidance for those who are indecisive, offering his opinion based on clinical experience and 13 years of research taken from product inserts, pediatric reference books, articles and databases. Additional chapters illuminate more controversial aspects of the debate, such as how vaccine safety is researched and what the findings are, side effects and how to minimize them, common myths and questions. As always, Sears' tone puts readers at ease as he clearly explains medical terms and elucidates debates."

Despite the last sentence of this description - I do think the book was quite technical with a lot of medical terms. Dr. Sears does a good job in explaining each, but some might find the book a little too technical and scientific. My undergrad degree is Biology and I loved reading about all the research on each vaccine. My point is that other's might not. However, of all the information on vaccinations available over the internet, this is the most succinct presentation of the research on vaccines. This is why I recommend it as a starting point.

After reading this book and doing other research- I have a couple of "rules" for vaccinating Adeline. She gets no more than two vaccinations at a time (taking aluminum content into account-read the book!) and never when she is sick. She has gotten two vaccines at each one month old, two months and three months. She will not get the rotavirus vaccine (the oral one). Ultimately, I chose to vaccinate her for several reasons. Mainly because my background in science will not let me just dismiss the public health view of vaccinations. The other reason was that even after researching and reading, I simply did not feel comfortable leaving her with no protection against some of these diseases. I prayed about this issue (seriously!) and really did not feel convicted to abandon the recommended vaccines entirely.

I will say that we have received mixed reviews at our peds office. Some doctors are more ok with our plan than others. At the hospital, we declined the Hep B vaccination. The nurses and doctor never blinked an eye. They were completely supportive. We did have to sign a waiver of some kind. When we are questioned by a doctor, I kindly tell them that we have made our decision and it is what we are comfortable with.

Later this week, the other's will address some more specific issues and more sources for information. In the meantime - feel free to ask questions or share your ideas.


Christy said...

I am doing a modified vaccine schedule for my boys. When I first said something to my doctor, she reacted negatively. When I explained that I was going to get all the vaccines just on a different time line than the standard she was okay with everything. I just have to say discuss it with your doctor and explain things from your view point. If you don't explain yourself they will never know what your line of thinking is.

Thanks for sharing these links. When I was researching - wow almost two years ago now - I did not come across either sight. But then again I was a new expecting mom and a bit overwhelmed with the amount of info out there.

markandmeg said...

I just wanted to say that I am really excited that you guys are discussing this topic! I didn't know about any controversy with vaccines with my 1st baby, so she just got whatever the doc suggested. But I am really trying to do a lot of research before she gets her next st of shots and before my next baby is due in January. I can tell this week is going to be so helpful! Thanks so much for being willing to share what you have learned!
Meagan DeLong

ChezDeshotels said...

As most of you know by now our 2.5 year old was adopted from central asia and was very much a premie, she had all the hepatitis shots but she also had blood transfusions. We have had to test her multiple times for hep. and HIV/AIDS. I was very aware of immunizations before her and I havew modified some of her shots and also we havew declined some. But I really started researching over the past 9 months when my sister became pregnant. Her husband lost his sister to a reaction to immunizations and he had several problems so they have really read and researched and prayed through what to do. They are meeting with some specialists as well. My point in this is that doing all this research I have learned how I feel on vaccines and I have decided to modify a schedule and omit some vaccines for our baby due in Jan. I encourage each family to reasearch this issue and feel confident about your decision and not to just do whatever because the docotr said. If you are comfortable and happy with your decision then it is the best for your family. Thanks so much for writing about this topic.


Jennifer said...

After teaching children with autism for 8 years, I did LOTS of research about vaccines. I used that book as well! Eli is following Dr. Sears' recommended schedule.

Welcome2Autism said...

I just wanted to throw out a few statistics in hopes of shedding some light on the reality of autism and vaccines. As a mama, I watched my sweet son slip away into the world of autism following a round of routine vaccinations. He lost all of his words, quit making eye contact and quit answering to his name. How very painful it was for us to watch this unfold before us in disbelief! The newest stats show that more than 1/150 children in this country will be diagnosed. And for boys, it's even worse---1/94 (some stats even go as far to say 1/75!) baby boys born in the US will regress into autism. ONE OUT OF EVERY 63 AMERICAN FAMILIES HAS A CHILD ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM. These stats are staggering and overwhelming.

