Vaccinations Revisited.

August 11th, 2008

Amanda Peet gave an interview to Cookie Magazine recently. She discussed motherhood, toys and vaccinations. She’s imploring people to vaccinate and isn’t candy-coating her message at all. She tells Cookie Mag, “Frankly, I feel that parents who don’t vaccinate their children are parasites.”

Zing! Snap! Zing! (She later apologized for the harsh delivery but stands behind the idea.)

During a television interview on Good Morning America last week, she said, “I’m not a doctor, which brings me to another point. It seems like the media is often giving celebrities and actors more authority on this issue than they’re giving the experts and that’s a sad fact. And I know that’s a paradox – that’s part of why I wanted to become a spokesperson, so I could say, ‘Please don’t listen to me, don’t listen to the actors, go to the experts.”

I have my own thoughts about vaccinations. I did hours and hours worth of research when Em was brand new. I worried myself silly over them. In the beginning, I actually contemplated not vaccinating Em, an idea I find completely crazy now. I’m not sure if I was merely getting caught up in the wave of hysteria so prevalent these days or if I was just worried about the actual needle-sticking part. But I worried myself sick.

And then he had his first vaccine (we did stagger them) and everything went well. After that, I began to loosen up a bit.

We chose to spread them out not because we thought a vaccine might cause neurological damage, we spread them out because I felt that his body should have enough time to cope with each one. This meant more co-pays, more visits to the doctor, and (unfortunately for everyone) more needle pricks.

We’re waiting on a few and skipping some as well. For example, we opted to wait on Hepatitis B until he is a little bit older. And I decided against the flu vaccine. We’re also waiting a bit to start the MMR—not too long, but a little bit.

We did couple some of them. I made my decisions based on the statistics on the CDC Web site. Basically, the higher incidences of side-effects, the more likely I’d give him that vaccine on its own. The more “easy going” vaccine (for example, Polio) the more likely I’d couple it with another. (If for some reason you are interested in seeing how we spaced them, feel free to email me.)

It’s my opinion that yes, parents should be given a choice as to whether they vaccinate or not. No one should ever be forced to do something to their child because the government says so. However, I think information needs to be made readily available to every American no matter who they are (rich, poor, black, white, purple, old or young). I think insurance companies should cover the cost of classes for parents-to-be. I think this may help correct misconceptions behind vaccines and teach parents why vaccinating your child is important. I was offered (and took) a breastfeeding class and a parenting class. Why can’t hospitals or pediatricians offer a class or two about immunizations? Because I firmly believe that if a parent does the research, if they can ask questions, they will feel better about vaccinating their child.

I think vaccinating our children is the right thing to do and the benefits far outweigh the side-effects. Remember this post? How about this one? It took a hell of a lot of research for me to get to this point. I no longer think that the government is some kind of boogeyman trying to poison our children. And I realize that for some this change of mind may come as a surprise. Believe me, there is still nothing more horrible than taking a newborn to the doctor and watching said doctor insert a needle into his or her leg. All the research in the world won’t make the actual event any less awful. But after a year worth of research, I’m (more or less) onboard with Amanda Peet.

But don’t listen to me either. Do the research yourself. It’s the only way you’ll ever feel better about it.

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13 Comments on “Vaccinations Revisited.”

  1. StFarmer said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    When the risk of not getting the vaccination outweighs the risk of getting the vaccination, it’s time to get the vaccination.

    Seatbelts and air bags cause some injuries but the risk of not having/using them is far worse. The risk of having breast implants is worse than not having them. Common sense approach.

    I don’t have kids, but if I did I’d probably use the same sane approach to the issue that you used.

  2. Michele Chaves said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    My kid has austim spectrum disorder and I don’t believe it was caused by vaccinations. I never once thought about not vaccinating. If I were to ever have another (not likely) I might spread them out because I do think they probably give too many too quickly.

    I think parents have a right to make the best decisions for themselves, I wouldn’t advocate prosecuting or forcing vaccination, though. I think it is pretty irresponsible not to vaccinate because the health risk is increased not only to the child, but to the community when everyone isn’t vaccinated. We have an ethical responsibility maintain public health for the greater good.

  3. mihow said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    Michele: I agree with everything you said above entirely. I feel that even though they are obviously curing diseases as they come with all of these vaccines, it’s entirely too many too fast. I am all for getting them, but not quite as aggressively as they want me to.

    Annie is a blessing. A true blessing.

    (PS. I can’t see the videos you sent me! Help!)

  4. Julie said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    I just took my 5 yo old in for her vaccinations. She had her last DTAP, Varicella, and Hep A. Let me tell you, that it does not get any easier to see them get shots. She handled it like a pro but that was a total of 4 shots! So, she cried and I did too. I took her for ice cream afterwards and that made it all better for both of us!

    I think that vaccinations are very important. Unfortunately, those who don’t vaccinate their children put us all at risk for those diseases. It would be nice everyone was a thoughtful as you have been in the process. I never questioned it and had both my children vaccinated as their pediatrician recommended.

  5. Michele Chaves said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    Try here and see if this works. Annie keeps talking about it so you’ll need to tell me when you see it!

    http://vimeo.com/michelechaves/videos

  6. Lisa said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    The vaccination issue is a tough one for many parents. When my little girl was 15 months, she was given the MMR. For days afterwards she had strange neurological symptoms, including staring and blinking hard. It was so incredibly scary to look at this beautiful little girl with the thought that we might have damaged her.

    Fortunately, her symptoms went away and she is fine. Her reaction was documented in her records and she will never again be given the MMR vaccine. She now has two younger sisters that will not either since they are at increased risk.

