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A word or two about vaccinations

A few weeks ago I taped some footage for a Momversation about vaccinations, and yesterday it went live:

Here I willingly admit to not understanding parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, an opinion that is now as controversial as refusing vaccinations used to be, and I will admit that this is a bit of a misleading and unfair statement, something I will further explain in a minute.

Thing is, I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, my opinion about the choice to vaccinate your child used to look much like my opinion about most other parenting decisions (breastfeeding, co-sleeping, homeschooling, etc) in that I think you have to figure out what works best for you and your children and ignore all the people who are screaming at you that you’re doing it wrong.

But let me back up a second… when Leta was born five years ago I had very few friends who were mothers and wasn’t participating in any sort of parenting communities online. All of the mothers I did know had vaccinated their children with no lasting side-effects, and my pediatrician, a man who had vaccinated all eight of his children, talked me through what it all meant and assured me it was in Leta’s best interest to have her vaccinated. I had heard stories about certain parents refusing vaccinations, but at the time their concerns were not about autism or side-effects but about fears of a government conspiracy, something I did not take seriously.

Things have dramatically changed in the last five years, and there is now so much more information available to parents about vaccinations, information and warnings and horror stories. And in these years I have listened to many women talk convincingly about how their children developed symptoms of autism in close proximity to the time they were administered certain vaccinations. And then there were the women whose children suffered terrible fevers and rashes and sometimes seizures. This naturally raised some questions for me, and for a time I could totally see why someone would choose not to vaccinate her chid.

I can still identify with these concerns.

However, the issue totally changed for me when news broke last year of a measles outbreak in Southern California that occurred because a seven-year-old boy who had not been vaccinated brought the disease back to the states from Switzerland:

The boy’s measles immunoglobulin M (IgM) positive laboratory test result was reported to the county health department on February 1, 2008. During January 31–February 19, a total of 11 additional measles cases in unvaccinated infants and children aged 10 months–9 years were identified. These 11 cases included both of the index patient’s siblings, five children in his school, and four additional children who had been in the pediatrician’s office on January 25 at the same time as the index patient. Among these latter four patients, three were infants aged <12 months. One of the three infants was hospitalized for 2 days for dehydration; another infant traveled by airplane to Hawaii on February 9 while infectious... ... Overall, approximately 70 children exposed to children with measles in the school, a day care center, the pediatrician's office, and other community settings were placed under voluntary home quarantine because their parents either declined measles vaccination or they were too young to be vaccinated.

And I put myself in the position of the mother of that ten-month-old baby who caught the disease because they happened to be at the doctor’s office at the same time as the infected boy. A ten-month-old baby whose immune system is such that there is a possibility of death. And I realized, I do not think that I would ever be able to forgive the parents of that infected boy. That is my raw, honest emotion toward that scenario.

That our children do not have to fear death from diseases like measles or polio or whooping cough is a miracle made possible by modern technology and science. And I guess the crux of this really complex problem for me is that as the number of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children increases so does the likelihood that these diseases will become a problem again. If you’ve decided that the risks are too great to vaccinate your child then 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. Maybe what I don’t understand (in reference to my statement in the video) is the act of and willingness to give up that control. The choice to refuse vaccinations just seems to me to be a first world luxury.

In some of the footage that got cut from the final video I talk about how the standard vaccination schedule can seem very aggressive, and I totally understand and support families who want to work with their doctors to modify that schedule (you can read one mother’s level-headed and articulate experience with that here). And I know of and support mothers who have had to change pediatricians who were unwilling to take their concerns about the schedule seriously. I understand that some children are allergic to certain ingredients in some vaccinations and this prevents them from receiving them. Which is why I think it’s crucial to maintain what I’ve heard referred to as herd immunity so that those who really have no choice, who cannot receive vaccinations, are protected by those of us who can.

