• Ashley

    I have to say I agree with you. I never knew anyone against vacinations until I started talking to my (distant) cousin. She was very against it and said stuff about the goverment and such. Didn’t make much sense to me. And the fear of hurting other becuase of my choice not to vacinate. Well I can’t do that. My childern will be vacinated.

  • http://www.humanbeingblog.wordpress.com lynn @ human, being

    I equate the refusal to vaccinate your children with the choice smoke around nonsmokers. Both are selfish points of view that discount the value of the lives of others as being equal to your own, and that force your health choices on others.

    We’re not talking about vaccinating against diseases that are an inconvenience. We’re talking about diseases that KILL PEOPLE.

    Here’s what the World Health Organization says about measles, for example:

    * Measles is a leading cause of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available to prevent the disease.
    * In 2007, there were 197 000 measles deaths globally – nearly 540 deaths every day or 22 deaths every hour.
    * More than 95% of measles deaths occur in low-income countries with weak health infrastructure.
    * Measles vaccination efforts have reaped major public health gains, resulting in a 74% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2007 worldwide – a drop of about 90% in the eastern Mediterranean and Africa regions.
    * In 2007, about 82% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services, up from 72% in 2000. (Two doses of the vaccine are recommended to ensure immunity, as about 15% of vaccinated children fail to develop immunity from the first dose.)

    When I was a kid, I got the chicken pox alongside about a half-dozen kids in my school. One of those kids got so sick she was in the ICU. I worked at a children’s hospital for 10 years, and during that time we had three kiddos I know about DIE from chicken pox. That’s not an inconvenience. My 7-year-old daughter will never get chicken pox, a miserable experience, because she has been vaccinated.

    Public health–the greater good–is more important than any individual person’s personal health choices.


    And by the way, I think that if you CHOOSE not to vaccinate your kid, and your kid brings measles or something else home from a foreign country that causes the mini-epidemic Heather writes about, you should be personally responsible for the health care costs, lost work time and pain and suffering compensation your CHOICE resulted in. Consequences are a bitch.

  • Anonymous

    For those of you who are holding off on the HEP B vaccine, may you NEVER have to be with your child after he/she has had to have a liver biopsy, and is in pain and there is nothing you can do to help. Not to mention the fact that he/she might get cancer by the time he/she is 30.

    I also am going to do a bit of reading to find out why none of my friends, nor I are austistic and we all had all our vaccinations, I suppose the formulas have changed over the years??

  • Megan

    Does anyone know if there are laws which require daycares to inform their members of the vaccination status’ of the kids who attend? Or if they can reject children for not having been vaccinated? And re all the anecdotes from people whose children were changed overnight after their shots, which shots were those? (or which cocktail)? Now I’m even more confused about what to do! :)

  • http://havingitall-maggie.blogspot.com Maggie

    I wholeheartedly agree with you as well. I actually get angry when people don’t vaccinate because they are risking the health of many others, not just their own children, such as babies too young to be vaccinated and people with compromised immune systems. People who would be at risk for complications if they contract an infectious disease. I tell parents I meet who don’t want to vaccinate to at least get the polio vaccine, if nothing else. People who get immunized in countries where the live vaccine is still used can shed the virus and unvaccinated people will be at risk.

  • Kim

    While I completely understand your position, my husband and I have chosen to use an alternative schedule of vaccinations for our children. Our pediatrician, and all of the pediatricians in her practice, vaccinate their own children on a different schedule than the one the government suggests. Ultimately, I knew that if my child were to suffer a terrible adverse reaction, that I would not be able to live with myself. The guilt and pain would completely overwhelm me, much the same as it will if any of them contract a preventable illness before they are vaccinated. I take the risk knowing that the herd is helping us. I take the risk knowing that it’s a first world luxury. I take the risk knowing that if my circumstances were other, I would weigh those circumstances and possibly make a difference choice. I’m just glad that we live in a place that allows me to still make choices about my own and my children’s healthcare. I hope that the freedom afforded all of us will never be revoked.

  • http://wedontbuyit.blogspot.com/ Laura

    Please find out about SV40. Look it up. Also, while you’re researching, look up the terms serotype replacement and molecular mimicry. As long as you’re actually researching and finding things out for yourself, you might find out the difference between antibodies and cellular immunity. Which is more important for good health?

    I have some questions: How has MRSA gotten so strong? Why are little kids getting shingles? Are you scared of Scarlet Fever now? There’s a vaccine in development–do you think you or your kids need it? How many of your fully vaccinated kids have had ear infections? How often? How about allergies? Asthma? Do they have eczema? Other skin ailments that won’t go away quickly? Digestive issues–chronic constipation, poor absorption? Are they growing well? Do they get sick often?

    Every fully vaccinated kid I know has had some or all of these problems. How is that healthy?

