Vaccines rank right up there on the list of usual “hot button” topics when it comes to kids and parenting. It often seems that there are two polar opposites of the debate; those who believe that vaccinations save lives and those who vaccinate are irresponsible, and those who believe that vaccines are another unnecessary medical intervention on the natural processes of life and the immune system. But these two arguments barely scratch the surface of the discussion. It’s often hard to get to the bottom of what is “true” and what is not when it comes to an issue such as this that has both many years of medical research and thousands of years of evolution being used by both “sides” to support their argument. Facebook pages, blogs, and news sites often cover the issue of vaccinations, but discussion is usually limited to disrespectful and often harsh comments that don’t serve to help someone understand what the real concern is.
I will attempt to break this down both sides of the discussion as simply as possible and provide you with suggestions for further reading. I am not a doctor; I have not spent countless years doing research on the subject. I am a grad student with a number of trusted friends and natural based health care professionals who chose not to vaccinate or selectively vaccinate. I am a mother who cares deeply about the health and wellbeing of my children and I am still learning much about this topic. As with any decision, regardless of what you choose, you MUST be confident that you have made the right choice for both you and your children. If you choose not to vaccinate, you must accept that if one of your children contracts a disease that you declined a vaccination for, it is up to you to be knowledgeable about appropriate treatment. If you choose to vaccinate, you must accept the fact that if one of your children has an adverse reaction to a vaccine, that you choose to do it because you felt confident that it was worth the risk to protect your child from the disease the offending vaccine may prevent.
How Do You Decide?
So how do you decide what is right for you and your children? There are risks involved in both vaccinating and not. There are risks involved in life. There is always a risk that when you cross the street you may get hit by a car, struck by lightning, or have nothing extraordinary happen at all. What is important is that you don’t go blindly into the decision either way. The potentially devastating ramifications of some of these diseases are serious considerations. If your unvaccinated child is exposed to Pertussis (Whooping Cough), knowing how to keep them hydrated and nourished (a challenge since eating can lead to violent coughing fits) is essential to helping them recover without suffering the more severe consequences of the disease such as encephalitis. The unknown long term effects of vaccinating are also a serious consideration. If you choose to vaccinate your daughter against chicken pox and she contracts the disease while she is pregnant during her third trimester (we don’t know how long the vaccine will last), there is a risk of brain damage and mental retardation to the developing fetus. If she contracts it just before or after birth, there is a serious risk of life threatening consequences for her new baby.
Another thing to consider is talking to other parents who have chosen to vaccinate and those who have not. A dear friend of mine who is also a chiropractor put the bug in my ear a few years ago about vaccinations when I first met her while I was pregnant. I didn’t think much of it at the time but I started doing some research and it got me thinking. The more I talk to her about holistic wellness, the easier it is to understand that sometimes doing things differently than the mainstream is about making an informed personal choice. Talking to lots of moms who have chosen not to vaccinate, and many others who have chosen to vaccinate allowed me to hear their personal story and reasons for their choice. While I wouldn’t make the decision based on one person’s opinion, talking to others about how they came to their decision may make you consider reasons or options you didn’t even know were out there.
Ultimately, you must weigh the risks and benefits of your decision based on your on comfort level with the research available. You must also come to a decision with your partner (if you have one) because ultimately you will both need to address any consequences of the decision together and do what is best for your child if he becomes ill without disputing the decision to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. If you choose not to vaccinate, you must also become well informed as to the symptoms of these diseases and how to address them in a timely manner. I would argue that even if you choose to vaccinate, you should be aware of these diseases and the symptoms because it is possible (though rare) to contract a disease from the vaccine. As Dr. Barham-Floreani writes “Whether we vaccinate or not, as parents our greatest focus should be on how we can protect and strengthen our child’s immunity.” It is imperative that we are fully informed in our choice and where this choice may lead if the unthinkable happens, vaccines or not.
Additional Reading:The Vaccination Debate: Why or Why Not to Vaccinate
Barham-Floreani, J., (2005). Well Adjusted Babies. Vitality Productions Pty Limited: Melbourne, Australia.
Romm, A.J., (2001). Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parents Guide. Healing Arts Press: Rochester, VT.