The following is a guest post for the series, “Speak-Up Mama!” The purpose of this series is to help Mamas have more compassion for one another regarding controversial decisions. In light of that, feel free to comment but please play nicely or your comment will be removed. Thank you to Juliana for her willingness to share her story!
How can you be ‘kinda vaccinating’? You either are or you aren’t, right? Not necessarily. We are following a vaccine schedule for our son, but it’s not the one unanimously recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). It’s our own, adapted with the help of our good friend Dr. Sears (more on him later).
Let’s start with the basics of why my husband and I believe vaccinating our son is important. First of all, like any good parent we love our son and want to do what is best for him. This is the same reason that people don’t vaccinate, so let me continue. Our decision is partially based on personal experience. We were both vaccinated and have managed to avoid any serious diseases or side effects. It should be stated that that was between 20 and 30 years ago and things were different back then so this isn’t an explicit approval of all vaccines now. (Side note: I just sounded old; parenting does that to you!). Nevertheless, many (not all) of the vaccines we use today have a long track record of successful prevention without harmful side effects.
We feel blessed to have access to modern medicine. Taking a look back a few generations will tell you that children used to die at much greater rates than we experience now, particularly vulnerable infants. The tradition of a big celebration for the first birthday has its roots in a time when many babies didn’t survive. There are many factors to better life expectancy now, but one of these is disease prevention through vaccination. For example, Polio used to be a big issue – remember FDR? Now polio is extremely rare (the only cases are in undeveloped countries). This is thanks to modern medicine in the form of vaccines. We also believe that we have some responsibility to society (or at least our family and friends) to continue this disease prevention.
So, if we believe in vaccinations and there are a whole bunch of experts out there that made a schedule for us, why aren’t we following it? Several reasons. First, we are not convinced that they have our best interests in mind. Unfortunately, every industry has its politics and the medical field is no exception. It’s not too hard to imagine that pharmaceutical companies might give doctors incentives for promoting their vaccines…Or that they might lobby for protection against lawsuits.
Second, many of the vaccines are new and don’t have sufficient research to support them, particularly in the areas of long-term effects and possible interactions. How do we know that a particular vaccine won’t actually cause a harmful reaction greater than the one it was designed to prevent? We know several people whose sons have autism and the parents saw the signs right after a round of vaccinations. While the research on this isn’t conclusive, it’s a good reason for pause. When is it ever a good idea to take five drugs at once, even for adult, never mind a two month old! How can we be sure there are no negative interactions between the drugs? (At two, four and six months the AAP recommends that 5 vaccines be given at once). And, if our child had a bad reaction after a round of shots, how are we supposed to determine which vaccine is the culprit so that we can avoid it for next time?
Finally, not all children have the same genetic make-up nor are they exposed to the same environment, therefore we don’t think they need the same protection. We carefully considered factors of family medical history, parental occupation, potential of daycare exposure, travel and family values when creating our vaccine schedule. Finally, we needed some expert advice of the risks associated with each vaccine as well as the severity and risk factors for the disease it was designed to prevent. This is where our friend Dr. Bill Sears comes in. I say friend, because he was my husband’s pediatrician 30 years ago!! If you are not familiar with the good doctor, he is an expert in the field, dubbed “America’s Pediatrician”, a father of eight and a prolific author, with books covering infant development, breastfeeding, birth, pregnancy, sleep, attachment parenting and more. His son, Bob, actually wrote The Vaccine Book, but he’s also a pediatrician and shares the same perspective with the elder Sears.
So here is where we landed:
DTap and Rotavirus at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months
Pc and HIB at 3 months, 5 months, 7 months and 15 months
MMR at 5 years
Tetanus booster at 7 years and 17 years
Three dose polio series and blood test for Hep A immunity at 10 years
Meningococcal at 16 years
We are still considering flu vaccines every year (I have never received them, but my husband is required to receive them annual as he works in the healthcare industry. The strand of the flu virus changes every year and so does the vaccine used to treat it. I am not sure I feel comfortable with a vaccine that is always changing.)
Our schedule is a combination of the alternative and selective vaccine schedules outline in the book. We made the decision to combine because our approach toward vaccination didn’t perfectly fit either schedule. We believe some of the vaccines are not worth the risk, especially when the corresponding diseases are mild or rare. However, some of the diseases are very serious and we want to vaccinate against these at age/exposure appropriate times. For comparison, check out the AAP schedule here. Wherever you are on your vaccination journey, I highly recommend The Vaccine Book by Dr. Robert W. Sears! It’s a great resource to all parents in the quest to protect our children.
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