    Not all doctors support routine vaccination. There’s a lot of room for criticism. Not the least of which may be prompted if you read the actual vaccine package inserts where they let you know that the vaccine is not tested for carcinogenic, mutagenic potential or potential to impair fertility. If they’re not looking for something, they won’t find it.

    More questions: Do you know what the ingredients are in vaccines? Do you know that the death rate of measles, diphtheria, tetanus, etc ALL fell to negligible levels BEFORE the vaccines were introduced? If you look, you can find that information in the U.S. Vital Statistics. Are you up to date on the vaccines that the CDC suggests you should have as an adult? Do you know that live vaccines (MMR, Flu) shed? That means the virus is excreted in the feces, saliva and nasal secretions for weeks after administration. Have you kept YOUR vaccinated kids away from babies or the elderly during those weeks after vaccination? Why not? Did the doctor show you the package insert as he/she is instructed to do on the package insert?

    Do some research and find out about it for yourself. Your kids deserve that.

  • Rachel

    My mom is a pediatrician who has spent decades treating autism, and she would be thrilled if it turned out vaccinations were the cause, because then there would be a solution, and they would know how to prevent autism. But the numerous studies done in the past several decades have shown 100% that vaccines DO NOT cause autism. So really, people need to stop this. 50 years ago people thought autism was caused by bad mothers, and really, this current theory is just as preposterous. There is no controversy within the medical community, it’s just Jenny McCarthy and two crazy doctors who are scaring everyone away from livesaving vaccinations.

  • Cee

    I don’t have kids, but I like to watch your Momversation episodes (oh how I loathe that word and all cutesy mom-related blogging vernacular) because I like to see what outfits you pick out and your hair.


  • http://livesayhaiti.blogspot.com Tara L.

    I have flip flopped on this too … but now, having lived in a country with zero health care and very few immunized children — I find it crazy NOT to immunize when you have the choice.

    If everyone got a look at the third world and the way their lack of these choices leads to high HIGH death rates in kids under 5 — they’d run to their scheduled immunization appointments.

    We fought pneumococcal meningitis (in Haiti) with a three month old and won … but I would not wish that experience on anyone. Horrific.

  • Anonymous

    I wanted to comment on the idea that those who do not vaccinate seem better informed. There is a huge difference between reading a lot of information and being well informed.

    Suffice to say that I find it ironic to be admonished to “do more research” by people whose background in scientific research is clearly lacking.

  • Maureen in IL

    “…you are counting on the rest of us who are willing to take those risks to decrease the chances that your child will be exposed to these diseases. You are counting on us.” Amen. For me, that is the most unfair part. The only way they feel comfortable making that choice is because other parents choose to vaccinate their children. This American Life did a story about the outbreak in CA, and interviewed the mother of a healthy child that was exposed in the pediatricians’ office. You can listen to it here: http://thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1275
    And for the record, I have three sons, all were vaccinated, all are now in their 20s and quite healthy.

  • ang

    I too heard the story on This American Life on NPR. I thought both sides had an equal voice, but what really hit me was the family that had to be quarantined and miss work and that was that. A choice that was forced on them for just being in the right place at the wrong time!

    I also thought that the ending phrase (that someone already pointed out) about neither party changing their views after hearing about the other side was interesting.

    We’re currently trying to get pregnant and of all the things we’ve talked about, we realized we had never talked about vaccination. After this story was over, we both turned to each other and had this look on our faces and I said “I know I sound judgmental and this doesn’t sound like a question, but I’m vaccinating any baby that comes out of me, you’re cool with that, right?” and w/o missing a beat, he said “damn straight”. Then we both kind of sighed in relief because we both felt THAT strongly about it that we already had visions of us “duking it out” if we disagreed.

    Sure, as a “worst case scenario” girl, the stories of autism freak me out. I don’t think I’d ever double up on the vaccines. As so many already pointed out – there are risks, but there are risks with MANY things.

    I usually feel that these things are individual choices (as you said, breastfeeding or formula feeding, and no one knows the circumstances, i.e. maybe the baby never latched on so it HAS to be formula fed) but I feel vaccinations ARE about the greater good.

    Thank you for your post!!

  • http://babyporta.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    A! MEN!

    I totally and completely agree with everything you wrote in this post. Well said..

  • Catie

    I’m a public health student, specializing in infectious disease epidemiology, and I wanted to thank you for your thoughtful and eloquent post on a frustrating and sensitive subject. You are absolutely right about herd immunity — and it is also important to recognize that “vaccination” doesn’t always equal “immunization”. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the body just doesn’t mount an immune response and the vaccine doesn’t work for that child. This leaves children who had been appropriately vaccinated vulnerable, and increases the need for high levels of vaccination coverage.

