Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vaccination Thought Process

My goal in this post is to bring you along with me as I have wrestled through asking questions about childhood vaccinations.  The thought processes I've come to use and the questions I've come up with expand beyond just this one issue, and into every medical procedure and practice.  My desire is to serve you and equip you to become the most informed, critically-thinking guardian of your child's health that you can be!

While of course I would be thrilled if I "convinced you" of my point of view, I feel like a sucess if you are inspired to research this on your own!! If you start asking questions, digging around, reading studies and books by people smarter than me (doctors, public health specialists, immunologists, naturopaths, etc.), and come to a different conclusion than I have, that's still great!!!  My goal is to help you learn to think!!  Medical decisions can be so intimidating, especially since we feel so much is at stake-- our kids' health!-- but we are not helpless, forced to blindly depend on even a brilliant guide.  To a certain extent, we can think things through and come to our own conclusions.  WE are responsible for our children's health.  We can delegate that out to another, but it still comes back to us.  I want to help you do even that delegating thoughtfully!  Whatever conclusion you come to, if you come to it after critical, intentional thinking and looking from both sides of the issue (and not neglecting prayer for wisdom and trust in God's sovereignty!), I applaud you!  THAT is the kind of parent we are called to be!


First, three foundational statements to keep in mind:
1. God has created our bodies to heal themselves, living in dominion over all creatures (including microscopic ones) yet not living isolated from all creatures.  In other words, we don't "exercise dominion" by killing everything within a 10 mile radius from us.
2. This world is fallen, and man has a battle to survive in front of him-- sickness and pain is a part of that.  Neither vaccination nor lack of it is risk-free; both have risks.  Additionally, part of our dominion now includes shaping our environment (one example- agriculture instead of tending an already-planted, perfectly yielding Garden of Eden).
3. Vaccines are drugs and should be thought of as such.  They come with their own side-effects, risks, and imperfections, just like any other medicine.  In each vaccine is not only a weakened form of a disease, but "adjuvants"-- preservatives and metals that kick-start the immune reaction. 

Hopefully I'll be able to flesh out the way I see those 3 interacting in my Friday post.  For now, just keep them in mind.

Ok, now 10 questions.
1. What disease(s) is this vaccine aiming to protect against?
2. What is the a) probable outcome of this disease, and b) worst-case scenario outcome?
3. Today, is this disease treatable and/or preventable by other/natural means?  
4. What are possible dangers in this type of vaccine (look up whole list of ingredients)?
5. What is the a) probable outcome of this vaccine, and b) worst-case scenario outcome?
6. How much has this vaccine been tested, and are those tests by objective testers?
7. How effective is the vaccine?
8. Are there any benefits to gaining immunity to this disease through actual infection, rather than through the vaccine?
9. What is the rationale behind getting the vaccine?  Is this valid/applicable to my situation?
10. Is the disease generally worse than the vaccine?

Now before you freak out and think "that's a LOT of questions!," be assured that at least numbers 1-3, 9, and perhaps 10, should be answerable with just a quick search in a medical handbook, reputable website or even by asking your doctor. You may be able to stop there if it's obvious (I felt that varicella was fairly obvious, but am stepping through the whole process in order to explain fully). Look up vaccine information from the manufacturers (your pediatrician can copy the info off of the vaccine box for you, or at least give you the name of the company and you can look it up online or in a vaccine-guide book) to answer numbers 4 & 5. Numbers 6-8 are the hardest to find answers on, and you probably need to enlist a medically knowledgeable source to read study results and findings, but there are GREAT books out there to help with that! You can do this!!

Let me step through those in detail, using the varicella vaccine:

1. What disease(s) is this vaccine aiming to protect against? chicken-pox
2. What is the a) probable outcome of this disease? itchy rash with runny nose, cough, and uncomfortable fever lasting about a week.  According to Merck, chickenpox vaccine manufacturer, "Chickenpox is generally a benign, self-limiting disease." (Varivax insert, June 2009)
and b) worst-case scenario outcome? older male (adult) contracts chicken pox and becomes sterile due to the high fever, or infection reaches child's brain and causes encephalitis (this is a risk for nearly every disease).  Also a recurrence of chicken-pox (shingles) in an other-wise immune adult.
3. Today, is this disease treatable and/or preventable by other/natural means?  chicken pox is not dangerous nor overly uncomfortable for otherwise-healthy children (only one in every 10-15,000 cases requires hospitalization). Oatmeal baths relieving the itching. Avoidance of aspirin during sickness drastically reduces risk of Reye syndrome (type of encephalopathy). As with all diseases, immune-system boosters vitamins A, D, E (for skin) & C help to lessen severity and duration of disease.
4. What are possible dangers in this type of vaccine (look up whole list of ingredients)? it's a live-virus vaccine (this kind causes the most adverse reactions), containing a weakened form of the virus which remains in the body indefinitely, MSG (a soy-based neurotoxin), the antibiotic neomycin, and fetal bovine serum.  MSG is a no-no, especially for my likely-to-be-allergic-to-soy-child. Over-exposure to antibiotics results in a whole host of problems.  The chickenpox virus can reactivate any time immunity declines, causing herpes zoster (shingles).  The vaccine can also transmit chicken-pox to others, including vulnerable pregnant women only having the partial vaccine immunity.
5. What is the a) probable outcome of this vaccine? My child will probably have a mild fever, and nothing else at the time, but her immunity will fade with time, allowing her to experience relapses (shingles) during times of stress in adulthood, and could quite possibly infect others who may be vulnerable to the disease.  b) worst-case scenario outcome? my child's vaccine-gained immunity fades to the point of contracting full-blown chickenpox as an adult, rendering a son sterile or causing a daughter's unborn baby to have fetal defects; alternatively could cause life-altering vaccine reactions and/or all the risks of the wild version of the disease.
6. How much has this vaccine been tested, and are those tests by objective testers? This vaccine is relatively new; as late as 1985 the CDC's position was that the costs of treating chickenpox were too low to justify spending money on a national vaccination campaign.  The studies used to test the vaccine contained up to 17,000 units of chickenpox virus (as opposed to the 2700 units in our vaccine), and no placebo-controlled trial was carried out using the current vaccine.  So... no valid testing, and unknown future effects.
7. How effective is the vaccine? In all pre-licensing trials, some children contracted chickenpox.  According to an FDA report, about 1 in 10 (10% of) vaccinated children contract "breakthrough" chickenpox when exposed to a wild version of the virus (the longer from the vaccination date, the more serious the case).  The vaccine manufacturer claims a 98% success rate after 2 doses in trials, which sounds amazing-- BUT in the clinical trials, the shots used contained up to 17,000 units of the chickenpox virus, while the shots used today contain no more than 1,350 units.  This means that there actually are no clinical trials using the current vaccine.  We do know that about 10% of the cases of chickenpox today occur in vaccinated children. (see product insert, part 14.1)  It is also difficult to judge vaccine failure rate, because doctors are hesitant to label a chickenpox-like rash "chicken pox" in a vaccinated child.  During a recent outbreak, doctors did not count vaccinated children who contracted chicken pox as "vaccine failures" because they claimed that they had fewer poxes, meaning the vaccine did not fail (though the children still did contract varicella.)  To sum it up, it's hard to judge the actual efficacy of the shot, but we do definitely know that any protection it does give significantly drops 5 years post-vaccine.
8. Are there any benefits to gaining immunity to this disease through actual infection, rather than through the vaccine? Yes, for both the patient in question and those around them. Wild chickenpox in children is usually benign, and confers a more lasting immunity than the vaccine.  Immunized children can still contract wild chickenpox-- and will suffer far more as teens or adults.  A child with chickenpox also re-immunizes adults & children around them against the disease:  those who have the natural antibody gain an antibody boost every time they come in contact with the live varicella virus, and this further protects them from a relapse (shingles).
9. What is the rationale behind getting the vaccine?  Is this valid/applicable to my situation? The main justification is "primarily to reduce the loss of parental income[of parents taking sick days to care for sick children]." On average, the vaccine "saves" parents 1 day of work per child vaccinated.  This seems a fairly poor reason to vaccinate for anyone, much less me as a stay-at-home mom. The vaccine was originally developed for immuno-suppressed children (for ex. those with leukemia). So, no; not applicable.
10. Is the disease generally worse than the vaccine? NO!

Our conclusion:  we will not get the varicella vaccine for our children, but will instead seek to put them in contact with a wild form, while boosting their immune systems with plenty of real foods, sunshine & good bacteria.  To protect our vulnerable babies (the vaccine isn't safe for children under 1 anyway), we will breast-feed them for 15-18 months each.  The vaccine is untested, relatively ineffective, has its own set of risks plus all the risks of the disease, a disease which is harmless in healthy children anyway!  If our children do not contract chickenpox by age 11 or so, we will consider the vaccine to give them at least partial protection as they leave the "safe infection zone" of childhood.


Jeannette said...

Good post, Christina. When our children were young, I blindly followed all the recommended immunizations, which thankfully did not include chicken pox. Now I see the need to do the question and research.

Rebecca Elves said...

I would also ask how common the disease is. E.g. in the U.S. whooping cough is more common than polio, even though polio is more dangerous. we are already vaccinating claire against whooping cough but are passing on the polio vaccine, at least for now.

Have you written out your answers for these questions for all the childhood vaccines? If so, I would love to have a copy.

Eowyn's Heir said...

Thanks for the comments, Jeannette & Rebecca! That's a good point on the "how common is it?" question-- I guess I'd include that under question 10 (is it applicable to my situation), but spelling it out makes it even more helpful. Rebecca, I can get you my own thoughts for the other vaccines if you want them! I may ask Ryan if I can post them as separate pages here or something, so not everyone HAS to read them, but they're easily accessible for anyone who WANTS to read them.

