Vaccination Schedule and Some Personal Thoughts

I have received several emails requesting information about vaccinations and how we spaced them out for Emory. Today I’m (finally) putting together a post about it. I’m also going to talk about what I’d change should we ever go about this again.

Let me just begin by stating that I’m pro-vaccination, but I haven’t always felt that way. In fact, right after Em was born, I considered refusing vaccinations all together. I, like many first-time mothers, was concerned about causing undo bodily harm to this perfect little person. I was also worried about injecting him with all sorts of potentially nasty viruses. I’m one of “those” mothers—the type of mother who only feeds her son organic fruits, vegetables and milk. And I worried myself silly over BPA.

I work hard to keep my son toxin-free. And while being vaccinated always made sense to me in the past, it became an entirely different story when it came to my child.

So, what did I do? I researched the bloody hell out of it. I turned myself into a pediatrician’s worst nightmare. (Not because they like ignorant parents, but because uppity parents with an internet connection can prove to be VERY annoying. I won’t deny this.)

By researching vaccinations I began to feel a whole lot better about them. As an A+ worrier, I recommend that you do the same. Don’t take my word for anything. Read up on stuff, ask questions, and most importantly look back at your own vaccination records (ask your folks, siblings, whatever) and find out if you or any member of your family has ever had a negative reaction associated with a vaccine.

If you find that your pediatrician isn’t willing to space them out for you, then you have the option of finding a new pediatrician. While I was met with a worried look from my own, as soon as she realized that I wasn’t refusing anything we worked together very well.

However, before you run off thinking your pediatrician is forcing you to do something against your will, put yourself in their shoes for a minute. They’re doctors! They have seen diseases once considered a distant memory rear their heads all over again solely because parents are refusing to vaccinate their children. 

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be a pediatrician right now. I reckon it’d be like forcing me to design something in QuarkXpress on OS 9.

Anyway, enough about that. Here is a snapshot of what the CDC recommends for any child under 6.

To this day, we still haven’t started him on the HepB vaccine, not because we’re worried about it, but because Emory was in the NICU at the time he was scheduled to have the shot. (Babies receive HepB now before they even leave the hospital.)

(Side note: I once went to an orientation at a pediatrician’s office where I heard two couples express concern over giving their (sons) a shot so early—Won’t it hurt!? Those same parents planned on having their boys circumcised. I can’t imagine a shot is going to hurt any more than a circumcision. Although, I admittedly have no penis and therefore haven’t ever been circumcised.)

We plan on starting him on HepB the moment we’re caught up with everything else. You see, that’s the thing about spacing out vaccines, you fall behind. The schedule is set up for a reason. That’s not to say you can’t space them out, but come preschool or kindergarten, you may find yourself playing catch up.

We also opted out of the influenza vaccine. I entered the winter season dead against giving Emory the flu shot mainly because it still features a preservative known as thimerosal. (CDC Web site) And while I don’t think said preservative leads to autism, it still makes me nervous. I did get one for myself, however, but it was the pregnancy version—the version made without the preservative. (No, I’m not pregnant.)

I am still not sure what we will do next winter when it comes to the flu vaccine.

(I am only just now realizing, based on that graphic above, that there’s also a Hepatitis A vaccine. This is news to me!)

The final vaccine we have not yet begun is the Varicella (Chickenpox) vaccine. I’m still on the fence when it comes to this vaccine because of its newness. I have no other reason to avoid it. And recently I started to think about it a bit more and I’m wondering if we made the right decision to wait. It’s conceivable that since more and more families are opting for the vaccine, he might not get the virus during his elementary school years as seen in previous generations. And I seem to remember someone saying the older you get, the harder the virus hits you.

So, maybe it’s wise we have him vaccinated for Chickenpox. But it still makes me a little nervous. I need to read more.

All that said, here’s the schedule we went with.

  • 2 Months: PCV (pneumococcal)
  • 3 Months: HIB (bacterial meningitis) and IPV (polio)
  • 4 Months: PCV
  • 5 Months: HIB
  • 7 Months: DTaP
  • 9 Months: HIB and PCV
  • 10 Months: DTaP
  • 13 Months DTaP
  • 14 Months: IPV
  • 16 Months: MMR
  • 17 Months: IPV and PCV

We were nervous in the beginning, which is why he was given only one shot at a time with the exception of his 3-month visit. We paired up the HIB and IPV at three months because common side effects associated with the HIB vaccine are harmless, and the not so common side effects are so rare it’s questionable they’re even linked to the vaccine.

I wasn’t at all worried about IPV (polio) because it’s been around for so long and has an excellent safety record. 

DTaP has more common and serious side effects but after receiving so many doses of it, I’m now longer worried about it. Emory didn’t get so much as a fever from the DTaP.

All that said, Emory has had two side effects after receiving vaccinations. The first one took place on November 13th. About three hours after he was given the polio vaccine and the HIB vaccine he woke up screaming. Nothing Toby or I did consoled him. We called the on-call doctor who informed us that for whatever reason some babies do this the first (in our case second) time they get vaccinated and never do it again. She was right. He never screamed like that again.

We’ve since been told that he most likely had a sore leg. So, from that point forward, we gave him a small dose of Tylenol or Motrin to alleviate any aches and pains.

The only other time he had a reaction from a vaccine was with the MMR (yes, the dreaded MMR). Many of us (myself included) got wrapped up in the frenzy over whether or not it’s linked to autism. I do not believe that to be the case at all anymore. Recently studies have shown that Andrew Wakefield fixed his data. Everything he claimed has basically been tossed out. But the ramifications of his carelessness could be devastating.

