A new can of worms: vaccinations

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:

Comments

  1. All of these comments/arguments are so interesting!! Personally, my husband and I had all 4 of our children vaccinated (except for varicella and pneumococcal conjugate) and mostly on time. We really weren’t aware, at the time, about the raging debate over vax vs. non-vax. Looking back, I remember quarter-sized knots in my babies’ thighs that I had to massage with hot compresses and endless doses of Tylenol for fever as the children grew older. In years to come, if I stumble across research that shows how harmful vaccinations in the 1990’s are for children, I have to believe that there is grace for that situation.
    It is so important to remember that vax or no-vax is not a theological dividing point among believers. I can confidently “hang out” with my girlfriends and their unvaccinated children and know that ultimately, my children will be ushered into the presence of the Lord (by His grace)at the time He has appointed and not because I did or did not vaccinate my children.
    Thank you for your sweet-spirited blogsite. I am continually in awe (as are most technologically-challenged people)of the talent displayed in the blogs I read. God bless!!

  2. Just Curious???? Have any of you researched the horrible ingredients in these vaccines, I have, and I could never justify putting those ingredients in mine or my childrens bodies. By the way research has shown that there was a great decline of deadly diseases before vaccines were used, due in part to simple change in hygine. My Mother never vaccinated me or my siblings, and I have not vaccinated my children. None of us ever get sick except for a slight cold or the flu once in a while. I could go on and on : ) but I’ll just stop here!!!
    Amity

  3. Well, Kim, I have to agree with the person who is an immunology grad. My peditrician is also an immunologist and I have read the research too. My husband and I also believe that years ago, people were crying out to God to save their dying children. He gave us the wisdom and technology to do that. God does use doctors to heal. Shame on us for not using the means He has given us to protect our children.

  4. Stephanie,
    We don’t do routine vaccinations at all, though we would do a tetanus shot if someone stepped on a rusty nail in a horse pen, etc.

    Immunokid,
    Thanks for your input – I realize there are two sides to every story. In my opinion, there is just far too much circumstantial evidence to link vaccinations with health problems, SIDS, etc. I encourage parents to do some research and not to succumb to the scare tactics utilized by *both* sides of the debate.

    Bluegrass Mama,
    I understand your point, but actually that’s part of the reason we *don’t* vaccinate:
    The last case of wild polio (i.e. not caused by a vaccine) was nearly 30 years ago. Every single case in the US since 1979 has been caused by a vaccination. The vaccination was a great blessing during an epidemic but now presents a greater risk than the disease in our country.
    And the chicken pox vaccine worries me precisely because if people are vaccinated as children, chicken pox will become an adult disease, when it is far more likely to cause shingles and other serious complications. The vaccine works by actually giving the recipient a very mild (often asymptomatic) case of chicken pox. This provides a limited immunity that will likely wear off in early adulthood. It also makes the recipient mildly contagious. This just sounds like trouble brewing! I’m afraid sad cases like your sister’s neighbor will become more and more common as chicken pox vaccinated children reach adulthood.

  5. Bluegrass Mama says:

    Having a friend with no use of his right arm due to polio and knowing that my sister’s next-door-neighbor died of chicken pox days after giving birth to her first child, I am in the pro-vaccine camp, despite the risks. I will say that I am fortunate enough to have had both my children come through theirs with nothing more than a slight fever.

  6. I read your disclaimer and I’m not arguing with your right to choose your own path, but as an immunology grad student, I feel compelled to present the case for vaccination.
    The claims that vaccination causes autism or SIDS are largely based on the fact that the diagnosis or death usually occurs at the same age that vaccinations are commonly given. It is natural to associate events that happen at the same time, but it doesn’t mean that one causes the other. Studies that measure how many children are diagnosed with autism or die from SIDS without having been vaccinated show that vaccination does not increase the risk. The level of mercury previously present in vaccines was also shown not to cause harmful effects. It was removed in an attempt to ease parents’ peace of mind, but sadly it may have had the opposite effect. This is a good web site dealing with some concerns about immunisation: http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/4038myth.htm
    I’m not saying vaccines are perfectly safe; there are risks in being vaccinated, but they are far less than the risks of living in an unvaccinated society. At the moment, since most of the population is vaccinated, not vaccinating your own children means you can take advantage of the fact that many diseases are less common and not expose your children to the slight risk of vaccination. But, if too many people go unvaccinated, there will be outbreaks of diseases that will result in deaths that could have been prevented (as has happened in the UK since the recent MMR scare campaign).
    I’m not encouraging you to blindly follow your doctor’s advice, but please don’t go the other way either.

