Getting on My Soap Box

I haven’t really used my blog as a soap box.  I haven’t sat here and tried to get you, my readers, to believe what I believe.  But today, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  I recently read this article:

10 Infants Dead in California Whooping Cough Outbreak

and it really got my goat.  It wasn’t the article itself so much.  Nothing in it was new to me.  But what really did bother me was the people that were writing in the comments section.  Same thing happened with this article:

Where Vaccine Doubt Persists

For the first time, vaccination rates in the US are down.  Down!  More people are claiming belief exemptions.  It’s ridiculous.  What happens when people don’t vaccinate their kids?  You’re going to see more and more people dying of diseases that are preventable.  PREVENTABLE being the operative word.

I think here in the US we have gotten to be very complacent in our medical choices when it comes to infectious diseases.  After all, when’s the last time that you saw someone with measles or polio?  Even most newer physicians (be newer I mean younger than 50) will tell you that they’ve never seen a case.  You want to know why you don’t see these diseases?  Vaccinations.  The problem is, these diseases are not missing from the population.  They are still there and people that choose not to vaccinate, or even that choose not to get boosters, or vulnerable to these diseases.

Look at the recent mumps outbreak in NYC and NJ.  A single 11 year-old-boy went to England, where the rates of MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccination are low.  He brought back the disease with him, and sickened over 1500 people with mumps.  The problem is that the MMR vaccine is only 90-95% effective.  There are always people for which the vaccine will not work (want an example, I’ve had the chicken pox vaccine 3 times – still no antibodies, so I’m still susceptible to chicken pox).  So 5-10% of the population is still able to come down with mumps.  In that population of 1500 people who were sick, 80% had been up to date with their boosters.  Bottom line from those numbers – without the vaccine, many thousands more would have been sickened with mumps.  We were fortunate to have no deaths, but mumps causes many other issues including immediate problems like Bell’s Palsy and Deafness and other which won’t be known for years, including sterility (this was a major problem before the MMR vaccine was used).

Yes, some people think that they have a right not to vaccinate their children.  The problem is that when they choose not to vaccinate they are actually not only giving their children and much higher chance of dying from a communicable disease, but they are also potentially harming EVERY SINGLE PERSON that their child comes in contact with.

John travels to southern California a lot, exactly where the epicenter of the Pertussis outbreak is.  As soon as we found out we were pregnant, one of the first things that we did was find out when John could receive a Pertussis booster (I received a Tdap last year when I cut off the tip of my finger, so I had the vaccine last year) just so that we could keep Charlie safe from Pertussis.  I think we were being responsible.  Charlie can’t be vaccinated for Pertussis until about 2 mo of age, so she’d be completely susceptible to the disease, which is often not caught in time in infants (its symptoms mimic things like RSV in infants).  I would be beside myself if she died from something that we could have prevented.  BTW, we also have asked our immediate family members to get their boosters too.

Many people are choosing not to vaccinate because of the “autism” fear.  There has been, to date, absolutely, NO evidence that autism is linked to mercury in vaccines.  Mercury was removed from all children’s vaccines (except the flu) by 2000.  What’s happened since 2000?  The autism rates have spiked.  Another thing, you get more mercury in fish than you do in the vaccinations anyways.  You don’t see parents staying away from fish for their kids!  It’s those fish oils, they’re good for you!  There was only ever 1 paper, documenting 12 instances of children with “autism-like” symptoms in children who had received the MMR vaccines. But what was not documented in that paper was that those children all had a major underlying autoimmune disease.  So, it wasn’t a random study.  Research has proven that certain autoimmune diseases, like the one in the children in the study, can be linked to autism.  So, in reality, it was a paper linking the autoimmune diseases and autism, not the vaccine.  The paper has since been retracted and the scientist who published it has been “disbarred” from science (what’s more, he never disclosed that he was working for a company that was trying to make a vaccine to compete against the MMR vaccine – a clear conflict on interests!).

