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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Great Thing About Parenting... VACCINES

Ok, so this one is a HOT topic, as in HHHHHOTTTTTT. So, let's try to remember our nice words and be nonjudgmental. This is not a debate, folks! We're simply sharing what we do and why. That's all. Not trying to convince anyone what is right, wrong, ect.

So...here's OUR story.

First, with Camden (born almost ten years ago), I approached vaccinations the way I did most other things with him....I didn't question anything and just went with what seemed to be the norm. I didn't even realize there were options! But this time around, I knew better than that. I wanted to be informed and make decisions as an educated Mama. I went into the research just wanting knowledge - not planning on going one route or the other. No agenda other than learning. And let me tell you, it is hard finding info on this topic that is NOT biased!

The best resource we found was Dr. Robert Sears' book - The Vaccine Book. The book has a chapter on each vaccine and disease. The chapters are divided up into sections explaining things such as: how common/rare the disease is, how serious it is, how each vaccine is made and what the ingredients are (esp the controversial ingredients), the possible side effects and the likelihood of them, the different brands/types of vaccines (and why they are different than the others). There is also info about traveling concerns, vaccine research and stats, delaying or declining vaccines, etc, etc. It's got a lot of info - but it's a very easy read. And you will come away knowing more than you expected.

After reading all about the different vaccines and thinking a lot about everything...Ryan and I decided to do an alternate vaccine schedule. That means that Aiden will be getting the vaccines, but he will have them more spread out, getting only two at a time. He will not get the combo shots. Some combo shots combine three or so shots in one, which for some is a plus...less injections at once. For us, it is not a plus because there are more controversial ingredients, such as aluminum, in some of these shots. Also, the purpose in doing only two shots at a time is the child is only getting TWO SHOTS AT A TIME, which is not happening with the combo shots - he would get more than two.

Why do we want only two at a time? Well, we think it is better for his immune system to get fewer than more at a time. With the regular schedule, babies will get up to SIX vaccines at a time at some visits. That's just too much, in our opinion. We would rather introduce a smaller amount into his immune system at a time because we feel that is what is best for his body. I keep saying "we" because Ryan and I are in complete agreement with this. None of this was the decision of just one of us with the other going along with it or just not arguing against it. Complete agreement. We did the research together and made the decisions together. And we believe that too many shots at once are not good for the immune system. Now, do we believe that all those shots put into a baby's immune system can cause autism? (I know you're wondering!) Well, not necessarily yes or no. I actually am not taking a stand on that issue. But I will say that I believe that harming the immune system with certain children could lead to some problems, and I believe that too many shots at one time can harm the immune system. I'll leave it at that. Ryan is also not really sure where he stands on the whole autism and vaccinations, mostly because he hasn't had the time to do much research on the issue.

When I compare the shot schedule today with what Camden got less than ten years ago, there are so many more shots now! It's amazing how many more there are all the time. I can't remember at this time what the numbers are, but I did compare when we were looking at this, and I remember being very surprised at the difference. And comparing it to when I was a child...huge difference. From 1991-2001, the number of shots that children received DOUBLED. While I do believe that good can come of vaccinating children, especially when looking at the "big picture" (not just the one child but the nation, etc.), I question some of the other factors going into vaccinating.

One other problem I have is vaccine research. There is a minimal amount. What? Well, when you think about it, it's very difficult to do vaccine research on each vaccine. When new vaccines come out, they are given along with other vaccines, so if there is a new side effect, it's assumed it is from the new vaccine. You can't ethically give just the new vaccine to a child while not allowing the other vaccines that we are told are very important, now can you? So, you can't test vaccines in isolation. When other new medications are created, they go through years of rigorous testing, trials, evaluations, etc. When it has been declared safe, it is then given to the general public. This doesn't occur with vaccines. No blood work to check for toxicity. No long-term safety research. Any research is very minimal and very flawed (using only parent questionnaires, animal studies, comparing different countries, etc.). We don't even know what some of the possible long-term side effects from many vaccines are, though it is questioned that diabetes, eczema, arthritis, and other chronic diseases could be caused by them.

Now, I am not saying that we shouldn't vaccinate because of these issues. But as someone who wants to know the research behind these types of things, things I am doing to my children, to myself, this isn't the best news. It's bad news, actually. It's something I am interested in...and something I definitely keep in my mind when thinking about the pros versus the cons of vaccinating.

