While I do vaccinate my children, I am increasingly wary and weary of the mass hysteria surrounding vaccinations. Admittedly it can happen on both sides: the non-vaccinating crowd offers up just as many horror stories as the vaccinating crowd does. I don't agree with assumptions that 'no vaccine ever saved anyone,' nor can I stand the "If there's a vaccine or a pill out there to cure my XYZ, I'm going to take it!" I guess I stand firmly, skeptically, in the middle.
When my daughter was just eight weeks old, my old pediatrician practically begged with me - downright pleading - to at least consider the hepatitis B vaccine (which I had declined at the hospital). Knowing that I didn't meet any risk factors (and had already been vaccinated as a healthcare worker), I wanted to say no, because at the time my daughter was already in the throes of a nasty milk protein allergy that I wanted to get to the bottom of first. But my ped practically wouldn't let me leave the office.
I declined the rotovirus, and she said, "Well, at least get the hepatitis B." It was almost like she was saying, "Just get one shot. Any shot. As long as you get something."This summer my daughter sat on the exam table at the peds office, the poop nearly scared out of her because she had to have the dreaded "shot!" She was missing four shots, one of which was my eternally non-favorite: the chicken pox vaccine.
|The book (published,|
ironically, around the same
time the vaccine came out)
says chicken pox is a
"normal childhood illness."
I'm surprised the CDC
hasn't lobbied hard to
take it off the shelves.
"Oh nooooo," The Pretend Doctor stated, rather dramatically. "Because then if they get them as adults they're much worse and they can end up in the hospital." (insert horrified expression here)
I wanted to blurt out hysterically, "Are you kidding me? That's your idea of informed consent?" I thought back to the information I'd looked up on chicken pox and the shingles, and also to those people who I had actually known in my life that had shingles: all three of them. One was going through the obvious stress of the death of her son, and even in her pain (both physical and emotional), seemed to be pulling it together. The other guy is just a stress ball as it is, and I think the third person likes to really play up how miserable she is/was/will be whenever something wrong is going on.
None of these people, in my estimation, ever had to go to the hospital. And I'm pretty sure none of them are dead.
While it's true that chicken pox can be quite ugly if you get it as an adult, I question how the chicken pox vaccination is going to remedy that. I don't know if anyone can conclusively say how long the shot's immunity is supposed to last, and even when given a booster shot, that pretty much means they'll be fully exposed to potential illness around the time they reach adulthood. But...what? That means they'll stand to get it when it's more prone to cause complications, right? How can that be?
But wait - you can get another booster shot as an older teen or adult. Or you can just get the wild virus as any kid prior to 1995 would have done and be done with it, resulting in (for most) lifelong immunity.
Aside from the short-term costs of missed work days (assuming there are some), the cost of acquiring lifelong immunity the good old fashioned way (assuming you were a normally healthy kid) is pretty inexpensive. The cost of the vaccine (anywhere from $80 to $120, depending on where you live, multiplied by the number of boosters you receive) is not.
And like other vaccines, even if you get the shots, you might still get the chicken pox. These children in Michigan experienced an outbreak despite the vaccine, which has many wondering if it's a new mutated strain taking hold.
There are also some who believe the chicken pox vaccine is creating significantly more cases of shingles in adults, because their natural exposure to the wild virus is severely curtailed - whereas before it was actually an immunity booster.
My problem with the chicken pox vaccine started, however, when my oldest was around a year old. I had never done much research on it, but at the time, it didn't make much sense to vaccinate a child for what was perceived as a "normal childhood illness." As I raised questions, the nurse - holding my son's arm, needle poised - basically said, "Too late now," and proceeded to inject him. (I think this was after a brief "He won't be able to go to school if he doesn't get this," spiel.) Looking back on it now, why the hell would anyone proceed if it's obvious the parent is not completely on board with the idea? Put down your needle and say, "I think you should talk to the doctor about this and we'll vaccinate him when you've made your final decision." Not say, "Too bad for you. We're doing it anyway. Just get the damned shot."
That's the idea about some vaccinations that doesn't sit well with me. Unfortunately, when people start to ask questions others in the "Let's Vaccinate Everyone!" camp cry foul and start pouring on the sob stories, making you feel like a (stupid) bad parent that doesn't know anything, whose opinion can be swayed with the blowing of the wind. Well, I have news for you - vaccinating your kid for everything, all the time, might not be such a hot idea, either.
