The Thoughtful Parent’s Guide to Thinking Through Vaccinations: 10 Questions to Ask

Last week we started discussing the controversial topic of vaccination.  It has been very encouraging to see the responses it has generated, and to get to discuss a topic so near to our hearts!

We began by taking a look at the Foundational beliefs we can use to anchor and base our “Vaccine-Stance.”  We briefly looked at two Blueprints, one being the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule, and the other being a more cautionary approach to vaccines.

Today I will present 10 Tools for sifting through all the Blueprint-variations out there and framing your own Family Vaccine Plan.  It may look different than mine or your best friend’s- it may even be different for different children.  That is better than “ok”– that is wonderful!  As a parent, you know your own child, your family history, and your situation better than anyone else.  My desire is to empower you to metaphorically “build your own house!”

God is in Control

But before we dive in, I want us to remember one crucial point, the Bedrock upon which any “Foundation” and “Framework” is laid: God is ultimately in control; over our children, their lives, and their health.  How freeing that Truth is!! We can find immense comfort in knowing that He not only has ordained each of their days, but has even determined when and where they would live– all with the goal of bringing them to Himself (Psalm 139:13-16, Acts 17:26-27), the Source of Eternal, Overflowing Joy!

What if this little blog series leads you to research aspects of vaccination that cause you to regret a past course of action? What if you’re now thinking “I vaccinated my first child on the CDC schedule without thinking, and now I’m really wishing I hadn’t”Praise the Lord, God is still sovereign, and He is full of grace! Even if we did do everything “right” medically with our children (which we won’t)– the Lord could call them Home through any “accident” any day.  Our responsibility is as limited as we are.  There are so many factors outside of our control; air pollution, traffic, animals, storms… Just as we trust Him with those factors, so we must trust Him with disease and medical decisions.

May we always act in faith, not fear. We might say, “whether you vaccinate, or don’t vaccinate, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God…” (1 Cor 10:31)

Image by fauxto-dkp

The Tools

10 Questions you can use to decide whether a vaccine is appropriate to your child at this point in his life:

  1. What disease(s) is this vaccine aiming to protect against?
  2. What is the a) probable outcome of this disease, and b) worst-case scenario outcome?
  3. Today, is this disease treatable and/or preventable by other/natural means?
  4. What are possible dangers in this type of vaccine (look up whole list of ingredients)?
  5. What is the a) probable outcome of this vaccine, and b) worst-case scenario outcome?
  6. How much has this vaccine been tested, and are those tests by objective testers?
  7. How effective is the vaccine?
  8. Are there any benefits to gaining immunity to this disease through actual infection, rather than through the vaccine?
  9. What is the rationale behind getting the vaccine?  Is this valid/applicable to my situation, particularly my child’s age?
  10. Is the disease generally worse than the vaccine?

Now before you freak out and think “that’s a LOT of questions!,” be assured that at least numbers 1-3, 9, and perhaps 10, should be answerable with a quick (but thorough!) search in a medical handbook, reputable website or even by asking your doctor. Look it up on wikipedia, using the footnoted references to go one level deeper. You may be able to stop there (for example, we felt the varicella, or chicken pox, vaccine was fairly obvious at this point).

Look up vaccine information from the manufacturers (your pediatrician can copy the info off of the vaccine box for you, or at least give you the name of the company and you can look it up on the CDC website) to answer numbers 4 & 5. Numbers 6-8 are the hardest to find answers on, and you may need to enlist a medically knowledgeable source to rightly read study results and findings, but there are GREAT books out there to help with that!  You can do this!! (More on the research aspect will come in the final blog post.)

Image by petter palander

An Example

Let me go step through one vaccine to show you how one might reason through a vaccine and come to a decision.  I’ll do today’s most-used polio vaccine, the IPV (inactivated polio virus).

1. What disease(s) is this vaccine aiming to protect against? poliovirus, causing poliomyelitis.

2. What is the a) probable outcome of this disease? a) 95% of polio infections cause no symptoms at all. In 5% of cases, mild symptoms such as headache, fever & sore throat develop (source). b) worst-case scenario outcome? In 1% of cases the virus enters the central nervous system, targeting motor neurons, leading to muscle weakness & temporary (rarely permanent) paralysis and, in rare cases, to respiratory arrest/death if respiratory support is not available (source). Most paralysis cases are temporary. (read more here). Polio levels were fairly constant until the 1880’s, when the first polio epidemics began, primarily in cities in the summer months. (source)

3. Today, is this disease treatable and/or preventable by other/natural means? Yes. Because of how this disease is passed on (the fecal-to-oral route, i.e. lack of sewage disposal, contaminated food, unwashed hands etc.), hygiene is a huge preventative measure. If the worst case occurs, proper stimulation of affected limbs, ventilator-aided breathing and therapy (lots of massage) to regain muscle tone is key. A vitamin-rich diet is a huge preventative measure:  vitamin C seems to be a great preventative as well as a factor in how disease affects an infected person. B vitamins seem to be protectors from paralysis.  Read a Time Magazine featurette or Dr. Klenner, a hospital doctor from the ’70’s, studies, also here). It also stands to reason that a healthy intestinal immune system full of good bacteria and properly low pH (acidic) is a first-line barrier keeping the virus out of the blood stream (where it causes the worst damage).

