Ah, the granddaddy of controversial topics. Until I began researching this, I had NO IDEA how heated discussions become when the V-word is raised. I respect all opinions on the subject, and have come to the conclusion that whatever the parent feels is right for their child, is the right path for that parent to take.
Let me also say that after some initial troubling reactions with my baby, I have done WAY TOO MUCH research on this topic. Besides my obvious personal interest, the subject intrigues me from a sociological standpoint. There is a lot of information out there in the form of peer-reviewed medical studies, case studies, and others – and I will admit I sometimes find myself down the rabbit hole with it all. The only way I can keep it all straight is to write down all my notes and references.
So the real bottom line of this entire controversy is this: do the benefits of infant/child vaccines outweigh the potential risks? Proponents focus on the benefits of vaccinations, citing the elimination of various epidemics (e.g. smallpox), improved hospitalization rates for illnesses such as Rotavirus, and improvements in overall community health. Opponents focus instead on the potential risk of vaccinations, drawing correlations between vaccinations and certain neurological disorders, and citing cases of severe vaccine reactions. Both sides are justifiably passionate, as the focus here is on what’s best for our children.
Run a quick Google search and you will find horror stories on both sides. The families who decided not to vaccinate, and then suffered heartbreak when their children contracted serious vaccine-preventable diseases. Or, conversely, the families who vaccinated as recommended, and then suffered heartbreak when their children suffered serious reactions. As a new, hormone-riddled, emotional mom reading these stories – it’s terrifying.
So I decided to stop with the Google searches. I still wanted information. But unbiased, factual information. No more horror stories.
I looked at several books. They all seemed pretty slanted one way or the other. I wanted to be able to read the facts and make my OWN decisions. And then I stumbled upon Dr. Robert Sears’ book. I can’t recommend this book enough if you’re looking for just the facts; the details of each vaccine, the diseases it helps prevent, the ingredients, potential side effects and risks of those effects, why some parents shy away from it and, ultimately, Dr. Sears’ personal thoughts – as a parent, board-certified Pediatrician, and proponent of “healthy and natural” living. The book is called The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child.
After reading this book, doing some additional research and verification online, and also pulling and reviewing vaccine fact/ingredient sheets, I felt good about making a decision that I was comfortable with for my family. There are really only 3 roads you can take:
- Complete the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended schedule. This is the option that most pediatricians will not only support, but very strongly encourage. In fact, I’ve heard stories of some pediatricians effectively “firing” parents for opting to deviate from this schedule.
- Choose not to vaccinate at all. Although there are doctors out there who will support this approach, they seem to be few and far between.
- Follow a modified and/or delayed vaccination schedule. This option requires some work on the parent’s behalf to put together a desired schedule, and then find a pediatrician willing to execute it.
For my family, I chose to go with a modified vaccination schedule. My primary reasons for doing this were to (A) minimize the number of aluminum-containing or live-virus vaccines my child receives at once, and (B) allow us a better opportunity to pinpoint exactly which vaccine caused a reaction should a reaction occur. After reviewing the ingredients included within each vaccine, aluminum was the one most concerning to me; hence our decision to limit our child’s exposure each time.
The schedule we ultimately put together is drawn primarily from the sample modified schedules included in Dr. Sears’ book and is as follows for the first 7 months (I figure I’ll worry about beyond that once we get to that point):
- Birth: Hepatitis B. Comes with 250mcg aluminum. (Had I done some research prior to this point, I would have held off on this until my son was much older – there is nobody close to us with this disease and as of yet, my son is not engaging in risky sexual activity or intravenous drug use).
- Month 1: Hepatitis B (again, if I could do it over, I would delay this until later)
- Month 2: Pentacel Combo (Sanofi Pasteur); Combination vaccine including HIB, DTaP, and Polio. A total vaccination count of 5 (DTaP is for 3 different diseases). One shot. Comes with 330mcg of aluminum; brand for these types of combo vaccines DOES matter in terms of aluminum content. Although planned for 8 weeks, we ended up delaying this until 11 weeks, which has pushed all subsequent vaccinations out 3 weeks as well.
- Month 3: Pc (Prevnar 13 brand – Wyeth) and Rotavirus (Oral vaccine – any brand). A total vaccination count of 2. 1 shot and 1 oral. Comes with 125mcg of aluminum.
- Month 4: Pentacel Combo (Repeat of Month 2)
- Month 5: Pc and Rotavirus (Repeat of Month 3)
- Month 6: Pentacel Combo (Repeat of Months 2 and 4)
- Month 7: Pc and Rotavirus (Repeat of Months 3 and 5)
For comparison purposes, following is the 2011 AAP Recommended Schedule up until 7 months of age (I’m not sure of any changes in 2012; since our baby was born at the end of 2011, we were subject to that schedule):
- Birth: Hepatitis B
- Month 1: Hepatitis B
- Month 2: HIB, DTaP, Polio, Pc, and Rotavirus
- Month 4: HIB, DTaP, Polio, Pc, and Rotavirus
- Month 6: HIB, DTaP, Polio, Pc, Rotavirus, and Flu
So as you can see, we basically are just splitting out the Month 2, 4, and 6 vaccines on the standard schedule (and refusing Flu altogether). We just completed Month 3 on our modified schedule; however not without some concerns. At the very least, I am glad that we are taking a slightly more conservative approach and not overloading his little body with up to 7 vaccinations at once, as well as being educated about and requesting specific brands that have fewer or lower levels of the ingredients I am most concerned about.
Be forewarned, however, that if you choose to go with a modified schedule as we did, you may be in for a potential clash with your pediatrician. When I first broached the topic of modified schedules with my pediatrician, he made it very clear that he was adamantly opposed to them as he felt they serve no benefit whatsoever. He also strongly denied that any of the reactions I pointed out were related to the vaccines. I was surprised by his visible bristling to the topic being broached.
So I kept at it with my pediatrician and ultimately, after a few tense conversations and awkward emails, he is accommodating. Begrudgingly accommodating, and with more than a few negative comments each time we go in for a new vaccination, but accommodating nonetheless. So be prepared. And those that opt out of vaccinations altogether – I’m not even sure where you would begin, although I have heard that there are some holistic doctors out there who will work with those families.
At the end of the day, I truly believe there is no right or wrong answer, and encourage each family to research for themselves what is best for them. We’re all working towards the same goal of keeping our children as healthy as possible.