    The popularization of the autism-measles vaccine theory is from a poorly designed Lancet study that got a lot of press. 10 of the 13 authors have since rescinded on their original hypothesis (that there is a link between measles and autism). This “association” has since been debunked over and over again through eloquently designed studies. There simply is no scientific proof that there’s an association. It is very important to remember that statistical significance does NOT equal causality!

    The fact of the matter is that we’re extraordinarily lucky in this country. Even when our children DO get measles (either due to not being vaccinated, or being appropriately vaccinated but not immunized), it is commonly mild – although the case fatality rate is still around 1%. In other parts of the world, measles is a leading killer of children, because of concomitant infectious, malnutrition, etc.

    To say, as I have heard, that vaccination has no medical benefit is ridiculous. I’ll use the example of poliomyelitis, which was a leading cause of permanent disability in this country. The inactivated vaccine, the first polio vaccine developed, was introduced in the mid 1950s, when there were 13,000-20,000 cases of polio every year. If you look at a graph, the cases of polio dropped drastically after its introduction — by about 95%, by the time they introduced the live oral vaccine in the 1960s. That is a HUGE drop, in a short period of time. There hasn’t been a case of indigenous, wild-type polio in the United States since 1979. And we’ve seen in other countries, most recently in Nigeria, that when vaccination campaigns stop and the disease is not eliminated entirely from a geographic area, it comes back.

    Obviously vaccines have risk of side effects. If there is a 1 in a million chance of an adverse reaction, and 4 million children get vaccinated every year, 4 children have an adverse reaction — and these cases are frequently played up in courts and the media. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that many, many more than 4 children would die or be permanently disabled by the diseases vaccines prevent. We just haven’t seen these diseases in this country in a very long time, so it’s easy to think they’re gone, though it’s clear they’re not. I hope we don’t have to see an increase in outbreaks in order for the general public to accept why vaccination is so important, but I have a feeling that’s where we’re headed.

  • Jessica McLeod

    I am so, so glad you posted this. This is the kind of rational, intelligent discussion that is needed in this crazy debate.

  • Karl

    I have to say that this argument puzzles and astonishes me. I honestly don’t see why there is any room for argument.

    No vaccination = dead children. We have thousands of years worth of dead children to prove this link.

    Vaccination != autism. There is absolutely no credible (emphasis on credible) link between the two. One might as well claim that driving children around in SUV’s causes autism; after all, SUV popularity rose about the same time as the autism rates. There are zillions of possible environmental causes, even if you leave aside under-diagnosing which is the mostly likely “cause” of the increased rates. Linking vaccination to autism on anecdotal evidence is statistical nonsense, and if it leads to dead children, it’s criminal.

  • Ali

    @ Katina, #241, who said “I finally decided that it’s not in best interests for me to take their medical treatment into my own hands. I have not gone to medical school or actually studied the vaccinations or their affects on the body. Until I do, it’s just not okay for me to make decisions that medical professionals train long and hard to advise me about. ”

    THIS is one of the most intelligent comments I’ve read yet, in a string of remarkably non-inflammatory and intelligent comments. Let’s please not forget that the medical professionals we choose to care for us have the training and expertise required to advise us on medical matters – such as vaccines. I have a lot of medical knowledge from my work in clinical research, and I believe this exposure allows me to review highly scientific literature in an educated way. However, I don’t believe it gives me the medical and physiological context to make medical decisions that conflict with the advice of a well-trained medical practitioner.

  • Anonymous

    You could not have stated the facts more eloquently. My husband and a lot of logical thinking convinced me (we have a six-month-old) that the risks of getting these diseases far outweighs the risks of having a severe reaction to a vaccination.

    For a minute, you had me worried that you were on the anti-vaccine bandwagon. Another important point comes up — you have a right to request a private room to wait in with your newborn at a pediatrician’s office.

    Take Care!

  • Katie

    Thank you for writing this post and doing that video – I COMPLETELY agree! I have an 18-month old daughter and we have vaccinated her on schedule. We have quite a few close friends who decided not to vaccinate their kids and I still can’t understand why. I don’t think they realize that their decision not only impacts their own children, but also our entire community.

  • One Sided Momma

    Great post, thanks for touching on such a hot topic.

    I feel the answer to parental fears of autism is not in avoiding vaccincations altogether. I can understand their fears, as a mother of a 2.5 year old and a new baby, believe me, I’ve had them myself. I feel that we should spend more time and more money on researching a gene that predisposes babies who may be born with low immune systems, thus putting them at more risk for live vaccinations than other “healthier” babies. As I understand it, there has been some research done that indicates this could be a reason that some babies react so poorly to the now popular “doubling up” of vaccinations. If we had a test that determined which babies carried this gene, then THOSE babies’ parents could then decide on the “alternative” schedule for vaccinations.

