To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate? (page 2)
- The Immunization Debate: Should You Vaccinate?
- Calm Vaccination Fears: Birth to 3 Months
- The Vaccine Debate
- Chicken Pox Party: Should You Do It?
- Mental Retardation: Causes and Prevention
- How Dangerous is Swine Flu in Children?
There's a debate raging across the nation that has nothing to do with elections, though it does have something to do with government. It's a debate that has been raging for years and, though it may seem to boil down to a single question, it has more than just two sides. It's the vaccination debate.
If you think the only question being argued is "to vaccinate or not to vaccinate," you're mistaken. In fact, there are a number of questions being raised; those about a parent's right to choose what's right for her child, those about informed consent and those about the ethics of government-mandated vaccination programs. Then there is the most important question of all: Does your child face more harm from the side effects of vaccines than he would from the disease against which he is being vaccinated?
Surprisingly enough the vaccination debate isn't as new as it may seem. It's been going on for centuries. Even Benjamin Franklin agonized over whether or not to vaccinate his children, writing in his autobiography, "I lost one of my sons... by the smallpox... I long regretted bitterly and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of the parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen."
Like the parents Franklin speaks of, today's parents are worried about the effects of "inoculations." With anecdotal evidence connecting the mercury in vaccines to an increase in autism and children now being required to have almost 25 shots before first grade, it's a valid concern. Though mercury, the ingredient linked to neurological concerns, is no longer used in high levels in vaccines, other ingredients, like aluminium, may cause problems when too many shots containing it are given at the same time.
Jane Orient, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), feels that parents and physicians are both in tough situations. The AAPS, while not anti-vaccine, is against mandatory childhood vaccination. "Our children face the possibility of death or serious long-term adverse effects from mandated vaccines that aren’t necessary or that have very limited benefits," said Orient in a release announcing the group's resolution calling for an end to vaccine mandates. She also is concerned about how enforcing vaccine mandates can affect physician-patient relationships. If a physician is forced by state mandates to insist upon vaccination, he's not in a position to listen to parental concerns about whether or not vaccination is the right choice for a child.
For some parents leaving their children "un-vaxed" is a choice due to personal or religious beliefs which, with proper documentation, is respected enough in most states (the exceptions being West Virginia and Mississippi) to allow children to attend school without being immunized and without legal repercussions. For some children, like those with compromised immune systems, being "vaxed" isn't always the right choice or, at least using the normal schedule of immunizations isn't.
That's an issue that Bob Sears, Ph.D., pediatrician and author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, is encouraging parents and physicians to consider. It's not immunizations with which he takes issue-- in fact, he's quick to make clear that he's not only pro-vaccine, but also thinks vaccinations are very important--it's the schedule by which they are given that worries him. His concern is the same that many parents give voice to: Does immunizing young children against multiple diseases at one time increase the potential for vaccination-related complications?
Statistically speaking, it does. With every vaccine your child gets, there's a risk of reaction and while the chances of reactions per vaccine doesn't change, the more vaccines you add per round of immunization, the more risk involved. Simply put, if you vaccinate a child against polio, Hep B and rubella on the same day, he runs the slight possibility of having a reaction to any of the three shots. If you only vaccinate him against polio, then he can only have a reaction to the polio vaccine.
Unfortunately, the recommended (and most frequently followed) schedule of immunizations doesn't give parents a whole lot of wiggle room to decrease these risks, nor are all doctors willing to make adjustments for individual children. This puts many parents in a tough position. Sevaste Spaker, co-founder of the website Know Vaccines, lost her daughter to vaccine-induced Hodgkin's disease, which developed after an MMR booster shot. She believes parents need to make educated decisions about vaccinations, which requires them to know all the risks before making a choice. "Choice is the key component of vaccines," says Spaker, "and choice can be achieved through education." But is that choice simply to vaccinate or not?
Not according to Sears. "I think there's a safer way to do it and I think by spreading out the vaccines you can avoid a lot of the possible complications," says Sears. "Right now there's a battle going on between parents who want that option and doctors who are not willing to provide that option. Such parents, in many cases, are going un-vaccinated because the doctor isn't open to vaccinating them in a different manner."
With all of this debate, why vaccinate at all? Haven't most of the diseases against which we immunize been all but eradicated in developed countries? Maybe so, but it won't stay that way if the rate of immunization continues to plummet. Sears points to recent outbreaks of mumps and measles among college students as reminder that immunity doesn't alast forever.
The vaccination debate will continue to rage because there are no easy answers. The best you can do is inform yourself, don't be afraid to ask questions and remember, the only side you need to take is the one that's best for your child.