I Wish I'd Known: Vaccines at 15 Month Check Up

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Cavanaugh’s got his 15 month well check at the pediatrician’s on Wednesday. He’ll be 17 months and nine days old — just a little late for the 15 month check. I’ve been putting it off because I’ve stopped knowing what I think about vaccines. My original position was that you get them in order to keep your kids safe and to avoid the resurgence of diseases that have been eradicated or mostly eradicated by vaccines. When we were originally interviewing our pediatrician, I asked him about the connection between vaccines and autism and he’d explained that Dr. Wakefield’s study was flawed and no one had done a new study that could prove a link between Measles or any other vaccine and an increased probability of developing autism. Excellent, one less thing to worry about. We’d get our son all of his shots based on the vaccination schedule from the American Association of Pediatricians.

But most of the mamas I know are not vaccinating or are doing delayed or selected vaccinations. My son and I belong to a playgroup with mamas and babies who are practicing attachment parenting (AP). Many of the families that are AP are also NP (Natural Parents), meaning they use cloth diapers, eat organic foods, have alternative views about vaccinations, watch for things like chemical leaching in plastic sippy cups and the like. So, for months every time we’ve taken Cavanaugh for his shots I’ve heard mamas talk about how they skipped the last well check or paid a $15 co-pay to get their child weighed and measured because they weren’t doing any vaccines. All of these smart women that I respect are making a very different choice than we’ve made, so i figured I needed to do my own research on vaccines in order to make an informed decision.

I’d been asking mamas what choices they were making about vaccines for months. What they were saying made sense. Why vaccinate for Hepatitis B on a child’s first day out of the womb? It is a disease passed through needles and sexual activity. It seems like that’s one that can wait. One mom started talking about antibody titers and being able to test to see if an immunity for Hib has developed after the first or second shot instead of giving four because it takes that long for some people to develop immunity. Someone else said that when we were kids, we only got about 20 vaccinations by the time we were five years old, but kids now get 40 – 50 vaccinations by that time and many shots are combined so in one appointment, a child may be immunized against six or more diseases. This can tax a child’s developing immune system. Aha. So this is why people are delaying shots or putting their kids through extra appointments to get shots one at a time rather than many at once. I kept hearing more and more about kids getting vaccinated at 18 months and experiencing onset of autism spectrum disorder.

I don’t feel willing to base decisions about my son’s health on hearsay so I started reading. I read articles about connections between vaccinations and autism. I read blogs and parent testimonials about what had happened to their kids. I read an amazing article by Sari Weston in the Spring 2008 issue of Brain, Child called “The Needle and the Studies Done.” Then I ordered The Vaccine Book by Robert Sears.

i can now recite my own jumble of acronyms and risks associated with vaccination and give reasons for the choices we’ll be making about Cavanaugh’s immunizations going forward. If we had it to do over again, Cavanaugh wouldn’t have gotten Hep B or polio shots yet. We probably wouldn’t have done Hib. We’re on the fence about DTaP because pertussis is common but the ingredients in the vaccine are disturbing and the need for Tetanus and Diptheria is questionable. We’re definitely separating the MMR vaccine so that Cavanaugh gets Rubella now. Though Rubella would not be serious for Cavanaugh at this age, because Rubella can cause birth defects including deafness, blindness, and brain damage for babies exposed during pregnancy. Since women’s immunity to Rubella can wane without booster shots, the risk is not a choice I’m willing to make for another person. We’re waiting on Measles though. No definitive study shows a connection, but enough mamas are out there saying that after their MMR vaccine their kids lost social skills, lost language, and needed extensive occupational therapy to get back to their previous selves and recover from autism spectrum disorder. Some didn’t ever recover. We’re just not willing to risk it, not to vaccinate for a disease that’s rare and not usually serious.

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34 comments to I Wish I'd Known: Vaccines at 15 Month Check Up

  • Jaimee Gleisner

    I applaud mothers that take the time to question the conventional and do their own research to come to thoughtful decisions. Great post, Sonya!

  • Amy C

    Sonya– I love that you have been so thoughtful about this. Such a hard, hard decision, and one that we continue to re-visit (as with all hard decisions).

    btw, we see a different dr in the same practice, and I have never heard of a family being asked to leave this practice based on a decision not to vaccinate…. but I understand that it is not easy to go against a ped’s recommendation.

