Should I vaccinate my baby?
Many parents have been asking this question lately, and the simple answer I have for you is YES! (Unless, of course, your child has a medical contraindication.)
Go ahead and watch the video, or jump below to see why I think vaccines are so important.
Here is an example of the typical childhood vaccine schedule according to CDC recommendations:
Birth – Hep B
2 mos- Rotavirus (oral), IPV (Polio ), DTaP (Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis), Hep B, Hib & PCV
4 mos- Rota, IPV DTaP, Hib, PCV
6 mos- Rota*, IPV, DTaP, PCV, Hep B
12 mos- MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) , Varicella (Chickenpox), Hep A
15 mos- DTaP, Hib*, PCV
18 mos- Hep A
4-6 years- DTaP, MMR, Varicella, IPV
*There are two Rotavirus vaccines, only one requires a 3rd dose at 6 mos. There are also two Hib vaccines, administered on slightly different schedules.
The schedule may vary depending on your pediatrician.
Here is the typical vaccine reaction: nothing happens.
Some children have a mild fever for a day or two. Some other reactions are mild and fairly common. The CDC provides information sheets for the common and uncommon side effects associated with all vaccines. You do not need to read the package insert to find the scary hidden risks of vaccines, because there are no hidden risks. The package insert is primarily a legal document consisting of mandatory language required by the FDA. The adverse reactions listed on the insert include all reported events that occurred during the trial period, gathered from the the tens of thousands of children who were in the trial. These may include things like car crashes, drownings and other events, including illnesses, with no relationship to the vaccine. These were things that simply coincided with the trial period.
Many of these vaccines are meant to protect infants specifically, and that is why they are recommended so early. All of these vaccines combined introduce much, much less antigen (the part that stimulates the immune system) than what newborns are exposed to on a daily basis. This is enough to prevent life-threatening illnesses. For those wary of conventional medicine, preventive vaccination is less invasive and carries fewer risks than treatments for even the mild complications of the diseases that vaccines prevent. These diseases may cause complications that require a long course of antibiotic treatments (either for the disease itself, or secondary infection) or hospitalization. Then, of course, there is the risk of the disease getting even worse.
Perhaps you have considered delaying vaccines, getting only some shots, or skipping them altogether. Did you know that delaying vaccines may slightly increase the risk of moderate side effects and doesn’t offer any benefits to the child? That’s what I did with my first child, because I didn’t have access to good information and there were people eager to take advantage of my initial hesitation about vaccines. I’ve since caught him up on his recommended vaccinations, and you know what? He’s fine. Now his newborn sister has a little more protection from these diseases until she can get her own shots.
A lot of parents have been led astray by people like Joe Mercola (Mercola.com), Sherri Tenpenny, Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com, Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccination Information Center (NVIC) (an anti-vaccination advocacy group funded by Mercola and formerly known as Dissatisfied Parents Together), and the many autism groups that have invested their efforts in finding a link between vaccines and autism. They raise funds in order to promote this deception. Most of these people and organizations generate substantial incomes from perpetuating the myths of vaccine harm.
Many independent bloggers have also jumped in to speak on the issue, including a particularly vocal stay-at-home-mom called “Megan” at LivingWhole.com. Megan has argued that God opposes vaccines (with very bad exegesis), but advises you to disregard your pastor if he disagrees with her ill-informed opinion– because, she says, he’s been paid off. There are also parents who have banded together to form blogging communities, like the Thinking Mom’s Revolution, who are willing to consider information from sources with no credibility in order to try to promote and normalize their personal decisions not to vaccinate.
Is it really profitable to promote an anti-vaccine agenda? Absolutely! Millions of dollars have been made selling alternative treatments for autism based on myths that vaccines were the cause. Alternative practitioners and businessmen like Mike Adams make money selling herbal and vitamin concoctions to treat illnesses supposedly caused by vaccines. Sherri Tenpenny refers to a lab company, for which she is “Medical Director,” that sells titer tests that costs hundreds of dollars, are not reimbursable by insurance, and parents typically have to interpret the results on their own. Dr. Bob Sears has sold millions of copies of his book featuring an alternative vaccine schedule that has never been studied, and answers questions (presumably for a fee) as an expert in several web forums, but he does not check the validity of his statements and recommendations. None of these doctors or practitioners will take personal responsibility for the decisions you make based on their disinformation.
So yes, websites that promote “news” and “science” stories that buck the system are often selling something. Unfortunately, these claims aren’t based on real science but creative, nonscientific reasoning that may be convincing but lacks a true understanding of human immunology. Often there is a spiritual component to these therapies and explanations of disease. Most are based on new-age philosophy or even on the hallucinations of a single man, like Rudolf Steiner, who views illness as an essential part of childhood. From these philosophies emerges the idea that vaccination interferes with nature, and that disease strengthens the immune system. A study in the Phillipines, where these diseases are endemic has suggested that vaccinated children have better test scores. Avoiding disease, not catching it, appears to have a protective effect on children’s development.
Some honest parents have attributed vaccines to their children’s illnesses, or have had these suspicions confirmed by practitioners and doctors who have devoted themselves to the anti-vaccine cause. Such stories of “vaccine injury” can be disturbing, heartbreaking, and can definitely lead parents to questions their choices. However, these stories should always be considered with skepticism because many illnesses that occur during childhood coincide with the vaccine schedule by chance, and sometimes parents fears lead them to suspect vaccines simply because of the timing.