Now, let me say that I am NOT anti-vaccine! I think that shots are very important. But there is much evidence that points to vaccines as the culprit in the autism epidemic. My son was typical. There was NOTHING wrong with his development. Until that fateful day when everything changed for us. In all honesty, I can't point at one shot in particular that causes autism. My personal and whole-hearted belief is that little baby immune systems simply can't process the 30+ vaccines that we bombard their tiny bodies with in the first 2-3 years of life. (Back in the 80's when I was a baby, kids were only given 12vaccines in the same time period! And the autism rate was only 1/10,000). Some kids get a fever, others sleep unbelievably well after shots, others have seizures...and some slip away into autism...all of the above are possible negative reactions to vaccines.

Our family now chooses to delay all vaccines until age 3, at which point we will begin with one vaccine at a time, every 2 combo vaccines. THEY CAN ALL BE BROKEN UP INTO SEPARATE SHOTS! (despite what your pediatrician may have you believe). Here's the other thing to keep in mind: The whole thimerisal (mercury as a perservative) arguement is often dismissed because we're told that it was removed from use in vaccine production in the year 2000. When I look at my son's vaccine record, there are quite a few on there that were manufactured in
the 90's (thimersol gives vaccines an incredibly long shelf life). Also, there are a handful of the regular vaccines that are STILL MADE WITH THIMERISOL (like all flu shots, hep B, HIB...). I only share this info with you because I'm so passionate about spreading the word on something I feel is so important!!!! It baffles me that even many doctors are unaware of the reality that some shots still contain mercury.

My prayer is that no other parent will have to watch their sweet child slip away into autism. It's been a long, hard 2 1/2 years, and I wish I'd know then what I know now...but, praise the Lord, for by His grace, through the use of intensive early intervention our son has fully recovered from autism (yes, it is possible!!). What a testimony this child already has at the young age of 4 1/2! God is so good and he has certainly been faithful to answer our prayers for our son!

Thanks POH-ers for opening up this important topic for discussion, and for allowing me to share a glimpse of my experience. God Bless!

Christina said...

Thank you everyone for all of the comments so far. And for keeping our discussion wonderfully supportive, open and kind! Keep the comments coming.

O'Behave said...

I really appreciate what the mom said above about her son and autism, and the fact she has chosen to wait for vaccines. We are doing something to similar, but havn't figured it all out yet. For now we are waiting till the kids are at least three and we may get some, but not all vaccines. Waiting is such a great idea, it gives you time to figure things out and if there are any side effects, they are pretty obvious by this age. Here are some stats that we have considered: In 1979 Japan quit administering vaccines to infants and raised the age of vaccination to 2 years and the result was that infant deaths and infantile convultions practically dissapeared. Japan recorded the lowest insidence of infant mortality in the world. Another country that has an extreamly low rate of infant death is Sweden, where vaccinations are not administered to infants. Lastly, SIDS in Australia was reduced by 50% in the same year that vaccines dropped by 50%, when vaccines became non-mandatory in that country. We just found this kind of interesting.

Bruce said...

I was recently introduced to the POH blog and appreciate the thoughtful discussion.

I am a mommy of three children (Faith 2.5, Ezekiel 18 mo, Carter 3 weeks) and have also researched the link to autism and vaccines as well. I have a hard time believing that vaccines are the culprit to the high rate of autism. I think other factors could be more likely candidates, such as epidurals and hormonal birth control. I do favor an alternative vac. schedule. With my first child, I was shocked when the nurses told me they were going to give my daughter the 12 and 15 month vaccinations together in order to save me a trip to the doctor. I said no thank you, but had to insist on just the single if I was a bad mother. We also choose to opt out of the chicken pox vaccine, and have to fight the nurses on that as well.

Ultimately, God is sovereign and in control of all things, including autism and reactions to medications. Whether or not your child gets vaccinated on schedule, doesn't get vaccinated, or is somewhere in between, God will either bless your family with health, or bless you with illness. Even though I have no idea how hard it is to raise a child who has autism or some other illness, our prayers as godly mothers (like Hannah) should be for God to use our children for HIS GLORY regardless of their physical or mental condition. I appreciate parents who utilize discernment in making decisions, however we should not get consumed with research and finding answers just so we can feel better about our children's problems. Find your comfort and rest in Jesus Christ alone.

Descemet said...

I want to give you all a couple links just to make this a friendly, well rounded discussion.

Here is a quote from the article: "There is no relationship between the level of exposure to MMR vaccines and thimerosal–containing vaccines and rates of autism. According to our data, the incidence of autism was higher in children who were vaccinated after thimerosal [which contains 50% ethylmercury] was eliminated from vaccines"

The second is an article out of the UK news about the measles outbreaks in the world due to decreasing amounts of children getting MMR vaccines. Measles is a very serious and potentially life threatening disease.

