Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Controversy



October 30th through November 5th is National Vaccine Awareness Week in the US. Our health care systems may not be identical here in Canada, but our vaccination schedule and number of shots given are virtually the same as in the States.

This isn't a popular topic. I don't really like posting about super hot topics, I don't like conflict! But this is something that I've really struggled with, and I'm not sure I really have all the answers yet. Are vaccinations safe? Are they safe for everyone? Are they truly effective? Do they really do what they say they will do? Is there a better way to prevent diseases? I don't have all the answers yet.

Eli is a fully vaccinated, healthy and happy two-year-old. I never noticed a single reaction from him after any shot. No rashes, slight fevers, nothing. He wasn't even fussy! At the hospital when he was born, I was presented with the option of giving him the Hepatitis B vaccine. The nurses were very careful to tell me that it was my choice. I was confused and unsure what to do. The nurse was able to give me a little brochure of information about the disease, and it sounded unpleasant. I wasn't offered any information about the actual vaccine itself, but I opted to go ahead and let him have it. So Eli had his first vaccine at only a day old.

As the months went on and he was given more and more shots I started looking into it a little more. I read articles on both sides of the argument, carefully perused the Government of Canada's website, and tried hard to educate myself. All this while I kept taking him back for his vaccines right on schedule, but as I learned more it got harder to go through with every time. At his last appointment at 18 months old I almost backed out I was so conflicted. It's so hard to see your child in pain, and vaccines are no fun. The only reason that mothers are able to do it is because they "know" that they are doing what's best for their child. At that point though, I wasn't even sure I was doing what was best for him anymore. Letting him have those last two shots was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Then after they were done, the nurse informed me that he was going to have to come back again for a third chicken pox vaccine. It seems they were finding that two shots to prevent the chicken pox weren't working, so now children needed three. I threw up my hands in frustration and told her no. It was the first vaccine I declined.



When Theo was born, I knew right away that we weren't going to be giving him the Hep B vaccine. For starters - Hepatitis B is not a disease that Canadian infants are even exposed to. Secondly I was no longer comfortable with giving a child a vaccine when they were only hours old. I assumed this would be no big deal - after all at Eli's birth they had been very careful to inform me that the decision lay in my hands. To my surprise, when the nurse came to take Theo for his first bath she told me "And he'll get his Hep B vaccine now too." I told her that we wouldn't be getting that shot, and her lips immediately tightened. She told me that she would bring a form that I needed to sign stating that I declined the vaccine and that the baby's doctor would have to be informed. When she brought the form, I saw that it was not vaccine specific but rather a general form stating that I was refusing a treatment. Part of it even said (I don't remember the exact wording) that by signing I was acknowledging that my choices would probably lead to sickness and death. What!

In retrospect, I should have put my foot down and refused to sign the stupid thing. However, in my tired post-delivery state I took the easy route and just signed it. Next baby I will not consent to sign something ridiculous like that. I don't want to be obnoxious or difficult (did I mention I really don't like conflict?) but I feel guilty that I even put my name down on that form, since I obviously didn't agree with what it was saying.



After declining that first vaccine, the time for him to get his first round of regular immunizations loomed closer and I started feeling panicky. I read tons of articles - both sides of the argument of course - and the more I read the less I was convinced. Here's the hard part - I'm not convinced vaccines don't work. If I was completely sure the whole thing was a scam or a conspiracy then that would make the decision easier. But I think they do work, or did work, I'm just not sure that they're safe or that they are the most effective way of protecting ourselves against diseases.

In the end, Theo hasn't had any shots yet. He's only five months old, and I may choose to have some late, or I might just wait and leave the decision up to him once he's an adult. As a parent, the best I can do is make the choices that I think will keep my children as safe and healthy as possible. For me, that means no vaccines for now. In the future that might mean limited vaccines, I don't know.

Ultimately, I just don't want to turn my children into test subjects for a practice that has not been sufficiently tested to prove that it's safe. Sure, Cory and I were both vaccinated as children and turned out fine. Eli has had all of his to date and has had no problems whatsoever. But I'm not going to keep injecting my kids with something that has severely damaged and even killed other people and just hope that it turns out OK. It's not a risk I'm willing to take.

Obviously I'm no scientist so I would encourage you to do your own research and reading on this subject. A lot of people use the delayed vaccination schedule promoted by Dr. Sears in his book "The Vaccine Book."

What bothers me is the assumption that only ignorant conspiracy-theorists don't vaccinate their kids. On the contrary, the people I know who don't vaccinate are the ones who are the most well read and well versed on vaccines. People who do vaccinate often know little to nothing about what is being injected into themselves or their children. I would put myself into that category when Eli was first born. Half the time I had no idea what needles he was even getting! It was once I started familiarizing myself with vaccines that I started to have concerns. Everyone, no matter which side of the debate they fall on, should be able to make an intelligent, informed decision about vaccination. 

A great place to go for information is the National Vaccine Information Center's website. For us Canadians, the Vaccination Risk Awareness Network is another great resource. Of course the Government of Canada's website has lots of info supporting vaccines.

One of the main reasons I'm writing this post is to tell you about the documentary that is available to watch for free right now, just for this week. The film The Greater Good can be streamed in its entirety on Dr. Mercola's website right now. Cory and I watched it together and it was very informative. While the movie is certainly trying to raise a lot of concerns about vaccination, it also had experts on the pro-vaccine side of the debate weigh in.

This post from a blogger that I follow does a great job of articulating why she does not get the flu shot, which is one shot that I've never gotten and never will!

Ultimately, you have to make your own decision about vaccination. I just hope that you aren't like I was and just blindly follow the pack.

3 comments:

  1. Yes, the assumptions that non-vaxers are conspiracy theorists, just blindly following is really ignorant!

    Particularly, since most people I know who vaccinate, have no idea why they do..they do so because they are "told". While that should be an option should they choose it, why choose anything to be injected into your children that you have NOT researched?

    I vaccinated our first few children, because I was ignorant. I didn't research. Then, when new vaccines came out I started reading. A LOT. We stopped then.

    My healthiest children are those who haven't been to the doctor, haven't received any injections, or antibiotics.

    A friend commented on a vaccine post on my blog and said, "if vaccines are not medicines,(which they are not-they contain no medicine) not herbs, then what are they? They are chemicals".

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  2. This is a great post Emily! We delayed both girls Hep B vaccine in the hospital, and they didn't seem to mind too much. I also delayed Charlotte's Varicella (Chicken Pox) because I didn't want it lumped together with the MMR. However, I didn't realize that they have now created one vaccine for MMR and Varicella so I did not have the option of getting them separately with Lila. I wish I had been aware of this in advance. I love "The Vaccine Book" and own it. It is a controversial issue, thanks for sharing how you deal with it!

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  3. Thanks for posting this. It is very timely for you as my son in 4m1w old and I know at his pediatrician visit next week they are going to ask me if I'd taken him for his shots yet (we go to the health dept for them). He did have his Hep B at the hospital but I'd like to spread out the rest more than the regular schedule calls for. I need to get to work on reading up on this now! Thanks again.

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