But even though it’s been retracted, it’s damage has been done.  A certain celebrity who shall remain nameless (but used to date Jim Carrey) being one of the most vocal people to espouse the paper.  That one paper has created this whole imaginary phenomena that so many people choose to believe.  There are no clear reasons that children have autism.  It’s more than likely a multi-factorial syndrome, meaning that there are many different factors in each case.  My personal belief is that you’ll soon see certain foods and environmental factors being linked to autism.  When you see a huge swing in cases of a syndrome, there has to be something that everyone is being exposed to that they previously weren’t being exposed to.  Well, processed foods and certain types of plastics weren’t around in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and you didn’t see the high rates of autism back then.  Personally, I don’t think that this is a coincidence.

It’s funny, before I was expecting I knew a lot about this whole debate (My doctorate is in micro and immunology, so learned a lot about it in my studies, AND I teach this every year, so I keep up with the current news), but it was never personal.  Now it is.  I have a whole additional life for which I am responsible for.  It makes me mad when there are things outside of my control that can harm my child.  Things that could be changed if people were educated.  It really hit close to home in our birthing class.  One set of parents said that they absolutely were not vaccinating their children BECAUSE vaccines cause autism.  I tried to explain my side of the situation, but was told that I am part of the lying establishment.  I had to bite my tongue from saying that I sincerely hoped that their child didn’t die from the irresponsible decisions they were making.

BTW, I do think that there are too many vaccines given to soon, but it’s not a link to autism either.  It’s a practical reason that so many vaccines are given quickly.  So many kids are in daycare that they are being exposed to these illnesses early, before their immune systems are ready, and need help fighting them off.  But, your physician should be able to work with you on a vaccination schedule that makes you comfortable.  If they’re not, find a pediatrician that you’re comfortable with.

Sorry for the large wall of text, but I had to get this out.  It’s really been bothering me, so hopefully this post will be cathartic for my brain.  I didn’t want this to get scientific, but if anyone has any questions that I can answer, you can post them below or email me and I’ll try to answer them as best as possible.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Getting on My Soap Box

  1. Kristen

    Very good article. I like the argument about a delayed vaccine schedule, and I can see why doctors are giving the vaccines at once because of daycare and germs there.

    If you do not use daycare, do you think it is acceptable to come up with a delayed vax schedule? Also, where do you stand on the chicken pox vaccine?

    Chicken pox can kill, but I’ve also seen kids who have been vaxed against chicken pox get it, just in a milder form. Having had the chicken pox myself, I’m inclined to let my kids get it naturally and build an immunity to it that way, but not sure.

    Just wondering. Obviously, I would vax MMR, whooping cough, tetanus, and everything else, just not sure about chicken pox and maybe Hep B.

    • I think chicken pox is one of those vaccines that aren’t necessary. The only issue now is that there are so many kids getting the vaccine that so few kids are getting chickenpox naturally, so it’s hard to expose your children to others with the illness. The problem with that is that if they get it as a teenager or adult, it is much more dangerous than getting chicken pox as a child. I didn’t have a choice with the chicken pox vaccine as it was required for med-school and I didn’t have chicken pox as a child, so I had no antibodies. Like I said above, after three vaccination attempts, still no antibodies. The midwife suggested getting vaccinated for it when we have Charlie vaccinated for it, but I really don’t see the need for a fourth round of vaccinations that aren’t taking.

      I actually am inclined to not do HepB in a child either. In reality, yes, way easier to get than AIDS, but still, it’s blood borne or secretion borne – when’s a child really going to come into contact with those things. I don’t think it’s necessary (as opposed to respiratory acquired diseases). I didn’t get my HepB vaccine until I was working with unknown human tissue cultures starting 3 years ago. Some hospitals are doing the first round of HepB vaccination before the baby even leaves the hospital. I can absolutely 100% guarantee Charlie will not be vaccinated with 48 hours of her birth for HepB. I don’t have it and there’s no reason for that vaccine at that time (same reason that I’m not going to allow the antibiotic drops for chlamydia or gonorrhea – I don’t have them, therefore it is 100% unlikely that she will catch them from me during delivery. Therefore, why give prophylactic antibiotic eyedrops? Unnecessary? Absolutely!)

      I think a delayed vaccination schedule is something that needs to be seriously discussed with a physician and with the daycare center. Some shots can easily be put off, even while the child is in daycare. Others, like Hib, Tdap, or MMR, I probably wouldn’t delay.

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