Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Ix-nay on the Ax-vay?

It's one of the big questions new parents face today, once you've gotten past "were you trying to get pregnant?" (which I still can't believe people ask...) and the more common and less invasive "did you do it all-natural?" "are you going to breast-feed?" and even "are you using cloth-diapers?" The question with a capital Q seems to be "are you going to vaccinate?"

The stakes are pretty high, or so everyone from my pediatrician to the anti-vaccine camps would have me think; both sides claim my child's life is at risk if I don't do what they recommend... This is an issue I've tried to research on the deepest level, and this is what I've come up with. Hopefully this will be helpful to those trying to sort it out themselves, and maybe reassure any of you who think I've gone off the deep end... **Please note that I am NOT a doctor, and even if I was, each parent must decide what is best for their child(ren). My goal is to make your job easier by doing some research & explanation leg-work for you. If, after reading & researching on your own, you disagree with any/all of what I say, that's totally fine!!! I will still be your friend. ;)**

First off, some basic pre-suppositions:
1. kids will get sick-- since Genesis 3, this is just a part of life on this Cursed planet. Every human will suffer on earth and will one day die. Remembering this keeps me from wanting to barricade myself from all germs, and my kids with me. It's not something I can hide from, so why fear it? Of course, this doesn't mean that we run around trying to get as sick as we possibly can; it just means that we have to expect it and be ready for it.
2. God has made our bodies able to fight off sickness-- this balances out Point # 1. We aren't left at the mercy of tiny "bugs." Our bodies do have resources to fight disease and decay, to heal and grow.
3. I'd rather fight disease by strengthening my immune system (what God has given me to do just this) than by hiding from germs (which I can't fully do anyway)-- this is how I see points 1 & 2 gelling & meeting.

Ok... so vaccinations.
The arguments in favor of vaccines on the CDC schedule:
-- Childhood diseases are bad and need to be avoided.
-- Vaccines are a way to stimulate the immune system into fighting diseases by giving the body a weaker version of the real thing. The body produces antibodies which later will be used to fight the full-blown disease, should it ever come around.
-- Vaccines are in essence a little bit of pain now for big payoff of prevention later.
-- There is minimal to no danger at all in vaccines, no matter how many are given at once or at what age. They will only prepare the body to fight future disease, and in the rare case that the disease is actually contracted from the shot (in live-virus vaccines), then this isn't near as bad as the disease itself would have been.

The arguments that seem against vaccines on the CDC schedule:
--Childhood diseases aren't pleasant, but may not be all that bad.
-- The toxic ingredients in vaccines (adjuvants, etc-- mercury, formaldehyde, other metals) are a concern, especially since they seem to have a cumulative effect. (Dr. Sears takes this position in his book The Vaccine Book) Some people take issue with where the vaccine components come from-- animal or human tissue.
-- Children are each different, so a one-size-fits-all approach to vaccination is inappropriate, and can even be deadly.
--Live-virus vaccines compromise the immune system.
--Vaccines trigger the body's humoral (Th2; antibody-producing) immune system, not the cell-mediated (Th1) system. An imbalance in the two systems results.
--Vaccines can over-stimulate the immature & still-developing immune system of an infant/toddler under 2. Babies' immune systems are stuck in a different mode (Th2 mode) than adults' to keep them from being targeted as an outsider by their mother while in the womb. During infancy they can switch to the adult Th1 mode if they get a recurrent infection, but they don't switch to full Th1 until toddler-hood. Vaccines given while the baby is still in Th2 mode cause the Th2 mode to persist longer than it should, leaving them at higher risk of auto-immune diseases (such as food allergies), which in turn are linked with neurological disorders (such as autism). Age is a factor in how a person will react to a vaccine.
--There is a huge increase (quadrupled!) in auto-immune diseases (ADHD, asthma, allergies, ASD (autism-spectrum-disorder), Type 1 diabetes) in Western culture, and we don't know why. Mandated vaccines on an aggressive schedule (beginning before birth if the mother gets a flu shot while pregnant) is a huge new factor which must be considered as a variable that could have contributed to or even caused this increase. An auto-immune disorder basically means that a person's immune system attacks what it shouldn't; it thinks normal things are invaders and triggers an immune response to fight them.
-- There is a link between childhood disease and future immunity. If you get the real thing, you get full immunity to it, and possibly to other diseases --for instance, women who get childhood mumps have increased immunity to ovarian cancer. (This is due to the correct stimulation of the Th1, or cell-mediated, immune system, which thwarts cancer.)
--The CDC's vaccination schedule is "too much too soon:" 32 vaccines by age 2. Think about the proportions: 7 vaccines injected into a 13-lb baby (standard for a 2 month old well-baby visit) is equivalent to 70 vaccines in a 130 lb adult! **Note; when we were growing up & getting vaccines, we got far fewer.