    (I came from the carnival of frugality and I’m enjoying reading your posts – thanks!)

  7. Thanks for bringing this up, Kim. It’s been a topic on our minds for quite some time now. So I’m curious: do you vaccinate at all? I’m convinced of the reasons not to adhere to the recommended schedule (which means we’re needing to switch pediatricians), but I haven’t found many alternative, safer schedules.

  8. My parents are very anti-vaccines, especially when given as multiple diseases together in the one dose. They never vaccinated us (saying that to people who are very pro-vaccines just about makes them jump out of their skin!). I think the key thing is to consider the issue carefully, and your family’s history in regard to allergies/sensetivity to things like that. If someone has a child who may be sensetive, it may be wise to at least only give them one vaccine at a time rather than the triple doses.

  9. Headmistress, zookeeper says:

    I also had a bad case of measles, and my brothers had the mumps- and all of us were vaccinated.

    Remember when the polio vaccine was live, and you stood a greater chance of getting polio from your vaccine than from any other source, unless it was coming into contact with somebody who had been recently contagious and was therefore contagious?

    I was at my doctor’s arguing about that vaccine. The doctor kept telling me how safe the live polio vaccine was and that I was negligent for not giving it to my child. He told me the ‘dead’ vaccine wasn’t nearly as effective, and he wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.

    I did not do what he told me to do, and we brought our child home unvaccinated.

    Exactly two weeks later a friend of mine was in the *same* clinic being told by the *same* doctor that they no longer carried the live vaccine because it actually caused more cases of polio than any other source. He would only give the dead vaccine, he told her.

    The difference? The military hospital in question had finally gotten supplies of the dead vaccine in and had dumped their live vaccine. The doctor’s advice had never been based on medical accuracy, but on hospital policy and supply.

  10. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that your family has whooping cough. I contracted it when I was 16 years old, and it was a very unpleasant few months. Even after I got over the actual whooping cough, I still coughed. Just like you said, it was brought on by laughing. What a pain in the neck!!!

    In our case, we got it from the pastor’s teenage son who underwent extensive testing for the doctors to try to figure out what was wrong with him. The doctors never did tell him he had whooping cough. That winter we knew many people–adults and children–who got this. It was a long winter for us kids (no doubt my parents too!!!) because WE stayed home so we wouldn’t spread it around. The doctors weren’t diagnosing it properly. I wonder if that was because that would prove the inefficiency of the immunizations?

    Our doctor actually told us that: he didn’t know what it was, but it would last approximately 6 weeks. Puleeze!

  11. We selectively vacinate. the last one Emma supposedly “needed” I looked up and read the information – the same they give to the doctor administering it – and in that literature they clearly stated that the vaccine had more side effects and a greater chance of getting them, than of getting the actual disease! That didn’t even make sense!

    Also, last year here there was a bout of WC going through the schools. Every single child had been vaccinated. *ONE* family caught it and were unvaccinated, but they got it from a group of vaccinated, carrying, sick children. This was also verified by the health department.

    (Just in case anyone would like to argue that unvaccinated children are going around spreading disease.)

    So there are some things we haven’t vaccinated for, but we weighed the risk beforehand.

    “But please don’t just do it cuz the doctor said.” Some words EVERYONE should think about.

  12. Carmon Friedrich says:

    Praying for it to be over quickly, Kim! We had WC a few years ago when the youngest at the time was 1 year old, and he was pretty sick. I didn’t sleep very much for a month. If it happens again I would definitely get antibiotics (something I don’t do lightly) as it does lessen the severity of the illness even after it’s contracted.

    Hugs,
    Carmon

  13. blestwithsons says:

    We do our vaccinations.

    I do have an autistic child – Asperger syndrome to be precise.
    But I am convinced that his case is mostly genetic, possibly aggrevated by allergies.

    I don’t have very strong reactions about this… But my mother, who had a severe case of Measles, and who remembers polio – very much does have strong opinions about it.

    (that’s not why we vaccinate, however)

  14. Very interesting thoughts! I will have to share this with my husband and consider this. We currently vaccinate, but mostly because that’s what our doctor suggested. Thanks for the information!

    BTW, could you tell me how I can get the blogads on my blog? You can email me at [email protected]

    Thanks & Blessings!
    Susan

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