    Obviously, we are far from a perfect answer to this problem but as more children are being labeled with autism and the spectrum widens, parents nationwide should be concerned.

    Thanks again, Heather for bringing this to our attention as it should stay in the forefront for research.

  • http://www.accordingtokate.net Kate

    I read as many of the comments here as I could, and wanted to comment on a few of them:

    24. Lori Cleghon said:

    “… But I wonder if it might be a coincidence that this condition close to the age that vaccines are normally administered.”

    Absolutely. Children are born with Autism. The fact that they begin to exhibit the symptoms coincides with when they’re getting a lot of their childhood vaccines is just that, a coincidence, however unfortunate.

    56. Anonymous said:

    “As the mother of an autistic child I can understand delaying vaccines but not completely eliminating them. After his MMR he changed. He stopped laughing, smiling, and making eye contact then retreated inside himself. Maybe it was the vaccine and maybe it wasn’t but if I had it to do over, I would have delayed them and probably omitted a few. If a case of the chicken pox meant my son would still look at me I would gladly take it.”

    I cried when I read this comment… I’m so sorry your son is unable to share simple joys with you. As a nanny who was taking care of a little boy when he began exhibiting the signs of Autism (and was later diagnosed), I remember when he stopped making eye contact and found it very unsettling. Obviously I cannot totally understand your feelings, as I was not his parent, although I loved him like he was my own. I agree that a case of the chicken pox would be worth having your son back the way he was… out of curiosity (and certainly no judgment), would you say the same thing about a case of the measles?

    I personally believe in vaccinating children, and will certainly vaccinate mine when I have them. As for the parents of the little man I used to take care of, they have stated unequivocally that they will vaccinate their future children on the same schedule that their first son was vaccinated on, because they firmly believe that neither the vaccines, nor the 2 episodes of Sesame Street he watched a day (TV – also believed to cause Autism!) caused him to “become” Autistic. He always was… we just didn’t know it.

    And however heartbreaking it can be at times to have an Autistic child, I would always choose that over a potentially life-threatening disease that we have a prevention for. How lucky we are…

  • http://www.eccentricadopter.blogspot.com Ashley

    Stephanie @969: My husband, my sister, stepsister, and myself were all fully vaccinated at the respective schedules for our ages.

    1) I have had NO vaccine preventable diseases or any reactions to any of them.
    2) My sister, who was old enough for the chicken pox shot (she’s 8 years younger than me) still got chicken pox despite it.
    3) My stepsister developed regular grand mal seizures due to the DPT shot, which is a known reaction.
    4) My husband, despite being fully vaccinated, got pertussis at 12.

    So, of the 4 people whose vaccination history I know, only one of them, myself, has had the intended effect.

  • jck

    I was not vaccinated as a child. My mother was Christian Scientist and this was part of her belief system. It wasn’t cool in anyway or a statement about medicine or anything – we were just the people with that weird religion down the street who didn’t go to doctors. This was the 60s and 70s.

    Before heading off to college, I had all my vaccinations in one day. I couldn’t lift my arms for days. But I didn’t think about it all that much. The college I was to attend required them and I wasn’t Christian Scientist anymore, so I did it. A few years later I found out that the whooping cough vaccine was only 85% effective when I broke a rib from coughing when I had whooping cough during a local outbreak. Still, I’d do them all again.

    When I became a parent (after marrying a physician, which did not go over particularly well with Mom), I looked at vaccination more critically, and came down on the side of vaccinating my children. I thought that was the end of the story. But then something happened that made me vaccine-happy – my oldest son became very suddenly and very critically ill and we almost lost him. A pneumonia became Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, and in April 2003 he crashed, coded, was on a vent for nine days, had part of his lung removed – and miraculously recovered after weeks in the PICU. He was 7.

    While what happened to him was a totally freak thing, and the docs have never been able to identify the germ that hit him, the idea of any kid and any parent having to go through anything remotely like we went through – for something preventable with a shot – is so repugnant to me.

    I am very careful to hold my tongue around people I know who don’t vaccinate. But I also proactively ask for vaccinations for my kids. I want them all. I want to prevent everything I can. Whether it makes sense to another person doesn’t matter to me; this is what my experience compels me to do.

  • Amy

    I want to comment on what JAS (comment #169) asked: should parents whose children are unfortunate enough to experience vaccination side effects be helped with the costs this burden places on them? Obviously.

    There is so much talk here about how choosing not to vaccinate is a first world luxury. This is true. As a Canadian though, I believe that Americans are living without the first world benefits of universal health care necessary to make the decision. I suspect that parents contemplating not vaccinating ie. “I’d rather sit in the ER with a sick child than deal with autism forever” are making a somewhat rational economic decision. Perhaps unconsciously (or consciously) these parents know that their ‘health insurance’ (those were disdainful quotation marks) will cover chicken pox and measles more fully and easily than the expensive and ongoing IBI treatments for autism.

