Guest Post by Christina
It's one of the big questions new parents face today, once you've gotten past "were you trying to get pregnant?" (which I still can't believe people ask...) and the less invasive "did you do it all-natural?" "are you going to breast-feed?" and even "are you using cloth-diapers?" The question with a capital Q seems to be "are you going to vaccinate?"
The stakes are pretty high, or so both sides claim. Everyone says my child's life is at risk if I don't do what they recommend. What's a mom to do?? Read, read, and read!! I got books (lots of them) and I looked up their source articles, and then accessed as many of those articles as I could. I pulled out my old file on "diet and disability" from one of my Education classes (back when I had access to all those medical journals through my university library), because I remembered it talked a lot about the humoral immune system and the way that the gut, immune system, and brain/neurological systems were related. Desiring a balanced view (you won't learn if you only read people you already agree with), I tried to read articles and books on both "sides" of the issue. I learned a LOT!!
My goal in this post is to bring you along with me as I have wrestled through asking questions about childhood vaccinations. The thought processes I've come to use and the questions I've come up with expand beyond just this one issue, and into every medical procedure and practice.
My desire is to serve you and equip you to become the most informed, critically-thinking guardian of your child's health that you can be! I'll try to organize all the information I've gathered like a house: first, I'll lay the "Foundation"-- 5 base-level facts that "ground" the whole thing. Then, I'll present "Two Blueprints"-- arguments both for and against the American CDC's vaccine schedule. As parents, our job is to create a vaccine blueprint that is the best fit for each of our children. To help with that, I'll lastly present "My Toolbox"-- 10 questions I have found useful for evaluating each vaccine I come across.
We Are Responsible
While of course I would be thrilled if I "convinced you" of my point of view, I feel like a sucess if you are inspired to research this on your own!! If you start asking questions, digging around, reading studies and books by people smarter than me (doctors, public health specialists, immunologists, naturopaths, etc.), and come to a different conclusion than I have, that's still great!!! My goal is to help you learn to think!!
Medical decisions can be so intimidating, especially since we feel so much is at stake-- our kids' health!-- but we are not helpless, forced to blindly depend on even a brilliant guide. To a certain extent, we can think things through and come to our own conclusions. WE are responsible for our children's health.
Whatever conclusion you come to, if you come to it after critical, intentional thinking and looking from both sides of the issue (and not neglecting prayer for wisdom and trust in God's sovereignty!), I applaud you! THAT is the kind of parent we are called to be!
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Five base-line truths to keep in mind (if you disagree with any of these, I encourage you to go "back to the drawing board" and ask yourself why before you try and go on reading):
- God has created our bodies to heal themselves, living in dominion over all creatures (including microscopic ones) yet not living isolated from all creatures. In other words, we don't "exercise dominion" by killing everything within a 10 mile radius from us.
- This world is fallen, and man has a battle to survive in front of him-- sickness and pain is a part of that. Neither vaccination nor lack of it is risk-free; both have risks. Additionally, part of our dominion now includes shaping our environment (one example- agriculture instead of tending an already-planted, perfectly yielding Garden of Eden).
- The body is a whole with many sub-systems, but no part is independent from the whole. We can't treat one aspect (say, the immune system) and expect to see no effects elsewhere (perhaps in the neurological system or in the digestive system). Our allopathic (Western) medical system is beginning to see that the holistic (Eastern) medical approaches at least have this right.
- Vaccines are drugs and should be thought of as such. They come with their own side-effects, risks, and imperfections, just like any other medicine. In each vaccine is not only a weakened form of a disease, but "adjuvants"-- preservatives and metals that kick-start the immune reaction. They are developed at great cost by drug companies and are sold by drug salesmen.
- Individual families & children have different needs; this doesn't need to be an "all-or-nothing" debate. While some, such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocate an "all!!" stance, and many who question the germ theory behind vaccines advocate a "nothing!" stance, the majority of vaccine-questioners fall along a middle-of-the-road spectrum; choosing different vaccines at different paces as is appropriate to their situations or even individual situations in their families.
Blueprint A: in favor of the CDC mass-vaccination schedule:
-- Childhood diseases are harmful to the population and need to be avoided, and eventually eliminated.
-- Vaccines are a way to stimulate the immune system into fighting diseases by giving the body a weaker version of the real thing. The body produces antibodies which later will be used to fight the full-blown disease, should it ever come around. (Though vaccines are not 100% effective and never technically claim to be, all vaccine-promoting literature implies that they are 100% effective and never mentions future infection as a possibility.)
