Vaccines. Eeeeek! V is the new Scarlet Letter. Talk about it or Google it if you dare, but you’ll find the same kind of passion, aggression and black & white information that you’ll encounter if you’re trying to decide on which political party to pledge loyalties to.
As a first time mom, I was very interested in learning more about the issue. Especially with all the controversy over what is best, I felt I had to dive into the pit of opinions to try and discover something that would help me make some good decisions for my child. I didn’t really want to look into any of this because honestly it’s so much easier to just go with the flow and do what seems the most mainstream because there is comfort in numbers. I would have much rather spent my time casually flipping through the pages of another baby magazine. However, I’m a bit of an information whore and for me, confidence in my decisions comes from asking myself the hard questions.
Just to state this up front: this is not an anti-vaccine post. It’s also not a pro-vaccine post. To be honest, I don’t really know what it is. But I’m writing this because I do know a lot of newly marrieds, almost marrieds and as-soon-as-I-meet-him-I’m-gonna-be married folks that I thought this might be helpful to when there are future kiddos on the way. So, please forgive me if you are reading this and you don’t agree with my logic. This post isn’t written from a place where I’m wanting to persuade anyone about what is “right.” My goal is simply to share about the little journey I’ve been on so far regarding this topic.
Early in my pregnancy, some friends recommended I pick up some books by Sears. I assumed Sears was a guy, but I soon found out that the Sears books were actually written by the Sears family which consisted of Bill, Jim, Bob, Peter and Martha. The first book I read was The Birth Book by Jim and Martha which I loved! The book gives a very in depth history of birth in our society and at it’s core promotes natural childbirth as the preferred way to go if possible. Next I read The Breastfeeding Book by Martha which again, gives a complete history of breastfeeding and also instruction on what to do. Loved that too! So when I wanted to look into the topic of vaccines, I decided to read The Vaccine Book by Bob Sears. The Sears family are Christians and while their beliefs do influence their perspectives and writings, they write from a medical standpoint, not a religious one (at least in these particular books). I actually didn’t even know they were Christians until I looked them up on Google because they don’t explicitly state their beliefs in the books.
Anyway, I was impressed by The Vaccine Book because it was the most unbiased literature I could find on vaccines. Dr. Sears does not tell parents what they should do. Instead he gives each vaccine it’s own chapter where he discusses the ins and outs of what the vaccine is for, why it was developed, the seriousness and treat-ability of each disease, how the vaccine is made and from what ingredients and the possible side effects of each vaccine.
According to the book, during the 1990s, kids got about 18 shots during their childhood (Pc, rotavirus, chicken-pox, hepatitis A, meningococcal, HPV and flu shots weren’t routine yet.) Today, kids on the full vaccine schedule get 39 total shots (6 DTaP, 4 HIB, 4 Pc, 3 Hep B, 4 polio, 3 rotavirus, 2 MMR, 2 chickenpos, 2 hep A, 1 meningococcal, 3 HPV and about 5 flu shots). (pg 165). To me, this was a reason to learn more about vaccines before I jumped on board for all 39.
The frustrating part about reading this book: Dr. Sears explains that there isn’t any research available for parents who are worried about the long term side effects of vaccines because no long term studies have ever been done. With all the recent buzz about vaccines possibly being linked to the rise in autism, learning disabilities, ADD, ADHD, asthma, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease among others, of course these kind of studies would be very helpful in the decision making process. But, they don’t exist. So while you can study up on vaccines day and night, the most important research just isn’t there.
So we come back to our original question: Are vaccines safe? Yes. Do they have severe side effects? Yes. Are these severe side effects common? Not very. Is vaccinating to protect against all diseases worth the risk of side effects? That’s the million-dollar question. I have given you the best possible analysis based on the data that are available to me at this time so you can make your own informed decision. (Pg 177).
After reading the book I still don’t know exactly what to think about this whole can of worms. I like that I’m a lot more informed about vaccines than ever before, but I also realize that no matter what my decision is, in ten or twenty years from now new research might be published that could make me wish I had done something different. That’s life, I guess.
But at least for now, I have the peace of mind of knowing that I did everything I could to learn about this issue so I could make the best decision possible for my family.
What about you? Have you looked into this topic? What things were helpful in your decision making process?