It struck me not long ago that the primary motivation behind the chicken pox vaccine was not so much to save the 100 or so kids who die yearly from chicken pox complications - it was to prevent lost sick time because fewer households include a stay-at-home parent. You can't prevent every illness, and will sacrifice lost work time for a variety of reasons throughout their childhood. The face of parenthood has changed in the last 30 years or so, with more kids in daycare, fewer stay-at-home parents and lower breastfeeding rates, which means vaccine manufacturers stand to gain a lot of money off of people who want their children to get sick as few times as possible, so as to prevent any disruptions in routine. I guess I can agree with that, but to a point.
But the first knee-jerk reaction is to lay blame on the parents, as this mother did, because her leukemia-stricken son couldn't attend daycare since at least one child was unvaccinated. This is basically failing to admit that no vaccination is 100 percent effective, and really - when you're dealing with the unique and individual immune system it's kind of a crap shoot. The mother has no idea why that child isn't vaccinated, or what he's not vaccinated for - could he have an allergy to something in the vaccine? Did he have a previous bad reaction? And really, considering her son's potentially dire condition, why is she putting him in a daycare situation anyway?
The bottom line is that we are vaccinating children for something that is merely an 'inconvenience' to parents. At what point do you draw the line? We now have an entire generation of parents who think chicken pox is some horrible 'disease.' Seriously?!
When we look at the reported number of deaths from chickenpox, there is probably a lot more going on behind the scenes than people will admit. Can there be complications? Apparently so - but what they aren't telling us is why. Are these children immunosuppressed? Do they have other underlying illnesses?
As far as the effectiveness of vaccines, that's another one that's up for debate. It's not known, for instance, how long immunity from a polio vaccine lasts, yet people say that if we don't vaccinate, "millions of children" will be subjected to potential antigens within a year. Yet, if you read a little on smallpox from the CDC, we stopped vaccinating for it in the late 1970s because it had effectively been eradicated. But wait. I thought polio had been eradicated from the US as well. So why are we still vaccinating for that, but aren't for smallpox?
Interestingly enough, I recently read that then Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to start vaccinating for smallpox again because he was worried that bioterrorists would get their hands on it and turn the virus loose on the population. President Bush said no, because he was worried that people would die from just being vaccinated. (Approximately 1-2 % of people die from the vaccine.) Finally, someone who is willing to admit that vaccines can carry some risks, potentially death. And yet, when sporadic cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome show up in the population after flu vaccines are administered, as they have been doing since probably the 1970s, the industry is unwilling to admit there is a link and basically shrugs it off.
A few years ago there was hushed talk about a pertussis outbreak going around. Stupidly, I didn't think much to ask about it because "hey, my kids have been vaccinated for that!" One of my husband's students - who was previously unvaccinated - ended up getting it and the campus was in an uproar. The nurse went off about how his wacko parents were against vaccinations and were giving him daily "vitamin injections" or something or other, and at first I was upset, too. Until I realized that even if he had initially been vaccinated, it wouldn't have mattered, because it likely would have worn off on him by that time. As a result, that kid now has, researchers believe, lifelong immunity - instead of potential gaps in his immunity from the vaccine.
One of the biggest things that make me question vaccines are the outrageous marketing campaigns waged on us by healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry. Overly dramatic ads run constantly; even Jennifer Lopez is in on the act. (I picture someone off-camera saying, "Now use your saddest, most dramatic face!") With that kind of melodrama it has to make you wonder about their motives, most of which include a lot of dollar signs - you can't help but notice the great financial rewards drug manufacturers stand to gain from developing these vaccines.
|A nauseating billboard down the street from my house|
It seems like when there are perfectly good low-cost, natural remedies available, they are passed over in favor of vaccinating or taking more pills. In combatting the seasonal flu, covering your coughs and sneezes, as well as washing your hands, is often one of the best, easiest and cheapest ways to avoid getting sick; you can't deny that. Eating healthy, taking vitamins and getting enough sleep are also important to staying healthy, but our Pill Generation increasingly ignores these guidelines in favor of some injection or other to prevent this and that. In a probably not-so-new twist, drug companies are turning to legislators (Gardasil mandates) to essentially force, or at the very least coerce, you to use their product - especially in the face of declining profits - instead of promoting ways to lower your risk factors. (Like washing your hands and covering your cough will work for flu, there are perfectly plausible ways to lower your risk of getting HPV - that not too many people want to talk about).
As they say, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Dramatic ad encouraging parents and children to be vaccinated for whooping cough