  • Karen Black

    Sonya– I too am struggling with the issue whether to vaccinate or not. My daughter is 2 and has had NO vaccines (thanks to my very informed OB) — My research showed that the rubella vaccine in the MMR was one to avoid though… was I wrong about that? Of course I understand your position as well regarding the health of a fetus. I have been trying to find a site that is pro vaccine, with actual people writing in to say they are glad they did it, or that they wish they had done it because their child suffered permanent damage or death from a disease they contracted. So far I have found NOTHING. Of course there are hundreds of testimonials from people who had reactions to the vaccines. I really do wish to make a balanced decision on this, and I’m sure you know that there are so many drama and fear based websites out there telling you all sorts of things. If you have come across a pro-vaccine website in all your research, I would love to see it. By the way, I don’t know if you can leave this posted, but the best place I’ve found so far (with real letters from parents) is http://www.thinktwice.org
    they seem to have real, study-based evidence taken from medical journals. Thanks for putting your experience out there for us to see. :)

  • tmurphathome

    Sonya – It is a very hard decision to make these days to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. When my kids were young it was just something you did automatically. These days there are questions and issues and not really enough answers. My daughter is a 4th grade school teacher in Southern California. While in college taking her teaching credential program she had to be tested for TB. Imagine our shock when she tested positive! They did xrays but she was fine. She had just been “exposed” at one time during her life but hadn’t actually developed the disease. This is a disease that we thought just didn’t happen anymore in the U.S. She wound up having to take 9 months of an antibiotic to help reduce the chances of her actually getting sick from TB if she were exposed by a future student. The sad thing about today is that since we have such an influx of immigrants that have not had vaccinations a lot of the diseases that had basically been iradicated in the U.S. are now coming back. It’s a hard choice to make. You have to weigh the consequences. Your choice to research as much as you can is a step in the right direction.

  • Sonya Feher

    I also was tested for TB when I became a teacher. The exposure to illnesses in school or in groups is a risk I definitely cocnsider. Even though Cavanaugh is at home with me, we go to playgroups and parks. The kids pass around colds and flu. Central Texas had a large number of cases of pertussis last year. Ultimately, the question at the center of my decision about which vaccinations to give Cavanaugh is based on the likelihood of exposure to the illness vs. the danger of possible side effects. If it’s chicken pox, I’d much rather have the illness for a week than the vaccine, which needs a booster and then can still leave room for shingles later. If it’s polio or meningitis, different rules apply.

  • VandyMD

    I am very glad that my daughter has had vaccines; just wanted to give another POV that one poster said she has not heard. I didn’t get her the hepatitis vaccine (since I got it in med school and she has really low risks of exposure) and delayed the varicella since I received that one in med school too and had to be re-vaccinated, so weak was the vaccine. But otherwise, she got vaccines and is a thriving, happy 15 month old. So I’m really pro-vaccines; the number of antigens babies are exposed to in vaccines is way lower than that they are exposed to when interacting with pets, at the park, in day-care, etc so not too concerned about that. Please do get the polio vaccine though. Look historically at what polio did to those who were not exposed until they were older (usually upper class children). Given the high rates of vaccination, the possibility of being infected at a later age can predispose such children to dire consequences.
    cheers!

    • Sonya Feher

      I had a friend who had polio as a child. I agree it’s really scary. I do intend to get almost all of the vaccines done, with the possible exception of the chicken pox/varicella vaccine because it does seem to be so weak. We’re just spreading them out a bit, letting his immune system mature some, and considering the risks of the vaccines versus the risks of the side effects of the vaccines. I definitely appreciate your perspective and welcome your opinion.

  • Roger

    Studies have concluded that there is no connection between autism and vaccines. Don’t believe them.

  • Reena

    I am also pro-vaccine. I have two kids (one 7yr and other one 18 months).I have given all vaccine to the elder one including varicella (one dose) 3 yrs back. For the lil one, last month i had given one shot of varicella, second shot after a couple of months. Please understand, we cant go against those who have done years of research to develop these vaccines. varicella vaccine has been effective as I can see observing my 7 year old. What i believe is if someone had chicken pox after the vaccine, its intensity has been 75% less than usual. hence less of suffering. does anyone has anything else to say?

    • andi

      Reena,
      I was also pro vaccine but am nervous about continuing them now. My little one had the varicella vaccine at 13 months (the 12 month check up) and developed a full blown case of chicken pox afterward. It took 3 dr’s to diagnose the pox because it was so full blown and was definitely not any less than usual. He has had to go through lots of bloodwork since because it was “not supposed” to get that bad.

  • [...] I particularly like The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child because it is not pro- or anti-vax. It explores the risks of the vaccines vs. the risks of the diseases and lets parents make their own decisions. I wrote about what we decided to do with our son’s 15 month shots here. [...]

