Stalked by the Stork...a diary of raising twelve kids

Having twelve children is an amazing blessing and one heck of a crazy ride. Join us through all the joys, smiles, tribulations and trials as we navigate this fabulous journey!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Great Vaccine Debate...

Alright, so vaccinations are currently one of the most controversial and well debated topics in parenting circles. There are books, expert opinions, studies ect all touting why vaccines are or are not the right choice. I guess for me though, I take a bit of a different stance. I find that after reading, researching and soul searching, that I'm neither for or against vaccines....rather I am in favor of examining your own life, your own attitudes, beliefs, fears, and priorities and then making a decision. I also don't feel that it has to be a complete "yes" or a complete "no". For example, there are some shots I give, some I decline and others I give, but not on schedule.
The whole issue seems to me to be more of a game of weighing your risks and accepting the fact that either way, you are chosing to accept one risk or another. For example, If I decide to vaccinate my children, I am knowingly taking on the risk that I am injecting thier bodies with substances which are not natural. Substances which may at some point in the future be directly linked with some degree of harm, be it mild, moderate or severe. I understand that our pediatrician assures us they are safe...but remember that X-rays were considered safe for pregnant women for years before it was discovered otherwise. How many patients were assured by their OB's that Thalidimide was safe to take many years ago? I strongly disagree that anyone can say with certainity that vaccines are totally safe. Look at how much money is shelled out to families every year by the vaccine injury compensation program.
On the other hand, I'm not willing to take the position that vaccines are inheriently bad because of the things they inject into our children's bodies. I think it goes without saying that in other parts of the world, many people including children loose their lives to the same diseases that vaccines prevent here. Yes, there are certainally other factors that play into that, such as sanitation, but it has to be admitted that vaccines have been responsibe for significantly lowering the rates of certain diseases and for saving many lives. When trying to weigh the risks associated with vaccines...its all too easy to focus on the harm and not see the good.
The other issue I have with vacination is the issue of protecting our society as a whole. On one hand, I struggle with the issue of being accountable to my children regarding what I am putting into them, on the other hand, it feels a bit irresponsilbe to me to flatly refuse to participate in vaccinations and here's why. Through vaccinations we have reduced the rates of some diesases to the point that we rarely have them here anymore and they are not a real danger anymore. But, why is that? Because by and large and for the most part, our society is vaccinated. If I refuse to vaccinate my children, I am enjoying the benefits of a vaccinated society without assuming any of the risk. This may sound nice, but what happens when more and more and more people make my same choice. What happens when the balance tips and vaccinated children become the minority. Then, we will see a resurgance of these diseases. I'm not sure that's the answer we are looking for here.
So for me, the best that I can work out in my mind is this litmus test "In which vaccines, is the risk from the vaccine outweighed by the risk of harm from the disease? And which would only be annoying and unpleasant but probably not life threatening" So here's what I came up with- dieseases such as diptheria, hepatitis A, bacterial meningitis, pertusis, whooping cough, polio, ect are serious enough that they do cause fatalities in a decent number of affected cases. I think that for my children and for our soceity...they should be given these shots. However others, such as chicken pox, measels, mumphs, the flu , while certainally unpleasant, are not serious enough to warrant the risks (yes I know some people do die of such things, but these numbers are usually not great and usually were people with other issues such as immune system problems ect) Although because of Brandon and his immune system we do go ahead with the MMR vaccine (measels, mumphs, rubella) because if he were to get these illnesses it could be dangerous for him or children like him. I do however, delay the MMR shot by several months in order to be sure the kids are nerologically on track and progressing as they should.
In the end, I think its more about making an informed choice than anything. These issues have been studied over and over and while no one has ever been able to prove that vaccines cause anything like say the big autism debate...none have also ever been able to definately clear vaccines either.
I haven't always felt this way. In fact, up until the twins, I just vaccinated on schedule except for the shots the kids couldn't get because of Brandon (chicken pox). So, I've explained my views to our pediatrician and though I'm certain she would perfer me to vaccinate our kids on schedule, she is cooperative and respectful of my choices, though she doesn't hesitiate to make her points clear as well.
So, that's my two cents on the great vaccine debate! Be back this weekend to post about more interesting topics!


BoufMom9 said...

I completely agree with you on so many points. I do get my kids all the shots except the flu & chicken pox, but like you, on my schedule, and not when I am told to do it. :)

Jenn H said...

I completely agree with going with your gut and doing it when you feel comfortable. Fortunately the girls peds. have been great here about listening to me and not pushing. I just worry about Abbie with her sensory issues and all.

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