Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Vaccinations at a glance...in depth
OK OK OK so this is a topic about which I regularly get questions. So I am just going to put a few thoughts out there (I feel like this entry is more like barfing out my discoveries).
FIRST let me just make a few disclaimers:
1.I do not live overseas or have not taken my child out of the country as of yet.
2. I nurse my baby.
3. I did not birth a premature child or a child with a compromised immune system.
4. I made all of my decisions while walking alongside the guidance of my pediatrician who firmly believes that I am my child's advocate, therefore she respects my questions and decisions, while letting me know her opinion at the same time (this is a good balance I think). And finally number 5. my child is not in day-care or school yet. The reason for all of these disclaimers is because they are all very legitimate factors to consider before you make the decision to do an alternative vaccination schedule, or no vaccines at all.
I also want to say that my child does have some vaccines. Let me start with the most common questions I find in my mail box and move from there.
"Hey I'm having a baby soon and heard you didn't vaccinate your daughter, why? I have been thinking about all the shots they give babies these days and it scares me. Also someone told me that they are linked to autism, is this true?" "What have you found out?"
Whew! OK so here we go. When I was about 4 months pregnant I started my research... and I'm still going. So this is not something I have taken very lightly. Why? Vaccinations and circumcision are the two irreversible medical decisions you make FOR your child (geeze and I though trying to decided if we were going to spank or not was a dig deal). Here were my two issues, 1. Vaccinations are full of heavy metals (aluminum, beryllium, mercury, and others) some in very high doses some in very small doses. 2. Some vaccinations also have live viruses in them. 3. How many of these diseases are more of an inconvenience to working parents and less of an actual threat to my child. So I consulted a few MD's I knew and asked them what they thought about not vaccinating my child. I got anything from; its completely safe to vaccinate to "I really don't like vaccinations". One friend said that the only reason I would be able to choose the non-vaccination rout is because everyone else does it and I would be ridding on the backs of healthy kids which she thought was totally wrong. Another friend who had been in family medicine for over 20 years thought that doing some sort of a delayed schedule and just one at a time was much better for children in her opinion, and that is what she does in her practice. As I continued my reading I decided to take my liberty as a mother who is my child's advocate and do what I thought was best for MY child (not yours this is a decision that needs to be taken very seriously for your individual family).
Here is the down-low on vaccinations as I have discovered. In the beginning...
If you deliver your child in a hospital (which I did not--she was born at a birth center) it is very likely as soon as your child is visited by a pediatrician (usually in about the first 12 hours) they will want to give your child the Hepatitis B vaccination ASAP. Let me just say that this illness is sexually transmitted, transmitted through dirty needles (in case your 12 hour old baby decides to become a drug addict) necessary if your child needs a blood transfusion, or if either parent has it, or is living a high risk life (like sleeping with prostitutes or sharing heroine needles with the homeless guy down the street). None of these were issues to qualify my child for the shot, thus her Dr said it was totally fine for her to skip it. MY DOCTOR said that. She said that when she gets ready for preschool it might be nice to have because if she gets bit by another child she would have that protection (little did she know mine was going to be the biter!).
Here is another factor you might want to consider: the FDA says that a 12 pound infant can safely receive 30 mcg's of aluminum each day, but the Hep B shot contains 250 mcg. (This comes from www.fda.gov) in one injection. My daughter was 7 pounds at birth so according to the FDA the Hep B shot would contain too much aluminum and possibly cause metal toxicity.
OK so I had jumped the first hurdle and was onto the next: rotavirus, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, HiB (meningitis), prevnar (meningitis) and polio. Um hello did you say you are going to give my 2 month old child SIX vaccinations! So there it is folks that's the next hurdle to jump. After talking with my child's Dr we decided that I would wait until she was four months old to begin thinking about them again, making a decision like that was too overwhelming for my postpartum mind (an her Dr. agreed that it was fine to wait until then). Then I began my next project. Which of these vaccinations was really important to a stay-at-home-nursed-baby? And here is what I discovered: I live in a college town with over 50,000 students. Meningitis is very common on college campuses and thus this is the only illness that poses a real threat to my infant at that time. So at 4 months we returned to the Dr and got the prevnar or PCV because it is the most dangerous of the two bacterias (HiB is the other). Because we got this shot 2 months late my daughter only had to have 3 of the series of four as long as the final injection was given after her first birthday. We then discovered that if HiB is given at 15 months your child is protected with just one of the 3 part series. So at 15 months she received that injection.