  • sandrar

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

  • jana setty

    why ,if these shots make children so sick ,are not more children sick? i’m sure there are some children that are sick from a allergic reaction to some shots. but why are there so many children not sick. i know that the diseases that are vaccinated against are life threatening. my baby got bacterial menigitis she was not vaccinated from it. i have spent the last 14 years being held accountable for it. they didn’t even offer it to us. now every time one of my children get sick i here, what are you going to do let the kid die. i get that thrown in my face. i beat myself up for this all the time. how many kids have died needlessly. the shots don’t kill!!!!

    • Sonya Feher

      Jana, that sounds like an incredible painful experience all around. I am so sorry for the loss of your child and for the lack of support. Instead of getting to grieve your loss, you have been blamed and had to defend yourself. How horrible for all of you. I hope that there is some way for you to stop beating yourself up and heal from your horrible loss. The book How to Survive the Loss of a Love helped me a lot.

  • jana setty

    risk…how does it feel to hold a dying baby in your arms. i know what that feels like. the risk don’t vaccinate and watch your child grow sicker and sicker knowing that they may die from a preventible disease. answer the question why didn’t you keep this from happening. if your child is healthy there is no proven risk from the shots i have 5 kids that have been vaccinated with no problem. the risk is the one shot you don’t get for your kid, thats the risk.

  • Seda

    Our daughter developed ITP, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, after her 12 month MMR vaccine. Basically, her immune system attacks itself, and ‘kills’ the platelets, which act in clotting of the blood. This is more commonly seen after the child gets some kind of a viral disease or the wild form of the measles or rubella. As a vaccine side effect, this happens in 1 in 30-40 thousand children! Normally, the disorder gets better in %70-80 of children (and in most cases, even without any treatment). However, my daughter’s platelet count was extremely low (almost non-existent) so, she was hospitalized for 3 days and got ‘temporary’ treatment. And she needs check-ups for the following 6 months or so to see if this will be gone or become chronic. So far, everything looks good. I have never heard of this disorder before, so I try to tell this to everyone so that they will know about this and will be able to tell if their child has something wrong with them and get appropriate treatment on time when needed. (Please research ITP blood disorder more online).

    I have a BS in Molecular Biology & Genetics. So, I know a little about viruses, microbes or the immune system. I am not against vaccines, not worried about autism or anything. But I am worried about live attenuated virus vaccines, because I am afraid of a possibility that foreign (virus) DNA might cause some changes in the host (us, humans) DNA during the immunization process, which may affect our future (adult) health; especially in individuals who could be prone to develop some diseases, such as cancer (cancers are multifactorial diseases), or because of the adjuvants used in these vaccines. It is a known fact that dogs and cats develop vaccine-induced sarcomas (cancer!) because of live-attenuated vaccines, such as rabies, for example (1 in 10 thousand cases).

    After becoming a number in one of those statistics, even though we are pro-vaccine, we are now very scared that some other side effect may happen to our daughter because of another vaccine. Inactive vaccines should be OK, and she is not supposed to get live-vaccines for a while. But still, it is your child, and you worry…

    • Sonya Feher

      Thank you so much for commenting on this post. You shared information I knew nothing about. It’s a lot to consider. It’s hard to know what the right thing to do, but as you mention the statistical probability of so much of this stuff is so unlikely that the calculated risks often seem worth taking. I’m glad things are looking good for your daughter so far and I hope it continues to resolve itself.

      Sonya Feher

      Website: In My Wrong Mind Parenting Blog: mamaTRUE: parenting as practice

  • APhD

    Enjoy “herd immunity” while it lasts because with the growing number of people who don’t – it is starting to disappear. People who don’t vaccinate their kids are causing a resurgence of various childhood diseases (re: Whooping cough outbreak in California, measles etc). I have found that people have no conception of how ill kids can get because we just don’t see it anymore.

    Were you vaccinated? Did you survive the experience?
    Sounds like you did and your kids will as well.

    I have my doctorate in biology and part of my research involves vaccine development so I do have some notion of what goes into their development and production. Colleagues of mine have done studies on the amounts of mercury in vaccines … and guess what – your kid will get more from a serving of tuna than what is in each jab.

    One more thought – as a mother of a toddler, there is no way on this earth will I let my kid around families that do not vaccinate. I don’t need my kid getting sick before she finishes her immunizations. I think you are being cautious to the point of being irresponsible and you and people like you will unfortunately find out the hard way.
    Best of luck to your children – too bad they don’t't have parents with their grandparents sensibility.

