Thoughtful Thursday: Vaccines
Thursday, May 31, 2007
We do not, in general, vaccinate our children anymore. My first (the one with all the neuro problems) was fully vaccinated. My second was mostly vaccinated, including the chicken pox shot. When I only had two boys at home, I worked at a crisis pregnancy center. The director happened to be chatting with us during a slow time, and it came out that she lost her first child to a vaccine related injury. She had an extremely difficult time opting out of giving her other children vaccines, as she was a military wife. She advised me not to vaccinate our children, and I wrote her off - maybe she had problems, but me, and my perfect children, shall do everything the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends and so we shall have a long and fruitful life.

Or not.

My third child, we had no insurance. We went to the local public health clinic where I was treated like such trash by the nurse, that I vowed never to go back there. She actually yelled at me, in front of my children, for telling them ahead of time that they were going to get "a pokey". Apparently, she preferred that I tell them they were going to get candy while she ambushed them with the needle.

In our family, however, we value honesty and I feel it is entirely appropriate for ME, the mother, to decide what and how much to tell MY children what is going on. And I didn't appreciate the three different advice sessions on birth control, including a quick aside that she could give me a Depoprovera shot and my husband would never know (since obviously, he is abusively keeping me barefoot and pregnant). I didn't appreciate her interfering with my marriage relationship or mother-child relationship.

But, again, I digress. This is not about personal dislikes. It is about why we don't vaccinate our children, which is for reasons not quite so petty.

With my fourth child, I was graced by God to find a wonderful family practice doctor. He went to my church. He was an instructor for the Couple to Couple league, and adamantly pro-life. He would deliver my baby, take care of the newborn, and give my husband a physical. I knew his wife and family, who were homeschoolers too. And, he didn't vaccinate his children either (he didn't tell me this, his wife did.) Hmmm... an excellent doctor, been through medical school, with eyes fully open... doesn't vaccinate his own kids. Food for thought.

Further investigation has convinced me not to give certain vaccinations, including the Hepatitis B vaccine to newborns less than a day old, to any of my children. Many are made from diploid cell lines created from tissues of aborted humans. The chicken pox vaccine may or may not be effective, as I found out when my daughter got chicken pox and the doctor insisted I bring my vaccinated son in as well, since the vaccine doesn't always prevent the disease! I had always considered it more or less a personal choice for our family, however, until 2005.

To put it quite bluntly, the benefit does not justify the risk in my opinion. Even avoiding the sticky ethical situation of aborted fetal cells (a separate post by itself!), there really haven't been long term studies about the use of human based tissue being injected into other humans. Remember how embryonic stem cells are touted as better than mouse cells, due to concerns about cross species contamination? (Or am I the only nerd who follows that nitty gritty detail of the stem cell debate?) Well, IMO, the chance of interspecies contamination is greater.

Let's take a look at a couple of vaccines with a quickie statistical guide - I'll link to the Vaccine Information Sheet (you know, the one the doctor gives you before he shoots you up).

- Diptheria, Tetanus (lockjaw), and Pertussis (whooping cough).
First, DTaP is only for children under age 7. Over that age, and you don't get the whooping cough vaccine any more. The sheet doesn't say why.

Risk of vaccine:
1 in 30 children will have their entire arm or leg swell, for up to a week (usually after the 4th or 5th dose). (3.3%)

1 in 14,000 will have a seizure.

1 in 16,000 will have a fever over 105 degrees.

Risk of not being vaccinated:

Hepatitis B vaccine:
Risks of vaccine (given to newborns at birth)
Warnings include, "People allergic to baker's yeast should not get vaccine" - but how would you know if your baby is allergic if he's less than a day old?

It causes a fever in 1 out of 14 children - not usually a big deal, but could be life threatening to a newborn.

Hep B is transmitted by body fluids - usually from needle sticks, drug use, or sexual activity. The risks of contracting it for a young child is quite small.

Risk from not being vaccinated:
(assuming the mother giving birth is not infected)
1.25 million people have Hep B. Assuming a US population (which is an old number, I think, but it's what I have to work with) that translates to .5% - one half of one percent of the population.

Then, when I was pregnant with baby #6. I had taken one of our other kids in for their checkup. The doctor sent the nurse in with shots without obtaining my consent or speaking to me about them at all. He just assumed, I guess. I told the nurse "No" and of course, Dr. came right back in to see me. I told him some specific concerns about vaccines in general, and the MRC-5 cell line in particular. He said he had never heard that objection before. Nonetheless, I said, we will not be getting any shots today. I asked him to write down the specific vaccines and the manufacturers. I mentioned offhand that I was Catholic and the Vatican had recently issued guidelines regarding the moral and ethic concerns of American vaccinations. The Dr. claimed Catholicism too - and said he had never heard of the Vatican statement. He seemed to imply that I was making it all up.