Perhaps by phrasing my opinion as, “I don’t understand parents who don’t vaccinate their children,” I am misrepresenting my stance, and I will blame that on the fact that I had to film footage in the five minutes I could wedge into a packed SXSW schedule on a Monday afternoon a few weeks ago. Because what I’m really feeling is an unease, one that is directly proportional to the unease that causes certain parents to refuse vaccinations, an unease at what might logically happen if more and more parents refuse vaccinations, even if that refusal is well researched.

I know many of you disagree with me and that I risk some of you feeling alienated by even bringing up this topic. And I’d love to hear from you because I don’t think that any of the unease on either side can be addressed or alleviated until we start communicating with each other in a tone that suggests we really want the same thing: health and safety for all of our children.

  • Sharyn

    I wish I had not given my kids so many vaccines at once, but in general, I am FOR anything that makes them safer and healthier, and AGAINST anything that puts them at risk. The problem I have with the anti-vaxers is that they are riding on the backs of all the parents who decided to vaccinate their kids – the only reason they aren’t getting measles and polio, etc. is because the rest of us chose to be safe. There was recently a chicken pox party in my town, and the person hosting it was pregnant. I couldn’t’ believe it.

  • Katie

    I totally agree. Parents have a responsibility to vaccinate their children. A lot of parents say, “Oh I don’t need to because everyone else will.” But just as in the California case, it’s a very selfish view point that can put a lot of innocent kids at risk.

  • Heather~
    I’m expecting my first baby in July and this has been a concern for me. I appreciate your tactful address about the subject. I agree with you and will probably take the “middle ground” for my child. I will go ahead with the vaccinations but on a modified schedule. I haven’t started screening pediatricians yet, but this will play a big part in my selection. Thanks again!

  • Jennifer

    My husband was hospitalized as a baby for a reaction to the pertusis vaccine. He was on anti-seizure medicine until he was five. Our first child is very healthy and has received vaccines on schedule. Our second has problems with his upper airway and stayed sick for a long time, even taking an ambulance ride to the ER for his recurrent croup. He is behind on his vaccines. (We now know he has a normal immune system, and he has an appointment to get “caught up” on his vaccines.) I believe vaccines have saved countless lives, but one million lives saved do not negate a few life altering reactions or deaths. Those lives are no less important. It seems like a tiny percentage of children have a reaction until it’s your child… then it seems like it’s 100%.

  • Grace

    As much as I trust medicine… I also trust the parents who say that their children were CHANGED after a set of vaccines. I will absolutely vaccinate my child, but most likely on a modified schedule. I think it’s irresponsible not to. If I were the parent of an unvaccinated child who infected and killed someone else’s child I simply couldn’t live with myself. We have an obligation to keep our children safe, but to also try to keep each other safe.

  • Anonymous

    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 have two children affected by auto-immune diseases. One son was diagnosed with mild and provisional autism when he was 19-months-old and is currently pre-diabetic. The other son has type 1 diabetes. We chose to stop all vaccinations and boosters after the autism diagnosis. Our third son has not been vaccinated, but I would never leave the country with him. I also believe if a parent is worried, and they’re not traveling, waiting until a child is two-years-old before beginning compulsory vaccinations is reasonable.

    I don’t judge people who vaccinate, but I do believe there are genetic predispositions for some kids, and children in that population shoot holes in the “vaccines are a sacred cow” theory. I could write pages on this topic, as I’ve studied it for almost eight years.

    Fortunately, our son on the spectrum is doing beautifully and attends a private liberal arts school in Sandy. He’s either indistinguishable or cured – depends on who you ask.

    You’ve probably read (and possibly discounted) the books, “Evidence of Harm” and “Children with Starving Brains”. Reading them helps parents who choose to vaccinate perhaps understand why there’s a demographic that is less comfortable with it. Vaccines aren’t inherently bad… for everyone.

    For our family (not all families) the choice is clear. We choose to not vaccinate or postpone and limit the number of vaccinations our children receive, ensuring they’re a little older than recommended.

