What’s the deal with immunizations? One side is dogmatic about giving them and the other is dogmatic about refusing them. I’ve been recently looking at the controversy trying to decide whether to continue with the normal schedule of shots, to slow it down a bit (i.e. space out the shots over a longer period of time), or to discontinue them all together.
On one end of the spectrum I have my SiL who is staunchly against immunizations and has not immunized my two youngest nephews at all. She’s not alone as several young mothers in my church have made the same decision. On the other end of the spectrum is all my training in Public Health most of which can be boiled down into a single statement: an ounce of prevention goes a long way.
But it’s one thing to sit in a classroom and listen to lectures on preventative medicine and quite another to try and make informed decisions that could affect your baby’s whole life.
The barrage of ‘you need to get your shots’ began right when David was born, which I was unaware would happen. Apparently, they are now giving newborns their first Hepatitis B series shot before they leave the hospital. Now I didn’t receive this particular series until high school and I wasn’t even remotely convinced by their argument to give David a shot right after being born. It seemed highly unlikely that he would even be exposed to HepB since we were headed straight home and both KB and I have been vaccinated for it. Besides, Little Bug is being breastfed so he gets immunoglobulins through my milk (i.e. anything I’m immune to already, so is he by association). They didn’t push very hard since he would be getting the HepB in one of the mass shots at his 2mo visit anyway.
Two months rolls around and we dutifully get his first set of immunization shots with no reactions. We repeated the process at his 4mo visit all the while I’ve been doing some more research on the safety as well as the efficacy of the shots. Most of the literature touted the efficacy and safety, but I was also taught in PH school to critically analyze the studies and to look at contrary arguments as well as supporting arguments for a given procedure.
A few weeks ago my SiL sent me a link to a video called Vaccine Nation and I watched as much as I could stand in one sitting (about half). What I watched didn’t scare me per se but did give me more ammo with which to re-evaluate some of the reading I had already done and gave me more avenues to pursue as I make health decisions for David.
One of the main talking points of the video was the number of vaccines that a baby gets in such a short amount of time. In the video they were mostly concerned about immune system overload and the affects on the brain that the preservatives in the vaccines have. I’m not so worried about the former concern because of the class I took on infant and child development but, I have found the debate about this latter concern not to be conclusive in either direction.
I think there is one question in particular that kept popping out at me as I watched the video that I have not found addressed by the medical literature that I would very much like to know the answer to: why is it necessary to give infants and toddlers so many vaccines combined in such a short period of time? This actually encompasses two questions that I have. First, is it necessary to give the vaccines combined (ex. MMR) or would it be better to have them separate so you could determine which vaccine a baby is reacting to. And second, Why so many so young? Couldn’t you wait a few years (especially for children not in high risk situations) until their natural immunity has been built up? And what about the main argument of the breastfeeding campaign that ‘mama’s milk is the best’ for all the baby’s needs? Is breastmilk insufficient in helping with immunity after all, and a baby needs to have all those shots as soon as they can mix up the serum?
I have my doubts, and yet I have also seen the public health literature on how vaccines are being used to help fight contagious diseases all over the world successfully. So, I’ve decided to have a long talk with David’s pediatrician at his six month visit and pray for wisdom for what to do and peace for the decisions that I make on behalf of my children.