Welcome2Autism said...

I just wanted to follow up my previous comment with this statement: I can only speak from my own experience. In our home, there is no doubt what caused our son to regress into autism. I realize that autism is still a mystery, but I can assure you that there was nothing in question with our son's development until 3 days after a round of routine childhood vaccinations. This was a healthy, happy, giggly, cuddly little boy. And the week after he'd been given a round of shots followed by a clean bill of health at his check up, where the doctor had checked off all of those important developmental milestones, our son as we knew him to that point in time simply disappeared. His eyes were no longer full of life, he lost the handful of words that he'd regularly been using, and he screamed when we tried to hold him.

We're not looking for someone to blame, and we certainly praise God in all circumstances. I could go on and on about the multitude of ways that God has revealed himself and his plan for our son and family throughout this journey. Even in those early days of learning what had changed in our sweet boy, we knew and trusted that our Lord is ruler of all, and that He is sovereign.

I honestly didn't know that I could ever buy into the theory of vaccines being linked to autism until I watched it happen to my own baby.

I am so grateful to see that so many mamas, whether currently affected by autism or not, are approaching vaccines with an open and inquiring mind!

Descemet said...

Sorry, the first link isn't complete. Here it is.


Hollie said...

Thank you ladies for sharing all of your comments. I have got to thank welcome2autisim for sharing her personal story. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Mercy alive. I have never even spoken with someone who has had a personal experience with autism/autism with their children. Thank you so much for sharing. It's also neat to see that there's a nice discussion and both sides are being represented here. I look forward to reading more.

ashley c said...

My husband and I were missionaries in Botswana, Africa and our first son was born there. I had 4 rhogam shots while pregnant with him and when he was 4 months old we moved back to the states. I took him to the doctor and was so thankful to be back safe here in America. Our pediatrician double immunized him even though he had already had two rounds of shots in Africa. His first set of shots in AFrica were awful he cried for 5 hours straight and we couldn't even touch his lef or he would do a terrible high pitched scream. After we got home and he was immunized he got an ear infection then we put him on antibiotics. He always has had terrible smelling diahrrea like poop, but his behavior was so far over the top I didn't realize that poop and behavior totally go together. Right now I think he would be labeled PDD. He is somewhat aggressive, won't let us hold him, a little OCD, freaks out to the extreme when he gets hurt. I found and we have just started implementing some things with him to help him recover. We have started the dairy free/gluten free diet and are fixing to try to attack the candida yeast that has built up inside his little body from all of the antibiotics. He also has terrible food allergies and his immune system is awful. I have no doubt that all of the shots he got contributed to his low immune system. I'm just so thankful that I have hope that the Lord will heal him. I am pro-vaccine, but on a delayed schedule like others have suggested.

Robin Baker said...

I think it's important to research everything - especially when dealing with drugs. Because that's what vaccines are - just like epidurals, it should be the parent's choice whether or not they want to expose their baby to a potentially harmful drug. If your pediatrician is rude or pushy (our first one was horrible) then get a new one. Kaiser has been great to us. After doing our research, my husband and I decided not to vaccinate our boys until at least age 3. So far so good - besides some ear infections in the older one. What I don't know is if any studies have been done on all the kids that are NON-vac... do any of them have autism? I never checked that out and would love to know. Because so far, all the studies have been on autistic kids that were also vaccinated. I have many patients (I'm a dental hygienist) that have autistic children and most of them say they don't believe it was the vaccines - they believe it is genetic. We did not only consider autism when deciding to delay - but all the other ingredients and potential risks. Thanks for the discussion and great comments. May the Lord bless each of you and give you peace in your parenting decisions.

ashley c said...

Here is an article written on the amish. They have done studies and have found no autism amongst them.

autism does have to do with genetics. They discuss this is "Children with Starving Brains", but autism is triggered through shots.

History is always always the best teacher. I never knew anyone with ADHD, autism, PDD or anything else. I used to think parents were just not disciplining their children correctly, but after my experience have learned that these kids are physically ill. Praise the Lord they can be recovered though.

Z, T, K, & baby B said...

What I've been trying to find (with NO luck) is a pedi in WF that is willing/flexible with the vaccine schedule. I call and they treat me like I'm the most un-intelligent person for wanting to delay vax in my children.