If you take the time to read about the diseases that vaccinations are for, you will also realize that some of the diseases are not as relevant today. They do not occur often (maybe partially due to vaccinations...) and are not that serious when they do occur. I thought one vaccine in particular was interesting...Rubella. Rubella is dangerous for pregnant women because the fetus can be infected and have birth defects due to that. It is very, very mild for children and often isn't even noticed. Children are vaccinated, however, so that they will not infect teachers and mothers that are pregnant. Rubella is now very rare in the US. I'm not saying we should stop vaccinating - I'm saying that I like to know WHY we are vaccinating and if the reasons pertain to us. (Some of you will immediately say YES because we need to think of more than just our immediate family. I'm not arguing one way or another.)

And then there are the ones that we vaccinate for early on, though they aren't likely to occur until later, often requiring a titer later on to ensure the vaccination will be more effective. (Did you know that the vaccines only last so long? Many require more shots later on, but some people aren't aware of this - and therefore aren't vaccinated when they most need it.) One example of this is the Hep B, which is given at birth, though it's not needed then unless one of the parents has Hep B. Otherwise, you can wait until much later to give this vaccine. It's a sexually transmitted disease. I like how Dr. Sears puts it. "Besides being transmitted through unprotected sex, hep B can also be passed on by the sharing of IV drug needles, the use of improperly sterilized tattoo needles, or an accidental stick with an infected needle. So any baby who participates in one of the above-mentioned risky activities could catch hepatitis B." But it can also be acquired from blood transfusions, though rarely.

These are some issues we have with vaccines, when they are routinely given, etc, etc. This is not a list of ALL the issues we have. But I don't need to go on and on and on. This is a very complicated topic, and one could really go on all day about it. And longer. We're not going to do that here. I do think that vaccines have done a lot of good for populations. At the same time, they can be risky for individuals.

If you're interested in what our schedule is, here it is....

Aiden's Vaccination Schedule

2 months DTaP Rotavirus
3 months* Pc HIB (Get the Act HIB brand - no aluminum)
4 months DTaP Rotavirus
5 months* Pc HIB
6 months DTaP Rotavirus
7 months* Pc HIB
9 months Polio
12 months MMR Polio
(Do Polio at either 10/11 months or 13/14 months)
15 months Pc HIB
Flu (2 doses, between 6-12 months in flu season, mercury free shot - if you ask, it seems more offices are using the mercury free shots)
18 months DTaP Chickenpox
2 years Polio
2 years, 4 months?* Flu (mercury free)
2 years, 6 months* Hep B Hep A
3 years Hep B
3 years, 6 months Hep B Hep A
4 years DTaP Polio
5 years MMR
6 years Chickenpox
12 years Tdap
13 years Meningococcal

* can be "shot only" visits with nurse

Notice we have only two shots at a time. We are fortunate to have doctors that support our choice with our vaccine schedule. Fully support. When we go for our visits, the nurse always knows what shots Aiden is getting based on HIS schedule. (One nurse tried to tell us we had "missed" shots, but she was not our usual nurse and realized what was going on once I explained it.) Another time, when calling to make sure we got the Hib brand that doesn't have aluminum, the nurse wasn't sure what to tell me, and a doctor told her "find out whatever she wants to know!" I was very pleased to have that kind of support from this office. (Incidentally, after reading the ingredients, the nurse said, "Now I don't want to give these shots!" She clearly had no idea what was in them.) I do have to go into the office more often for the shot visits, but they do not cost us extra. They are "nurse visits" - I call the day ahead to make sure they have the shots in and then show up for the nurse to give the shot. No cost, no appointment, not much of a wait.

There was a shortage of the MMR shot divided up into the three separate parts, but I've read that it is available again. We cannot get them divided at our dr office but can go elsewhere for it. We might do the MMR together and get that shot only during that visit.

There IS a shortage of Hib going on. Aiden missed his at the seven month visit. But whenever it becomes available again, we can get it then. No biggie. Most of the shots aren't necessary at the exact month they are scheduled. Going off track is not a big deal.

We may change our schedule as time goes on, as we learn more, etc. This is not set in stone. As of now, we're following Dr. Sears' alternate schedule with a little tweaking based on when Aiden was born (for the flu shot) and some other factors, which ensures Aiden will have the shots that schools require by the time he starts. Anyone can change their vax schedule if they decide, which also means that if you are going by the regular schedule and wish you had done the alternate schedule - you can change that! It's really not a big deal.