  • Vaccinating our children is a necessary evil. We live in a very globalized world now, where people can travel in and out of countries with relative ease. What this means is more germs and diseases are being spread about the planet, especially ones we have eradicated in the United States. I think parents are gambling with their children’s lives when they decide against vaccination.

  • Having your child vaccinated is an issue of social responsibility. In my opinion, much of the argument against vaccinations have stemmed from the debate over the cause of autism spectrum disorders. I work with children diagnosed with autism and understand that if vaccinations truly caused autism it would be reprehensible to continue to vaccinate in the manner we are currently. Before having all of the information I was wishy-washy on the subject. I didn’t have a real opinion… to each his or her own. But, there is no research supporting this. Much of the controversy over immunizations began when there was mercury in the vaccination, which has since been removed. I agree that spreading the vaccinations out may be beneficial, as we do not know if some children’s autism is exacerbated by immunizations. I have a step-daughter, none of my own, but I imagine that when I have my own child I will be nervous giving my child these shots… but I will because I also want to give my child (and indirectly, other children) the gift of living in a progressive era- where we can avoid diseases.

  • CD

    Bad Astronomer (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/02/12/court-rules-no-link-between-autism-and-vaccines/) does a pretty good job of rounding up the evidence that vaccines are not in any way linked to autism.

    I understand that parents want to know what caused their children’s autism, but it’s not right (and dangerous) to blame it on vaccines. None of the various theories about why vaccines might cause autism have been linked in any scientific study.

    I find it interesting that the farther we get away from times of large scale from death from any one thing (common childhood illnesses, childbirth, etc) the more that people start to question the advances that made those things less common. Hopefully we won’t need a full-scale pandemic that kills many children before people will take a hard look at the evidence (instead of celebrity endorsements and faux-science) and protect their (and others) children.

  • Amy

    My daughter is only partially vaccinated, and we did a (very) delayed schedule, so obviously I am not in complete agreement with you. But I want to thank you for talking about this honestly and fairly. You obviously have a huge audience and I appreciate opportunities for people to discuss all sides to big issues like this in a respectful way, which so far these comments are doing.

    I am leery of vaccinations that aren’t totally effective. The school I teach at had a whooping cough outbreak this year, which started with a vaccinated child that had a seemingly normal cough. She apparently was infected with the virus, but, fortunately for her, didn’t get very sick. Unfortunately for her mother and many others who were exposed to her and her vaccinated classmates, they DID get the illness–even though they had been vaccinated too. Despite the dubious effectiveness of that vaccine, though, my daughter did get the DTaP (mostly because we wanted her to have tetanus).

  • Jeffrey

    Thank you for a wonderfully articulate and intelligent post about this topic.

  • Elizabeth

    I applaud your ability to elaborate on this issue so articulately and coherently, because I can’t get there myself. The increasing popularity of choosing against vaccines terrifies and infuriates me. Unfortunately, I live in LA, where it is very, very en vogue. When I try to explain why I feel strongly about vaccines, all I can come up with is “oh my god, vaccinate your children. And get a flu shot. And shut up.” Not so productive. Thank you for outlining your thoughts here so well.

    As more and more parents make this choice, the incidence of these diseases will rise, putting unvaccinated children at exponentially increased risk of contracting a preventable, potentially deadly disease. I would rather care for an autistic child than bury one whose disease I could have prevented.

  • Immunizations are such a tricky thing. My closest friend of 22 years has decided not to immunize her year-old son, while I have decided to selectively immunize (no chicken pox or Hep A vaccines) my 18-month-old girl. I guess I never considered not immunizing her. It just seems, as you said, like a first world luxury. These vaccines save lives. Yes, there are risks, but the risks seem to outweigh the benefits. I just don’t think I could put my daughter’s life at risk for the sake of my (now worked through) fears about the risks of vaccines. Kudos for having the guts to discuss this topic. There is such a virulent debate going on these days about this, it’s sometimes difficult to speak your mind.