Taken from the article linked to above:

“Last week official figures showed that 1,348 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales were reported last year, compared with 56 in 1998. Two children have died of the disease.”

In the end, the MMR was nothing. Emory got the usual low-grade fever (101) and a slight rash on his torso a week after he was given the MMR. (Normal.) It was gone in a day.

If I had to do it all again, I would definitely double up more often, because now we’re playing catch up. But I do wish that the CDC would come up with a slightly less aggressive schedule even if that means more trips to the doctor.

Now I make NO apologies for being very pro-vaccine. I think the right thing to do is vaccinate our children. I think it’s in the best interest for the greater good as well as the individual. No, I don’t think that the US government should make anything mandatory—I rather like living in a country where we’re given the freedom of choice. But I do hope that each person gathers the information they need to make informed choices instead of being driven by fear. And while that’s not the case for everyone refusing vaccinations, I was definitely in that camp, which leads me to believe that I was/am not alone.

I welcome you to discuss the pros and cons of vaccinations here. I also welcome you to disagree with me (constructively).


  1. I have no children, so I’m not going to add to the discussion in a real fruitful manner, but I work in a high school where there was recently an outbreak of chicken pox. A completely unnecessary outbreak. Children missed two (even three!) weeks of school, our school counselor also missed a week, and I missed a baby’s baptism because I wasn’t sure if I was contagious (I had chicken pox when I was young, but I just didn’t want to take a chance with someone else’s child).

    I think that a lot of people are on the fence about the chicken pox vaccination and that sucks a bit because when they get older, missing that much school is really, really, really difficult to make up!


  2. Thank you! Hearing that might be what it takes to get him started on this sooner than later.

    And I think what you wrote is very fruitful. Thank you.


  3. I’ll chime in about the chicken pox vaccine too. I was 12 and my brother was 13 when we got chicken pox, and it was a particularly virulent strain. We both missed nearly three weeks of school. We were both covered with huge sores, from the tops of our heads to the soles of our feet and every surface inbetween. We both had sores in our mouths. My brother had to go to the doctor because the sores went down his throat. My fever was so high one night I had hallucinations. We were both utterly miserable.

    I am 40 years old and I still have visible scars on my face, arms and legs.

    And after chicken pox, you always have to worry about shingles, because the virus lies dormant in your nerve cells for years. My mom got shingles about 5 years ago when she was particularly stressed about my dad being in the hospital. Normally, shingles break out on your torso. However, they can appear on your face and head, which is what happened to my mom. If left untreated for too long, shingles in they eye can lead to blindness. My mom went to the doctor right away and got some Valtrex, so her vision was saved in the eye that the sores surrounded. However, that eye is still very sensitive to light.

    Chicken pox is not a minor childhood illness. Get your kids vaccinated.


  4. Something else about the varicella vaccine is that it’s starting to look like those who get the vaccine also have a less chance of getting Shingles later in life (shingles and chicken pox are caused by the same virus). Just another plus, since Shingles is so painful!

    They’re also using a similar variation of the varicella vaccine in certain older populations to try and prevent shingles.

    Yay vaccinations!


  5. Ah, vaccinations.

    My husband is an academic who did a lot of research on the Andrew Wakefield/MMR stuff. His primary interest is in the politics of it all – how this whole issue got to mothers and fathers and how they brought in as a public issue even though medically it was a moot point. He interviewed people on both sides. I spent five years with this issue.

    And now? I am doing a Masters in Public Health. Though my area of interest is not vaccinations, I have spent a lot of time looking at the epidemiology of it all. We are very pro-vaccination in this house. I do understand why parents would have hesitancy against it – I have watched friends struggle with the decision. But, in my mind, it is really important to protect against MMR and other serious illnesses if possible. And it scares me that in the UK, in particular, less and less people are immunizing their children. Ireland (where we live now) is also experiencing similar uptake issues. There could be some serious issues, and since the UK is the likely place we will settle down after our jaunt back to North America, I am particularly worried about this.

    As for the chickenpox vaccination – your thinking sounds right, Michele. My brother got the ‘pox late and it was a nightmare.


  6. I’m no expert and I haven’t done nearly as much research as Michele, but I have a few things to add. The chicken pox vaccine isn’t 100% effective against stopping the virus, BUT if your child does get chicken pox the case should be much less severe. That happened at our pre-school last year. Since most of the kids were vaccinated it also stopped the outbreak from spreading. Also, there is a vaccine for shingles that is now recommended for people over 60 (or 50, can’t remember.) It’s worth asking parents & grandparents if they’ve gotten the vaccination. Even after the outbreak is over shingles can cause pain for the rest of your life, and I hear it can be worse the older you get. The Hep A vaccine is fairly new. My 6 year old was offered it this year since it wasn’t around when he was little. Kids in other parts of the world often develop natural immunity, but since our food & water is USUALLY so clean in the US the vaccine was developed. I know a child involved in the trial for Hep A and my doctor told me they found absolutely no side effects, but like Michele said you can always check it out yourself.


  7. This is why I love you fine folks. You have convinced me to get him started on HepA and Chickenpox at his next visit.

    I had the chickenpox and still have a scar to show for it. But thankfully it’s below the belt.

    That’s all I’ll say about that. ;]


  8. i totally support your decisions and i 100% agree with you. in fact, we are playing a bit of catch up as well. we’ve put off his hep B until 24 months. of course, it means more trips, and more aggressive organzation and research on the parents’ part. but i signed on for that the day i got pregnant, right?! :) i swear, us mothers should get an honorable medical degree in some areas … like a MOMMD … i’m still working on the credential…!