We've had to fight just to delay a couple (we're going to do a delayed schedule with our 2nd son coming in a month) We finally found 1 pedi there who didn't question anything, but she's normally at a different office much further away.

Christina said...

Last commenter:

Look up Karen Burke-Hayes Of Stepping Stone Pediatrics. She is in Raleigh, but near Wake Forest. I was recommended her when we were looking to switch to a more vax-friendly doc. We decided not to switch however.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add a comment about choosing to wait until your child is older (some mentioned age 3) to begin vaccinating. I personally use a delayed vaccination schedule for my children and do decline certain vaccinations. However, while we don't bunch vaccinations together (at least a month between), we do start vaccinating as infants. My dr. is very knowledgeable and supportive. I want to put a warning out against meningitis. This is a very dangerous and somewhat common illness. I personally know a breastfeeding newborn who was left brain-damaged and eventually died after fighting meningitis. This particular baby was not even old enough to be vaccinated on the "usual" schedule, but after seeing the illness first-hand, reading about it, and talking to my doctor this is one vaccine that I felt was worth giving early. Of course, like everyone else has made so clear, it is ultimately up to each family to make an educated decision after collecting as much info as possible. This is just something I haven't heard brought up much in the vaccine discussion. Thanks!

a mystery said...

This is something that all the "natural" mothers need to read. By not immunizing your children you are only possibly harming others around you, and helping to "undue" the advances that medical technology has provided us. I feel strongly that many do not know what is best and then try to make there own "educated" decisions, that are really guesses. Please read the attached link.

Christina said...

Just wanted to follow up on Jen's comment about meningitis. First off - this is the HIB vaccine routinely given at 2,4 and 15 months. We did chose this one to be given on time because of three reasons:

1. The vaccine has a very low side effect rate and is considered one of the safest.

2. The infection - although rare - can be very serious.

3. This is the one my doctor recommended getting right away at two months versus waiting on. So we did.

Thanks again for the friendly discussion everyone.

erinboydodom said...

Christina, Why didn't you get the rotavirus vaccine for your daughter? I am just curious b/c I am reading Dr. Sears' book, and he seemed to think it was important. My baby (my first!) is supposed to have her two-month shots in 2 weeks, so I am trying to find out as much as possible before deciding which ones to get. Thanks!

Christina said...

The rotavirus vaccine is new and I wanted to wait a while until it has been out longer. You can only get it during the first several months - maybe four I think? Since Adeline is breastfed and not in daycare, her chances are low to get the rotavirus. As my doc put it, the virus is serious, but not life threatening. It might prevent a hospitalization, but not a death. Does that make sense? My son had it when he was still very small for his age and we weathered it just fine. (He didn't have the vaccine, it wasn't out yet.) So those are my reasons!

markandmeg said...

My doc, who hasn't been excited about delaying any shots, actually said she wouldn't recommend the rotavirus shot for my baby because she stays home with me and is breastfed. My doc didn't give it to her baby, either, because she has an at-home nanny.
Meagan DeLong

Emily said...

I am just reading the comments from this post today July 29th. Not sure when it was even posted, didn't pay attention but I wanted to add one thing.

My daughter Anna (our 1st born) was a full term, breastfed baby and wasn't in daycare and she had the rota virus and it was bad. I have never seen her so sick and we were in frequent contact with her doctor on whether she need to be hospitalized or not. In the end, God spared us from her being hospitalized and she got better but the Rota virus is ugly, and when the option came for our 3rd chld to receive the vaccine, we did it. Just a thought on the other side of the coin for the Rota virus vaccine.

Our 3rd is now facing the MMR vaccine in about a 1 1/2 months and my husband and I are praying for wisdom on what to do with that.

Thanks for all the information.

Anonymous said...

I realize this comment stream is a couple of months old, but I need to say that I had a very bad experience with Karen-Burke Hayes. She was completely unsupportive of my breastfeeding. The first time I took my newborn son in at five days old, he was "not gaining enough weight." She asked me to feed him in front of her, and when he was finished, she forced a bottle of formula into his mouth to watch him guzzle it down, proving to me that I was not providing him with enough milk. She made me come every three days to get him weighed, didn't really help me at all with figuring out how to make breastfeeding work, and pushed me to use formula to get him on the 50th precentile for weight, when he was on the 5th at birth. Finally at six weeks, I switched to Dr. Dirk at Growing Child, and he was really understanding, caring, and he was open to changing the vaccine schedule for us. I would highly recommend him!

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