For those who do not vaccinate, a medical exemption is the holy grail of paperwork. For those who believe in the importance of complete vaccination, my situation is a terrifying limbo of irresponsibility. I see both sides of the issue, and I'm stuck.
Most parenting issues have become clear to me with research. Breastfeeding, circumcision, spanking, co-sleeping, babywearing. They're pretty clear-cut, and most research sits on one side or the other. Vaccinations... eek. Not so clear. I have done hundreds of hours of research on vaccines, and I'm still incredibly torn.
|Borrowed from Peaceful Parenting, in case you want to say "I'm vaccinated and I'm fine"|
Our children are being vaccinated against many more things than we were.
I have reached 2 conclusions, both of which are controversial. Isn't this whole topic?
1 - Vaccines are not useless. They do work. Maybe not as well as advertised, but they have value. The rabies vaccine prevents the spread of rabies among dogs. The influenza vaccine does actually reduce the incidence of flu it purports to prevent. Since the widespread vaccination of the American public, the diseases for which we vaccinate have decreased precipitously. I am still immune to measles, mumps and rubella, 25 years after my last booster, diseases I did not have naturally. Vaccines generally do protect against the diseases they claim to, a majority of the time.
2 - Vaccines are not 100% safe. They have risk. Vaccine-related injury is real, adverse reactions are real, and to the rare number who experience them, the injury is often worse than the disease the vaccine is intended to prevent. It is possible that vaccines damage the overall health of a person's immune system. Unvaccinated children are, overall, healthier than their vaccinated counterparts, experiencing less chronic and acute illness during childhood and early adulthood (these studies are imperfect in design but still compelling). Parents who consciously choose not to vaccinate are not morons; they are generally better informed and educated about the issue than those who vaccinate.
Ethically, I am opposed to the concept of forcing a child to endure pain and sickness, against their will, to prevent potential future harm. The child is not in immediate medical need or danger, like a child who needs stitches. I am opposed to sacrificing one child for the benefit of many; the herd immunity argument doesn't sway me. One child should not die so that millions can live; that argument holds no water to the mother of the dead child, nor should it. I believe in the inherent ability of the natural immune system to handle routine illness, and I believe that a bored immune system is a dangerous thing to have, increasing risks of allergies and auto-immune responses.
Logically, I am opposed to the reintroduction of measles and polio into the general population, and I do believe that vaccines have something to do with the decrease of diseases (but not all - Polio in particular has a really interesting link to pesticides). I don't want to see a Rubella outbreak. I have heard the cries of a baby with pertussis, and they are heartbreaking. If my son were to experience harm as a result of a vaccine-preventable illness, or worse, were to pass that illness on to another child, I would be devastated.
Emotionally, vaccinating feels wrong - no mother "looks forward" to a visit for shots. On every other parenting decision, I have trusted my "gut" or "mommy instinct" and it's always been right. Here, in this one circumstance and no other, I am expected to restrain my baby, cause him pain and potentially cause him harm, to avoid the potential of harm. This isn't about fighting a diaper change or being annoyed about being in a carseat; the pain is real, the immediate harm is real (even if it's only a mild fever and a sore leg). If you physically restrain an adult against his will and stab him with a pen or a thumbtack, it is called assault. I spent a lifetime terrified of doctors and needles. Babies today are mandated to have triple the number of vaccines that I had; every child I know is petrified of going to the doctor; their parents have to lie to them and bribe them to get them in the door.
Intellectually, I realize that people used to die of vaccine-preventable diseases in great number, and that my ancestors would likely think I'm crazy for even debating this topic. Vaccines are considered among the world's greatest medical discoveries, one of the greatest discoveries of human history, by minds greater than mine. My pediatrician is in favor of most (but not all) vaccines; I respect her opinion as a medical professional. I respect her years of experience and expertise. I also know that the entire American pediatric business model revolves around vaccines, and without a visit every 2-6 months for a shot, pediatricians offices would be a lot emptier than they are now. Money talks. Vaccines make literally billions of dollars a year for doctors and pharmaceutical companies, both via direct and indirect sources.
Polio kills. Mumps is bad. Tetanus, Diphtheria, Hepatitis, pertussis, HiB, meningitis, all of them - this is bad stuff, and I don't want my baby to get any of them, if I can help it. Hell, my double exposure of chickenpox (at 13 and 32, thanks immune suppressants) was miserable enough that I'd happily have taken a shot in the arm instead of 6 cumulative weeks of misery! Regardless, I am too informed to respond to the "less mercury than a can of tuna" line.
I am asking for feedback tonight, on what ultimately made your decision, one way or the other. I don't have to make a decision right now (in fact, I can't) but I could use some guidance.
Why did you decide to vaccinate your child, or choose to skip or alter the standard schedule?