  • jen

    thank you. as someone that works with many children where the parents fully believe that vaccinations caused their children’s issues. i’m not sure that we can fully say yes or no to specific causes.
    therefore, i was well aware of the issues when choosing to vaccinate my children. we chose to modify the schedule. it is what has worked for us. but even with all of the concern of autism … i chose that my children’s lives and the lives of other children far outweighed my fear of autism.
    i really appreciate you for taking a stance and putting it out there.

  • mommy

    I wonder if the people who choose not to vax their kids, also intentionally keep them away from babies and the elderly. This would be a responsible course of action, particularly if they are unknowingly infected and incubating one of the serious illnesses for which the rest of us receive vaccines.

  • I am impressed with how well you navigated this minefield of a topic- usually flames abound when people start voicing their views on vaccination. Personally I’m on board with the idea of a delayed schedule, for the simple reason that whenever I get a shot, I wake up the next morning nearly unable to crawl out of bed and feeling like I’ve been hit by a semi truck. I can only imagine what it must feel like for infants who have similarly intense reactions to immunizations.

    Autism is a broad spectrum of developmental disorders, and with as little as we know about it, it could be any factor (or combination of factors) causing it to present itself in a previously healthy child. For all we know it could turn out to be a certain vaccine combined with a common water additive combined with genetic tendencies combined with Jupiter aligning with Mars. We just don’t know.

  • I will say this about the chickenpox vaccine. It isn’t unnecessary… I never got the pox when I was a kid despite being exposed to it over a dozen times. I had to get this vaccine in my 20’s so that I won’t get shingles when I am older. Not that getting it was a big deal, but it isn’t like it is a vaccine for ebola. Just my 2 cents.

  • JRae

    So, assuming your child doesn’t seem to have any health issues that might make the vaccines cause complications (like immune-suppressed disorders or whatever), the choices seem to be:

    1. Get vaccines which have been working for generations (obviously I’m not talking about the newer vaccines…) to protect against diseases that have been proven to cause death or serious illness in your child. And also to prevent these diseases from being spread to other children who might not be able to get vaccines.

    2. Avoid vaccines in the off chance that it might cause autism or other side effects (which are…? I guess maybe allergies that your pediatrician hasn’t discovered yet?), neither of which has come even close to being proven.

    Ummm… why is there a debate again? The choice seems clear to me.

    I certainly understand the concerns about scheduling, and also over newer vaccines. But even those newer vaccines have undergone rigorous testing.

    We haven’t figured out what causes autism yet, so I guess I can see why some parents might grasp at anything to understand why their child is different.

    They can’t let their emotions and grief over their child’s disorder impact the health of everyone else’s children, however.

    Recently a study was released showing a correlation between rainy climates and autism. Does that mean every family should leave Seattle?

    Correlation does not equal causation. I wish science and statistics was taught more rigorously in school.

  • Maggie

    “If you’ve decided that the risks are too great to vaccinate your child then 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.”

    I want to support you in this statement. I have always felt this way and you’ve articulated it for me perfectly. Thank you.

  • For the record, anyone who says to me “i couldn’t sit there and have my baby poked with infectious diseases” will get slapped. 😉

    How is that parent going to deal when their child gets the mumps or whooping cough?

    I hope that’s not a real reason for people not getting their children vaccinated. Yeah, it sucks to watch your baby cry, but it could be saving their life.

    I have a one year old and this topic has been discussed ad nauseam in our household along with the topic of antibiotics and what they may be doing to our bodies. ugh! Don’t get me started!

    OK…I just wanted to commend you on this wonderful post! You are very non-judgmental and accepting and it encourages me to want to hear more from parents who haven’t vaccinated their kids and find out the real reasons why (and see if they match any of my husband’s complaints).

    And great comments! Though I’m often annoyed with people who say “i have a dog and it’s just like having a kid,” that person made a lot of sense and summed it up VERY nicely. 😀

    Yep! Yep!