-- Vaccines are in essence a little bit of pain now for big payoff of prevention later.
--Vaccines have rid the West of dangerous diseases, and there would be mass outbreaks if we stopped them. Everyone is responsible to get vaccinated in order to protect our neighbors.
-- There is minimal to no danger at all in vaccines, no matter how many are given at once or at what age. They will only prepare the body to fight future disease, and in the rare case that the disease is actually contracted from the shot (in live-virus vaccines), then this isn't nearly as bad as the disease itself would have been.
--Shots do not have any measured long-term negative effects other than in the rare cases where children react allergically (Guillain-Barre Syndrome, for instance). These are rare and isolated cases.
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Blueprint B: cautionary arguments against the American CDC vaccine schedule, coming from all sorts of aspects:
--Childhood diseases aren't pleasant, but may not be all that bad, because they trigger the body's ability to heal. Most childhood diseases confer life-long immunity once overcome.
-- The toxic ingredients in vaccines (adjuvants, etc-- mercury, formaldehyde, other metals) are a concern, especially since they seem to have a cumulative effect. (Dr. Sears takes this position in his book The Vaccine Book). Egg, soy, MSG, antibiotics and other common allergens pose special risks for children with those allergies in the family.
-- Morally questionable vaccine ingredients: The line WI-38 (in the rubella component of the MMR) was begun in lung cells obtained from an aborted baby girl, for instance.
-- Children are each different, so a one-size-fits-all approach to vaccination is inappropriate, even potentially deadly. We are first responsible for our own health and our children's, not the population at large's.
--Hygiene, clean water, and nourishing food have been responsible for the decline in infectious diseases, before and independently from the advent of vaccination campaigns. See an article on this topic.
--Over-stimulation of the immature & still-developing immune system of an infant/toddler under 2: Babies' immune systems are stuck in a different mode (Th2 mode) than adults' to keep them from being targeted as an outsider by their mother while in the womb. During infancy they can switch to the adult Th1 mode if they get a recurrent infection, but they don't switch to full Th1 until toddler-hood. Vaccines given while the baby is still in Th2 mode cause the Th2 mode to persist longer than it should, leaving them at higher risk of auto-immune diseases (such as food allergies), which in turn are linked with neurological disorders (such as autism). Age is a factor in how a person will react to a vaccine. See Dr. Baylock's article on this topic.
--Long-term effects: There is a huge increase (quadrupled!) in auto-immune diseases (ADHD, asthma, allergies, ASD (autism-spectrum-disorder), Type 1 diabetes) in Western culture, and we don't know why. Mandated vaccines on an aggressive schedule (beginning before birth if the mother gets a flu shot while pregnant) is a huge new factor which must be considered as a variable that could have contributed to or even caused this increase. (An auto-immune disorder basically means that a person's immune system attacks what it shouldn't; it thinks normal things are invaders and triggers an immune response to fight them.)
-- Link between childhood disease and future immunity. If you get the real thing, you get full immunity to it, and possibly to other diseases --for instance, women who get childhood mumps have increased immunity to ovarian cancer. (This is due to the correct stimulation of the Th1, or cell-mediated, immune system, which thwarts cancer.)
-- Conflict of interest: the CDC's Safety Committee is financially tied to the vaccines which they approve, biasing them in favor of vaccines. They are not objective judges looking out for our child's health. (Would we trust a clothing retailer to write our clothing budget or give us unbiased opinions on what clothes to buy?) Similarly, the pharmaceutical industry has a massive political voice, encouraging the federal government to be pro-vaccine.
--The CDC's vaccination schedule is "too much too soon:" 32 vaccines by age 2. For example, 7 vaccines injected into a 13-lb baby (standard for a 2 month old well-baby visit) is equivalent to 70 vaccines in a 130 lb adult! Chart comparing vaccine schedules from the 80's and now here.
Hopefully this has provided some food for thought. The next post in this series will provide the "Toolbox" of questions I've developed in order to decide what vaccines our family accepts when, and lastly a post full of books and articles for you to delve into on your own.
What are your thoughts on the decision making process? On the vaccination issue as a whole?
Stephanie's note: It's a touchy subject, I know, but I think that Christina has approached it in a very thoughtful way that encourages open dialogue, rather than criticism and condemnation (which was exactly the approach I was hoping for- thanks for a fantastic first post, Christina!). I'm definitely keeping the comments open to thoughts on both sides of the debate, so long as they remain polite and contribute positively to the discussion (translation: I have a delete button and I'm not afraid to use it). I love venues where we can share our ideas even on tough subjects, without cutting one another down.