To Vaccinate or Not?

As I was watching the news yesterday on how the flu started early this year, I was thinking a lot about vaccines.  The CDC and most medical professionals recommend that we get all our vaccines and that we get a flu shot every year.  I choose not to.  Not for myself and not for my kids.  My husband doesn't have a choice, the Marine Corps owns him, but the rest of the family manages without them and here is why.

Pro-Vaccine vs Anti-Vaccine
I am not anti-vaccine. I am anti-too-many vaccines.  I have read the literature from both the pro-vaccine camp and the anti-vaccine camp.  At the end of it, I wanted to throw my hands up in the air.  I was more confused and no closer to feeling 100% of which way I wanted to go.  Yet, I get it.  I sympathize with both sides.  In the end, I believe it is a very personal choice and it is up to the parents and each individual person whether they want to or not.  I am, however, against any one side being forced to do something they fundamentally believe is not right for them.

My Turning Point
In general, I appreciate the theory behind vaccines and what they try to do.  In practice, I am concerned about the ingredients that they add to the vaccines.  I will never forget about 3 years ago during my daughter's routine wellness visit, the pediatrician said something to the effect of,  "You can't get the flu shot here. If I remember correctly, they had to stop giving it because a lot of children had febrile seizures due to the vaccine.  However, if you go to CVS, you can get it and you don't have to worry about the side effects because they are using a different type."  Our medical center had gotten a bad batch so they had to seize providing the vaccine.  The analytical side of me went, "whoa!"  Febrile seizures may not typically be harmful, but how does a vaccine make it to the market that causes enough concern for a military medical center to stop giving the flu shot out?  That rocked my confidence in the ability of the forces at work to make sure vaccines are safe.  Never mind the countless stories of people who claim their kids had very negative and harmful reactions to the vaccines.

Deciding to Take an Alternative Route
That was the turning point for me.  No child of mine is going to be a guinea pig.   I think vaccines can be useful (and have saved many lives), but as with anything, overuse can be harmful.  Kids today get a lot more vaccines than we did when we were children and the American vaccine schedule is more rigorous than many other developed countries and yet with no apparent added benefit (in fact, US mortality rate for children under 5 years is still higher than these other countries-Sources:  World Health Organization and World Bank).  I also don't think we know enough about the long term effect of vaccines.  There are studies and statistics on the immediate effects, but not much on the effects several years down the road.  Therefore, for my family, I get what is absolutely necessary and nothing more.  I have also worked with my pediatrician to come up with an alternative schedule for my baby girl Lia.  I firmly believe these kids get too many vaccines in one visit and there doesn't seem to be an underlying medical reason to do so -- other than for convenience sake.

My Experience with My Oldest Child
With my six-year-old, I didn't know of the potential harm of vaccines so I just went with the flow.  I remember how fussy she would get, and how her demeanor would change every time we would go in and get the vaccine. With this alternate schedule, my youngest seems to be responding great.  Yes, she is a different child than her older sister and it may just be that her body reacts differently.  However, there are no fevers and there is no fussiness.  Aside, from the immediate cry after getting the vaccine, she is just as happy after the vaccine as she was before.

If You Want to Vaccinate Your Kids, but Are a Little Concerned, Here are My Tips:
1. Work with your pediatrician to come up with an alternative schedule. If your doctor is not willing to work with you, find another doctor.
2. Instead of getting the booster shots, you can request blood tests to test immunity.  I did this for my oldest daughter instead of getting the MMR booster.  The blood test said she was immune and so it became unnecessary for her to have the booster shot.
3. Watch your child's reaction to any vaccine and trust your gut.  Nobody knows your child like you do. If something doesn't seem right, tell your doctor.  If they dismiss it, get a second opinion.
4. Whether you vaccinate or not, keep your kids at home when they are sick!!  You put other people at risk, particularly infants and the elderly, if you are out and about.
5.  Pray.  Every time I go into the pediatricians office for their vaccines, I pray.  I pray for their health and I pray that God will keep them from any adverse effects.

My Vaccination Schedule
I had looked at Dr. Sears alternative schedule which seems to be the most popular one and it just didn't work for me.  That is why I worked with my doctor to come up with this one.  Here is the schedule up to 9 months in case it might be helpful.

Birth: None (I refused the HEP B#1)
3 Months: PREVNAR and HEP B#1
5 Months: PREVNAR and HEP B#2
7 Months: PREVNAR
9 Months: HEP B #3

Comments on the Flu
The flu can be dangerous for the elderly, people with weakened immune systems, and infants.  I choose not to get the flu vaccine, but I go out of my way to make sure my family gets what they need to have a strong immune system.  Both my children were breastfed. We eat lots of fruits and vegetables.  During flu season, flu-fighting foods are a staple in my household.  We did get the flu this season and we weathered it just fine  There was a lot of bed rest and liquids for everyone and thankfully my girls fever never went above 102 degrees.  Yet, I know that is not for everyone and for some families getting the flu vaccine may be the best choice for them.

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