Friday, February 4, 2011

10 Things I Wish the Mainstream Media Would Get Right About Parents Who Don't Vaccinate

Image credit stevendepolo on Flickr
If you are a parent who doesn't follow the recommended vaccine schedule, you have probably read the same articles I have (I don't mean the PubMed journals, which of course you have read.  I mean the ones in parenting magazines or newspapers).  You know the ones.  It is almost enough to make you suspect that they are all quoting from a really old article--circa 2004, perhaps?--because they all make these same 10 mistakes. 

1. Basic info/terminology. Virus vs bacteria. Antigen vs adjuvant.  Live virus.  When you talk about the pertussis virus or removing thimerosol from the MMR it is hard to take you seriously.

2. The autism angle.  Autism is a big concern for some parents.  I get that.  But contrary to popular opinion, it isn't the only or even primary concern of many parents.  Auto-immune issues in general, fetal tissue in vaccines and other things influence many of us as much or more than a fear of autism.

3. Herd immunity.  There is always the suggestion that non-vaxers are the ones who put others at risk by derailing herd immunity.  The truth is that herd immunity is largely a myth.  How many adults do you know that are fully up to date on all boosters?  Um, yeah.  Furthermore, not all diseases or vaccines are created equal (some are not even designed to prevent transmission, let alone the varying rates of efficacy) and while herd immunity might be plausible for a few, it isn't for most.   All the non-vaxers that I know are fully aware of this--one reason why we study MMWRs, and educate ourselves on the symptoms and treatment options for many VPDs.  We certainly don't rely on herd immunity in most cases. 

4. Remembering how bad the diseases are.  We are told with ineffable condescension that vaccines are a victim of their own success. If we could only remember a few decades ago...  Aside from the fact that hygiene, improved medical care, nutrition and other things are at least as responsible for declining rates of mortality, the perception has changed significantly. Nobody was scared I would die when I got chicken pox.  Even measles was not considered to be a big deal in most cases (and there is mounting evidence that we are trading a week of illness there for chronic allergies, asthma and other diseases).  Some diseases are very serious, but so are the vaccine reactions. 

5. Equality of diseases and vaccines.  All diseases and vaccines are not created equal.  My four month old is not at risk for Hep B or tetanus.  Pertussis scares me.  Mumps?  Not really.  The fact that my children are exclusively breastfed for a year, and continue to breastfeed after that affects my decision on Hib. I could go on and on.  The risks vary according to age, family history, geography and many other things.  Similarly, some vaccines are more reactive than others.  Some are very effective, others are not.

6. The obsession with thimerosol.   This still gets trotted out every time along with experts patiently explaining that thimerosol was removed from most vaccines years ago.  While it was more removed from some than others, thimerosol isn't the over-riding concern for most of us.  Aluminum, which is present in very dangerous amounts, concerns  me more.  There is a whole cocktail of nasty stuff in most vaccines (varies according to brand and type).

7.  Fear of antigen overload.  The same person talking about thimerosol sweetly pats us on the head as s/he explains that worries over too many vaccines at once are unfounded because the antigens are so weak. After all, we are exposed to far more bacteria or viruses at any given time than the ones injected in a vaccine.  Well, yeah. The problem is all the adjuvants.  The antigens are too weak to provoke an immune response on their own, so they are made into a threat with adjuvants like aluminum and other toxic substances.  Forget about the antigens.  Explain how levels that greatly exceed the FDA limits for toxic adjuvants aren't a problem.

8.  Environmental exposure.  You are exposed to these toxins in the environment, anyway.  Yes, we are, and while that isn't a good thing there, either, in most cases, our bodies' natural defense systems help excrete them.  Being injected into your muscle tissue bypasses a lot of that, and when you are talking about babies whose blood-brain barrier isn't developed, that is concerning.

9. Vaccine side effects are redness and soreness at the injection site and a fever.  In rare cases, anaphylaxis may result.  True. The implication is that fever isn't a big deal, and anaphylaxis is so rare that we shouldn't worry.  Fine. What about the other side effects?  Read the safety inserts, please.  There are many serious side effects, including respiratory illness, arthritis, paralysis, an assortment of auto-immune disorders, and more.

10.  Concerns about vaccines are based solely on the anecdotes of so and so who posted a story on vaccinesRthedevil.com.  Most of us started questioning because of reactions we saw in our own children.  But we didn't stop there. We spend countless hours poring over medical journals, researching the diseases, ingredients, the immune system, etc., learning all we can.  Some are immunologists, neuroscientists and other medical professionals. We are educated and informed about vaccines.  Talk to us. And if you are going to write about us, learn a little more first.

23 comments:

Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries said...

Greatest. Post. Ever. You took the words out of my mouth! I don't even know how to discuss vaccines with people who spout this stuff.

Stone Cottage Mama said...