  • I’m Australian, and (at least in my state), childhood vaccinations are completely free, as is the HPV vaccination for women under 26. It used to be compulsory for children to have their shots before they were allowed to attend schools, however that changed in the 90s. There’s talk of changing it back, simply because of reasons like the example in your post.

    My mother works in public health and my grandmother was a doctor. When my mum’s cousin decided not to vaccinate her daughter, I have never seen a more contentious issue for our family. My grandmother and her sister spent hours talking about the Polio epidemic of the 1930s (they lived close to the NSW/Victorian border, and at the time, all of Victoria was quarantined and you needed doctor’s certificate to get to NSW), and they knew kids who died. My mother spent a lot of time working in small communities in Indonesia (when I was a child) and she was always so thankful that she KNEW the worst thing that was going to happen was I’d eat something bad. But she saw a LOT of children who died of things which just don’t exist in our country.

    My sister has just had a baby, and when she was asked if she would vaccinate, the look on her face was stunning. She told me later that it was like being asked if she would teach her child to read.

    I haven’t seen any compelling evidence for the Autism link, and I believe that having an Autism-spectrum child is still better than having a a child who dies at 4 from the measles. I live in a first-world country with socialised medicine in the 21st century, there is NO EXCUSE for allowing diseases like Polio or TB to flourish.

  • Heather, you wrote this extremely eloquently. Major props.

    I don’t have children, but when I do, I have no idea what to decide when it comes to vaccinations.

    I am a little sketched out by just how many there are and by some of the potential side effects. I myself have had allergic reactions to some vaccinations or have been known to suffer from fainting spells for the week after the vaccinations were induced.

    I think it’s something that shouldn’t just be taken for granted as the right choice, but I also think it is an important thing to take advantage of. I believe that instead of just agreeing to have the vaccinations given, doctors should be required to carefully explain (with understandable terminology) each vaccination, the schedule (which should be flexible), and the potential side effects. This way, parents are well informed. I also think that if they should choose to not get their children vaccinated, they should also be willing to take extra precautions to prevent their children from contracting and spreading the diseases that the vaccinations they denied would have prevented.

    I’ll repeat myself and say that I think they are sketchy. Like with antibiotics, they make me question whether or not it is beneficial to my immune system to use them or not. However, I agree, Heather, the positive results far outweigh the negative ones. My current stance is that I would probably vaccinate my children, but not without researching each vaccination and discussion each one with my doctor beforehand.

  • Jessie H

    Congrats on an extremely intelligent post on a very emotionally charged subject. As a soon-to-be nurse and someone who has sat through classes on the god awful disease processes of what vaccinations would prevent, I whole heartedly agree with you.

  • Jennifer

    I don’t have kids, but assuming I do someday, to vaccinate or not will be a difficult decision for me. I am extremely allergic to medications, especially vaccines. Yet not to the point of death. Every time I was vaccinated I would come down with a mild form of the virus they had shoved into my tiny body. I’d be sick for a week or two, completely and totally miserable. Neither my doctor or my mother felt this was a big deal. They felt this mini form of the diseases was a better option than getting the full blown diseases. Yet what were the chances of contracting all of them had I not of gotten vaccinated? Which was what happened when I did get vaccinated. Maybe they were right, but the misery I had to go through, I’m not 100% sure.

  • I’d just listen to the story about the measles case in SoCal a few months ago – I listened to it through a This American Life podcast. The podcast presented both sides, I thought, and interviewed a couple of very well-spoken women who refused to vaccinate their children and who also presented very clear & compelling arguments for their decision.

    Yeah, I can kind of understand where they’re coming from. I diligently cook and purchase foods without preservatives and weird chemicals. We’re expecting our first baby in November and I’m obsessively planning to make my own baby food, use glass vs plastic bottles, etc. I worry a lot about what’s in the water we drink, etc.

