I am hesitant to take on this week’s ControverSunday topic. Uhhgg- vaccinations. Already a point of some friendly debate here when I mentioned it in a post about which parenting choices seem to be “popular/trendy/valued/idealized/assumed to be the ‘right’ way” currently. (Politics of Parenting, To Sum it up: Politics of Parenting). So part of me doesn’t even want to go there. And part of me wants to a) set the record straight and b) say what I think re: vaccinations. Oh and I like this whole ControverSunday thing… so I wanna play with the other kids and their vaccination posts.
Guess which part of me won? That’s right- as the true Gemini that I am, I both dislike controversy (or rather judgment and un-civil discussions… neither of which have actually occurred in the comments on any of my blog posts) and am drawn to jump right in to controversy. (I am not much for horoscope stuff- but Gemini’s are very ‘two-minded’ and I fit that bill to a t.) So hold on to your hats and here we go.
First of all, I never said that I was against vaccinations nor that I didn’t think parents should vaccinate their kids. Vaccinations have saved millions, if not billions, of lives and are one of the most important medical inventions ever.
But I will admit that vaccines make me kinda uncomfortable. Before I was pregnant I NEVER got the flu shot. I just didn’t feel that a healthy adult needs the regular seasonal flu shot. I have some vague-not sure if it is actually true-feeling that the over-use of vaccinations means the bugs just get stronger and therefore get more deadly. And somehow I believe this to be more true of the flu shot then any other vaccination. I guess because the ‘flu’ is a different strain every year and other vaccination diseases seem to just have one strain. Or at least, most vaccines you need to get only a couple of times in your life time and you have to get a new “seasonal” flu shot every year.
However, a couple years ago when there was an outbreak of the Mumps at the University that I work at I got that shot. Mostly because Mumps can do bad things to men’s ability to have babies; so if I got sick and then my husband got sick…. you see where I am going with this. Anyway, so I was never AGAINST shots. I just tend to think they should be used sparingly on the healthy adult population.
When it comes to kids it is a different story. It is one thing if I feel I don’t need a seasonal flu shot and it is an other thing when it is your baby. Your little and very vulnerable baby.
It was never really in question if we were going to get A her regularly scheduled vaccinations. Those we did without really questioning. Probably because 1) I am a rule follower at heart and 2) it has a ‘schedule’ and I follow ‘schedules.’ It was the seasonal flu/H1N1 that generated some debate in our household. Both my husband and I feel uncomfortable with vaccines for the following reasons:
1) The ingredients in them. Despite the studies that show us that vaccines are safe I have a visceral reaction to injecting my daughter with even trace amounts of chemicals like thimerosal (which has traces of mercury in it) and formaldehyde.
2) Development of the immune system. I know this one is not at all proven in the literature, again it is a visceral reaction. (Read: I am acknowledging that it is very possibly wrong). It just seems like we live in a sterile world with antibacterial this and antiviral that… doesn’t she need to get sick sometimes so her immune system can get strong enough to fight off the bugs? I know that many of the diseases that they immunize kids for are very very very serious so you don’t want their immune systems to ‘practice’ on the really nasty ones. But what about the chickenpox vaccination? Is that really necessary? Everyone I know had chickenpox as a kid and all of us were fine. And I am pretty sure I didn’t get the flu shot as a kid either. (Mom- if you are reading, feel free to verify or deny this.)
So I did some looking around. Actually, as shocked as I am to say this, some of the most helpful stuff I found for making me feel better about vaccinations was on the Canadian Governement’s website. One of the best things I found was a very clear explanation that Thimerosal was taken out of most childhood vaccinations (except flu shots) in Canada NOT because it was found to be dangerous, but because the perception of it was causing so many parents to question getting their child vaccinated. It made me feel like the government was listening to parents and so maybe the vaccines are really okay.
Here were the three arguments that finally won me over and I used to sway my husband to getting A the flu shots:
1) We vaccinated her against Polio- something I am pretty sure that almost no one ever gets anymore in Canada, but we are debating getting her vaccinated against something we know people are getting right now? (specifically H1N1)
2) We do as much as we can to reduce her chemical exposure- healthy unprocessed foods, no chemical cleaners, organic mattress, ect. ect. This is one chemical exposure that could save her life. Period.
3) The thought of ever having to see my daughter on a ventilator. That was sufficient emotional imagery for me to get me in that insanity of a line, twice (seasonal and H1N1).
Done and done. She got both the seasonal flu and the H1N1. But just one half dose of each. I happen to know there is small study in Calgary, as well as a number around the world, that have been studying if kids under 3 need two half doses or just one. The belief is that it is possible that enough immunity is developed with one half dose. The recommendation for kids over 3 has already been changed to reflect this. We ask our doctor- she said we were taking a risk, but likely only a small one. And two less injection-o-chemicals made us feel better about the whole thing. (Don’t do this on my recommendation…. if you are in the midst of your own vaccination debate please consult your doctor and or public health… they are the experts, not me.)
So yeah, the kid gets her shots. I don’t (for the most part) and my husband doesn’t, but A does. But here are the things I wish would be addressed by the powers that be:
1) Why can’t we take all the yucky chemicals out of the shots?/Please take the yucky chemicals out of the shots!
- Thimerosal has been removed from most regular kid vaccines, but not the flu vaccine. They offered a “low” thimerosal dose for kids of the seasonal, but not of the H1N1.
- Saw this article via @CBCHealth on Twitter the other day. We need more ideas like this article about using sugar as a preservative in vaccines.
2) Why are there so many more shots given to babies/kids now then when I was a kid and why are they given all at once? (I tried to find the schedule from the 1980’s so you could see the difference, but I couldn’t. I know I found it sometime on the web. But if I remember correctly we give babies under a year about twice as many shots as we used to. Someone please correct me if I am wrong.)
- If you are calculating how much of the trace amounts of chemicals in the shots is safe, doesn’t this calculation totally change when we give them 4 vaccines at once? And if they get shots 4 times in their first year plus flu shots, ect.? They did that calculation, right?
- And seriously, why are there more shots now? I just want a clear explanation so I understand. I didn’t think there was any evidence that the vaccination schedule from when I was a kid wasn’t working? Was there?
3) Also, please don’t put a flu shot out there until you have fully tested it on all risk groups you are planning to use it on. It freaks us out.
- Part of the reason that the H1N1 flu shot vaccination plan went so poorly in Alberta (and other parts of Canada) is that they stopped making the regular H1N1 vaccine in order to rush an order of the H1N1 vaccine with out the adjunct for pregnant women because it had not been sufficiently safety tested on this group. Nor had it be tested sufficiently on babies according to this CBC article.
Ultimately I want to trust our Health Authorities, I really do. I know good people work there and they have kids too. I am sure they have good intentions. But the health care system is not flawless and I just can’t help but question them on this one. And the pharmaceutical companies are involved and I REALLY don’t trust them. So I give the girl her shots and am resigned to feel kinda icky about it. I am sure there are those of you out there that will try and convince me I shouldn’t feel icky, but I can’t help it.