What a wonderful post, thank you for sharing! I hope you don't mind, but will be sharing with my FB friends. Thank you!

dulce de leche said...

Thank you so much!

Rachel said...

I was browsing MDC and saw a thread with the title of this post. But when I clicked it, a mod had removed it :( So I googled the title and found this! Anyway, YES! I shared on facebook. I get so irritated when I hear people say stuff like "you know, that autism study was a hoax" and I'm like, "really? Huh. Well, I never included that study or anything related to it as part of my research or decision making process as to whether or not to vaccinate, so its irrelevant anyway. I don't care" Or worse, "You poor, young, uneducated mother. If only you could have SEEN how horrible those diseases [usually talking about measles] were you'd know better!" often said by someone a whopping 5-10 years older than me. And then I say, "Oh, really? I may not have been around, but my parents remember. And my aunts and uncles. I asked them. They all had measles and mumps. And all their friends. And oddly, they never knew anyone who died or was hospitalized"

Lift Up Your Hearts said...

Thank you for taking the time to write this all out! Love it!

Kelly said...

I just discovered your blog today and I am loving it!

My husband and I are going through the vaccine dilemma right now - trying to study both sides as much as possible...trying to make sure we don't make a mistake - I don't find it to be an easy decision!

This is one of the most clear-headed posts I've ever read on the subject - it is really so helpful to me in just getting my thoughts together about the entire thing. Thank you!

dulce de leche said...

Thanks so much! It really is a tough issue, and I think each family needs to decide for themselves. While we are comfortable not vaccinating right now, I continue to learn and study and reevaluate. :)

Leslie said...

I don't think breastfeeding has a major protective antibiotic effect. The IgA antibodies in breastmilk are mostly only in the colostrum, which is only present briefly after birth. These get degraded pretty quickly. Your baby is protected by IgG antibodies he received from you in utero for about 6 months. These get recycled, so they have a longer half-life. Maybe you have different information; if so I would be interested to hear it. This is just what I remember from a conference I attended led by an immunologist.

dulce de leche said...

Leslie, thank you so much for your comment! My books are loaned out right now, and I probably won't get to get all my links for awhile, but there are references to a couple of studies here: :) http://insidevaccines.com/wordpress/invasive-bacterial-infections-and-breastfeeding/

Sara said...

Great to find your blog! What gets to me in these condescending articles is that they pose the argument as vaccines vs. doing nothing, as in, going back to the time when these diseases were deadly, etc. Not one has the imagination to think that some scientists are discovering a better approach, one that builds up immunity without the toxic side effects. That just maybe, more is now known about the immune system than when vaccines were "the answer", how much of it is in the gut, that maybe bypassing the system with hypodermic needles might not capitalize on the body's ability to develop immunity. It's always the way, that innovators who challenge the establishment are accused of setting things backward, rather than making progress.
Oh, and the myth that "vaccines cause autism". I don't think any parent who has studied the issue would reduce it to that oversimplification. It is the toxic metals in vaccines that can cause neural necrosis that is likely a major contributing factor in many cases of those who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum, especially those who had noticeable degeneration after being vaccinated, and were fine before. Thanks for your boldness in addressing this. :)

Notanangel said...

Thank you thank you THANK YOU for this! I am trying to do some research...and finding more and more horrific stuff...but still second guessing myself, maybe, a little, because so many insist that this is not "real" research. It's only "anecdotal." Where's the divide between facts and anecdotes? What they WANT us to believe?
First, people have to realize that--while most of them are probably absolutely brilliant--doctors. are. not. gods. You are allowed to have an opinion. Not everything has to be under a doctor's supervision only (as opposed to chiropractor, nutritionist, other scientist, etc.). It's all "Talk with your doctor."
Second, I'm afraid we have to realize that mainstream media says what people want to hear. It'll be a while before mainstream media says anything sympathetic to the anti-vaxers. I'll live without the sympathy and just cling to the right I have, for now, to decide.
Oh, and DEAD ON with the whole "autism/ vaccine hoax" thing. As if that was the ONLY time ANYONE has ever raised a concern about vaccines. I don't care. We see what we see. The people screaming "hoax" are not, usually, the ones living with the fatal or quality-of-life-destroying fallout when vaccines go wrong.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!!!!! Well said, this one is getting saved, and reposted weekly!

Michele M said...

Great post.

And don't be afraid of pertussis! :) I survived 3-4 LONG months with five children (ages 5 months to 6 years) getting it last summer. Once you 'get used' to the cough and dealing with it it's not so bad. :D Says the woman who had no sleep the entire four months!

CJensen said...

So good info...some a it on the 'really off' side. Some sounds no better than the whole "autism/vaccine hoax. For someone who not only has truly 'lived' through the effects of some of these diseases, but also nursed many more children with complications (including multiple deaths) of the diseases first hand, than children with reactions to the vaccines, I just say "be VERY careful"! And yes, I have definitely seen the 'herd' issue become a very sad and major problem. Thanks for sharing your beliefs, but hopefully people won't just pick them up and accept them all from just this reading.