In case you don't know what it is and are curious, here is the regular vax schedule:
American Academy of Pediatrics 2007 Recommended Vaccine Schedule

Birth Hep B
1 month Hep B
2 months HIB Pc DTaP Rotavirus Polio
4 months HIB Pc DTaP Rotavirus Polio
6 months HIB Pc DTaP Rotavirus Hep B Flu
1 year MMR Chickenpox Hep A
15 months HIB Pc
18 months DTaP Polio Hep A Flu
2 years Flu
3 years Flu
4 years Flu
5 years DTaP Polio MMR Chickenpox
11 years HPV (3 doses, girls only)
12 years Tdap Meningococcal

Yes, it looks a lot simpler than Aiden's and requires fewer visits - but he's not getting 5-6 at a time, either, which is what we prefer. Did you know the reason they lump so many shots into as few visits as possible?? It's because they want to ensure people come in for them. Some people will not come in for frequent visits because they may not be able to afford the copays for so many dr visits. Fewer visits = less $$ for the client to pay = the client is more likely to show up = the child is more likely to be vaccinated. You can spread the shots out if you want. What harm could that cause? That's our view. We are causing Aiden no more harm in spreading out the shots, but we may be helping him.

Ok...is that enough on my end?? I really could go on. But do you really want me to?? ;) I want to hear from all of you - what you are doing, will do, what you think about things, why, etc. Remember that this isn't a debate. We are not here to judge. Just SHARE. I will say this...one thing that really bothers me is when someone who has NOT done the research judges others that use some alternate/selective schedule. If you do not know much about it, do you really have the right to judge someone who does and makes an educated decision? And on that note, I will also comment that doctors do not necessarily know all of the research behind vaccinations. My doctor knew some because she had a child shortly before Aiden was born, and she did research as a parent, but it seems that many doctors are not too knowledgable when it comes to this topic, not in the way we might want them to be, at least. Just a thought.

Remember the rules please. Use your nice words. Please comment on blogger (not via email if you subscribe or facebook if you read there) - let's keep all the discussion in one place. If you do comment, be sure to click to recieve other comments so you can see what others have to say/ask/etc. (esp b/c I will most likely reply to some of them, and you won't get it if you don't subscribe to them). And if you are using the anonymous feature (if you don't have a blogger/aim acct), please remember to put your name somewhere in there. :) And once again, BE NICE. If it reaches not-nice status, I will jump in and moderate.

And for those of you not joining in on the conversation, please vote on the side bar! Thanks!


Amy said...

Seriously, you are a brave woman! This is a particularly relevant topic to me right now. I'm considering switching practices because one dr won't split MMR for me and another will.

Anyway, I feel like I do not know nearly as much about this as I would like, so I will just comment on what we do and be very interested in what others do and why.

We also read The Vaccine Book (and like you, it's a "we" around here too). We are using the selective vaccination schedule, which actually doesn't really impact the first year except for splitting vaccines like the alternate schedule does. We are trying to do the best thing for Micah, and vaccinate him against really bad diseases he does have a likelihood of running across.

I do understand that with any disease (such as chickenpox), you are not guaranteed a mild case, and my kid could be the one with pox on his eye, or meningitis. We haven't gotten to the CP vaccine yet and will decide that later.

We've skipped Hep B so far because he is not engaging in the risky behaviors that would lead to contracting it.

I think next time around I would be even more selective though. The new doctor I interviewed was quite willing to prioritize vaccines with me, although like most doctors I've run across, does advocate for vaccinating. I'm not sure that I would get the rotovirus vaccine next time, and I might wait til he's older for DTaP.

Incidentally, I've never met anyone in the health field or the School of Public Health who feels that vaccines are risky. On the other hand, the parents I know who DO feel they are risky are very well educated, well researched, informed parents. I think I spent quite a lot of time thinking about this!

So, long and short of it is that I am interested to hear what others say.

Daisy and Ryan said...

Well, I won't even pretend to know all there is to know about vaccines! :) I know there is a LOT that I don't know, and I certainly want to do more. I realize we could change our minds about some of them down the road.

You're right - it does seem that people that choose to go a different route are very educated and understand what they are doing and why - along with the possible consequences either way. I've heard from others on forums, etc, that have worked with vaccines in some form and are very much against vaxing at all after they learned so much about them. That can kind of make one think...

I think all of us are trying to do what is best for our kiddos, so I have a hard time judging people that do it differently than I am - if they're doing what they really think is in the best interest. Now for those that simply go with the flow, never question it or learn more info, and then judge others that do...those people I have a problem with. I wish more people would take the time to learn more. People say they don't have a lot of time - but when it comes to my child's health, I will find the time, you know. :) That said, there is a lot more I want to know and don't yet. But that's part of why I am doing this - to hopefully get others sharing what they know so we can all learn a bit more! Hopefully that's how it will go...and not the debate route!

