It’s been mentioned a few times on here that I don’t vaccinate my kids. And it’s true: I don’t. My reasons are pretty complicated, but since I’ve been sharing my reasons for a bunch of my decisions this week (like why I need to breastfeed, and why I’m choosing home birth), I thought I might address this one too.
Most babies are given their first vaccine when they’re only hours old: the Hep B shot. And obviously, we’ve skipped it. A lot of parents are on the fence about this, even if they do choose to vaccinate for the most part. Keep reading to find out what my pediatrician said about this…and why we personally choose not to vaccinate.
I know, I know: it’s an extremely hot issue right now. There are people who say you’re basically killing your children if you don’t…or if you do. I’m not going to tell you that. I know every parent has their own reasons for the decisions that they make and that they are trying to do their absolute best based on what they know and what they believe. The answer’s not the same for every family.
There was a point where we didn’t question vaccines, before I got pregnant with my first. But we were working then as therapists for children with autism. I know, it’s so cliche. But the moms we talked to basically said they had concerns…and encouraged us to look into it more. Although it started over a potential concern with autism, that’s actually very low on our list of reasons for choosing not to vaccinate now.
Then we thought we’d just do selective and delayed vaccines. We thought that we’d get vaccines for the “scary” diseases, like measles, but we’d definitely leave out chicken pox, rubella, and others that we knew weren’t so bad. (Rubella’s not, unless you happen to contract it in the middle of your first trimester of pregnancy.) But, I wasn’t satisfied to take anyone’s answers. I need to do the research for myself. I set out with a long list of questions I wanted answered, and I began searching through every book, journal article, health website (both mainstream, like WHO, and non-mainstream), and so on that I could get my hands on.
What I found was very interesting…and shocking. The more I read, the more I became convicted that I did not want to inject my children with vaccines, ever. I know that places me on the far, far outer edges…most people are willing to consider some vaccines, under some circumstances. I really can’t think of any situation in which I’d allow a vaccine. But, of course, this is up to each family to choose.
So here is a (very) brief summary of my reasons (please note I’m not a doctor or medical professional; I’m trying to explain these to the best of my knowledge but I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes along the way. Always do your own research and talk to your doctor):
1) The way they work – This is a super, super long explanation being very condensed here. Most natural infections enter the body through the mouth or nose, and are fought off by the mucous membranes, the gut flora, etc. It’s called the TH-1 system. This is bypassed when a vaccine is administered directly into the body and only the TH-2 system is stimulated (the body’s secondary defenses). This doesn’t produce permanent immunity (and in some doesn’t produce immunity at all). The body, when the TH-2 system is activated, is more susceptible to future disease. And although typically the system would “calm down” soon after a vaccine, when a baby is born, it is TH-2 dominant (so it’s mother’s body won’t reject it), and vaccines prolong the time before the immune system matures. There’s some evidence to suggest that the immune system never learns to work properly and this places the child at risk to more serious illnesses like cancer. There’s a lot more to this, but this is my primary concern.
2) Ingredients: I know that most people are concerned with thimerosal, and it’s been removed from most vaccines. Not all, and it is used in the production of the vaccines and then removed later (i.e. there are still trace amounts). But the vaccines also contain tissue from monkey kidney cells, human diploid cells (read: aborted fetal tissue), or chicken embryos, depending on what the vaccine was cultured in. Regarding the human cells, they’ve been using the same ones since around the 1950s, and I’m not convinced they haven’t mutated or in some way become contaminated. Vaccines also contain adjuvants to boost their efficacy, and most of these are based on aluminum, which is another heavy metal toxin. There are also antibiotics and various other ingredients. To me, this just doesn’t sound like something I’d want in my body…or my children’s bodies.
3) Natural Immunity: I’m concerned with my children gaining natural immunity. Vaccines don’t last forever and their efficacy is in question since they work differently at different ages, weights, immune system development and other individual body chemistry differences. Some studies I’ve read suggest they are far less efficacious than we think they are, and that immunity does wane significantly after 10 – 20 years (so, the adults who don’t get boosters — almost all — probably aren’t protected from most diseases anymore). In contrast, for most people, natural infection does offer protection/immunity forever (in a few rare cases it doesn’t). It has also been shown to “train” the immune system to fight off more complex illnesses, although this research is very sparing. For children with strong immune systems, many of these illnesses are just not that bad. We all had chicken pox as kids and it wasn’t a fun week; but we’re fine. Parents today are terrified of chicken pox! (That vaccine was created primarily so parents wouldn’t have to miss work and suffer “lost productivity” as a society while caring for sick children — not over any concern that chicken pox was a dangerous illness.) Looking into what the likely course and worst-case scenario (and what would likely lead to the worst-case scenario) of each disease was a major part of my research. It’s always interesting to me, however, to note that the children I know who aren’t vaccinated (several) are usually not the children who are sick very frequently. While some people I know brag that their kids have “only” had a few ear infections, a few bouts of croup or bronchitis or needed antibiotics a couple times a year, I can say that mine have never had any of these things. Do vaccines play a role, or am I just lucky? I don’t know, but I’ll take it.
4) Potential environmental issues: Kids today have skyrocketing rates of asthma, allergies, ADHD, and yes, autism. I don’t believe that vaccines are the sole cause of any of these conditions. But I do believe, along with many other factors, they play a role. Children who are born with fragile health or are genetically “sensitive” could be at risk for developing one of these things because a vaccine was the trigger or final straw. Cases before the so-called vaccine court have paid many families under conditions like this. If I can minimize my children’s exposure to toxins in any way, then I will.
5) Little research: What I’ve found as far as research hasn’t been extremely comforting. A lot of research is reaching pretty far, like studies that we say “we assume protection is lifelong” but cite no proof (have they tested people who were vaccinated several years ago? In a large study? No.). Studies compare vaccines against previously licensed versions or against the same chemical combo without the virus itself, not a true placebo (saline solution). Kids are usually followed for only 6 weeks. Long-term or late-arriving reactions aren’t documented. The medical community appears to have a very cavalier attitude towards all drugs and vaccines, at least as far as I’ve seen: that they just aren’t that bad. But how many times have we later seen these same “miracle” drugs recalled? How many parents have said “I think my child is having a vaccine reaction” and been reassured it’s ‘normal?’ I just don’t think the research is adequate. I couldn’t even find journal articles to answer all of my questions, and the figures stated on the WHO or CDC’s websites were not linked to any actual research. That, to me, is a big red flag.
Suffice it to say, we’ve chosen, for these reasons and many more (these being the most important) not to vaccinate. It’s a very personal choice, which each family must make.
If you’re curious what our pediatrician said, he recommends Hep B in the teen years (when the child might actually be at risk under ordinary circumstances), and will also mention HiB and Pertussis if asked. But he doesn’t push any on families and he said that he thinks the current schedule is “definitely too much, too soon.” Yes, this is a mainstream, board-certified pediatrician, not an alternative doctor.
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