    But at the end of the day – for as many stories there are where someone claims their child developed autism after being vaccinated… I’m 33. The huge majority of the parents of our generation vaccinated us. Our parents were vaccinated… I don’t see that they or we have developed these problems that parents who are against vaccinating are worried about. And I would think that the vaccinations have only gotten safer over the past few decades?

    I think there are so many other factors at play – as I said, all the chemicals and preservatives in our food, being one example. The pharmaceuticals in our water. The hormones in our meat. We’ve still yet to understand the effects of these things on our bodies and I’d be far more concerned about how dumping all that crap into my body would affect my future children than I am about the vaccinations. The story that I listened to on This American Life drove one point home for me: These few people who choose not to vaccinate can potentially affect all of us, in a bad way.

    I would understand more the fears that these parents have about vaccines if my generation and the generations before it were having all the same issues that they claim these vaccines are now causing.

    I’ll be vaccinating my child, absolutely.

  • Ann L

    I am glad my children were born before this quandry became public. I never had a second thought about vaccination. My children and grandchildren are just fine after vaccination.

    I, too, would never forgive someone who exposed my family to a disease that could prove deadly simply because they didn’t want to risk thsir children. If you don’t vaccinate, KEEP YOUR SICK CHILD AT HOME! There are elderly, very young, and immuno-compromised people out there. You don’t have the right to infect them.

  • Nat

    I have given my children all the immunisations available for their ages. My first born has had three heart operations before her first birthday. Everytime we had to leave the house, i would say a silent prayer that we did not meet anyone who hasn’t vaccinated, that my poor baby would get a chance to recover without getting some illness thrown at her.

    Everything carries a certain risk. When you risk your child’s health only, it’s your personal choice. Whne your risk the health and life of someone who otehrwise has ensured everything in their power to prevent any health risks, well, that’s just selfish.

  • Cara

    Heather, I have been reading Dooce for over a year now and look forward to your posts everyday. I have never felt compelled to comment, but considering I just gave my 3 month old daughter her second round of vaccinations today, it seemed fitting I comment today. We have chosen to vaccinate our daughter on a alternate schedule after doing MUCH research into the subject. While I think vaccinations are extremely important, I also think it’s a little crazy to give upwards of 5 at a time to a child. There is a wonderful reference book available to help people make the best decision for their family. It is the VACCINATIONS BOOK BY DR. SEARS. He has done A TON Of research on the subject and I found it to me extremely informative and non-judgmental. I think every parent should read it before giving their child vaccinations. (And pay particular attention to how many shots they receive at one time containing aluminum). Thank you for broaching this subject!

  • Thank you – this was very well written and exactly what I have always thought but not been able to say myself.
    I live in southern Wisconsin and there was a measles outbreak in this area last year as well. I was pregnant at the time and it scared the crap out of me.

  • amy

    I just listened to the This American Life podcast that referenced this very issue today while I was running. The story included a quote from the pediatrician who had seen the non-vaccinated child who infected all the others, and he said that he felt “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. He likened the vaccine-non-vaccine issue to a herd mentality–that as long as almost everyone in the herd is immune to a disease, the herd prospers and grows. However, if a certain percentage of the herd falls sick, they spread infection exponentially throughout and the herd quickly gets ill and becomes non-viable.

    I know no one wants to put the needs of the many ahead of her own child, but I strongly feel that people who don’t want to vaccinate should have to live somewhere where they cannot infect the rest of us. It is one thing if your decision affects only you, but in this case it affects the most defenseless people in our communities–the very young, the elderly, and the sick. Maybe there can be vaccine-free communities and schools and malls and playgrounds where the families who feel strongly about this can live, but not in my community. I don’t want to have to suffer for your decision.

  • Claire

    I’ve never commented before, but I have to say that while it is terrifying imagining getting that autism diagnosis for your child, and finding out that it may have come from vaccines, polio sure sounds a lot scarier.

    I often think that parents “back in the day” would have killed for some of the vaccines that modern parents turn their noses up at. Diseases that could kill your child around every turn? Can we even IMAGINE living that life day in and day out?