    • Just came across this post as I head in to get my 15 month old’s well check today. I have to say that I agree with you, APhD, although I don’t know if I would go so far as to make sure my son isn’t around vaccinated children (mostly because I have no idea who is and who isn’t out of all the children he comes into contact with – we live in the city and he often makes friends on the train, etc…).

      Natural parenting has many nice ideas associated with it, but I believe the concept of selective- or non-vaccination is ultimately a self-centered and irrational approach, except in the most special of circumstances.

      • I don’t think this issue is all or none. Most people I know aren’t refusing all vaccinations. Instead, they are choosing delayed or selective vaccination. I agree that if enough people don’t get vaccinated for certain diseases, we could have some major public health issues on our hands. Hopefully, before then, the pharmaceutical and insurance companies will figure out that aluminum and thimerosal (among other ingredients) need to be removed from vaccines and that vaccinating for three or more illnesses simultaneously when kid’s immune systems are still developing is not safe. In the meantime, we have a higher percentage of autism than ever and substantial evidence that vaccines are linked to this epidemic.

  • I respectfully disagree with the idea that there is “substantial evidence [that] vaccines are linked to this epidemic.”

    Even the CDC and AAP do not agree with this statement.
    See here, under “Are Vaccines to Blame?” http://www.autismspeaks.org/whatisit/faq.php

    Not picking on anyone, but I just think it’s sad and frustrating that we as a society let fear, emotion and speculation rule over rational decisions. There IS certainly a cause for the dramatic upsurge of Autism, but it is very unlikely that it is related to vaccinations. I think that we are focusing our efforts on an improbably, invalid point, and perhaps putting our children at risk under the guise of keeping them safe. In any case, it’s a sad, bad situation and it troubles me also.

    • What is it we’re putting them at risk for? Measles, mumps, and rubella? The likelihood of dangerous side effects is much larger than the chance that anyone will catch one of these illnesses, much less suffer serious effects from any of them. While I completely understand that an upsurge of delayed, selected, or no vaccinations will increase the number of people who get these childhood illnesses, I think it’s long past time for the pharmaceutical companies and the medical community to do real research. The CDC and AAP will continue to deny links until they are proven beyond a shadow of any malpractice or liability insurance companies’ doubts. I just don’t think we can trust big-medicine to be more concerned with our childrens’ safety than they are their financial bottom line.

      When I was deciding which vaccinations to give my son and when, I did my research. I didn’t blindly decide to delay vaccinations just for fun. I weighed what I understood the health risks to my son to be of getting the shots vs. getting the illnesses or the side effects from the shots. I am not putting my child child “at risk under the guise of keeping [him] safe.” I am choosing which risks I will expose him to. I certainly don’t expect that everyone would make the same choice, but I absolutely believe no one should keep me from or condemn me for making it.

  • Karina

    Hi Sonya: Thanks so much for this blog, great information. How did you spread or how did you delayed your baby’s vaccines at 15 months. My son already got all of his, honestly I didn;t even know what vaccines he was getting, but from now on I want to take control and research more about it. I even called my sister who is from Southamerinca and she faxed me copies of her kids vaccines card. 15 years ago they only received: tuberculosis (1 dose) , DTaP (4 doses), IPV (4 doses), measles (1 dose) and meningitis (1 dose). I’m planning to follow the same way my nephew were vaccinated, but I am not sure how to delay the other vaccines PCV or HIB or if I should avoid them completely, would you please share how you delayed your babies vaccines or whihc ones they didn’t get?
    Thanks a lot for your help.

    • Hi Karina, I am not a doctor and though many of my friends also chose to delay or do selective vaccinating, we all made different choices. I would recommend reading The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears. He lists the ingredients of each vaccination, the chances of side effects and what types of problems might occur, as well as offering a alternative vaccine schedule. It would be wonderful if these decisions we have to make for our kids were straightforward and simple, but I just don’t think it works that way because the kids are so important and there are a lot of factors to weigh. Good luck in making your choices and best of health to you and your family.

  • Gems

    I recently read an article (I think it was Time Magazine), where Bill Gates is highly (monetarily)supporting the drug companies through his Melissa and Bill Foundation. He talks about how the new trend in medicine is not finding diseases its all about vaccinations. I am glad to see there is a push against this because what i gleaned from the article was that vaccinations will make billions not cures. It was sickening.

  • TamsinW

    Hi all – we have a measles epidemic happening in New Zealand at the moment – so food for thought for those that say there kids are never likely to get these diseases any more. Also both mumps and chicken pox can cause nasty secondary infections. Once more, the risk of a severe side effect to a vaccine is far, far less than the risk of severe secondary infections from the disease itself.

