One of the most terrifying things for me to be thinking about and researching lately is vaccinations. I was fully vaccinated as a child and I have received numerous vaccinations due to international travel in the past ten years, but this is a big subject that I want to make sure I am making an informed decision about!
To begin my research, I started with parenting’s most well-known vaccine guide: Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book. This book goes through each vaccination that a child will be given before they turn 18 (there are 12) and the corresponding illness, highlighting the ingredients, effectiveness, and possible side effects of each vaccination, as well as giving a comprehensive look at the illness itself and the chances that a child will actually contract the illness. The final chapters discuss vaccinations for travel, serious side effects of vaccinations, and allegations regarding the link between autism and vaccinations.
Before reading the book, I knew very little about vaccinations, only that it is a very polarizing topic for many parents, and that the extremes of either side both seem a little intense to me. On one hand, you have parents that blame vaccinations for any number of illnesses in the country and will actually go out of their way to infect their children with the diseases they might be vaccinated for. They claim that vaccinations are full of crazy ingredients and that the vaccine industry is a huge money-making conspiracy that doesn’t have the child’s best interest in mind.
On the other hand, you have parents who are somewhat blindly allowing their children to be injected with things that they haven’t even looked into, things that haven’t been thoroughly tested for safety and are meant to prevent illnesses that either a) aren’t that serious (like chickenpox) or b) are eradicated from the US (like Polio). They are following a schedule handed to them by a pediatrician and don’t look back,
Now, I should say this: I truly try not to judge other people’s parenting decisions, and I assume until proven otherwise that parents will do what they feel is best for their child. That being said, I know families on either side of this discussion and I fully respect where each is coming from, and it isn’t my intention to attack one side or the other! As you’ll see, my mind is far from at ease over this subject, and my goal is simply to keep learning and hopefully arrive at a conclusion that brings peace to my heart and health to my family, whatever that may be.
While I have picked up on other things along the way (and will discuss them in future posts) here are some basic things I learned from this book:
Many of the illnesses that we vaccinate against are either eradicated or very uncommon in the US. Polio and Diptheria have been completely eradicated, and others such as Mumps, Tetanus, and Measles are extremely uncommon. However, many people (Dr. Sears included) argue that this is because of the success of vaccines, and that we could undo this if vaccination rates do not stay as high as they are today.
Several of the illnesses that we vaccinate against aren’t actually that serious. Take chickenpox for example. Even as recently as my generation, the chickenpox was just a part of childhood- you take some oatmeal baths, scratch yourself some nice scars and you get over it. Now, parents are told that it is a very serious illness and that their child needs to be vaccinated for it, even though the vaccine can actually CAUSE chickenpox! This is similar to how we see the flu shot being marketed now. Though, in the case of both of these illnesses, a case in an adult or elderly person can potentially be very serious, which leads many people to vaccinate anyway. Even more “scary” VPD’s (vaccine-preventable diseases), such as the Measles or Mumps, are rarely life threatening and are easily maintained by medical treatment.
Vaccines contain some seriously disturbing ingredients. Besides the mercury and formaldehyde and aluminum we often associate with vaccinations, the way that the diseases are cultured and manufactured into vaccines includes things such as aborted fetal cells, monkey kidneys, guinea pig parts, cow parts, and eggs. while vaccine proponents claim that the amount of these in an actual vaccine dosage are negligible, it is enough that someone with an egg allergy is not given vaccines that use eggs in the culture. My father (though not allergic to eggs anymore) had to avoid egg-based vaccines as a child because he has a reaction to the first one he was given. Other vaccine ingredients include MSG and polysorbate. As a believer, I want to make sure that I am being a good steward of the environment and taking care of creation- using animal parts for science isn’t usually part of that for me.
There are very serious, albeit rare, side effects to vaccines– all listed in the product insert for each shot. These range from encephalopathy to Guillan-Barre syndrome to seizures to side effects that are strangely similar to the diseases they are preventing…
Many vaccines are being administered in ways that haven’t been clinically proven to be safe. While all vaccinations currently on the market have been tested for safety to some degree when administered on their own, there are no studies that look at the safety of various vaccinations when given as a group in one appointment. According to a normal AAP vaccine schedule, some infants will get as many as 5 shots at one doctor’s visit- which is pumping their little bodies full of many different things that haven’t been studied for reactivity together.
The healthcare system has made exemptions for vaccine ingredients, where in other sides of the medical field they may not be allowed. The biggest example I have seen of this is aluminum content- there is a cap on the amount of aluminum that an infant can receive during a given time frame via IV solution and other medical advances, but this cap does not apply to vaccination levels whatsoever. This is particularly bothersome to me because vaccines are not an “over time” treatment like an IV solution would be, rather everything is administered at once, which is much more difficult for the body to process.
Some vaccines that may seem inconsequential to US citizens can be very necessary when traveling out of the country, as those diseases may be more prevalent elsewhere. Polio, Hep C, and Diptheria may be the three most important examples, as they are all quite prevalent in the third world (mainly Asia and Africa) though they are not in the US anymore.
While doctors don’t get paid directly for giving vaccines, many do get end-of-year bonuses from their insurance companies based on the percentage of fully vaccinated patients they have in their clientele. Many doctors do not allow unvaccinated or selectively vaccinated clients as a part of their practice (I know many parents who have had to find new pediatricians because of this) and this may be a good indicator as to one of the reasons why.
Some vaccinations are given mostly for the sake of others, such as Rubella, which is asymptomatic in most people, but can cause severe birth defects if a pregnant woman contracts the illness. Another example of this is the flu shot, which many people get if they have close contact with infants or the elderly, which present in more serious cases.
Many recent outbreaks of VPD’s have also included vaccinated individuals. While the media never publicizes this, even the recent measles outbreak began with a vaccinated individual who travelled out of the country, and included a good number of vaccinated individuals as well as the unvaccinated ones who got all the publicity.
Most vaccines are only thought to provide immunity for around 10-15 years. Many people assume that vaccines provide lifelong immunity, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Boosters are available for some VPDs, but others are not approved once a person gets past a certain age.
Many vaccines have been proven to be effective with less doses than are given to children routinely. Blood tests called “titers” are available to test whether or not a vaccine has been effective. This can be a great choice for selectively vaccinating parents- give one rise of a vaccine and then test to see if that vaccine has been effective enough for your child.
In contrast, even the full set of doses of a vaccine are only effective 85-90% of the time. I know several people who have ran titers after having a full round of vaccinations only to find that they or their children did not develop immunity to the VPD at all.
So where does this book leave me? With just as many questions as I started with, though they are probably more informed questions than before. I think, mostly, I just wish that this was something that we, as parents had the freedom TO choose instead of NOT TO choose. Maybe that seems like a small difference, but it makes sense in my head.
There are many more posts to write as I work through this intensely complicated and difficult subject. Again, this post is limited to the points that I felt were raised in Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book. Feel free (please!) to share your research, one way or the other!