    And it is unfair that some of us will essentially risk our own children to benefit everyone else. It’s like adults being in the police or military. It seems that so many people think it’s okay for them to put everything on the line, but they don’t want someone in THEIR family to do it.

  • dt

    People have been so protected by the benefits of vaccines that they don’t realize how serious the illnesses for which the vaccines have been created really are. Vaccines were created to prevent children (and adults) from becoming seriously ill or disabled or dying from diseases that once were relatively common. How many parents are willing to have their child crippled by polio? How many are willing to have their babies born deaf and/or blind from rubella? How many want their boys to become sterile from measles?

    Your post is wishy-washy. Both sides are not correct. Parents who do not vaccinate their children are not making an informed decision. Andrew Wakefield falsified his results in his 1998 publication regarding the MMR vaccine being linked autism. A recently published Danish study of a half million children found absolutely no link between vaccination and autism.

    Parents who do not vaccinate their children expose *everyone* to completely preventable, deadly diseases.

  • lynn

    I have gone through years of medical school and further training, and is now a physician. I plan on vaccinating my children when I have any, not only the good old MMRs DPTs, etc… but also the new ones for H.influenzae and pneumococcus.

  • GreenWeaver

    Re: Glyn

    I just wanted to say that your brother could get a Mumps vaccine now, if he’s worried about lacking immunity and the problems it could cause him with childhood disease. When I started medical school last fall, we had to get blood titers to check if we were still immune to everything we’d been vaccinated for, and lo and behold, I wasn’t immune to mumps any more. I got me a new mumps shot and one day of sore arm later, I’m all set.

  • Michelle

    I agree with your statement that parents who do not immunize only have the luxury to do so because of the rest of us.

    Not just because we chose to immunize our own children, but because of ALL the parents over the past few generations who took all the immunizations offered.

    I don’t think we can even comprehend how dangerous the world used to be for children. Children died ALL the time because of diseases that have since been erradicated by vaccines.

    I understand the fear of vaccinations, but I do not understand anyone who judges parents who do the vaccinating. Their children are ONLY safe and healthy because of our choices.

    It’s a type of welfare, really, when you look at it.

  • Here’s the thing about the autism concerns: There is no credible study that does link autism and vaccination. None. This is not something that has ever been actually proven scientifically, but rather something that has become a huge FEAR button for well-meaning parents.

    I do think the schedule should be revisited, because it’s crazy the number of things they try to cram into one shot.

    And I think the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine is ridiculous and refuse to get that one for my kids, because of the lack of research into the long-term effects and the increased risk for shingles as an adult. This is not a life threatening disease, except for very extenuating circumstances. And, there’s already evidence that the virus that causes chicken pox is mutating to combat the vaccine.

    All of that said, I think it’s really important for parents to do their own research, but not to be led off into left field by all of the conspiracy theories that are out there, unverified by any credible sources.

  • Tamara

    I’m with you all the way on this one. My first one was immunized on the regular schedule. My second one is also immunized, but I decided to have him immunized on a different schedule: one immunization at at time, once per month.

  • carla

    Vaccinate your children people! We don’t live in a 3rd world country. And HELL YES its my business if you don’t vaccinate. You are exposing MY child to these diseases.

  • kim

    My oldest son has autism. He is vaccinated and I would vaccinate him again without hesitation.

    My second and youngest son is neurotypical and has also been vaccinated, although because of his brother’s diagnosis we spread his vaccines out a bit with the cooperation of our doctor.

    It is a fact that measles, chicken pox, polio and whooping cough can harm or kill a child. It used to happen ALL the time before vaccines. And it will start to happen again if people keep refusing to vaccinate their children.

    My son’s autism is not a tragedy–he a fabulous, funny person who has taught me more about life, love and humanity than anyone or anything else in my life. Ever. It makes me sad to think that people are so scared of autism that they will put their child’s life at risk in an attempt to avoid it.