My take:
I haven't found any answer at all to the charge that vaccines may, in the long run, over-stimulate the immune system so much that an auto-immune disease develops. Dr. Sears doesn't touch on this idea at all in his book, and neither does any pro-vaccine literature I've read. Because of some research I did in college on the link between diet & disability, I was already aware of the link between auto-immune diseases and disabilities. I already knew that kids with neurological disabilities were likely to also have Celiac's disease (a non-mediated food allergy to gluten, the protein in wheat), for instance, and that when gluten was removed from their diets, many children's symptoms improved or disappeared completely. I knew that a hyper-active immune system usually manifests itself in more than one way; one friend of mine has horrible eczema if she eats gluten; another's daughter was autistic until gluten was removed from her deit; I myself am intolerant to both gluten and soy; another friend's son is allergic to both aluminum and gluten. Food intolerances, skin diseases, autoimmunity, neurological disorders, learning disabilities... they're all linked. The link seems to be an over-active humoral immune system.

A "Generation Rescue" survey showed that vaccinated boys had a 155% greater chance of having a neurological disease such as ADHD or autism, and vaccinated girls & boys had a 120% greater chance of contracting asthma-- both of these are auto-immune disorders. It seems that vaccines tend to over-stimulate the humoral immune response and damage the body permanently, especially when vaccines are spaced so close together that the baby's body never has time to stop being primed to fight infection. This is especially damaging to some individuals- those with sensitive immune systems, often those who already have other auto-immune disorders or whose parents do. This is my biggest "beef" with the CdC's schedule, and since I've found no answers to it, it remains my chief concern. Since I DO have an auto-immune disorder and so does almost every member of my family (either asthma or allergies or food allergies), I take this very seriously for Eowyn's sake.

I am also concerned about the other nasty stuff in shots, and am glad mercury has been taken out of most shots. Dr. Sears recommends a schedule that spaces out vaccines containing the same adjuvants (especially aluminum) in order to give the body time to process them out. Hep B, Pc, Hep A & HPV all contain aluminum, so don't get them together. However, I'm not so concerned with "extra" stuff in shots as I am the viruses & bacterium themselves.

Dr. Miller's recommendations are to 1. start at age 2, 2. give no shots with thimerosal (mercury), 3. give no live-virus vaccines (unless smallpox recurs), and 4. to vaccinate only for diseases which are more dangerous than possible vaccine risks: He recommends vaccinating for pertussis (the acellular, not whole-cell shot), diptheria, tetanus, and polio (the inactivated version- IPV).

So what are we doing? We're doing a delayed and selective schedule for Eowyn. We want to travel with her, so we have to vaccinate some, and vaccines do seem to provide immunity in adults to some degree... but we want to let her immune system mature normally before we whack it. I think my guidelines will be: 1. try to boost our immune systems with vitamins, fermented foods full of "good bacteria," lots of rest and outside-time, and a balanced diet, rich in nutritional fats & essential oils (Omega 3 oils boost immunity greatly while Omega 6s have the opposite effect), 2. give only one vaccine at a time, 3. allow at least 2 mos between shots (to allow her humoral response time to go back to normal) 4. begin later rather than earlier except for diseases which are only dangerous to infants (ex. pertussis), 5. avoid live-virus vaccines, 6. skip vaccines which are new or untested.