    As a not-yet-parent I will be more than willing to assume any and all possible side effects of vaccinating my children because in doing my part for greater societal protection my society values my contribution enough to ‘pay it back’ in the form of universal health care.

    In the US parents of children with autism face so many challenges; marital strain, financial strain, etc, etc, etc. It’s wrong, of course, but I can understand how a parent can still be wary despite there being no link between autism and vaccines because the potential burden is so great. And, of course, having a child with autism certainly isn’t the worst thing but I can say honestly that I would prefer not to have that challenge in my life. For parents who will have to face such a diagnosis with few resources, well, I can’t even imagine.

  • http://jedsmommy.blogspot.com Becca

    Several commenters have said the chicken pox vaccine is unnecessary. i disagree. Two years ago I had shingles (which you can only get as an adult IF you had chicken pox as a child). It was horribly painful and left me with nerve damage. Eradicate chicken pox and we eradicate another painful, potentially deadly disease for immune suppressed or elderly adults.

  • http://www.danamccaffery.com Toni McCaffery

    A good friend sent me the link to this. I have tears streaming down my face as I write this.

    We have paid the highest price. Our beautiful four-week old daughter Dana died on 9 March 2009 from Whooping Cough.

    We are devastated.

    We live in an area in Australia with one of the lowest vaccination rates and were not warned of the epidemic. As a result, we were completely unaware of the dangerous environment we brought our beautiful girl into.

    When we pleaded with the intensive care specialists to save her they explained there was no cure and they resorted to Googling a case from Chile, but it was not enough. We are heartbroken at how she suffered.

    Now, we are pleading on behalf of our daughter – please understand that the only way to stop these diseases is to reduce the risk of catching them. That means increasing vaccination rates.

    Just as important is the need for governments to warn people of outbreaks and improve screening/infection control, so we can do everything possible to avoid epidemics. We are gutted that we were not warned of the significant health risks or that adults generally were not aware that their boosters ran out.

    We feel low awareness and low immunity has resulted in Dana’s death and thousands of children and adults suffering from this debilitating illness and lifelong complications.

    We have set up a website http://www.danamccaffery.com and facebook page http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=64908671721 to raise awareness of the need for the community to work together to protect our most vulnerable.

    Please take the time to read it and the hundreds of comments.

    For anyone considering not vaccinating, I implore you – go to a children’s hospital ward and see for yourself what a tiny baby suffering Whooping Cough or Measles must go through. Talk to their parents about their fears. Talk to a survivor and ask them how these illnesses have affected their lifelong health.

    Vaccination is not just an individual decision – your decision affects the whole community.

  • Jodi

    I am a mom of two who has done plenty of vaccine research (of the marketing variety) for work and in addition has read up on many of the newspaper and journal articles out there. What I can tell you is that there are many more papers published and studies conducted that decouple vaccination and autism than the the one study that linked the thimerisol in some vaccines to autism.

    I completely agree with Heather that if you choose not to vaccinate your child, you are depending on the rest of us to protect your child.

  • Maggie

    I know someone whose Mom died of measles. I don’t know what the backstory was, but basically, to hear the heartache in this woman’s voice when she says that she doesn’t understand why people don’t vaccinate is enough to give anyone pause.

    Meanwhile, I understand that many people feel that same heartache about the autism connection. Yet I know some Mothers whose children are on the autistic scale who do not believe it was anything to do with vaccines.

    I think that essentially, more research needs to be done, because what is out there now (vs 5 years ago) is saying more and more that there is no link. Mostly, that the vaccine may have REVEALED the autism earlier, but not that it CAUSED it.

  • Leith Greenslade

    I think we have lost site of the fact that without vaccination our lives as mothers in America would resemble the lives of mothers in Africa – almost every one of us would have experienced the loss of a child or been related to someone who had lost a child, endured months out of every year caring for a seriously sick child and watching their pain and suffering, and been forced to contemplate larger families with all that that entails because we would have had to factor in the potential loss of a child. This is still the reality of life for mothers in Africa, India and Central and South America. Vaccination is a chapter all of its own in the story of growth and development and the quality of our lives as mothers in developed countries. We take it for granted – just ask a poor mother living in Africa or India.