    It will be an unimaginable tragedy if and when any child dies of complications from measles, or some other preventable childhood disease because his parents chose not to vaccinate.

  • bookgirl82

    I caught pertussis (whooping cough) at a Christmas party two weeks before my son was born, from a man who did not know he had it. His son had caught it in school and had not yet been diagnosed. By two days after his birth I was coughing, and three weeks after his birth he was hospitalized in quarantine, in an oxygen tent and getting suctioned nose and throat every time he coughed. I almost lost him, and he lost 2 lbs of weight before he was discharged two weeks later. We both coughed for almost 5 months.

    One family’s choice not to vaccinate should not make my child almost die.

  • dt

    I should have added: How many people want to risk death or gross disfigurement from smallpox? Smallpox infected hundreds of millions of people until it was finally eradicated by vaccination.

  • My son is 8 weeks old and I he starts his first round of vaccinations next week. Of course, I’m concerned about the vaccinations with regards to autism, but the benefits far outweigh the risks involved with getting the vaccination. Especially, as noted by Heather, that many parents are choosing NOT to vaccinate which puts my son at risk even more so.
    Thank you for bringing up the topic. Personally, the timing couldn’t be better!

  • Indelible Miss

    Oh, Dooce.

    Thanks for this, by the way. I both studied Maternal/Child health during undergrad and worked at a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods store just afterward. Let me tell you, for someone who had to study cases just scary as the one you linked to above, it is infuriating to hear parents assume that their best choice should be the one for everyone. Because, who wants to go back to 450 child deaths a year- that’s FOUR THOUSAND children in a decade, plus thousands more in disabilities? No thanks.

    I do not have children, but I fully understand that unless I have a good reason (and I have worked with a child who is so severely allergic to eggs that I could not hug him until an hour after I’ve had a sandwich with mayonnaise. I get what a reasonable medical REASON is) it’s my responsibility to all the kids in this country to have my own children vaccinated if and when they are around. When you have knowledge like this, you’re not just parent or aunt or teacher to one, you’re the village parent, the one who cares for all.

    IndelibleOne

  • Steve

    A very level headed argument. Now, if insurance would just cover autism treatments, perhaps fewer parents would decline the vaccinations.

  • Very well said Heather. I agree about vaccines and we have vaccinated all four of our kids.

  • Laura in TX

    very well said, and it helps that i agree w/ your opinion 100% — as a public school teacher and a daughter of a nurse and a pediatrician, i also do not understand people who do not vaccinate their children. i do understand that this s a very tricky subject to write about b/c of so many people have strong opinions on it, so i applaud you for taking it on! great post dooce!

    ps ~ i can’t wait for you to have your baby! 🙂

  • amy

    Two more things…the doctor who I quoted in my previous reply is the Dr. Sears others have written about, and I also thought the reporter from TAL made a great point: She noted that in the past, the children who died from or were affected by infectious diseases were the poor whose parents could not afford the vaccines. Now, the children who are being affected are the children of the wealthy, educated class. Go figure.

  • My sister is a nurse.. I told her how my SIL refused to vaccinate her child because of all the stuff in the vaccines…. she said (and she’s known for being blunt)… its better than watching your kid die of the measles.

    and I agree.

    and reading that snippit about the measles outbreak just made me think.. you don’t only vaccinate your child for them.. you do it for the community. Vaccines only work when an entire community works together in use of them.

  • Anonymous

    THANK YOU for saying this. My (vaccinated!) boyfriend got whooping cough this summer precisely because more and more people are refusing vaccinations or immigrating without getting vaccinations in my state.

    People don’t realize that the whooping cough vaccination ONLY works for 10 years. Even assuming people get the booster shot at 13 (although there was a period in the 90s when the whooping cough booster shot wasn’t given because of autism fears), EVERYONE over 23 is vulnerable to whooping cough, and we depend on parents getting vaccinations for their kids to prevent outbreaks.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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