  9. There is a great episode of This American Life called ‘Ruining It for the Rest of Us’ where they discuss what happens during an outbreak of measles in Southern California. You can listen to it online here:


  10. MJ: I was going to link to that here as well but didn’t because I linked to it about a month ago. Man, I loved that episode. I do hope folks take the time to listen. Never thought an outbreak of the measles could be so funny!


  11. My mother purposefully exposed all of us to chicken pox before we attended school (seriously, she took us to a sick friend’s house.) I think I was sick for about 3 days. A little less of a controlled vaccination type experiment, but it protected us as adults! I will def. get the pox vaccine for my 10 month old.

    And I shuddered at that This American Life. It is really hard to hear about sick little boys, now that I have one of my own. (Well, not sick usually, but 100% little boy!)


  12. I didn’t plan to have my son immunized for chicken pox, and mentioned it to his doctor. He told me that 3 or 4 out of every hundred children who get chicken pox are hospitalized with complications. So, it is not an entirely low-risk childhood disease. Not very high risk, but still. So my son got the immunization and I was very glad that he had, because 3 months later, it swept through his daycare and every child who had not been immunized came down with it.
    He didn’t have the influenza shot, as I am not sure I believe in the validity of that one, but he has had every other recommended shot, and now is finished until he starts school. (He’s 2 1/2 years old). I don’t regret any, and also feel very strongly that parents should immunize their children.
    I was born in the seventies, and I only had one MMR shot (as was normal at that time), and it didn’t work. I have had both red measles and german measles. I need to get a second Mumps shot, as I have most likely have no immunity to Mumps, and there has been an outbreak in a nearby city, within a religious community who does not support immunizations.


  13. I am dialing the doctor as we speak.

    BTW my mother tells me that all young girls were taken to the house of anyone who came down with the german measles because of what it can do to an unborn fetus. That idea of getting you exposed to the chickenpox has been around a while! Also, isn’t that precisely what a vaccine is about? If we think about it that way, it makes a whole bunch more sense, right?


  14. I’m not going to be adding anything new except that I had the chickenpox as a young child and it was a very mild case, but when I got a little older I got shingles. It’s not like chickenpox…it’s very painful and I had to take vicodin for the pain. Our boys are about the same age and I put mine on the recommended aggressive vaccination schedule. Although he has never suffered any side effects, it was upsetting sometimes watching him get two shots in each of his legs. He was fine 5 minutes later, but I wasn’t. I tend to think that an informed decision is always a good decision whether I agree with it or not, and even though I DO agree with you in this instance, it’s commendable that you took time to learn the hell out of the subject before making a “mommy decision.” You go girl.


  15. I had my 18-month-old son vaccinated against chicken pox. He had no ill effects. A friend of mine warned me that her daughter broke out with spots after the vaccine but it was far milder than a regular case of chicken pox. I think he had

    I really admire you for the research you’ve done. And kudos to you for working with your doctor to develop a schedule that works for you.


  16. I didn’t do THAT much research. I should probably clear that up. Just, like, a B- or C+ amount of work.

    I had no idea there was a HepA vaccine until today for example. And up until recently, I had no idea the Vericella mean chickenpox.

    After the first several shots, I just got lazy because I realized he was going to A OK. :]


  17. Re: Thimerosal in flu shots. You can ask your doctor for a version of the vaccine that is considered free of the preservative (or only has trace amounts – see the cdc here: It is the version they give to nursing and pregnant women.

    Like all vaccinations, it is a personal decision, but getting this version substantially lowers the amount of/or eliminates thimerosal if that is the concern. I was of the same mindset to not get my infant vaccinated, but then my pediatrician explained why he got his babies vaccinated—basically he’s seen too many young children end up in the ER with serious complications. And though they may still get the flu, the shot reduces the severity, even in strains of the flu not covered by the year’s shot – apparently they all provide cross-protection to some degree.

    Also they just started recommending the flu shot for all of the reasons above to a broader age spectrum in children, because of more research showing the benefits.


  18. What a well researched post! One of my last classes in college was an engineering class focusing on technology we covered medical technology and vaccinations in depth. Reading up on some of these diseases convinced me well before I had kids to vaccinate them. Plus we live less than an hour from the Mexican border so I think it is especially practical in our situation.

    I do find some irony about the conversation you overheard. Funny how we worry about things.


  19. I was told that it is actually illegal to give an infant under the age of 2 a flu shot containing thimerosal. But I live in San Francisco so who knows if “illegal” is a bit of a stretch.
    My son is 9 months old and we too have spaced out his vaccines, similarly to yours although slightly different. We just got a new pediatrician who wasn’t very happy about it and said “we’ll talk about it” at his 12 month check up. I was like, yeah we can talk but I haven’t changed my mind! I refuse to give my son more than 2 shots at a time. I’ll just have to stand my ground I guess.


  20. What a thoughtful post! I spaced out vaccinations for my 18 month old as well. My sister is a physician and talking with her cnovinced me that vaccinations are a total publich health need but that too many too close together can be too rough an immunological (sp?) load for a little tyke. So, we have everything we need, just a little further apart than the normal schedule.

    I think we are lucky, lucky, lucky to live in a country where we have access to preventative medicine. I think of all the poor children in the world who don’t and can’t understand why parents deny their kids this chance at health. I know people will disagree, but I can’t wrap my brain around it.


  21. I found this entire post (and the comments so far) really helpful. I wouldn’t have thought about pushing for spacing out the vaccinations and it’s perfectly reasonable to just want to be educated about what you’re doing for your child.

