I have shied away from writing on this topic for several years for several reasons. The first one being I know the unpleasant slew of comments that will more than likely follow this post, but I feel now is the time to end my silence on this topic. I want to start by making one thing very clear: I am not anti-vax, but I am also not pro-vax. I am in support of parents who have questions and concerns about vaccines being able to ask those questions in a supportive way. But i am getting ahead of myself.
A few months back I stepped away from my personal Facebook page. I was going to unfriend every single person and just stay in the groups that I was a part of (come to find out unfriending almost 1,000 people takes a considerable amount of time so I kind of gave up once I got down to around 150). But it is time for a confession: I wanted to leave facebook because the posts flying around social media on vaccinations were upsetting me to such a point that it was ruining my day and wasting my time. I was tired of the attacks on me and the moms around me. One side is going too far by telling moms that don’t follow the schedule should have their children taken away from them for being unfit mothers who don’t care about their children’s health. Another side is going too far by saying that if you vaccinate your children they will most surely die of cancer (or some other ailment). SERIOUSLY??? I even spoke to a friend that shared a pro-vaccine article with the above stance and was told, that I was different because she knew two of my children became severely ill after vaccines. One child was just a few hours away from an ambulance ride to the local children’s hospital. So because my child was almost hospitalized after a vaccine I guess I am not thrown into the lump of unfit parents. Whew! Can I just say…
My official opinion on vaccines:
Vaccines have risks, not vaccinating has risks and each parent should be free to make an educated decision on which choice is best for them with the help of a supportive pediatrician. Each parent should not be guilted, scared, or forced into either direction by anyone. Period. And to clarify, my definition of a supportive pediatrician is one who believes that vaccinating and not vaccinating both pose risks to the general public and want to partner with parents in making decisions about their child’s health.
The Stats No One is Talking About
Most recently I have seen all kinds of pro-vaccine posts sharing stories and showing pictures of children suffering with diseases that are supposedly preventable with vaccines. Posts talking about outbreaks and deaths and scary things all allegedly caused by people not vaccinating and people with children who are not old enough to vaccinate. I am not going to get into whether vaccines are effective or not because first of all I am not a doctor, second of all that has been discussed to death, and third of all I see both sides as having valid arguments. What I do want to address is the statistic that I have yet to ever see in any blog post on vaccines ever: the number of petitions filed to the US government for vaccine injuries and deaths. Before scrolling down does anyone want to guess how many petitions have been filed against the US government for vaccine injuries and deaths since 1985? Or how about the amount of money the government has awarded to families with children who have been injured or killed by vaccines? According to the US Department of Health and Human Services: 15,100 petitions have been filed for vaccine injury and death. Keep in mind that is only the number of official petitions that have been filed for compensation, it does not include reports made by doctors on behalf children, like mine, who were severely ill. Of that over 15,000 petitions 1,132 of those claims were deaths. The government has awarded $2,671,223,269.97 to families as a result and that number does not include attorney fees or cases that are still open.
Children are Dying
Children are dying of disease. Yes they are. Children are also dying from vaccines. And before you jump on about the numbers above are statistically less significant than other numbers, let’s remember that those numbers represent someone’s child. Over 1,000 children that will never be held by their parents again. And over 15,000 whose life and family will never be the same. A child’s death is traumatic and a tragedy that no parent should ever, ever have to endure. But it happens. Disease causes it and vaccines cause it. End of story. This is why parents need to be free to make a decision they can be confident in, because either decision poses a risk. It doesn’t matter how small the risk is, the bottom line is that there is a risk and that should be acknowledged.