Anonymous said...

About 20 years ago, our neighbor's son ran a VERY high fever after being vaccinated. He was never the same again, and the last I heard, his parents had to have a security guard with him at all times, to prevent him doing serious damage to someone or something.
In addition, I have an older brother and sister who had incephilitis (sp?) and double pneumonia, respectively, just short times after being vaccinated. After that, my mother said, "I'll take my chances without." My two brothers and I were never vaccinated, and never contacted any disease that was cause for concern.
From what I've read about the original innoculation concept, it made sense. The modern vaccination concept--not hardly.

Anonymous said...

The one thing I hear the most and it is a real eye-roller, is..."that guy who said vaccines cause autism was proven wrong and had his license taken away." That guy is Andrew Wakefield, his studies have been replicated, he was the subject of a veritable manhunt, and his co-author proved in court that the research was valid. I've had doctors and regular joes say the same thing. They are completely uneducated about it and yet they feel they can speak confidently on the subject. It's a real head shaker.

Anonymous said...

What if an entire school full of children were unvaccinated? What if one of them got the measles? What if the majority of the students were exposed to this and caught it? What if some of them had a bad experience with measles and wound up sterile or worse? Think close quarters people. Who do you want your children to rub up against? A child who has been vaccinated or one who is susceptible to horrible diseases? I'm glad my daughter is out of school now and I don't have to worry about who is vaccinated or not. Hopefully her work interaction brings her into less contact with the unvaccinated. Improvement in vaccines warranted? Of course? Not vaccinating your children puts others at risk, period. History proves this. If you don't want to participate in public health, go live in a third world country. Because if you don't vaccinate your child, that's what the US will become. Sign me, On the Other Side of This Argument.

Emily O'Connor said...

My name is Emily O'Connor. Dear Anonymous above me, If your education of measles went only as far as the fear mongering tv shows that the APP sactioned, then please do some more research. In light of your "what if" conspiracies you may not have known that before thw MMR vaccine, measles was a routine, even ubiquitous, illness of childhood that rarely led to complications in otherwise healthy children. Also...there is a school, The Principa, where 90% of the students filed vaccine exemptions in 2008. In the past 10 years they have experienced no outbreaks of measles or any other disease that the AAP would lead you to believe they should all be infected with. Maybe the money being pumped into selling vaccines could be used instead to do real research on a control group of unvaccinated children. I volunteer my 4 to be first in line.

Anonymous said...

Exactly!!

abbasdaughter said...

What a child is eating affects the gut bacteria positively or negatively and since the base of our immune system is in our gut, what we're feeding a child will MAJORLY influence the development of the child's immune system. If we give them the nutrients they were designed to receive through breastfeeding, If you feed the kid garbage that's lacking in the nutrients they need to develop the best gut bacteria, their health will NOT be as good... esp. since most formulas these days incl. soy, which is an endocrine disruptor and if you interfere w/ thyroid function, you interfere w/ the entire body. All you have to do is look at the research and it's clear that children that are breastfed longer generally have better health on the whole and that INCLUDES how their bodies respond to disease.
The immunologist was either lying, misinformed or both.Yes, colostrum DOES boost the immune system, but breastfeeding does a LOT towards aiding in its development. Anyone who calls him/herself an immunologist and shows such failure to connect the immune system with gut bacteria with what a person eats is obviously insufficiently educated and needs to go back and learn things properly.

Eli & Miriam Shechter said...

Thank you!!!!! very well said!

Jenn said...

Anonymous, please start your research HERE: www.educationbeforevaccination.blogspot.com

Regina said...

I learned a lot from your post and I thought I'd already done my homework. I've always been uneasy about quitting vaccinations for my family. I probably always will. I actually am very afraid of the autism angle. I've seen it too much and its scary how it comes on to a healthy child. However, the thing that made me really mistrust vaccinations was when my pediatrician sent me a long letter promoting vaccination for bird flu. The last paragraph explained that if we didn't get the vaccination, death could occur and described how to prepare the body before calling the coroner! I will never forgive myself for not saving that ridiculous letter. I assume no other patients read the entire letter, because I never heard anyone else mention it. I guess I just like to be well informed, so I did read it. The scare tactic sent off a giant red flag in my brain. My pediatrician was gonna let my kid die at home with no medical help if they didn't get the vaccination??? The same pediatricain offered me a vaccination in 2012 that had thimerosol in it and swore up and down that it had been "proven 100%" free of side effects (the leaflet said thimerosol-free substitute available upon request). It was the complete opposite of the sincere concern expressed by the anti-vax camp. I figured it must be a scam. I always imagine a time traveler from the future walking around in our time seeing all the flu shot advertisements and shaking their heads in dismay at our ignorance. I assume time will tell.