    I don’t have any kids yet, but I still bookmarked this entry as reference for myself and friends. :)


  22. Helpful post. I grew up hearing about chickenpox “parties”. hey, why not call it a party? a bunch of kids get together and play/get infected by the known Chicken pox kid, haha. at least make it sound fun. But you made a good point about the vaccine making it less likely to find a naturually infected pox kid in the first place, so the parties will be harder to count on.

    i have a lot of friends who have decided not to vaccinate (and i respect their choice). but i have not ever felt i would go that way for two reasons. I work in an HIV clinic so am quite surrounded by hep b, hep c (no vaccine), shingles, flu, etc. although the flu vaccine is recommended, i have never gotten it (i am not convinced that last year’s strain is effective on this year’s virus). but we are not even allowed to work in health care setting here without hep b vaccine since the risk of transmission is so high (exposure to fluids) but the efficacity of vaccine is high, 100% after 3 shots if your titres are high. so problem solved for adults. i know people are worried about hep b vaccine for kids and babies, which i understand. the flip side is that hep b infection in an adult is much less likely to have serious effects (i think it is 10%?) than hep b in an small child (about 90% have long term consequences if they are infected by hep b). as a result the vaccination is becoming standard for babies because hep b is considered dangerous but completely preventable. hep b and hep a vaccine are often given together in joint vaccine to immune suppressed people or travellers 9eg. twinrex). also, newborn babies who are born here to parents from a Hep B endemic country (the list is long) are usually vaccinated before even leaving hospital. the theory goes that there is higher likelihood of having family or friends (from a Hep B endemic country) who may be infected with Hep B and not realize it, come visit the baby and put them at risk through close contact. also, it is much harder to teach small children universal precautions as they touch everything and try to put everything in their mouths. so better that child is protected as soon as they will be exposed to visiting family members. in our case, this was west africa and brasil. we also will travel to both places so we definitely wanted the vaccine. but i baulked at doing so early when my little one was just 1 day old. we asked to delay it just until he was 2 months, time enough for us to make sure he was otherwise healthy. fine with our (well informed) family doctor but others thought our delay was putting our child at risk. uh, let US make our own informed decisions. the travel thing is also the reason why we feel fine with vaccinations for polio, meningitis, MMR, etc, since so many of these illnesses are (sadly) very real and very present in the places where we shall visit family. but who-eeee, are vaccinations etc for our babies a thought-provoking topic! (even more so than vaccinations for ourselves).


  23. oops. just realize how long and lecturely my post was. sorry!


  24. Our next shot is MMR & it does make me nervous. Doc said thimerosal is no longer included in the vaccines in WA.


  25. We’ve done all the vaccines the doctor recommended. However, 2 weeks ago when I was gathering all of my 5yo’s shot info for kindergarten registration, I noticed that he hadn’t gotten the second Chickenpox vaccine. Less than a week later, he got Shingles. Guess he doesn’t need that second shot now.


  26. We deliberately held back on the vaccinations for both kids. Reading what I could I felt that they are definitely a good thing but with the variations in side-effects and since both of our kids are super-sensitive we thought it might be easier on them (and us) to wait till they were a bit older than the recommended ages. I think that if they were in a day care situation we probably would have followed the schedule more closely but being at home didn’t seem to pose as much of a risk.

    Anyway, we’re glad we did. Theya had very little side-effects and Lochren just got his first batch so we’ll see what happens but I’m sure he’ll be fine.

    I took some issue with the nurse we had at the clinic the other night, though. She was quite pushy and assuming when it came to planning Lochren schedule. We are obviously the kind to space them out more (hello? first shots at 14 months!? -partly due to several postponements) but she had 5 syringes out and ready to load without really asking us what we wanted, she didn’t even give us a chance. I interrupted her stream of “This is what we’re doing,”s to let her know that, “No, THIS is what we’re doing.” We agreed to 3 injections. 3 is plenty enough for his first visit. We live 2 blocks from the clinic so going back isn’t a problem.

    Anyhoo, my point is that I find it’s sometimes hard to express to the professionals administering the vaccinations that we want to take it easy (had similar issues with Theya’s visits). I can understand that this is their job and they feel very strongly about what they do and that it’s for the greater good (we agree!) BUT we’re the parents, I’d like them to let us make our informed decisions, we’re the ones who will deal with side-effects. We’re THERE. Obviously we want the vaccinations.


  27. Hey there! I wanted to weigh in…I’ve never questioned getting vaccines for my kiddos. Of course, my oldest is 12 (going on 13), and back then, there really wasn’t any negative info in regard to vaccinations. One that wasn’t available back then was the varicella vaccine. Miss B got chicken pox when she was 5 months old – scary – super scary – ER visit and everything. She came through fairly unscathed. However, when she was 2, she came down with shingles…and is susceptible to that for the rest of her life. Shingles was more horrifying than the pox could ever be. She had open gaping wounds on her poor little orange head and there was nothing we could do for her. It passed and we just stayed far away from any pox exposure during her elementary school life. Baby D was the first of my babies to be able to take the pox vaccine. I questioned it at the time…the necessity…but, in Texas, kids are required to have either had the disease or have been vaccinated prior to entering kindergarten, so I let that one fly. He didn’t have any problems with it. By the time Little E came around, it had been here for some time, so I didn’t even question it. The only vaccine I have denied has been the flu vaccine, and that was merely a personal choice. My stepdad contracted Guillan-Baree Syndrome after receiving a flu vaccine and almost died, because the virus is not well known by medical professionals and they didn’t know what was wrong with him when he went to the ER (3 times). He spent 2 years completely paralyzed and is now recovered (half way), but can never work again due to the severity of the virus and how it destroyed his nervous system. So, seeing how the flu shot affected our family, I’m not too keen on voluntarily exposing any of us to it. I mean, I survived the flu as a child, so I figure my kids will make it through it too. The other vaccines…my thoughts were that I made it, my oldest made it…not very intelligent, I guess…but we’re all here and okay. Anyway, sorry for the long comment…


  28. thank you for posting this…my husband and I know we want to space out the vaccinations for our 10 day-old but weren’t sure how to do it.

    just an fyi, parents can actually refuse the Hep B vaccine in the hospital – we did. At our 6 day wellness check, the pediatrician had no problem with us waiting to give the hep b vaccine until 2 months even though that goes against the grain at most hospitals/peds.

    but anyway, thanks again for sharing this.


