Vaccinations: Listening for Wisdom
January 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
Vaccinations are among the most polarizing of topics ever discussed by parents. Most people will vaccinate their children following the recommended CDC vaccination schedule without question. Yet more than one parent has told me they wished they had learned more about vaccinations before they vaccinated their first child. I will attempt to offer a middle road for consideration, as well as insight into what it means to not vaccinate your child in NYS. My own beliefs are heavily influenced by my intuitive understanding that Mother Nature is wise and whenever possible it’s best to let her do her work undisturbed. Taking time to listen to your own wisdom will usually yield the right path for your family.
One obstacle to a parent’s quest for a balance of information about vaccines is a dearth of objective information. Current state mandated vaccination schedules and requirements are strongly influenced by the recommendations of the pharmaceutical companies that stand to profit from the large scale vaccination of our children. Even if you believe scientific research that favors vaccinating all children for every disease possible, and are confident that vaccines pose no risk to a child’s development, you may still have questions about when and how often you want to provide vaccinations to your child.
As with every concern your baby will face beginning with conception, parents are the decision-makers. If the vaccination schedule presented to you by your pediatrician doesn’t feel quite right, ask questions, do research, and follow your gut. You know your baby better than anyone. Hospitals and pediatricians have an obligation to provide you with medically sound information. They also have an obligation to remain in good standing with their insurance companies and attorneys. Decisions about your baby’s well being are ultimately your responsibility.
Many of the diseases that we vaccinate for do not kill otherwise healthy children. In NYS there is no option to pick and choose your vaccinations. You cannot only vaccinate for, let’s say, polio but not chicken pox.
If you are concerned about the potential impact that vaccinating your newborn may have on the healthy development of her/his immune system, there is a middle road. For starters, don’t accept a hospital’s offer (or expectation) to have your newborn given a hepatitis B vaccine. Your newborn is not participating in high-risk lifestyle behaviors. Allowing a newborn to instead bond with her/his parents and establish a healthy breastfeeding relationship is of far greater importance during these tender first days. Interrupting that connection for a painful injection, that offers no immediate health benefit, and may inspire a reaction, is not in the best interest of most newborns. The reason it is offered at this time is an attempt to reach the largest swath of the population possible. By virtue of the fact that you are reading this blog, you are a parent that will ensure your child has access to any healthcare options you deem necessary at an appropriate age.
Some parents who are wary of inundating their newborn with all the standard recommendations of vaccines for babies, may focus their research on diseases such as whooping cough and rotavirus. Some parents, particularly those with breastfed babies that are not in daycare, conclude that the potential interruption to their baby’s overall immune system development, outweighs the potential for protection against any particular vaccine-addressed disease at young age when their exposure is limited.
If you aren’t sure about what you’ll do regarding vaccinations, don’t vaccinate your child against anything until you know your intentions. In many states, including NY, a religious exemption is your only long-term justification for not providing vaccinations. Parents who want to consider this path must understand that, while you needn’t prove membership of Amish or Christian Science religious orders, you must demonstrate a sincere spiritual belief that is your grounds for not vaccinating your child. If you intend to enroll your child in school (public, and usually private as well) you may need to hire a lawyer to help you draft a letter expressing your sincere spiritual beliefs.
Girls appear to be at lower risk for the potential damage vaccinations may cause to the neurological system. It’s my understanding that this is because their neurons are better protected by a sheath of estrogen than their male counterparts’. This may offer an explanation for the higher rates of autism, ADD, ADHD and other neurological conditions that may be triggered by vaccinations, sonograms, or other environmental intrusions. While this information helps some parents of daughters feel less concerned about a decision to vaccinate, unless a family has eliminated the possibility of having more children and has no sons, parents must come to a decision that can be applied uniformly to sons and daughters.
Many parents wait until their child is 2-yrs-old before beginning any vaccinations and then break up the vaccines and the shots. It’s my understanding that under ideal conditions (breastfed, no serious illness, healthy environment…) a child’s immune system takes about two years to develop. That’s part of why breastfed babies are usually healthier. They benefit from their mother’s lifetime of immunological development. It may also be why the World Health Organization recommends all babies be breastfed until at least the age of 2. Here’s a piece by one parent who chose to delay vaccinating her child. It includes statistics on infant mortality rates and SIDS that influenced her decision.
Waiting to introduce foreign antibodies into a not yet established immune system gives it a chance to develop normally without interruption. The most common go-to book about alternative vaccination schedules is Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book. You may need to find a new pediatrician if your current doctor doesn’t support a delayed vaccination schedule. Also, if your child will be attending a state-funded daycare program, you may not be able to wait to begin vaccinating. That said, some program directors are flexible and may be comfortable with a pediatrician’s note that your child receives regular care.
This is a polarizing issue, and a difficult one to navigate. Nearly every large-scale study of vaccines is funded at least in part by pharmaceutical companies. Couple that with the fear and hysteria surrounding vaccinating and not vaccinating, and it’s sometimes difficult for parents to pause and listen for their own inner wisdom. Good luck with finding the path that is right for your family.