Right now that means NO chicken-pox, flu, Hep A, & MMR vaccines, also no vaccines against STDs (she's not exactly at risk as a child to those). The only ones I'm committed to doing are IPV (inactivated polio) & Daptacel brand of the DTaP (diptheria, tetanus & pertussis/whooping cough), which has no cow tissue & less pertussis components. We will probably not start the vaccines until 6 mos. of age, meaning that we will miss a few doses of the DTap, HiB & Pc vaccines (if we get theHiB & Pc at all). I am considering Hep B later because of where we live... still researching. When we figure out our exact monthly schedule, I'll post it as a follow-up.

**EDIT:  Please read my follow- up post giving our (current) vaccine schedule.  You will likely notice that we decided not to get the IPV, and that we did decide in favor of the Hib & Pc.  My thought process on the IPV can be read here.**

Some things I read:
-"A User-Friendly Vaccination Schedule" by Donald W. Miller, Jr., MD-- cardiac surgeon & prof of surgery @ University of Washington (in Seattle)
-"The Danger of Excessive Vaccination During Brain Development" by Russel L. Blaylock, MD [I don't particularly care for the tone of the article-- he implies that vaccines are a plot, and I wouldn't go THAT far (although for sure pharmaceutical companies would stand to lose a LOT of $$ if shots stopped!). But I kept reading because so much of what he said dovetailed with my own research & experience. The article is well-footnoted, and I looked up as many of the articles as I could access, and they definitely support his position.]
-"The Challenge to Mass Vaccination" by Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder & president of the National Vaccine Information Center
-"How We Are Making our Children Sick," by Sean Manning, DC in Pathways, issue 20
"A Personal Perspective on Vaccination,"by Jean McAulay in August/Sept 2008 of Today's Chiropractic Lifestyle
- The Vaccine Book, by Dr. Sears
- DPT: A Shot in the Dark, by Barbara Loe Fisher


Jacqui O. said...

Excellent commentary, Christina! As a future mom (one day...) and physician-in-training, I agree with 99% of what you said. You were articulate and reasonable and you included a range of worthy references--great job!

I just have one piece of precautionary advice for you: As someone who has seen infants/toddlers ravaged by meningitis, I STRONGLY recommend Hib and Pc. Meningitis is scary because it looks so much like flu, then suddenly progresses to something much more sinister. This past summer I saw an 18-month-old who had to have all four limbs amputated as a last-ditch effort to save his life. Another little one, about 12 months old, ended up dying of meningitis less than one day after showing initial symptoms.

Although I know it's rare for a child to become infected in the first place, with complications that serious I would definitely choose to vaccinate against Hib and Pc instead of just considering it (as well as the meningococcal vaccine when she's old enough). I'm not trying to tell you how to raise Enna; I would just hate for her to risk contracting something so deadly when it's so easily preventable!

Eowyn's Heir said...

hmmm... thanks for the info! i've been on the fence about those... but you may have just pushed me over!

Lauren said...

Christina, this is so long!!!!!!

Eowyn's Heir said...

glad you persevered, Lauren... ;)

Amy Donell Molina said...

thank you for the info!!! Since Jillian is only 5 weeks know we are thinking through all the same things. For me, it's a little more challenging since I'm fighting against a system that works off of people's ignorance and isn't too friendly for curious and caring moms that want to be informed. 'Cause all doctors think the "commoners" are too stupid to understand this stuff. PLUS... the translation of all of vaccination names. :)
.... I really appreciate your research and your personal insight.

Amy for Clau and Jillie-Bean.

Annie Brainard said...

Where's your follow up schedule? We are very curious. We're still navigating this for Hannah, although it's mostly Eli calling the shots because this is his field.

Noelle Marie said...

Christina, I appreciate your research so much. I've spent a long time on your blog. I noticed that in this entry you say you are committed to the IVP, but later in Nov 2010 you change to not giving the IVP. I just want to clarify that that is correct and you must have had new information between these two posts that led you to change your mind on the IVP. Thanks again for all your work. I am going to share this with many of my friends as well. ;)

Eowyn's Heir said...

Hi, Noelle-
Yes, between this post and our final decision we did come across more info that made us question the IPV and finally decide against it. Closer looks at the disease, the vaccine's efficacy as history shows it, and looking at the risks involved in aspects of the vaccine itself (especially the monkey kidney cells) led us to decide that the risk of the vaccine was worse than the risk of polio. I wrote about my thought process in a guest post on a friend's blog--

I'm so thankful this has helped you!