I apologize in advance that this will not be a thorough overview of vaccinations, nor will it fully explain what our family thinks about vaccines and what we are choosing to give and not give our children. I'm just too tired and the topic is too exhaustive (and exhausting?!).
Please let me briefly state that The Lawyer and I have changed our minds about vaccines in the past twelve years and that we have sometimes been slow to put that into practice. We still have questions but have found some great books and blogs to be helpful.
In general, our policy now is not to vaccinate our children at all until they are at least one year old. This has been a huge point of contention with pediatricians and is the main reason why, after living here for two years, we have visited at least 5 pediatricians, searching for someone with whom we felt we could have a knowledgable conversation and who would really be an allie with us for our children.
When I recently took M for his 3 year well check he hadn't had any vaccines at all. The doctor and I discussed the vaccines that are "recommended" that he have by this time, and the doctor gave me the top 3 vaccines he felt were most important for M to have. After talking this through for a few minutes, I consented to two vaccines.
That evening, I was out getting groceries when The Lawyer texted me that M was throwing up. It seemed so odd to me, catching me completely off guard. He hadn't seemed sick at all to me that day. After the vaccination we had played at the park, come home for lunch, he had rested for several hours (he took an unusually long nap that day), and I hadn't noticed abnormal behavior that afternoon.
When I got home, I found out that M had been sick again and was now running a fever. This continued into the next morning, when I called the doctor to inform him that I was certain this was a reaction to the DTaP vaccine. None of our other children were sick at all and M was clearly not himself.
I felt a wave of panic passing over me as I recalled SO MANY things that I have read about vaccine-induced injuries and death. The thought that I had willingly put this sickness into my precious child grieved me. I know too much. And yet I thought we were healthy and strong and that we would be the ones who wouldn't be affected.
Our good doctor called us in so that he could check on M (even though the nurse insisted this couldn't possibly be connected to the vaccine received the prior day). He acknowledged that clearly, this was a(n unusual) reaction to the DTaP. The CDC handout given to us the day before listed vomiting as one of the "mild problems (common)" in about 1 child in 50. M's fever was listed under "moderate problems (uncommon)" as effecting about 1 child out of 16, 000). The "severe problems (very rare)" were "serious allergic reaction" and "several other severe problems. . . including long-term seizures, coma, permanent brain damage."
It's the last line that angers me: "These are so rare it is hard to tell if they are caused by the vaccine."
M had a COMMON reaction and yet the doctor's office seemed surprised and even denied that his lethargy, fever, and vomiting were related to his vaccine. Am I to think that they would more readily admit that his vaccine could cause a coma and seizures?! Somehow, they disassociate vaccines from their (known) side effects and risks.
After watching M's body struggle for several days, I am resolved not to give him another DTaP. The doctor agrees. (Though I think the doctor has to list this as an allergic reaction in order to exempt M from future DTaP shots- for things like college.) I am even more hesitant than before to give ANY vaccinations. Perhaps this was just the warning sign I needed.
For more information, here is a great BLOG (which I LOVED because one pediatrician we visited pushed aggressively for me to have our whole family immunized for LOTS of things in order to create a bubble around G (the baby). He used the herd mentality thinking and tried to strong-arm me into vaccines I was firmly against. Here is a great video- a bit more of the political side to all this.