  29. At our school, the chicken pox vaccine is required before the kids enter school.

    Although, I know, I know… you can get into school without the vaccines.

    I work with autistic kids. I didn’t know about the link between autism and vaccines 12 years ago, when my oldest was born. When I look back, I can’t believe how many shots he got at once.

    I told my sister in law.. if I had to do it again, I would vaccinate, for sure, but space them out. It makes so much sense to me. I think you’re doing great! :)


  30. Dear Michele:

    Someone sent me this link. I thought it would make you laugh.



  31. Just wanted to let you know, we had my daughter’s 18 month check up (even though she was already 19 months) and her Hep A shot was given and is her last one UNTIL SHE IS 5. (Except for that one in shortage) That at least, is a really good thing. I didn’t research for her, just went with the schedule, but I will definitely research more next time around (due 9/2 so I got 6 months).

    Thanks for sharing your schedule.


  32. Michelle, and others, you may be interested in taking a look at the Sears Vaccine Book if you haven’t already – speaking of well researched, I found it fairly dense reading and I have a science background (although I also have postpartum mind, so, perhaps that should be taken with a grain of salt).

    We decided to vaccinate on the Sears schedule which is basically the full schedule, but spaced out, no more than two vaccines at a time, with only one of them containing aluminum. Just a few days ago our baby girl got her first dtap shot, which was probably worse for me than it was for her.


  33. Well, this is mainly informational rather than opinion. (Came over from dooce by the way.)

    My son got chicken pox in kindergarten last year, but the outbreak actually started in the first grade…The problem is that the infected person is contagious before and after the pox so it spreads so inadvertently.

    So then my four year old got it, but very mildly. And my 18 mo. old did not get it. This is why, I think: The proximity of their vaccination. The baby had one 6 month earlier, and the 4 had the booster around the same time. My kinder had both the vaccine, and the booster, and caught it at school and not even from close contact! But it had been 18 months. The other kids who caught it had mostly had the vaccine too.

    Anyway, I now advise people to get it, but not be surprised if their kiddos still come down with it! It seems to be consensus though that at least it makes the case lighter.

    But my experience agrees with others in that they were both mild cases, I think because of the vaccine.


  34. My eldest had an average case of chicken pox when he was 2 (in 1993 – pre vaccine) and has already had a case of shingles. He has never received a vaccine or booster. My second son was a newborn during my eldest’s bout of chicken pox (fun times!) and he did receive the vaccine and a booster shot. He turns fourteen next week. He JUST got over a pretty severe case of chicken pox – in spite of the vaccine and the booster. My third son (10 years old) developed a case of chicken pox after each vaccination/booster. My fourth child (daughter this time! and 4 years old) also received both the initial vaccine and booster; however she is ALSO recovering from chicken pox. Luckily her case was very mild.

    I can’t say whether or not getting the chicken pox vaccine absolutely made a difference considering they both received the vaccine and booster and had such different experiences. My daughters lesions did not seem to transform through all the stages. By comparison, my son’s lesions took 7-10 days to blister, pop and crust over, while my daughter’s took 4 days.

    All in all, after seeing the agony my son went through, I would put all of my children through the vaccine and the booster again in the hope that it would prevent / at least minimize the effects.


  35. I worked in doctor’s offices for over 10 years and I wish more patients realized they have a voice in their (and their children’s) care. Kuddos to you for doing the research, protecting your family and working with the medical advances.
    No one in my family has autism, no one has allergies, we have a girl (boys seem to be more succeptable) so we went with the basic schedule with two changes. We waited for Hep B until she was 5 years old and we waited on Varicella until she was 5 years old. Even with those minor changes, I’m glad we did it.


  36. Actually, you won’t fall behind schedule if you space out your child’s vaccines. We spaced out our second’s shots after a frightening recation to the pertussis vaccine and he’s right on schedule. Just means you need to make more trips to the doctor’s office but that’s not a big deal to ensure your child’s health. By 18 months he had all of the shots he was supposed to have…he just had them one at a time vs. seven at once. It is the perfect solution for some folks. And definitely make sure you have a doctor that doesn’t give you a hard time. Like you, our poor children’s doctor sighed every time I was in the office grilling him about vaccines and bringing him articles! LOL! However, he was completely open and understanding about us spacing out the vaccines and had zero objection to it…we love him! :-)


  37. Came across your site via Dooce. My husband and I are planning on having children next year, so thank you for getting me started on my research.

    Also, thank you for reiterating that people have the option of finding a new pedi. People often assume that what their doctor tells them is what’s best for their children.

    As long as the parents are educated and have done their own research, they should make the calls.

    Thanks again.


  38. Found you via Dooce and wanted to thank you for the time and effort you put in here. Sorry this is long but it’s pertinent and shows how I came to change from complete opposition to vaccines to thinking perhaps we (our family, not everyone’s) should:

    5 weeks ago I was admitted to the emergency room ICU because of something that the HIB vaccine apparently prevents. Four days earlier, I had developed a sore throat that became worse every day. Then one day I woke up feeling like I couldn’t breathe – as if a mushroom were slowly growing in my throat. The first 2 emergency rooms I went to told me it was probably strep throat, took a culture and sent me home with oral antibiotics and pain killers. Because I was dizzy and it was becoming more and more difficult to breathe, I had a friend drive me to one last emergency room where they diagnosed me with Eppiglotitis.

