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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.