How a Catholic pediatrician could be ignorant of this document that hit the news with a bang and captured the imaginations of every conspiracy theorist pundit is beyond me. The doctor did mention that the vaccines were safe, citing statistics from the Vaccine Safety and Adverse Events Reports and CDC data.

Fast forward about two weeks. I'm at my OB appointment, and am offered a free flu shot. Now, we've all heard about how important flu shots are in general, and this year I was pregnant, working two jobs, and could not afford to get sick. Free is a good price for me, and I eagerly agreed, wanting to do the best thing for my baby. Appointment over, a quick stop from a nurse on my way out, and I was set.

I didn't even make it into the parking lot before I was sick. I was dizzy, shaky, and suddenly had a migraine. I felt nauseated. There was pink bullseye at the injection site - unusual for me.
I headed back into the clinic, where the midwife told me I must be coming down with something. I insisted on seeing the doctor. An OB came in, looked me in the eye (I couldn't stand at this point) and told me flatly that there was no way that it was related to the flu shot. There was no report of side effects or vaccine related injury made to the CDC. There was no treatment offered to me. I was told to come back if I got a rash (red, swollen hot tissue not withstanding). I ended up calling my husband to come get me and threw up all night - even though I had seen the doctor that very day and gotten a clean bill of health! I was FINE until the injection; within minutes I could hardly stand and was unable to drive. But there was obviously no connection, right? Just a fluke.

I'm not saying ALL vaccines are evil. I'm saying that, as a parent, I have the right and duty to decide what is, and is not an acceptable treatment for my child. I do not derive this authority from the STATE. It is not a privilege handed to good citizens. It is a God-given right.

We moved to SC one week before school started. I scrambled to enroll the children. In Colorado, if you object to vaccines, you simply fill in a form and sign at the bottom.

Not so in South Carolina. The school secretary, apparently never encountering this scenario, did not know what to do. So she sent me to the health department.

I arrive at the health department with 5 free-range children and a 7 month old in a stroller. There is no ramp or handicap access, so I haul the stroller up an uneven brick staircase. There are no signs, although there is a WIC nursing room. I wander for a bit, and find the information desk. They have no idea how to help me and send me back to the school. I insist on talking to someone, and am informed that everyone's at lunch until 1:30; we'll have to wait. Oh, no, I cannot make an appointment, it is first come, first serve. It is also 11:55.

We head to the waiting area, which contains three pop machines and two chairs, and about 10 people. (What happened to HEALTH department? Are THREE pop machines really necessary?) The waiting area is not a room, but rather a wall in the main hallway.


After an almost two hour wait, which I would not have put up with if I did not have to have my papers in order by the next day, we see someone. Who sends us to another department. Who leaves to find a nurse. Who comes out with the shots all ready to go.

Um. No. I need the form to fill out to object to the vaccines. After giving me the third degree, I am told I am not allowed to opt out of vaccinating my children until I've taken a class. By this time the kids are wild - she offers to give me the class right then and there. Hallelujah!
So, I sit through half an hour of propaganda and come away with this handy tip: if there ever is an outbreak of measles or something, I can get the kids vaccinated at that time for free. Now, at that point, the benefit may outweigh the risk and seems a viable alternative to me. I'm not dooming my children to a lifetime of polio risk; they can always get the vaccine later if they truly need it.

Great! Ok, I'm ready for my form now!

Not so fast.

I must take the form, fill it out with my children's full names and social security numbers, and then get the document notarized. I cannot just go to any notary public, though. I must go to the one who is employed by the school district. She's the only one who can notarize these forms.

Another stop at the education administration building. The elevator is out of order. Another trip upstairs with 5 children and a stroller.

Finally! I'm all set!

The next day, child protective services arrives to "check on us". The health department reported that I dropped the baby (even though she was in the stroller). My moving truck has not arrived, so I entertain them in an empty house. Yes, I say, we have beds. They'll be here Saturday. Yes, we have food (no pots, but we do have food). No, we don't need to sign up for Medicaid so we can get free shots.

3 months later, a WIC employee knocks on my door to offer me WIC services. Yes, they actually come to my house! I decline.

But I know I'm on a List. A list that will bar my children from their free and appropriate education if there is a measles outbreak or a kid gets whooping cough. A list that flags my house as the home of a weird, crunchy, granola nonconformist mommy.

The state of SC is graciously, for now, allowing me to decline injecting my children with human fetal cells, aluminum, and dead viruses. How benevolent of them!

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posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 5/31/2007 09:52:00 AM | Permalink | |