What is known for certain is that the diseases these vaccines are made to prevent do cause serious harm and even death, especially in vulnerable groups. For example, half of babies under 1 year old who catch whooping cough are hospitalized, and of those babies 1-2 in 100 dies, and up to 1 in 4 will have pneumonia requiring intensive care. Measles infection causes pneumonia (the most common cause of measles death), encephalitis and a fatal, late-onset condition called Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis (SSPE). SSPE kills children who have gotten measles up to 10 or more years after the infection. These illnesses are deadly. That’s why we have a vaccine.
What’s worse, these illnesses are resurging after a period of time in which they were nearly eradicated in the US. In 2014 California declared a whooping cough (pertussis) epidemic with 3 infant deaths so far, and there are outbreaks all over the US. Measles has reached a 20-year record level this year, with nearly 600 people infected and outbreaks in 20 states– all associated with unvaccinated individuals bringing measles into the US from overseas. Those are two diseases that have been controlled by vaccines and are still fairly uncommon compared to the time period before the vaccines. Some vaccines are fairly new, and the diseases have not yet been well-controlled. For example, skipping PCV (the vaccine for a bacteria that causes sepsis, meningitis and pneumonia in infants and young children) will most certainly leave your child exposed to disease.
The pertussis vaccine works well, protecting about 80-90 children for every 100 children vaccinated for at least 5 years, although it is one of the least effective vaccines we have. If you catch whooping cough, immunity from the infection will not be lifelong, and that is true for the vaccine also. This is called waning immunity. Concerns have been raised that vaccinated people may be able to carry the bacteria without showing symptoms and spread it to others. This has not been shown in human studies. However, for this to happen in theory, they must be exposed to the bacteria. They cannot get it from the vaccine. The vaccine still protects most vaccinated individuals from the illness. So the best way to protect infants is to vaccinate them! Mothers can safely get this vaccine in the third trimester of pregnancy to help protect newborns too young to be vaccinated.
You may be worried that vaccines have been linked to autism. They haven’t. An incredible amount of research has been done on this issue, and there is one consistent answer that the evidence points to: vaccines do not cause autism.
Vaccines also do not cause SIDS. In fact, the incidence of SIDs is reduced among vaccinated babies, but possibly for reasons other than the vaccines.
Vaccines are safe medicine. Because of the level of regulatory oversight and ongoing use by nearly every pediatrician in the USA, vaccines could very well be our safest medicine. A comprehensive review of adverse events caused by vaccines shows that vaccines are linked to a few common reactions, like fever and temporary pain, and uncommonly to more serious reactions like a high fever or fever-induced seizure (which is also fairly common with any illness causing a fever in children under 5, and does not increase the lifelong risk of seizure disorders).
You may have heard about all of the nasty ingredients in vaccines. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has a page addressing the reason for each of the ingredients in your vaccines: Vaccine Ingredients. (They have lots of other good resources about vaccines, too, if you care to look around.) You may be worried about the mercury-based preservative thimerosal specifically because you have read that it is associated with autism. It isn’t. The rise in autism had nothing to do with the introduction of thimerosal. Mercury had been used in medicine long before the 1930’s and its excessive use caused mercury poisoning, not the developmental differences observed in people with autism. The removal of thimerosal from childhood vaccines has done nothing to reduce the rate of autism, which continues to rise. It was removed as a precaution because of the controversy, but it has never been shown to cause harm to children.
The important issue is that these chemicals are either present in trace (almost nondetectable) quantities, or quantities so low that they pose no risk of harm. Somewhat related to vaccines, science writer Tara Haelle has gone into detail about chemophobia– or the fear of mostly harmless chemicals in everything from cosmetics, to vaccines, to food products.
Perhaps you have heard that vaccine injuries are under reported. That is based on a misunderstanding of the VAERS passive surveillance system. The vaccine side effects that are listed on vaccine information statements are gathered from carefully designed research, not from the VAERS system. VAERS is designed only to recommend investigation of new, unforeseen side effects of vaccines. So the “1 in 10 will experience fever” and the very low risk of more severe side effects are accurately based on studies, not on self-reported VAERS reports.
VAERS is not intended for research, although unscrupulous organizations/people have tried to use VAERS to show things like increased risk of miscarriage from the flu vaccine. The flu shot does not increase the risk of miscarriage. Catching the flu during pregnancy is linked to an increased rate of miscarriage and stillbirth.
If you are worried, consider the sources of information that have helped inform your fears in vaccines. Are these sources reliable? Where do they get their information from? Many anti-vaccine advocates rely on data from legitimate sources like the CDC, but then they present the data in a way that serves their own causes, usually by cherry picking things that show vaccines to be harmful, and obscuring the real harms of diseases or information that shows vaccines to be safe. The CDC and nearly every respected researcher in the fields of immunology, pediatrics and epidemiology agree that vaccines are safe and effective. Information from these sources that seems to show otherwise should be thoroughly checked, because often it is just being misused to promote an anti-vaccine agenda.
It’s National Immunization Awareness Month, so check back for more!