The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Thinking Through Vaccinations

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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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Image by audiinsperation

The Foundation

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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Two Blueprints

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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Image by wscullin

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.

Top image credit

About Christina

Christina is a doula, a former teacher & choir director, a craftsy mostly-stay-at-home mom to E (4) & W (almost 2), nanny to L (2), foster mama to V (6) & A (3), and wife to Ryan. She is passionate about equipping moms to think critically in order to raise healthy children full of faith, music and imagination.

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Comments

  1. I am so thankful for the freedon of speech and the availability of information on the internet. I have two young children and have been doing research on vaccines, and plan to continue more aggressively to be convinced on where I stand and why. When I come across blogs or forums discussing vaccines, to me the proof is, as they say, is in the pudding. When mama after mama recounts a personal journey of tragedy as a result of vaccinating, that to me is the purest of proof. What mother hopes to gain from their child’s suffering? And since the medical world has not been properly documenting the after-shot results that absolutely skews every “scientific” claim offered. Thank you to all the mothers and fathers who dare question their world!

  2. THIS is why I want to distance myself from Christian women. Educate yourself.

    • Liz Jones says:

      I’m a proud pagan, highly educated, work in the medical field and I don’t vaccinate!

  3. I wanted to bring up the concept of “herd Immunity”. First, we know in the medical community that vaccines are NOT 100% effective for all people. Second, we do not always know how long a vaccine will offer protection. For example, the protection from Pertussis vaccination is not necessarily present into adulthood. In the recent past, families of newborns were getting infected with mild symptoms, while their newborn would have severe life-threatening Pertussis with unfortunately sometimes life-ending results. This is the reason the OBGYN community is promoting booster vaccines for Pertussis to all medical personnel and women immediately after childbirth. Note: Pertussis vaccination is started at 2 months of life.

    “Herd Immunity” is the concept that if most people are protected/immune, than those few people who are not immune (your newborn from Pertussis) will be protected, because no one in the immune “herd” can give them the infection. So if you have the one child in your elementary school who was vaccinated but did not successfully get immunity, well thank God all the other children were vaccinated and are immune. Your child is then protected. I would argue that we as a society have an ethical obligation to protect that one non-immune child. That is the CDC’s stance. Again using the Pertussis example, if everyone who comes into contact with your newborn during baby’s first 2 months of life has been revaccinated and immune to pertussis, then your baby is safe because the “herd” protects baby.

    As an OBGYN, I too have seen horrible, preventable examples of children hospitalized. But when the H1N1 influenza first arrived in our country, I lived it. Just 1 week prior to the vaccination being released to the public, H1N1 devastated my family. My 4 year-old son went from happily playing to being intubated in the ICU in the course of a couple hours. I sat by his side wondering if he would wake and if he did, would he be mentally intact. My son recovered with all his faculties. But if I could have prevented his illness with a vaccine, what a blessing that would have been to my family. If only the vaccine had been available 7 days sooner. I still remember all the publicity and hype over H1N1 before my son got sick and thinking, people are probably making a big deal out of nothing. But I was wrong. Some of the other children and their families in the ICU that week were not as fortunate as my family.

    So I will end with asking what others think. Do we as a society or as the “herd” have an ethical obligation to protect those who will not be successfully immunized or are too young to get vaccinated?

    • First off I’d challenge the “herd immunity” concept. Diseases are constantly changing, especially when toxic elements have been widely used to fight them (beekeepers are seeing this). Soon a strain develops that is differerent enough or resiliant enough to re-infect a population- especially if that population has a partial immunity such as vaccines provide, or if the population is malnourished. This is why we see cyclical patterns in disease occur (like pertussis outbreaks every 5 or so years). Are you aware of just how high the percentages of folks in a breakout who are fully or partially vaccinated? The majority!! Herd immunity is so fragile and temporary that it isn’t worth risking my own child’s (or my own) well-being to protect. If each parent takes responsibility primarily for their own children, we will be doing what is right. We will give an account before God primarily for how we caree for them… then our larger “neighbor.” If I’m in a car accident and swerve to avoid an oncoming car which would have killed my family, and in so doing sideswipe another car, injuring another person, I don’t think anyone would blame me