    HIB is a flu virus that can cause swelling of the epiglottis (the flap of skin that keeps food and air going in their appropriate places down your throat). In children, there’s a high chance of fatality because their airways are so small that even a little swelling shuts off their air passage. And especially in small children, the use of a tongue depressor can trigger a muscle spasm that closes off the airway immediately. Also, babies can’t tell you that they can’t breathe. If they’re able to sit up, they sit forward as if sniffing the air and they drool because they can no longer swallow their own saliva, but if you don’t know to look for that, it can become very serious in a matter of minutes.

    The reason I had to go to 3 different emergency rooms is because this condition is so rare today that they rarely ever see it. The reason it’s so rare is exactly as you said: most babies get the hepb vaccine before they ever leave the hospital.

    10 years ago, I was engaged to a chiropractor whose mother was a homeopathic physician. They each had many years of experience and were smart, careful, analytical people. They were adamantly against vaccinations. We broke up and 7 years ago, I met my husband, a scientist at Yale Med School ,and we started trying to have kids right away. When the discussion of vaccines came up, I told him I was against them and gave him all the reasons I had learned from the homeopathic physicians I had known and loved and believed in.

    He took the time to walk me through all the studies that have been done in the past 10 years on the relationship between vaccines and autism and in the end, I could see clearly that no relation between the two has ever been found, proven, shown or even came close.

    Still, in my gut, I was unconvinced. I’ve read so many stories that seemed to indicate that there was indeed some relation between the two. Just because science hasn’t been able to find that connection, didn’t convince me.

    We’ve since spent nearly a quarter million dollars on IVF, egg donors and a surrogate to finally reach a point where we might have a child in our future. And I’m TERRIFIED that I’ll lose him or her due to something like this.

    However, when I weigh what just happened to me against the vaccines, I’m convinced that for our baby, the HIB vaccine is a must – especially because I may be carrying some form of the virus now that could infect a new born. And if this one seemingly small thing could have killed my baby – or anyone else’s, I don’t know how I’d live with myself. What if I had come across a child who hadn’t been vaccinated in those 4 days I was walking around like a time bomb?

    I can’t say that I believe everyone should be forced to vaccinate their children. But I can say that I’ve gone from being adamantly opposed to cautiously optimistic that I’ll be doing more good than harm in vaccinating my child. And I never thought I’d ever say those words…


  39. My pediatrician’s office chooses to follow a modified schedule themselves. Their reasoning is that if a child has a serious reaction (allergy or side effect), they want to be able to easily identify which vaccine caused the reaction. So they don’t start vaccines until 2 months, and they never give more than 2 vaccines per visit.

    As for the flu shot, you can request a thimerosol-free version for your son. They may have to order it for you, and you may have to pay for it yourself (depending on your insurance), but it is available.


  40. It’s a relief to see other moms who have struggled with the same vaccination issues. I, too, am a type-A mom when it comes to anything that affects my son. In the end I decided to follow a delayed vaccination schedule – it was the only decision I could live with. It has worked out extremely well. My rule is no more than 2 vaccinations/visit. Our pediatrician said we could wait until his 2yr checkup for the MMR (he is 18 mos). I am dreading it, but the more time that passes, the less scary it becomes.


  41. So THAT’S why my daughter developed a weird rash/bumps on her face and torso! I hadn’t made the connection between that and the MMR shot she’s had because it was a week before! Thanks for sharing that part about your child’s reaction.

    I have actually done a lot of research on vaccination and worked with my ped to have a modified schedule within their parameters. My ped is very pro-vac, but I found that when I made an appointment to talk to her about it specifically, discussed it all intelligently and assured her that I wanted vaccines but to think them all through and make decisions with her opinions considered as well as MINE, she was very reasonable about it all. I preferred to space them out and see my daughter’s reactions to each shot (I’m surprised at myself for not catching the rash connection!). I would have liked to seperate the MMR shots (into an M, an M and an R), but apparently the manufacturers stopped making the seperate shots.

    On the Hep B: My understanding is that they do it in the hospital because of the chance that the mother is unknowning carrying the virus and it can be passed to the baby during birth. Having been tested for Hep B (standard part of fertility testing), I know for sure I don’t have it therefore will not get that shot in the hospital with my baby that’s due in June. In fact, the likelyhood that my children will be exposed to it is pretty low, so I will wait at least a few years before them getting it.

    Hep A: My understanding here is that whether or not someone is likely to need the shot (be exposed to the virus) is based on location. Some areas of the US have high exposure rates, while in other areas (like my area) it is practically non-existent. My very pro-vac doctor is fine with my kids not getting it.

    Chicken pox vac: My personal plan for this is to wait until my children are going into kindergarden before getting the vaccine. If they get it prior, then they will have natural immunity. If they don’t get it, I’ll get them the vaccine. If I can expose them to it at a reasonable age prior to kinder, I’ll do it. I had thought I read that kids who get the vaccine are more likely to develop shingles earlier (like teens) than those with natural immunity. Recently, I’ve heard that it’s less likely for them to get shingles at all if they have been vaccinated. I’m guessing new research came out (based on kids who get the booster shot) since I investigated this and I’ll have to go research it some more.

    Thanks for your perspective on this! I appreciate you talking about it in such a reasonable manner and discussing your thoughts behind your decisions.