  • Kari

    I have read a few more comments here and there and how some people roll their eyes at the HPV vaccine. The shot helps protect against HPV 16 and HPV 18 which have shown to cause cervical cancer. (there are other versions of this shot they are testing for further protection)

    The reason for the younger age (starting at 12 i believe) they give the vaccine showed better results in protection against the virus in women 12-25 years of age and whom have never had any sexual experience. Meaning that they had no exposure to the virus so they can produce the antibodies against the virus. But it wont work if you have been expose to the virus which is one of the most common STD out there (1 in 4 people have it and its rising) Even the CDC says that at least 20 million people in the U.S. have the virus

    The problem is some people never develop the warts that are cause by the virus and symptoms go un-noticed or symptoms never even manifest. It just bothers me that people think their daughter wont need it. Its like saying “My daughter is not having sex”, and everyone knows how kids are and they dont tell their parents everything. Its protecting females from the virus considering her partner may have the virus but show no signs of it and then can give it to her.

    I do agree though that vaccines need to be re-vamped and made cleaner. Definatly more research is needed.

  • Patience

    And I must say that I’m incredibly relieved to see so, so many sane and lovely parents posting above. Glad that my fellow Dooce-readers are similar thinkers.

  • Anonymous

    You have daughter(s). Do you have thoughts about the Gardisil vaccine that guards against cervical cancer? I know you’re not there yet, but will you vaccinate your girls?

  • Kat

    We parents always have to evaluate the risks of everything. In the case of vaccines, if you chose to delay or completely avoid them, then you have to take responsibility for your actions. You have to make sure that all other parents around you know so that they have the right to keep their kids from mixing with yours. And another of those responsibilities is to say ‘Sorry, we can’t travel to Switzerland because Junior isn’t vaccinated and I don’t want to endanger others.’ Were these parents INSANE?

    FWI, we chose to delay vaccinations, but we live in a small town with very good sanitation and a very limited history of outbreaks of childhood diseases. Of course I looked into it; I needed to know the risks my kids, and other kids, were running. And by the time I felt my kids’ immune systems were old enough to handle the vaccinations (they both have a variety of allergies), mercury-free vaccines were the norm rather than the exception, and I’m very grateful for that!

  • http://littlelioness.net Fiona

    Thank you for putting your views on this out there. Maybe having another “public figure” on the side of reason and science will help. Let’s hope so.

    I work with kids with Autism every day, and, while they’re older (in school), I’m yet to hear one of them blame MMR vaccine for it.

    The whooping cough one is getting me at the moment, as it’s been going around.

  • Helen

    As a mother of a child with Autism, I have and always will vaccinate my children. However, I will get my peditrician to spread out the vaccinations as much as possible. I agree with you completely, Heather. I don’t think that vaccinations are the number one cause of Autism. My son was born with it as he was always different from other children. Every child is different. They will respond to the vaccinations differently. You will always have this controversy when you have one medication or vaccine that is trying to protect millions. You will always have the few that have bad reactions and you will have this argument.

  • Lindy

    Bravo, Dooce. Now when I feel like I’m getting frustrated with friends who are being pushy about the no-vaccine thing (I’m due with my first kid the same week you are), I will have this post, which I plan to print out and read through. It’s articulate, measured, thoughtful, and accurate. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    “some ridiculously unnecessary vaccines that will probably hurt our children in the long run more than they will help (I’m talking the chicken pox vaccine mostly)”

    The above is an ignorant comment. Chicken pox causes more deaths a year inthis country than any other vaccine-preventable disease: up to 100 per year. in addition 3,000-8,000 children are hospitalized with serious complications from chicken pox like necrotizing pneumonia that can cause permanent lung damage and encephalitis that can cause mental retardation, blindness and deafness. Chicken pox is NOT always a benign disease. And babies under a year of age (who are too young to be vaccinated) are more likely to develop serious complications. So if parents don’t vaccinate their older children we will never eradicate chicken pox in this country (like we have done with polio) and infants and others will remain at risk.

    I believe vaccinating children is a requirement for the privilege of living in our society. If people don’t want to vaccinate they should go live in the third world. And in addition: vaccines DO NOT cause autism.

  • Rachel

    Autism isn’t the only thing parents are worried about regarding vaccines… There may or may not be a link between vaccines and autism, but there was such compelling evidence of a link between SIDS and vaccines, that Japan changed the entire country’s immunization schedule. Currently Japanese children don’t get more than 6 shots before the age of 2, and they have one of the lowest (best) infant mortality rates in the world.

    There is also a difference in the body’s immune response between disease entering through mucous membranes, vs. disease injected right into the bloodstream. Many people think injected pathogens can trigger autoimmune disease in people who are predisposed, as the immune system mistakenly thinks it should attack the body itself, since the problem was discovered IN the body, not in the mucous membranes which would signal an external attacking invader.