Let’s End the Vaccine Movement and Start the Pro-Parent Movement
This is why parents who are concerned about the risks need to meet with a supportive pediatrician (see my definition above) and look through their family medical history, lifestyle, and life goals to decide which route will be best for their children. For example, in our family both of my older children had severe reactions to vaccines as infants. We also hope to visit third world countries as a family in the future. Both of these things greatly influence the decisions we make about vaccinating our children. Do we need to eliminate or fight against vaccines? Absolutely not! Do I think we need to make vaccinations a legal requirement? Absolutely not! Imagine what would happen if we partnered together and stopped trying to prove who was right and who was wrong and instead worked to study vaccines to make them better, safer, and more effective? What if we took all the energy we use to sling mud at the opposing side and instead we worked to get more studies done and educate parents on the risks of both choices with facts, statistics, and studies instead of just trying to push one agenda with emotional pleas. Let’s empower parents to make educated decisions for their families. This goes so far beyond just vaccines but family health as a whole (but I could write a novel on that). My general opinion is that if you have a doctor that uses scare tactics and control to get you to accept or decline vaccines (or any medical procedure) it is time to find another one. There are doctors that want to empower their patients and their families and not belittle them. Find one and you will thank me and them.
For those that are curious, below is my personal experience with vaccines, if you are not curious feel free to scroll down and read my comment policy for this post.
As a new mom, vaccines were something that I was on the fence about. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I went to my pediatrician at the time and shared my concerns after my son was born. He laughed at my concerns, told me that everything I was reading was uneducated and it was silly for me to be concerned. He made me feel stupid for even questioning the safety of vaccines. So I trusted him and vaccinated my son. In the days that followed, my son had a fever that was over 104, was lethargic, vomiting, and would not nurse. My happy baby cried all day long inconsolable. I called the office, was told this was expected and to give him some tylenol. I endured this for 3 days. When I went back to his next appointment and shared my concerns for the second time I was told that reaction was somewhat normal for the first time and since he had them once it shouldn’t happen again. I still was nervous to vaccinate again. And that is when he started scaring me with what would happen to my baby if he got these diseases the vaccines were for. I asked if we could give him just one and see what would happen and he refused. So, as much as I regret it, I vaccinated him again. The same thing happened to him and I called into the office in tears. I was told it wasn’t reportable until his fever reached 105 and I just needed to “hang in there with him”. When I went back several months later I was firm in my decision not to vaccinate again and I was told I could no longer be a patient at their office. We found a new, wonderful pediatrician. Who after hearing our history told me we were not going to give my baby any vaccines until he was at least a year old and only then we would do one at a time if I felt comfortable. I had told her my family’s desire to travel to third world countries at some point and we discussed what vaccines would be most beneficial at that time. We also discussed things I could do in the mean time to protect my baby from disease (extended breastfeeding, no daycare, healthy diet, etc.). My son received one vaccine at 18 months with no reaction and has since then has been given more vaccines one at a time with no reaction. When my second son was born, based on my first son’s history my pediatrician recommended no vaccines until he was at least 6 months old. We gave him one vaccine at 6 months and within hours he began screaming and was inconsolable. His fever skyrocketed to 105 and came down only to around 103 with regimented rotation of tylenol and motrin. My pediatrician called to check on us several times a day and by the morning of day 5, she called to tell me she had already reported he reaction to the CDC and that if his fever had not broken by noon I was going to need to take him into the children’s hospital. I did cool baths and a whole lot of prayer and after his afternoon nap on me, he woke up covered in sweat and fever free. He did not have another vaccine until he was almost 3 to protect his newborn brother and after that he didn’t have another one until he was 4. Since then he has had no problems. My third son is now 2.5 and just had his first vaccine a few months ago. He had no reaction. Moving forward we (meaning my husband, my pediatrician and I) have decided that any further children we have will not receive a single vaccine until after their second birthday. Having a trustworthy pediatrician has been a lifesaver for me. She has always partnered with me, respected me as a parent, taken the time to share her knowledge with me in a way that empowers me and not makes me feel inferior. So again, I am neither anti-vaccine or pro-vacccine. I am pro-parent. I want parents to be given the opportunity to have a doctor they trust help them make decisions on the vaccinations of their child based on their family history and life plans.
And a disclaimer about the comments: If you are rude or sling mud I will not approve your comment. My blog, my rules