Amy said...

After I saw your about vaccines => autism, I remembered the problems I have with vaxing is not specifically I have a fear of autism. I actually am much more concerned about introducing a lot of diseases to a very immature immune system at once. This is why I like the split it up option, and waiting if possible until an older age. I am less concerned with autism and more concerned with exactly what chemicals am I injecting into my child? I like to be informed.

Daisy and Ryan said...

That's pretty much how I feel about it, too. It's more about the ingredients being put into that immature immune system. I just can't see how 6-8 different vaccines at a time is good for that.

Becky said...

I'm totally with you on this. We also did (are doing) the alternative vaccine schedule ~with some minor modifications. 1) we put Polio where it is normally scheduled (which meant he got three vaccines at once on two occasions.) We did this because we live in an area that has a lot of immigrants who are probably not vaccinated well and polio is serious. I'm not comfortable messing with something that could lead to paralysis! Other differences from your schedule is the order of MMR and Chickenpox and the placement of DTap. I'm doing Cpox at 12 months (separated from HIB and Pc by two weeks or so) and MMR at 15mos and DTap at 18. I choose this order because the MMR is so controversial I want to give Colin those extra three months of development my Ped is cool with that.
The last time I was in we were going over when I wanted to do which shots and she actually said. "I really like the way you are doing this." By giving him all the shots he is 'supposed' to get I'm not putting her in an awkward position (although I have had to sign multiple waivers about HepB) but I'm not overloading him with shots. It was SO nice to get that validation.

Daisy and Ryan said...

Becky - We might consider putting the MMR off a few months, as well, now that we've decided to give it to him as it comes and not separated. We had been putting off deciding whether or not to separate it. Our dr has reminded us that if we miss one here or there, there is always plenty of time to get it later. It's not like they need it NOW. (Though we don't have things to consider like you did with Polio.)

We haven't had to sign any waivers about HepB - BUT when at the hospital to deliver, every nursed asked us about five times if we were sure about the HepB and kept pushing the papers in front of us. And then we had the whole issue with them automatically filling out the vax forms saying he had gotten it - that was a huge, huge mess. We know he didn't get it b/c he was never away from both of us in the nursery, but it's ridiculous that they fill out the form before even giving the shot - just assuming the child will get it. And it took us all a while to realize how we knew he didn't get it - talk about having a fuzzy brain - all the birth stuff, medications, and stress... That poor nurse got an ear full from us (she wasn't there when it happened but was when we found out). I'm glad to hear about doctors that are so on board with the different schedules. I know that's an issue lots of people have, which is sad! Some doctors turn away people that want to do any other schedule, which is hurting more than helping.

Anonymous said...

We are also fond of the Sears book, and used that alongside the book "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Your Child's Vaccines" and CDC reports to guide us. Here's what we did ...

We weighed risk and protective factors, vaccine reaction profile, chemicals used in the vaccines and disease fatality/risk to decide. Theo is exclusively breastfed and will BF for two years. He is not in daycare, or church/gym nurseries and honestly, rarely comes in close contact with kids we don't know. There is no history of big disease on my side or the donor's profile. His biggest risk factor is that his other mom works in a emergency room at a hospital, but we take protective measures to combat that. She strips down before holding him and washes her hands and face.

Theo did not receive any vaccines for the first 6 months to give the blood-brain barrier a chance to nearly close up. He got a shot of Vitamin K at birth and that was it. Not even eye ointment. He got lots of breastmilk and we stayed in during cold and flu season, as he was born in November.

As for our schedule:

6 months: HiB
9 months: HiB
12 months: HiB
18 months: HiB booster

*Will consider MMR at age 5 prior to K entrance, if it can be split.

*Will begin DTaP around 18 months-2 years. At this point, unless we drop him on a rusty nail, he probably won't get tetanus. Diptheria is almost unheard of. The pertussis part is the most important part, but it has a 1% fatality rate in babies UNDER 6 months old, so we are past that point and the risk was super low anyway. As a preventative measure, Susan and I got Tdap shots when Theo was 6 weeks old, on the advice of our ped. When he is rough and tumbling around outside, we will start this one.

*Meningoccocal (probably spelled wrong - in a hurry) will get in high school.