    I believe the parents who report devastating consequences and side effects after their children receive vaccinations. You know, there isn’t really any good way to scientifically and ethically prove that a vaccine may pose a dire risk to children, because any negative effect can always be brushed off and attributed to something else. (In other words, there aren’t any children isolated in bubbles, to control for extraneous influences other than vaccines.) Even vaccine-makers have disclaimers on their products, and are aware of possible side effects.
    And you can’t deny that the number of shots has increased. Older people talk about everyone getting vaccinated and no one complained, we all lived through it, and walked 15 miles to school and back, uphill in both directions. But compare the US 1980′s vaccination schedule to the current one, and you will see a big difference.

    I think herd immunity is a good idea, but I also understand that putting your own child in harms way for the sake of the general population is not something any loving parent would do lightly. If there is a doubt in your mind that a vaccine, meant to protect your healthy child, will actually harm him/her, it may be a risk you aren’t willing to take. I’m ok with that, I understand why a parent would choose not to vaccinate. Of course, I agree that this is a luxury “controversy” of 1st world societies, and we may take for granted a country free of measles, mumps, and polio. But I completely respect a parent’s right to decide for themselves and their children. Freedom is dangerous, but I’ll take freedom every time over Safe and Smothered.

    Personally, I started out vaccinating my daughter according to the recommended US schedule, at 2 and 4 months, but after her horrible reaction at 4 months (high fever, lethargic, unhappy, weird shudders that may have been seizures), I’ve decided to forgo any more until she is 1 year old. After doing much research, I’ll be following Dr. Sears’ alternative schedule. I won’t give her the chicken pox vaccine at all, I’ll let her get that naturally. Also, no one in my family gets the flu shot, and we are always A-OK, pretty good considering we live in Wisconsin where the flu rages through every winter. (Incidentally, it always seems that the flu that goes around never matches up to the vaccine given, it’s always a different strain.) So I do think vaccination is important, but bunching up many shots at once at such a young age is unwarranted and potentially harmful, and I see some vaccines as unnecessary altogether.

  • Nat W.

    Scientific evidence shows that vaccinations don’t cause autism. I honestly have no sympathy for parents who put other children at risk by not having their children vaccinated because they are convinced they know better than the research scientists who study this sort of thing. Now, if you want a less aggressive vaccine schedule, fine. But vaccinate your kids.

  • Mel

    I vaccinated all four of my children following the CDC recommended schedule. I would do it again.

    I can observe, though, that the number of vaccines has increased dramatically over the eleven year span between my oldest and youngest children. In the first two years of his life, my oldest son had 12 shots. In the same time frame, my youngest had close to 20. It seemed overwhelming to me, even though I had been through the process three times before. Additionally, “recommended” vaccines keep increasing. Our pediatrician recently recommended my 12-year-old daughter begin the 3-shot HPV series. I also was required to have my middle children given boosters for the chicken pox vaccine before school started. So, I can see how parents look at that LONG list of vaccines and get nervous.

    That said, vaccination is, in my opinion, the single greatest public health victory. Ever.

  • Anonymous

    I have not vaccinated my 5 children now ages 23 – 14. Two of my children contracted whooping cough from a family that DID vaccinate and one of their children got it from another family that had also vaccinated. So here you have two children that DID choose to vaccinate in each family there are two children. One child in each family contracted whooping cough and the other didn’t. In my family of five all non-immunized children only two came down with it. Also I should note that my children had a lesser reaction and were well faster than the immunized children.

    I get so tired to hearing that the un-immunized children and putting us all at risk. There is NO perfect vaccination, in fact quite the opposite, so you can never assume your children are “safe”.

    Lastly, how many of these parents are getting their boosters? If they are not they are considered NOT IMMUNIZED. Most adults do not continue to get booster shots and most likely do not have immunity.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • KellyS

    Whew. So much has already been said. While I was pregnant with my first, a close friend was dealing with her son’s recently diagnosed autism. I felt at that time that she bombarded me with a lot of scary stuff about vaccines & MMR risks, etc.

    I never had any doubt that I would vaccinate my daughter, but my friend’s cautions did make me more careful, and steered me to a great book “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Vaccinations” (or something like that.) That author, a physician, WAS pro-vaccine, but recommended a much slower and spread-out schedule of shots.

    I roughly followed this schedule with both my children, and they were both fully immunized by around age 3.5. I feel the most important recommendation from the physician-author was to NEVER vaccinate if your child has a fever, is recovering from another illness/infection, etc. Or even just has a bad runny nose. I have always waited until the kids were 100% well — even if that sometimes meant an extra visit & co-pay.

  • http://www.playamind.blogspot.com St

    Very well said. I agree 100%
    My sister has Rett’s Syndrome which is on the Autism Spectrum. They don’t yet know the heredity patterns but on the off chance one of my girls has it, they all get the MMR at age 3. The thing is, I absolutely do NOT believe there is a link between autism and the vaccine. It’s just that if they were to have Rett’s I KNOW I would be searching for a way to blame myself. It’s how I roll. So I wait. When people site the (perceived) link to autism I can never understand why they don’t just give the vaccine later.

