Sunday, March 16, 2014

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

The mainstream media has blown this issue way out of proportion lately - I'm sure you've seen all the articles about how anti-vaxxers are causing massive "outbreaks".  OK, first off - take a breath, there is no need for mass hysteria unless you consider less than 200 cases across the entire US in 2013 to be an "outbreak".

Some back story - here is a link to one of the articles I'm referencing: Thanks, Anti-Vaxxers. You Just Brought Back Measles in NYC.

Here is a very well written rebuttal by another blog writer, Jessica Gianelloni: Thanks, Pharma. You created the “anti-vaccine movement”.

The purpose of my article today is not to take a stance on either side - you, as a parent, have to ultimately make the decisions that you believe are right for your children & family.  If you vaccinate, great - if you don't, that's OK too.  As a parent, I would never blame an unvaccinated child for an "outbreak" because statstically speaking, odds are low the "outbreak" came from an unvaccinated child - odds are higher that it came from (1) someone who traveled outside the country and did not obtain the proper boosters before travel; (2) someone who had the vaccine as a child, but did not maintain their boosters as an adults or (3) someone who recently obtained the vaccine and had a negative response (you've heard of people contracting the flu from the flu shot yes?).

The purpose of my article is simply to say: as parents we have choices.  We can't let fearmongering articles like The Daily Beast article above influence our decisions as parents.  We know the research is there, both pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine.  It's up to us as parents to read the research, process what it says and make decisions regarding how we want to move forward.

See: How Facebook Can Sway Parents' Decision to Vaccinate Their Kids

Personally, we decided to follow the CDC guidelines for my son (some of his shots are delayed).  I did a lot of research (especially around the possibility of vaccines causing autism) and came to the conclusion for myself that the recommended route was OK and safe for my son and would protect him should he be potentially exposed to one of the diseases he's vaccinated against (yes, I did the chicken pox one too - I could write an entire new article about that decision).  That does not mean that I believe every other parent should do what I chose to do - they have to make that decision independently for themselves.

There have also been interesting articles from personal, individual experiences (like this one from Slate).  The thing I find interesting in this article that I'd like to research more is this: does being vaccinated naturally strengthen our immune systems in other ways?  My son is 2.5 - he's had a handful of sick visits to the doctor in that time (mostly due to my paranoia as a first time mother, more so than any sickness), he's missed 1-2 days of daycare max for sickness (teething related fever) and has received mild antibiotics 2-4 times (mostly just amoxicillin).  I can't help but wonder if there is a correlation between my son being vaccinated and his almost complete lack of illness since birth (granted there are other factors to consider, his diet, our overall household health [I've been sick quite a bit since he was born], his exposure to environmental elements, etc).  It's something I plan to do more research on as my husband & I talk about expanding our family.

Since I've now rambled on, let me just leave you with this: at the end of the day, as a parent - you make the choices regarding how you raise your children.  That's always how it goes: parents make the choices, but we also suffer from any unintended consequences.  Lord knows as a mom, I've made a decision one way I've later regretted.  All we can do as parents is learn, grow and change along the way.

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