First, please read my disclaimer.
Now, take a deep breath and don’t talk till I’m done. Yes, this is my blog. I get to have my say first.
We don’t do routine childhood vaccinations. There are a variety of reasons for this decision on our part.
First, we don’t trust vaccinations. There are too many suspected connections between vaccinations and autism; vaccinations and SIDS; vaccinations and mysterious neurological disturbances which happen 7 times as often within a week of vaccinations even though the CDC assures us that there is no connection.
An “acceptable, minor reaction” to the DTaP shot is for a baby to cry inconsolably for no more than 3 hours, and experience pain, swelling, fever, etc. This is not acceptable to me.
Until recently, there was a rather startling similarity between the symptoms and conditions that seem to accompany vaccinations (not side-effects, mind you; purely coincidental occurances) and the symptoms of mercury poisoning. Not to worry; this similarity (along with the occurance of SIDS) has largely abated in the last 5 years since – guess what? – the mercury content in vaccinations has been phased out.
Second, our children are homeschooled. They are generally less vulnerable to the epidemics that can sweep through a school. This doesn’t mean that they never get sick, but it is much easier for us to keep them away from sick children. We have rather more control over their exposure to many factors, and illness is certainly one of those factors.
Third, we think that the usefulness of vaccines is somewhat overrated. Nearly all of the diseases for which childhood vaccinations are recommended were on a steep decline before the vaccines were developed. Due to better diets, health, and medical treatment, most of them were/are no longer life-threatening for most of the population.
To be sure, vaccinations can be useful. If we have reason to believe one of our children is exposed to tetanus, we will take her in for a tetanus shot. I recently had a Rubella shot because my own immunity from childhood vaccinations had worn off. If I had had the disease itself, which is relatively mild, I would not have to worry about the dangers of contracting it during pregnancy.
Would you like to know why this is on my mind?
I mentioned sick kids in a couple of recent posts. Guess what they have: Whooping Cough. Pertussis. The “P” in DTaP.
There is currently a big spike in the number of cases being reported, particularly in our area.
Believe it or not, this is our 2nd experience with Whooping Cough in our family. Twelve years ago, our oldest contracted Whooping Cough at the tender and risky age of 6 weeks. Hubby and I had it as well. We were the last family in the church to contract it, but our little Deanna was the first member of the church to wind up in a doctor’s office (and the hospital for 3 days of observation). With accute hindsight, everyone in church realized that their lingering 6 week coughs were probably not just a cold.
Your first thought may be that we’re nuts for not “learning our lesson” the first time, but we were following all the rules the first time. Hubby and I were vaccinated as children. Deanna was too young for even the first DTP shot, which only provides limited protection. Most of the adults at church who unsuspectingly passed the Cough around had been vaccinated as well.
Some good-to-know facts about the Whooping Cough vaccine:
- Children are not fully protected until they have received the full course of 5 shots, usually by the age of 5 or 6
- vaccinations are only 60-80% effective, so many fully vaccinated children will contract whooping cough if they are exposed
- immunity begins to wear off 3-5 years after the last shot. Hence, most older children, and all teens and adults, are susceptible.
- the reactions to the shot are so severe that until this year there was no Pertussis shot available for anyone over 7 years of age.
- most adults and teens do not make the characteristic “whooping” noise. The noise is more common in young children, but still not necessarily present.
- during the “whooping” phase, the sufferer feels fine between coughing fits, which may occur 2-50 times/day.
- diagnosis is almost entirely based upon symptoms. Most sufferers don’t go to the doctor until they have had pertussis for several weeks, at which point the bacteria is likely to be gone from their system.
- most sources estimate that whooping cough is under-reported by 90-99% – that is, there are between 10 and 99 times as many cases as statistics indicate. Whooping cough is a very common sickness. If you’ve ever had a cough that lingered more than 2 or 3 weeks, you probably had whooping cough.
- Whooping Cough is usually only dangerous in babies under 4-6 months of age. On average, only 5-12 babies die each year from Whooping Cough in the US. Sad, yes. Of course! But hardly an epidemic of infant death.
Our children are doing fine. Hubby, our 12yo, and I all have immunity from our last bout. Our 10yo seems to have been bypassed. The 5 youngest all have Whooping Cough, but the baby and 4yo are so mild that I wouldn’t have suspected if not for the others with more normal cases.
Just in case you’re curious, here are the phases of Whooping Cough. Keep in mind there is a great deal of variation in length and severity. Only one of our daughters is vomiting with any sort of regularity, and only 2 are making the whooping noise frequently.
- Incubation. For 5 to 21 days after exposure (usually 7 to 14 days) there are no symptoms at all while the bacteria multiply.
- For the next 1 to 2 weeks, pertussis is not unlike a cold. People have runny noses, sneezing, and perhaps a low-grade fever. A mild cough begins that gradually worsens.
- The worst part of the illness lasts from 1 to 6 weeks. Spasms or attacks of coughing may come up to 15 times per day. Sometimes, especially in young children, the cough is followed by a “whoop” noise as they breathe in rapidly, attempting to get air. The mucus is often thick and sticky. Gagging, choking, and vomiting are common. This stage of pertussis is much milder in adults, teens and older children.
- Recovery: The cough continues for another 2 to 4 weeks, but gradually becomes less severe and less frequent. Even after the cough seems finally over, the spasms often recur briefly for the next several months – especially during colds and during exertion. Hubby and I found that laughter trigger spasms for nearly a year afterward. This can be a problem in a houseful of comedians and smart alecks.
There you have it. If you haven’t already done so, talk to hubby, do your research, pray, and make a decision on the matter. But please don’t just do it cuz the doctor said.
A few links to get you started if you’re interested in researching the subject:
- on risks
- diagnosis of pertussis and efficacy of immunization
- chicken pox vaccination
- page of links on the autism connection