OK side note. If child A starts the HiB vaccination at 2 months and child B starts at 15 months and they both receive the final injection at their 15 month visit, they are both protected equally, and child B has only one-third the amount of heavy metals as child A. When it comes to vaccinations that are part of a series the child is not fully protected until the WHOLE series is complete. This is another factor to take into consideration.
SO our schedule looked like this:
4 months PCV #1
6-8 months PCV #2
13 months PCV #3
(we were able to avoid number 4 because its just a booster because the one given at 2 months is too early really to do much)
15 months HiB (only one not 3)
20 months DTaP
24-28 months polio (IPV)
3 years MMR
Vaccinations I will probably never give her: chickenpox (varacella), rotavirus (for infants, too late now), gardasil (its bad news).
Some notes about the DTaP:
I have a friend who is a pharmacist and I assigned her the job of finding out if a child can get just the tetanus or does it have to be all three. Those big one's really scare me because they usually contain a lot of heavy metals and this one has a live virus as well, or at least I thought it did. My pharmacist friend found out that you can give your child a DT and not the DTaP but not the T only. The T must be formulated along with something else to make it absorbe into a little body (but alone its fine for adults). My concern for the Pertussis was that I had read said that it was a live virus and I wanted to avoid those at this stage (sometimes its the live virus that makes them sick). When I asked for a DT vaccination we found out it would have to be special ordered, but that Florida does not allow the use of live virus Pertussis. She Marin recieved the DTaP.
To address the autism issue. There is some theory that the thimerosal in certain vaccinations is linked to autism because thimerosal contains mercury. There is not a lot of medical support for this... some people believe that its because the $$ funding for this type of research would not be available due to drug companies. I did a lot of reading on the topic and found out that in the state of Florida where I live they have reformulated all vaccines without mercury. Thus they are supposed to be safer now. I do know several people who through hair analysis testing found their children's bodies did not process the heavy metals in vaccinations and through the help of a licensed nutritionist got the heavy metal levels lowered. Each of these people sought this help in the first place because their ped's had said their children were showing signs of autism, ADD or ADHD. Maybe these neurological problems are really an issue of heavy metal toxicity. ? (like I said these are theories or observations) What we do know is that the U.S. has the highest rate of autism than any other industrialized nation. Where we have around 1 in 125 (some studies say 1 in 150) children being diagnosed with autism, other countries are pushing 1 in 1000, or higher. I have looked at the vaccination schedules for all Euro. countries and theirs starts at a similar age as the ours, many of them only give one vaccination at a time and in the beginning only what is actually a threat (i.e. Germany starts with polio because its still an actual threat). But there is not big enough variation in schedules to give us a clue as to why they have significantly lower rates of autism compared to the US. There is another theory out there which is: could our high rate of autism be the massive amount of drugs infants get between birth (pitocin, pain meds etc.) and vaccinations combined. Babies born today in the US are exposed to more drugs than ever before. Maybe their little bodies cannot handle all of those chemicals so closely together. This is another blog entry all together, that will need to wait until I can find more information about it.
As for now, I wanted to write about my discoveries.
Here are a few websites you can check out for more information, and where I often check too.
The Travel Dr
CDC USA schedule
The Book at the top of this entry is also a great resource. Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parents Guide by Romm (There are many, many, many books on this topic, please choose them wisely as many of them are very biased towards both directions. Choose one that is practical and not propaganda)
Well that's all for now, I want to be clear that what I have learned and decided for my child is not what I suggest everyone do for their children. Also I do believe in public health and am very grateful that due to vaccinations we do have some amount of safety. My other comment would be to not put too much trust in the vaccinations as some magic cure for childhood illnesses, some children, in very rare cases, still do get these illnesses. Spend time thinking, praying, and listening to yourself. Remember, you are your child's advocate, that's your job as they cannot advocate for themselves. If you do not want to give your child a particular vaccination for a particular reason, stick up for yourself and your child. I have found that by telling people and doctors, "we plan to vaccinate, just at a slower pace" they accept that answer. Also do your own research about your geographic area, there may be some vaccinations that are more important in your area than mine, thus changing your schedule to fit your area.