      • I have to respectfully disagree with your reasoning that we should look out for health of our own children at the expense of others. The Bible clearly states to love your neighbor as yourself. I studied herd immunity at medical school and have to support Leah’s explanation. The reason that the majority of people in an outbreak are vaccinated is simply statistical: the overwhelming majority of people in North America ARE vaccinated. Childhood diseases are not “minor” as the above argument claims, they killed and disabled many many children when they were prevalent. Of course we have better nutrition and hygiene now, but that would not be enough to prevent an increase in childhood death if we stopped vaccinating. The author who wrote the paper suggesting a link between autism and vaccines retracted his opinion, there is absolutely NO evidence for this link. The reason that there has been an increase in ADHD and autisum is because we are only now diagnosing them and widening the criteria for inclusion. ADHD children still existed 200 years ago, we just did not label them as such. I agree that like any medical intervention vaccines have their risks and that ultimately every parent needs to come to a decision that they are comfortable with, but I think we have to consider the health of every single child, not just our own.

        • If you read the above article you’ll see some info on Dr. Wakefield– the autism-vaccine link is far from disproven. However, that is another topic.

          My point in questioning her immunity is first to, well, question a faulty idea often used in reasoning, and secondly to say that my priority as a mom is my own child’s health, and then secondly the health of those outside my family. That principle is clear in Scripture (widows in our family are to be cared for first by their family, children are to care for their own parents, parents are to teach their own children…). Obviously, we are not to set out to intentionally harm other people, but in choosing between a potential risk to another and a potential risk to my own child, it does not seem unethical to first protect my own child…especially if I feel the risk to him is great while the risk to others is very small (or non-existant, as in the case of “herd immunity.”).

          • Thanks for the response! Okay so I did read that article, but that website is hardly legitimate. This woman claims to be an “MD” but I could find no page describing her education. She is clearly marketing herself as a health ‘advisor’, in her own words she is “not a primary care provider.” She actually has an article describing how she thinks the medical community is trying to prevent/ hide a cure for cancer. She says that doctors are ‘afraid of childhood illness because they don’t know how to treat it’ and that actually with good nutrition there are no bad outcomes from childhood vaccines. I have seen firsthand that this is absolutely false! I have seen babies near death from pertussis and it is awful. Childhood illness is real and can be deadly, regardless of nutrition. Her entire website is incredibly inflammatory and angry towards the medical community at large and makes blanket statements about physicians “not knowing anything about vaccines.” I would agree that protecting your own children first is fine if others are not at risk but personally I believe it does put others at risk, and to me, that would not be ‘loving my neighbor as myself.’ Anyways, I respect your opinion but I do wish you would not link to such an obviously biased website from a woman with a clear financial interest in promoting herself as an advocate of health and natural remedies. I hope that readers will be able to read that article critically.

  4. Sorry, but any post that starts with “god created our bodies…” as a “baseline truth” is just not “neutral.”

    I cloth diaper, wear my babies, eat and feed my family as thoughtfully as I can and try in general to be a wholesome mom. But I also studied biology and I do not believe in intelligent design or God. Most of the anti-vaccine propaganda out there is terribly thought-less–way more based on the fears, anxieties of our contemporary political, socio-economic environment, and it’s a crying shame that uninformed mothers who wish desperately to do the best for their families are sucked into the anti-vax rhetoric as part of any movement (whether it be religious, anti-government, crunchy or Sears acolyte variety).

    BOO!

    Too bad. I really enjoyed your detergent review. This, not so much.

    • Yes, you are right: this is not a spiritually neutral blog, nor has it ever purposed to be! It is intended to help Christians best tend their homes. While the contributors and majority of readers may disagree on precisely how to best do that, we all are united by our desire to please our Lord Jesus and to live in accordance with His Word the Bible.

      I’m glad you stopped by and have appreciated some of the posts! Stick around! :) The Christian worldview is all-encompassing and affects the way we function on every level.

  5. Wonderful post. I love hearing neutral posts about vaccinations. Here’s my perspective:

    As a Christian, very soon-to-be mother (due in March!), and soon-to-be physician (graduating in June), I am extremely concerned about vaccinations – both personally and professionally. I also wrote a blog post outlining the importance of education and parent choice in the subject of vaccinations: http://naturalmedicineisthebestmedicine.blogspot.com/2011/09/all-naturopaths-are-against.html

    I’ve posted this link in a number of medical blogs, and boy have I gotten ripped for making this type of commentary!! Many medical doctors consider it scandalous that I would even consider advocating parents making (GASP!) their own choice regarding vaccines.