  • helmetnona

    I’m an epidemiologist, not yet a mother. What you’re talking about is herd immunity–protect your child, protect all children. Vaccinations are the smart way to go for everyone’s interest.

  • http://www.rubybracelet.blogspot.com/ RB

    I would like to wholeheartedly agree with Heather and add another point about the vaccines themselves. I have my concerns too, but my reason for them is the question of has the vaccine been altered over the years for cheaper product or mass production, other reasons, etc? And has this modification caused the side effects? I never hear anyone ask this question. I understand the fear of side-affects but the only and sole reason some of these diseases disappeared in this country is because of the invention of the vaccine. I am in my thirties and was certainly vaccinated and my parents were hippies and are intellectuals and my father is a scientist. They never followed anything just because it is mainstream and they guarded our health like no one’s business including what we ate and the air we breathed. But they knew the reason for vaccinating and found it necessary.
    I will say that Heather’s incredibly well illustrated thought of those not vaccinating counting on us to get vaccinated is a resounding statement and should be echoed everywhere. And it is my reason for always believing the vaccines should stand. And it angers me that those who do not vaccinate don’t see this!
    I would like to make a point about the animal vaccines as well – as this is my genre. I have yet to hear many people argue that the animals should not be vaccinated at all. The argument in this community so far is whether or not they need to be vaccinated each year. The veterinary doctors I know, who are experts in their fields, will say time and time again that there is no research supporting the need for annual vaccinations regarding if a dometic pet NEEDS them each year. They do contend, as do I, that the pets need the initial vaccines and boosters – JUST LIKE HUMANS! It is the pharmaceutical companies who have, no doubt, pushed for the pets to be annually vaccinated. But, there is a blood test for immunity that has been developed and the idea is that instead of vaccinating every year, you have your pet tested for the immunity. If they have it – no vaccine. But I do not hear very often a call to stop all vaccines in comparison to the call for ending the annual vaccines after initializing and boostering. In fact, an older animal may not even take the immunity if they have never been immunized, so why keep giving them every year after a pet’s “childhood?”
    So I ask this of people who say we should stop vaccinating children… what if we stopped vaccinating animals too? Including the rabies vaccine? You wanna take that chance? I don’t. I love my animals and my neighbors too much.

  • Anonymous

    I admire your courage in addressing this issue Heather. I understand completely selective vaxing and I’m quite surprised just how aggressive the vaxing schedule is in the U.S. I would like to say however that the reasons that many parents choose not to vax are multifaceted. It isn’t just related to a fear of autism. At the moment I am reading posts in some parenting forums, and the anti-vax parents are apparently feeling very victimised by the responses to your post. According to them, all of the people that have agreed with you are misinformed, uninformed and ignorant. But this is the arguement that they use every time to justify their decision not to vaccinate their child/children. We’re ignorant, they’re not.

    As for me, it never even occured to me NOT to vaccinate my child. I see children dying all over the world because they do not have access to proper health care and the vaccinations that have improved our health for decades. Yet, there are people choosing not to vaccinate, it boggles my mind.

  • Erika

    Thank you. You’ve said so clearly and succinctly what public health professionals have been trying to get across for years now. And the thing is, the whole MMR/autism connection was based on faulty science. The original researcher has been exposed as a fraud, just in the past year.

    My one criticism of your stance is that the modified schedule *still* compromises herd immunity. Many people think that the “aggressive schedule” recommended by CDC and AAP is only so compressed b/c of the need to take advantage of the fact that younger children are more likely to be taken to well-child visits. But there are real, epidemiologic reasons behind that schedule–it’s not just a matter of convenience.

  • Anonymous

    I have made sure my kids got every single vaccine they were suppose to get. My best friend has not, and our children play together frequently. In the back of my mind, I do worry about her kids getting sick and jeopardizing my kid’s health. It is really hard to support and totally disagree with someone you care about. Great post – great explanation of exactly how I feel.

  • Anonymous

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this post. We don’t see this enough and it’s vital to our children’s health that we do. I haven’t even bothered to read the other comments because I can pretty much tell you what they say. I think more and more mothers are stepping away from the madness and saying publicly what you’ve just said, and the more of them who do it, the sooner we and our children will be safe again. Public science has failed miserable in failing to adequately address this and tackle this autism/vaccine “controversy” head on by not saying, nope, no connection, vaccines are essential, anyone not vaccinating is putting their child, and other children, at risk of DEATH.

    Like you, I would not only not forgive the parents of an unvaccinated child who gave an infant of mine a potentially fatal disease, I would use every legal means to see that the parents were punished for it. And I sense that that kind of legal case is not too far away. Once again, THANK YOU for your sanity.