On the fence about polio. It's statistically eradicated here and we are too poor to travel abroad. It has a lot of chemicals and is made with blood products. We may give it at age 2, we'll see.

Will not do at all and why:

Flu is rarely fatal, reaction profile is high, many chemicals.

Rotavirus: This has to be completed by 6 months old for it to work, so obviously we missed that one. Most kids will get this, shot or no shot, and it is treatable. At Theo's age, we would have to do a lot of laundry and watch for dehydration, all of which we can handle.

Chickenpox: We'd prefer to get this the good ol' fashioned way. If he hasn't gotten it by first or second grade, we would think about the shot. Again, disease is not fatal.

Hep A: Rare in childhood, high reaction profile. Would consider in high school.

Prevnar: Contains aluminum, higher than average seizure risk, Theo is very low risk for catching what it prevents.

Hep B: No hookers or IV drugs as yet in his short life, so I think we are safe.

There are other shots out there, but we have only tackled what he would get in the first two-ish years of life.

To be con't ...

Anonymous said...

con't ....

So, why HiB? This is based on my own life experience. My ex-girlfriend's nephew died at 8 months very suddenly from meningitis. I was there when it happened, went to the open casket funeral, etc. I will never forget it and the closer Theo gets to that age, the more nervous I get. So, I wanted to protect him from that above all else. HiB has a low reaction profile and we were able to get the aluminum free version.

We are VERY lucky to have a wonderful, awesome, progressive, pediatrician who supports (and I mean supports, not just tolerates) parental control over vaccines. She is fine with all, none, or anything in between. I know we are lucky. I tell her so at every visit.

So, as you can see, we are SUPER conservative with shots. We (and like the others, we make these and all parenting decisions together) did HOURS of research and feel comfortable with our decision. This has nothing to do with autism and everything to do with not wanting to overload his system. If he were in daycare, was not breastfed or we were world travelers, we definitely would have made different choices. We just started solids, so we will now be giving him some probiotics before he gets any other vaccines to bolster his immune system.

And, he has never had so much as a cold. And I am off to knock on some wood as we are leaving to go out of town tomorrow and it would be a bad time to get his first one.

Hope that helps!

Melissa Hill
(Theo's Mama)

Daisy and Ryan said...

Thanks, Melissa! It's clear you guys have done your homework. :)

We most likely WILL do the flu shot. Although Aiden is not in daycare, he is around other babies often. But the kicker is that his big brother is in public school and brings home all kinds of germs. So Aiden gets colds often b/c he picks them up from Camden. For some reason, we are very prone to getting the flu. I always had it many times each year (and I'm not exaggerating...me, my brother, and my mother would get it multiple times EACH) until I began taking the flu shot. Camden also gets it. We make sure it's the thimerisol-free shot.

Chickenpox...I would rather Aiden get it the good old fashioned way, too. The thing I'm worried about with that is the fact that so many children get the vaccine now...and not many actually get chickenpox. (I remember me and my brother having it at the same time and being completely miserable!) I do remember reading about testing for immunity, which is recommended to do before hitting the teenage years - as it is much more severe if they catch it then. If they test as not being immune, the parents can then vaccinate. Always an option.

Glad you chimed in! :)

Oh - and I'm curious about how this will be handled when Theo enters school. That's one thing I'm really interested in b/c I know all about the laws and everything. So I'm always wondering how some folks get around that. If you don't want to elaborate on here, would you mind telling me sometime? Esp in case we were to decide to skip some of the others that Aiden hasn't had yet. :) Thanks!!

Amy said...

My non-vaxing friends tell me that even in NC you can get waivers for vaxes, if you insist on it.

Ginger said...

Hi, Daisy,

I am late to this conversation and missed the polling, but I did want to comment and thank you for posting your information. This has spurred me to think more critically about our vaccination schedule for our 1 year old, and perhaps spread them out a bit more like you are planning to. I've often wondered if getting a bunch of shots together was doing harm as well as good. But, like you, I just went along with the "norm" for our first child.

I do believe that the rarity of some of these diseases now is because of rigorous vaccinating for several generations. I choose to have my kids vaccinated for their own protection, and also to help prevent epidemics. Anyone with children in school knows how fast things spread from kid to kid. Related to that, one observation I would make is that you (and I) can afford to put off some vaccines, like chicken pox, for your younger child because your older child has already been vaccinated and won't be bringing diseases home from school.

Will you be keeping notes on the effects of your vaccination schedule? Perhaps noting differences between your kids that could be related? I think that would be really interesting...

Thanks again for your thought-provoking post.