4. What are possible dangers in this type of vaccine (look up whole list of ingredients)? Potentially hazardous ingredients: formaldehyde (toxic), monkey kidney tissue,* the antibiotics neomycin & streptomycin(linked to ear damage).

*Let’s talk about that monkey tissue. Diseases which monkeys carry harmlessly are often deadly to humans. One such virus, SV-40 (simain virus 40– “simian” means monkey) was accidentally given to at least 30 million (some estimate as high as 200 million worldwide) children up until 1963 via polio vaccinations. It is still being treated today in the form of numerous cancers, many of which do not respond to standard treatment.  (Some evidence has shown that SV-40 has even been passed from vaccinated-infected-mothers to their children in the form of brain tumors!)  While monkey tissues used are now tested for SV-40 and a growing number of other diseases, the threat of viral contamination is still very high, and utterly probable. (Some postulate that HIV is the human version of SIV, which infects 50% of all African green monkeys; the kind most used to culture polio vaccines). Several doctors have warned that only about 2% of existing monkey viruses are known and are tested for, and since you can’t test for something you don’t know is there, there is literally no way to know what is potentially in a batch of vaccines. [The Virus and the Vaccine (2005) is completely devoted to this topic.  A book with a summary we found helpful is The Vaccine Guide: Risks and Benefits for Children and Adults.]

5. What is the a) probable outcome of this vaccine? Due to the highly probably contamination of the monkey tissue used to culture the disease, an undetected viral contamination is quite likely, even if the patient has no immediately observed reaction to the shot. b) worst-case scenario outcome? Our child does receive a contaminated vaccine and suffers a life-altering (or death-causing) complication  later in life.

6. How much has this vaccine been tested, and are those tests by objective testers? So far I have found no studies at all, much less those of a vaccinated group contrasted with an unvaccinated control group.

7. How effective is the vaccine? Difficult to say; the definition of “polio” as counted by the CDC has become drastically more restrictive since the development of the vaccine, which further confounds the problem of judging its effectiveness; the numbers are falsely lowered.  Now a patient must exhibit the worst possible symptoms in order to be counted as having polio, as opposed to having mild symptoms and being counted (as before).

8. Are there any benefits to gaining immunity to this disease through actual infection, rather than through the vaccine? Not in so many words.

9. What is the rationale behind getting the vaccine?  Is this valid/applicable to my situation (especially my child’s age)? Polio is exceedingly rare in the US today, and is both preventable and treatable.  Any vaccine is a tax on a still-developing immune system (source here and here) of an infant under 2. Also, our daughter in particular is allergic to certain antibiotics, so we limit her antibiotic exposure as much as possible. Since the likelyhood of our children contracting polio is so low, we would prefer to wait indefinitely on this vaccine.

10. Is the disease generally worse than the vaccine? That’s a tough call, but I think not.  While the worst-case scenario is awful, the usual course of polio (especially in a well-nourished individual) is to be completely asymptomatic, while the vaccine with its potential contaminants is a huge unknown.  In other words, we prefered the known (low) risk of the wild virus to the unknown (potentially huge) risk of this particular vaccine.

How this “Framed Up” for us: we judged polio, which is rare in the US today and has no symptoms in 95% of people, to be less risky than a vaccine possibly tainted with (a) simian virus(es) (effect/s unknown).  We will actively bolster our children’s immune systems- including the gut!- through a nutritionally-rich & varied diet full of vitamins (including C & B as well as probiotics), as well as breastfeeding through 18 months.  We have access to good medical care should a serious case of poliomyelitis strike despite our best efforts.

Phew!  One vaccine down, just 10 more to go!  :) Seriously, though, I hope this has whet your appetite for investigating each vaccine individually.  If you would like to see more examples of the “Toolbox” being deployed, you may want to visit my blog post thinking through the varicella vaccine, as well as a brief treatment of all today’s CDC- recommended vaccines.

Tune in next week for an annotated list of resources (on all sides of the vaccine issue), as well as some concluding thoughts on the CDC vaccine schedule as a wholeHopefully these three posts will inspire and help you to frame your own “Family Vaccine Plan!”

What questions have you asked as you’ve made decisions on vaccinations? What does your decision making process look like?

Top image by AdamSelwood

Other Posts in This Series

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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  1. This is fantastic! Thank you so much for your thought provoking questions and insights. I am a pediatric nurse and was taught to blindly accept and enforce the CDC immunization schedule, but the longer I work, the more concerned I get. I’ve never had a non-vaccinated patient in the hospital because they got a disease that they “should have” been vaccinated for, but I have definitely had multiple patients who suffered adverse effects from a vaccination.
    Thanks for your post and I look forward to reading more!