    I am not telling this story to cause more panic than parents already have. I just think doing your research as well as paying attention to any adverse reactions is the safest way to go.

  7. Laura said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    I only wish those parents who are unwilling to vaccinate their children step up to the plate when it comes to enrolling them in school (where most require the students to be up to date on their vax) and be honest why they aren’t vaccinating them. A lot of them hide behind the “personal religious views” clause that allows these kids to attend school w/o the vax.

    My feeling is, If you feel so strongly anti-vax, then come out and say so and be upfront about it. And get some research behind your arguments. Secondhand opinions from Jenny McCarthy doesn’t cut it.

  8. wendyr said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    I am a worrier by nature, but I can guarantee this is one area I will not be worrying about when the time comes to have children. It is a combination of two things – I have a doctor who I trust so very much it’s not even funny and I will have her guide me through all this (seriously – she is the best doctor I have ever had. I want to be her best friend. I told the husband we had to stay in Ireland so I could have my first child with this woman. She is amazing). Secondly, my husband spent a lot of time researching the MMR vaccine for his PhD – he spent a lot of time looking at it from a more social science perspective (he looked a lot at the scientific community versus pressure groups in formulating public policy) but he interviewed people from both sides and spent five long years on the topic. I think he can probably answer most of my questions, or at least put me in contact with the people who know!

    I also have a lot of people in my life involved in the field of public health (including yours truly – I start my Master’s in Public Health in a few weeks) and while I know things are different when it is your child and there are obviously circumstances where immunization is an issue (adverse reactions, religion), I still – from a public health perspective – feel it is something that is very important. I agree awareness is key, and more education should be available to parents, because a lot of concerned parents are going to seek information from poor sources if they can’t get it immediately. Unfortunately, the bad PR of MMR in the UK has lead to less and less children being immunized and the worries are that this could lead to quite a serious outbreak in the coming years.

    I have rambled. This isn’t exactly my area, though I have been involved in some immunization work. My father-in-law is high up in Public Health in the UK, and this immunization stuff is something that he works quite a bit on, considering how much of a problem it is becoming. He is also of the belief that education is key, but it has been an uphill struggle!

  9. mihow said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    Two years before Em was born, I came down with something wicked. I had no health insurance and so I visited some hackish doctor with a storefront here in Brooklyn. He told me I had the measles. I thought he was losing his mind. I had been given the vaccine for such and wasn’t sure how that was possible.

    A year or so later, I got health insurance and had bloodwork taken. Measles vaccine showed up fine.

    A year after that, I had MORE bloodwork done with my OBGYN (anticipating Emory) and she said it had expired. VERY strange.

    Not sure why I am sharing this (again) but I do wonder if it has something to do with less and less people being vaccinated and more and more people going to and from other countries and back.

    I have no idea what it’s from. But it’s strange nonetheless. And I will probably need to get another booster when Em goes for his (in 27 years). kidding.

  10. egirl said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    The global nature of society and the quick import of vaccine-preventable disease from other countries via airplane really makes it imperative to get your kids (and yourself!) vaccinated unless there are known allergies or contraindications. All disease is only one plane flight away now and herd immunity is only so strong. Most vaccine-preventable diseases are really bad if you get them with potential life long complications. Everyone has to weigh the risks for themselves, but remember that by not getting a vaccine if you or your child are eligible, you are not only risking your health, but that of persons who are truly unable to get the vaccine (too young, too sick, allergic to vaccine, side effects, reactions, other previous disease like Guillian-Barre).

  11. Kelly said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    Vaccines are such a touchy and emotional subject. Before my baby I couldn’t believe people wouldn’t vaccinate – then having one, I really did start to question it – what if there is a link? But I did research, and having a girl probably helped out, and felt okay with getting them on schedule. One of the resources I liked (not the only one), was this:
    http://baby411.typepad.com/baby_411_blog/ – if you read down you’ll see their response to Jenny McCarthy. I empathize with her greatly and I haven’t read her book – but I tend to agree with Amanda Peet – listen to those who have degrees, do research, etc. Being famous doesn’t make you an expert.
    Big hugs to Emory on being 1! We have found with our now 1 year old she has developed separation anxiety which has meant lots of fun with daycare drop off.
    Oh I do have a random Measles story too – I reacted badly as a one year old (very high fever)to the shot, but to this day I don’t need a booster, I’m still immune (says blood tests).
    Kelly

  12. Nicole said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    A great book about vaccines is The Vaccine Book by Dr. Robert Sears. He lists all of the vaccines along with possible side effects, ingredients in the vaccines, as well as the importance of each vaccine (obviously some are far more critical than others, e.g. Hep B for an infant is usually not necessary). He also offers his alternative schedule to the one the CDC proposes. It’s what I’ve been going off of for my 15 week old son, and plan to follow for the most part. My doctor agreed to do whatever we felt was best (not what the CDC says is best) so we developed a plan together. Tomorrow he gets his second HIB and DTAP. Next month will be his second Pc and Rotavirus (which is oral). I don’t plan on giving my son anymore than 2 shots at one time. Instinctually, it just doesn’t make sense to me. I do respect that everyone has different opinions about this issue. It’s sort of empowering to have more information now to make these decisions ourselves.

  13. Michelle said at 5:49 pm on August 11th, 2008:

    I decided to stagger my daughters shots but not until her 10 month check up. I did a TON of research however, I was hoping you could email me the way you spaced Emory’s out. I would really appreciate it. I feel as a mother, even a first time mother, going with your gut instinct is best!!


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