Melissa said...

I would love a copy as well.

Melissa said...

I would love a copy as well. I have 5 week old and I am hurried in vaccine info. Help.

The Harings said...

me too I have a 2 month old and currently am putting a hold on all vaccines until I learn more and would love to hear your thoughts on all the vaccines you have researched.

Gail said...

When I began having children 1n 1982, there were maybe a dozen (?) vaccinations, including boosters, that my children got. I had 8 babies, and I did notice that their were new immunizations from time to time. None of my older children ever contracted chicken pox, despite being exposed. I'm not sure how many of my younger ones got the varicella vaccination, but the two youngest, now almost 14 and 12, both got shingles when they were about 5 or 6! My doctor had to confer with another, but they were both obligated to admit that it was indeed shingles. Had I known what I know now, I never would have done it. I'm passing this on to my daughter, who has a new baby...

Eowyn's Heir said...

hey Melissa- I posted an abbreviated version with all the major points on here at

Let me know if you have more questions about particular vaccines & I'll try to elaborate further!

Way to go- doing research before going ahead! :)

Jessica Staley said...

My 15 month old has been vaccinated thru the scheduled 4 month shots. He has his checkup next week and the dr wants him caught up..... I have.been really struggling with the decision on whether to continue vaccinating. I myself have had serious reactions to vaccines as well as developed celiacs. I have recently already had to go glutwn free with him as well. My husband works in a state maximum security prison and although he takes every possible precaution and wears gloves he wants our kids vaccinated on the chance that he could potentially bring somw disease home. What are your thoughts? I also have a cousin who developed severe developmental and behavioral issues after being vaccinated...

Eowyn's Heir said...

hey Jessica- thanks for stopping by!

From all I have read, the worst thing you can do is give multiple vaccines at once. Even if you decide to do all the shots, you can minimize some of the neurological/immune risks in two ways: 1. only ever vaccinate when your child is TOTALLY healthy and has been for a full week at least; 2. only accept one shot at a time; 3. space vaccines out with at least 6 weeks in between each.

Usually when a doctor wants to "catch a child up" on their vaccines, they want to issue all the vaccines that have been missed, which, if you think about it, would be like giving your child 6-8 diseases at once, not to mention all the metals and other toxic ingredients. Just remember, you NEVER have to do anything you don't want to do, especially where your child is concerned.

If you decide you want to vaccinate, my suggestion would be to pick a single vaccine (like IPV, for polio, or Pc, for pneumoccocal meningitis) and have one vaccine at your next visit. That's all. If you want to keep up the shots, then come back for a separate "vaccine" visit in 7 weeks (if your son's healthy). Give him 6 weeks to 2 months between each shot that you decide to do-- longer if it's a combination vaccine (like the DTaP).

There are some shots that are easy to opt out of, like the ones that aren't required for school in your state. We found Rotavirus and varicella (chicken pox) to be easy outs: neither fully effective nor for truly dangerous diseases.

Eowyn's Heir said...

You and your husband may want to talk through what diseases he could possibly pick up at the prison, and whether those are diseases your kids could get. Prisoners and others under government care (soldiers, etc) usually are extremely vaccinated- so, if vaccines work, shouldn't he be extra-safe? And if they don't work, then is it worth injecting your kids with it if they are already immuno-compromised?

Eowyn's Heir said...

one last thing- since your son's older, he will need fewer vaccines than if you'd stuck with the original schedule. Make sure your pediatrician uses the "delayed" schedule rather than the original so he doesn't get too many.

Amy said...

Let me start by saying we are currently *not* vaccinating, and if we were, the CP vaccine would not make my "selective/delayed" list. So I'm not in favor of it.

That said--I'm a little bewildered that you provide a 90% effectiveness rate for the vax and call that "not very effective". Really? Nothing in this world works perfectly 100% of the time. 9 out of 10 seems like pretty good odds to me. A 90% is an A-minus, you know? This sort of seems to damage your credibility--it feels like you are determined ahead of time to come out against the vaccines, so you are quick to say that they are ineffective. What kind of rates would a medication or a vaccine have to get for you to consider it effective?

I mean, I'm looking into Muco coccinum as a homeopathic flu remedy and the makers are advertising that it has an 88% effectiveness rate--like that is a good thing. We non-vaxers can't have it both ways.

Would love to hear your further thoughts...thanks :)

Eowyn's Heir said...

Hi Amy! Thanks for stopping by! I had to go back and re-read this post and revisit my research on the topic, since it's been a few years and a pregnancy since I wrote this. You know how pregnancy/sleepless mommyhood zaps the old braincells... Anyway, to answer your question-- I'm not sure why I phrased the vaccine success rate as I did. Likely because I was just beginning my research and was appalled that vaccine manufacturers act like their shots are 100% effective at completely preventing all disease, when no drug is that good.

Thanks for pointing this out, though. I'll be changing the post slightly to reflect some other facets as well.