  • Michaela

    You took time to research if vaccines cause autism but you forgot to research vaccines don’t cause autism. There are two sides to everything. You can’t be biased when you search. Of course if you search for bad things, bad things willcome up. Dr. wake fields study was flawed and data was falsified. The medical journal that published him has taken it back and he no longer holds a medical license. He was a corrupt man and published false results for money. Please search more wisely before you make such decisions for your kids.

    • I think these decisions are up to families who know what their own risks are, their health histories, where they’ll be traveling, etc. My job as a parent is to keep my son safe and protected, which sounds like what you want for kids too. We’ll reach different conclusions about how to do so because we have different beliefs, health histories, experience, education, and families of origin with differing practices. When we’re doing it differently, it doesn’t mean that anyone is wrong, just that we’re doing what is right for us and for our children.

      My research was about the likelihood of infection for what was being vaccinated against vs. side effects caused by the vaccines. I did not base my decisions about delayed and selective vaccinations for my son on Dr. Wakefield’s study. Instead, I considered that my son was at home, not at school, and being breastfed so he had many antibodies and immune support. He is being raised in a first world country with a low risk for what many of the vaccines were supposed to protect against. Ultimately, he got the MMR vaccine exactly when I planned on giving it to him–the summer before he started kindergarten.

  • Stacey

    I just came across this post when I was looking to see if my son would be recieving vaccinations at his 15 month well check. I don’t understand how parents can just decide not to vaccinate because in my state, it is required by law to enter into school or preschool. One of the requirements are to have your child’s immunization record or they will not be able to be enrolled.

    • In Texas, you can apply for an exemption for immunizations. In some states, you have to have religious reasons or a signature from your doctor, but in Texas you do not. You can check on your state’s requirements here.

  • TaloyaC

    I love all the commentary here b/c you get both sides of the spectrum (except the sarcastic comments). I am struggling with a vaccination decision b/c we owe the doctors office $70 they won’t see my 14 month old (or talk to me) about his issues. I’m practically going hungry to make ends meet. He had an allergic reaction a few months back & the health issues keep coming but now it’s like “no $10 on your bill doesn’t help, we need the full amount to see him”. He’s suppose to be seen at the docs & at the allergist office for vacs & things. Double the payments. Reason, if a doc/nurse see you (no matter if it’s all relating) pay up. So my sons Vacs are delayed b/c of money, gotta love this country. I find it crazy that I was unable to exclusively nurse my 8yr but he received all Vacs never had issue the 1st but small colds here & there. Then my 14mo old issues since he came out & was nursed exclusively & they just keep getting worse. What’s remarkable is we can’t control ANY OF THIS MESS, I am so glad that Jesus Christ is the Lord & Savior of my life and when this earth passes away we all will live everlasting & perfect WELL. But while here on this earth, ALL CHILDREN ARE DIFFERENT, WHICH MAKES ALL ADULTS DIFFERENT, how God made us. Different. No one responds the same to anything, we just have “some” likeness. So all appointments are cancelled until our debts (at the docs) are paid. Funny how other countries & there finances are why they have problems they have too. We all got problems but there is Victory in Christ Jesus. Standing on his word, walking by faith, & living on his promises….til the $70 (I am SMH at this ridiculousness). SN:I was researching to see if my child will have issues for not getting his shots & found this article. Stay-at-Home-Mom

  • Conservative Christian Mom

    We’ve recently decided against most vaccinations due to their using of aborted fetal tissue. These were done in the 1960′s, but they can only be frozen for so many years and more babies will have to be used from abortions to make more. The MMR can no longer be separated (Merek no longer makes them due to low demand…what mother would give their child 3 shots when she can do it in one). Measles and Mumps are used from Chick tissue, but Rubella is used from aborted fetal tissue. Therefore, my children will not be able to get any of the three.

  • Taloya

    Has anyone read anything about Black children because everything I read is on White children? My son is Black 20 months & stopped vaccines at 13 months because we owed the doctors & they would no longer see him. Big Deal?

  • Moonangel4evr

    Check out theguardian.com. There are wish I woulda stories on there. Just like those that do natural at home births can never seem to find sites where users regret not using a hospital. There sre plenty. They just don’t wanna find them….don’t WANT to see those stories. They wanna think they’re all natural birth no vaccine way is right. But there ate pitfalls. Look harder and actually read these stories before ypu risk home births or no vaccines. Ya might think twice. They did.

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