    That said, as a future physician, I highly encourage all your readers to CAREFULLY sort through information regarding vaccines. Much of what is written on the internet is blatantly false. I’ve found Dr. Sears’ work to be well referenced by legitimate literature. Also, the CDC website is very helpful – even though the data on adverse vaccine reactions is probably greatly underreported, their data on actual disease prevalence is very good. A good doctor who is well-versed in both sides of the argument is your best source.

    Here are some questions that I believe parents should be asking for EACH vaccine:
    1) What are the ACTUAL RISKS of my child getting this disease? (What chance does he/she have of getting it? How serious would it be?)
    2) What is IN each vaccine? (Adjuvants? Aluminum? How much? What is the research behind the effects of these? Is it a live virus?)
    3) WHEN is it most appropriate to get each vaccine? (Which diseases are most deadly in early infancy? Which vaccines can wait? Which diseases are my child most likely to never encounter?)
    4) How does my decision affect my neighbor?

    • To a future doctor,
      I am a Pediatrician and training further in Infectious Diseases. Your view of vaccines scares me because I have seen these vaccine preventable diseases that are “not so bad.” In my first month of training, I saw a little boy almost die from tetanus (prolonged ICU stay). In the past year, we have had children with measles, mumps, and multiple cases of varicella in our hospital. So does your child have a risk of getting one of these diseases? If they are not vaccinated, most definitely! And are these diseases serious? You obviously have not researched and read about the ill children and even deaths from measles in the late 80s/early 90s or the multiple infant deaths in California last year from pertussis. I encourage you to educate yourself further. Although I also encourage parents to obtain reliable information, one source should be their physician. Physicians like you scare me because I know you don’t truly understand these vaccine preventable diseases, the immune response to vaccines, and the basic science of vaccines. Once you see a child close to death from one of these diseases and realize that it could have been avoided, you will understand. I am a advocate for children’s health. If you cannot be an advocate for health, you may want to reconsider your future plans.

      • And how many of those pertissis cases were in fully or partially vaccinated children? Please read this- http://drsuzanne.net/dr-suzanne-humphries-vaccines-vaccination/

      • Whoa, let’s stick to facts and not false scare tactics. According to the CA Health Dept, “no pertussis deaths have been reported in California since 2010″ (http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/immunize/Documents/PertussisReport2012-04-24.pdf). In 2010, they were all under 3 months old so the question of being fully vaccinated didn’t even apply there, and at least one of the infants was premature, which obviously complicates any vax/anti-vax stance. Moreover, if you actually look at the CA data, there are higher risks in certain counties and in certain demographics. A wise parent will consider these statistics when evaluating for risk, as well as weigh complicating factors such as premature birth, concurrent illness, etc.

        Also, of those infected with Pertussis in 2010, it’s estimated that the vast majority were fully vaccinated (http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/03/13/cid.cis287). Unfortunately, the writers concluded that we should just pump already fully vaccinated kids with even more vaccines–that will also wear off in a few years. Huh????

        Side note: SR, Rather than criticize and demean that upcoming physician who has a more updated education than yours, maybe you should spend some time looking through recent studies and data before you falsify them on this respectable site.

    • You have to ask how your decision affects your neighbor and yet you somehow got into med school. Yikes.

  6. A great site to view and get information is http://www.nvic.org/
    Check this out when trying to decide for your child or children, it is a very informative and helpful site.

  7. Thank you for posting this. Whether or not to vaccinate or which ones to choose is such a hard decision with all the information out. It is so hard to decide. I have been praying about this for awhile. I have a 4 1/2 year old and a 6 month old. My four year old has had some shots but not all. I had a real hard time deciding with my little one, I researched until it made me sick and confused. She didn’t receive any vaccinations when she was born and I decided to find a doctor who would allow spacing them out. I had to switch pediatricians and then ended up getting all of her first set of shots according the the CDC anyway when she was 3 1/2 months. I felt like I did the right thing and guilty at the same time… so difficult! She has not had anymore vaccinations yet. We plan on homeschooling and my oldest was in daycare briefly for a couple days a week because I worked there but I will not be doing that again, so I’m trying to take that into consideration.

    After researching it myself, I tend to agree with Christina when she said:
    “It seems we may be trading one set of diseases for another as we choose to vaccinate on a very aggressive, one-size-fits-all schedule.
    I’m not implying vaccines have no place– they very well could in emergency situations. It’s the blind, mandatory, fear-driven systematic approach that brings me to caution.”
    If we believe God works for the good of those called according to his purpose, then whether we choose to vaccinate or not, God uses it all, and He may be leading one family one way and another family another way.

Trackbacks

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