  42. Give/get the chicken pox vaccine! I am actually one of the five percent or so of people who got chicken pox twice: once as a child and once as an adult when my husband had shingles. I was sick for a month and missed three weeks of work. It was awful. AWFUL. I cannot stress that point enough. It was much, much worse than when I was a child. I’ve since recommended to adults I know who haven’t had chicken pox to get the vaccine.


  43. I want to share my personal experience with the chickenpox vaccine.

    I received this vaccine “by choice” during my second night of boot camp when I joined the Navy in 1997 at the age of 18. With nothing but personal observation and memory of the consent forms and speech given by the drill sergeants, human testing on new GIs is the last phase prior to FDA approval for the general public.

    Granted, I was not a child nor an infant, but I didn’t have any negative experiences. I don’t know anyone who did.
    Years later, I’ve had it given to both of my sons and they both received the vaccine without incident. I actually felt proud and relieved to know what a risk I had taken in order to protect my children.

    Anthrax, on the other hand…


  44. Dooce linked this article, and I must say that as a nurse, I’m very appreciative of the thought and research you’ve put into your child’s healthcare. I believe in vaccines wholeheartedly. I also believe that immunology is a complex and highly individualized subject and forcing everyone into the aggressive schedule might predispose people to reactions. I’ve met four individuals whose children developed autism like symptoms after the MMR vaccine.

    I think the diseases are scarier than the side effects of these vaccines and, unless an allergy to the ingredients precludes it, that all children should be vaccinated. I do, however, question the wisdom of slamming new babies with so many vaccines at one time-especially since their immune systems are still developing. Spacing vaccines seems the most intelligent compromise we have right now.

    If you do give the chicken pox vaccine, I would suggest having a titer drawn periodically. As far as I am aware, no one really sure how long the vaccine is effective since it is fairly new.


  45. I have three children – 6, 5 and 2. I spaced vaccinations for all of them, and the health nurses did not like that one bit. The thing that really gets me is the difference in the amount of vaccinations that were given to my six year old when he was a baby vs. my two year old now. I still have issues with the amount of vaccines that are given by the time the kids are 18 months old. My two year old hasn’t got her 12 month shots yet – but she will. Loved this post – thanks for sharing.


  46. Everyone who has chimed in about shingles is right on the mark. I’m a pediatric nurse, and one of the main reasons for giving the chicken pox (varicella) vaccine (aside from preventing the itching, fever, and days of missed school) is because the varicella virus can hang out (dormant) in a nerve ganglion for years, then reactivate at any point in the future and cause (incredibly painful) shingles. Those who receive the vaccine will not only avoid chicken pox, but shingles as well. (Contrary to popular belief, shingles is not just an ‘old person’ disease — in our practice, we saw a 12-year-old girl with it last week.) Those who catch the chicken pox will be protected from ever getting it again, yes — but they will run the risk of possibly developing shingles at some point as an older child or adult.


  47. I just wanted to mention that they have found that Chicken Pox sometimes acts as a “trigger” that can activate the Juvenile Diabetes gene or whatever it is. This is just beginning research that they have been doing and it is in no way medical fact!!!! I am just a mom but I do have a brother with Juvenile Diabetes and I would do anything to prevent this in my kids. So I definitely vaccinated both of my kids (and by the way one is autistic.) I really think its way too simplistic to say that a shot gave made my son autistic. This is a terribly complex condition and we can’t just look in one place for “the answer”.


  48. The only thing I would add is that while I am totally pro vaccine I think that the Hep B vaccine for small children is rather silly. The idea behind it is to make the child safe from Hep B that can be caught by risky behavior typically engaged in by children when they hit their teens, sex, needles and such. There’s a very real possibility that the the vaccine will not be effective that much later in life.

    It makes far more sense to me to require it before the child enters the 6th grade. That way the immunity is given a bit closer to the time that kids start to actually experimenting with sex and drugs…


  49. Wow, okay, I am going to give you guys my story now… and hopefully it’ll show the other side.

    When I was pregnant, I did all the same research, and made a decision based on the fact that our child would never be in a daycare setting. That decision was that we would wait until age 2 to start vaccinating, and then give no more than one shot per month. Period. I got the pediatrician to agree with me.

    Our son was perfect and developed completely normally until 2 ½, (right about the time we had the first MMR) when he sort of slowed down. He was still breastfeeding, tho, and we didn’t really notice the slow down (my parents apparently did, tho, but chose to not tell us). He was speaking in full sentences, and interacting appropriately, etc. We continued our schedule of shots, and I ended up weaning him the month before he turned 3 (Jan of 08). Over the course of a month, he had the stress of starting preschool, and getting a horrible virus (eventually diagnosed as the flu). After the virus, his speech disintegrated. We got the child find people involved, and the doctors… got him an IEP, pulled him out of preschool., did a hearing test, MRI, CT Scan, had him evaluated for and got started with speech and occupational therapies, had an EEG, had another virus and a second regression in November, and finally this January a pediatric neurologist told us “this is autistic regression syndrome” and it’s the result of a latent virus living in his language cortex. (Which is what we’d suspected, especially after the second virus / regression). So we landed with an MD who specializes in biomedical treatment for autism, AND started the ball rolling for more specific therapy both privately and through the school. When I told the autism specialist that we’d delayed shots until he was 2 and spaced them out, the man shook my hand and told me that we’d saved him from much earlier regressions.

    So. We’re making progress with the biomedical – learned a LOT, had a lot of tests… tweaked diet and vitamin supplements…. And the therapies are starting to show some improvements. In retrospect I wonder if being breastfed until January somehow helped his immune system fight a reaction from a virus that took residence in the language cortex of his brain (which was confirmed as measles via titer levels that were much too high to have been from a single vaccine). Whether that virus was actually a wild measles virus he was somehow exposed to or a somehow flawed vaccine, we will never know, nor do I need to know.