  2. Thank you again for this post. I love your “God is in Control” intro because everything you wrote is so important for parents to realize, especially if we’ve made decisions in the past that we would choose to do differently now.

  3. I’m interested to know about the non-medical repercussions of not following the doctor’s recommended vaccine protocol. What if your children will be attending school instead of homeschooling? I was given a whole series of vaccines before college. What about obtaining jobs in the medical profession (my sister is a nurse, and they are required to have all sorts of vaccines to keep their jobs). Will this have an effect on my health insurance rates, or even result in the loss of coverage?

    I am fully supportive of making my own decisions for the sake of my child’s health and my personal beliefs – but would hate to put other things like school, health insurance and possible careers in jeopardy.

    • @Amanda Z, I also wonder vaccinations will become requirements at some point for our children, but my feeling about it is that they can always take the vaccinations when needed down the road. You can get all of your vaccines as an adult, if that’s what was required. And, as an older teen or an adult, your body is potentially much more able to handle the onslaught than a babies or toddlers body is, in my opinion, since it is no longer rapidly developing (brain, growth, immune system, etc.). I don’t think we’ll be putting that aspect of our children’s futures in jeopardy.

    • I imagine that different states and medical facilities have different laws/rules, but in Arkansas any child can attend public school regardless of vaccinations received BUT the parents MUST go through a process of filling out a waiver related to refusing vaccinations.
      Also, different medical facilities have different rules. One place I’ve worked required me to get a flu shot or lose my job. Another place took my blood and checked my vaccination status and informed me that I needed several vaccinations updated. They offered the vaccinations for free but they did not force me to take them.

  4. Thank you so much for such an educated post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! This is a topic I still struggle with and my twins will be 4 in April! Thank you, again, for sharing. SOOO important~
    Blessings and may god bless you in this journey

  5. Hi! This is such an interesting and difficult topic. I have done quite a bit of research on it over the last several years for my first daughter. Now I have a second daughter who is 8 months old and I am researching again. My biggest struggle is the pertussis vaccine. I gave the DTaP to my oldest but now am not sure I want to do it for my second. The main reason I give it is because I do want the tetanus shot and my doc (who is not a fan of most vaccines) said that it was not possible to get the mercury- free vaccine alone but that I had to do the set to do so. I was very apprehensive bc I wanted to avoid the Pertussis portion but he said he really feels that it is safe. Also, I did it to protect the new baby. We are hoping to have a third in the future and so I want that baby to be protected as well. BUT according to CDC records, just as many vaccinated children contract as do unvaccinated. Any wisdom?!!!

    Also, I was reading this blog last week and somewhere in one of these articles was a list of different books (pro and con vaccines). I can’t seem to find it now though. Where would I find that list?!

    I LOVE this blog and thank you for all the time you put into it! It is also interesting to read all these wonderful comments. God bless!


  6. One more thing for the toolbox is considering how not vaccinating contributes to the spread of a disease.

    Consider measles. It kills “only” 3 in 1000 patients. But, if more people are unvaccinated, then it is more likely to spread. If there’s an isolated case among many vaccinated people because someone was vaccinated, but the immunity faded or didn’t take, then there’s roughly a 3 in 1000 chance of having a death (in the U.S.). On the other hand, if too many people are unvaccinated, then perhaps it spreads to a couple more people and a couple more from each of those, etc, to maybe a dozen cases (some of which could be children too young to receive the vaccination even if the parents were planning on it.) Then the odds of at least one death are about 3.5%.

    “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    • Hearing anything like that is unsettling for sure! My understanding though is that MANY of the people, even children, who are vaccinated for measles still contract it. I have not done much research on that particular illness but I have heard that from more than one reliable source (including a family doctor). For instance, in New York state there was a rather large outbreak a few years ago. I believe that over 1,000 children were ill. I don’t know if there were any deaths. None, that I heard of. But New York has some of the strictest laws about vaccines. I believe it is mandatory and there are very few outs (unlike in Texas where there is quite a bit of flexibility). So, my assumption (and it is assumption so I may be speaking out of turn becuase I have not researched it specifically) is that most if not all of these kids were vaccinated and yet they still contracted it and spread to others who were vaccinated. That is part of the reason that this whole debate is so difficult to me. There are definite risks either way. I definitely believe that doing your research and then bathing it in prayer is the only way for anyone to go!

  7. Wonderful article! I like how you help give parents and future parents the room to assess the risks themselves and decide what is the best option for their child. We need more of this kind of healthy discussion.

    You may find this presentation interesting.

  8. Thank you so much for posting this article! I have anxiously shared it whenever I can to other moms looking for information on this issue. We don’t vaccinate at all (our kids are 2 1/2 and 1) but we may get the tetanus shot when they are a little older. Posts like this are encouraging too, to know that other moms are doing the same things I am and I’m not indeed “crazy” as some health professionals tell me I am. :-)


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