    I’m glad we waiting to vaccinate because we KNOW he had a distinct regression, not a developmental delay and we know that he as a traumatic brain injury with a specific cause – a virus – not a fuzzy, nothing-you-can-do-about-it autism diagnosis that insurance won’t pay for.

    What are we going to do about the rest of his shots – right now nothing. I need to get his body back in balance before we consider anything else. We’ll get titers drawn for immunity, and then decide. What I had originally decided on the chicken pox was that if he didn’t catch them on his own by age 10, we’d get the shot. I may go with the same philosophy for mumps and rubella if he doesn’t have high enough titers. The rest of them, I just don’t know.


  50. Thank you for the wonderful article. I too spaced out my son’s vaccinations…I have made the choice to not give him the Hep A shot as I think it is something we (in MN) are not overly exposed too and I am strongly opposed to the reasoning behind receiving the shot (at least how i have seen it presented). Chicken pox is another we are waiting on. If he gets them, fine, if not we will vaccinate him prior to Kindegarten. And flu shots are not something any of our family is getting!

    Thank you for the wonderful insight, its nice to know there are other people who are pro-vac but are willing to think about different aspects of all those shots!


  51. Great post. I appauld you for the thoughtful approach. There are flu vaccines that are thermersol free and I’d encourage you to look into them. Thousands of people die from the flu each year, including infants and children. A good friend had a perfectly healthy, full term, infant who caught the flu and died within 24 hours, her other children had been vaccinated and never got sick. The pain that this family felt was unbelievable. When the child is older Flu-Mist, a nasal vaccine, is also available.


  52. I appreciate your article and have found it to be incredibly informative. My daughter received the normal vaccination schedule but I may consider slightly spreading it out for my next child.
    The one point where I disagree is the US making it mandatory. I’m grateful it’s mandatory to be vaccinated in order to participate in public school or many camps. It helps to protect my child. It’s like the seat belt law, if you don’t want to protect yourself (or your child) then the gov’t has to make it mandatory in order to protect the rest of us. That way, should you and I get in accident, you are protected and I haven’t taken a life.
    Thank you again for your post.


  53. Just wanted to respond to those who are talking about HepA — you can actually catch the disease from restaurant food (depending on the hygiene of the food handlers). Just thought that might be of interest… because who doesn’t eat the occasional restaurant meal?

    (Wow, that reminds me — though I vaccinate multiple kids with HepA every day, I actually haven’t had the shot myself! I’m too old for it to have been included in my recommended schedule when I was a kid. Better write that down for the next time I visit the doctor…)


  54. I think the chickenpox vaccine may be required to enter school now, at least in my state. My daughter had not yet had it, we had just procrastinated, and they wouldn’t let her start kindergarten this year until I had a note from the doc stating she’d received it.
    I had been on the fence when she was three and her doctor then told me he thought it would be required by the time she entered school, looks like he was right.


  55. I was back and forth on deciding whether to have my sons vaccinated against chicken pox also. Then, my grandmother developed shingles, which caused by the chicken pox virus. She never had chicken pox, and is over 90 years old, and is sharp as a tack and bowls better than I do. The illness was a traumatic, painful experience for her until she recuperated. I hope – nay, expect – that my sons will have a long life and decided I needed to get them vaccinated so that they would not have to deal with the illness as nonagenarians.

    Kudos to you and your doctor for developing a vaccine schedule that works for you. I also spread out the vaccines and avoided doubling up and it worked well for us too.


  56. I enjoyed reading all the posts and deciding on vaccinations is still scary. My son will be 1 next month and I don’t know if I should delay them all together or try spacing them out. Currently he is at home mostly with me and I don’t see the need for varicella or MMR at this time. I will say that I was raised by a holistic mother and my siblings and I were never vaccinated. I received a few vaccinations as an adult working in medicine and prior to a school program. This is what makes the decision a hard one. I was never sick a day in my life with any disease or any child hood illness from basic to extreme. I did have the chicken pox and I recall it was mild about the age of 9 10. I can’t say however if it was the vaccinated population around me that kept me safe. The argument goes both ways. I discussed spacing out the vaccinations with my pediatrician and he sort of rolled his eyes and went on about a prior patient who didn’t want any vaccinations and said to her “why did you come to me”. The only thing I can think to do is space them out and have more visits. I agree with the above poster who said spacing them out helps to identify the one that gave the bad reaction. Autism is real and scary and there has to be a correlation somewhere with the vaccinations. Especially when children go from being normal and bright to the opposite.


  57. “Autism is real and scary and there has to be a correlation somewhere with the vaccinations.”

    Except, of course, that there’s not. At all.

    Motherlove combined with irrationality is a scary, dangerous thing.


  58. Hi! I am a reluctant vaccinator. I think my son and I have strange immune systems or something. We’re relatively healthly and rarely have colds/flu. However, when I was 12, I had measles even though I was fully vaccinated. I was the first case in our county. My son had chicken pox even though he had received the vaccination. His case was rather mild, but he did give the disease to my poor hubby. One thing that you can do if you catch “the pox” as an adult is take the antiviral. My hubby was very sick initially, but felt much better a day or two after starting the medication. He has no scars or other side-effects. I do the minimally required and I will NEVER take the flu shot as they are not so effective.


  59. I found you through dooce and find you hilarious. I started reading your blog today and was so impressed with all the information on vaccines. I am pro-vaccines but not with the original schedule.

    I just wanted to commend you for all the work you put into your posts! Awesomness. :)


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