To vax or not to vax

I recently read a blog post and I felt as though I had written it myself. It was about the vaccination debate that is a scorching hot topic in the parenting community. Some of you non-parents might be wondering what's the big issue? Well, with the increase in autism diagnoses and their proximity to administered vaccinations there have been claims that there is a link between the two. Therefore, many parents have decided to not vaccinate their children for fear of causing autism, which has kicked off a shit storm of push back from schools, doctors, and other parents due to health concerns.

When Hawk's first vax appointment came (at 4 months) I was in a knot about it. I had seen Jenny McCarthy plastered all over the media warning parents about the dangers of vaccinations and how she believed they caused her son to become autistic. She seemed like a smart lady, certainly a loving, doting mother, so I took what she said to heart. I did a little research and found that she wasn't saying DON'T vaccinate, but let's "green our vaccines and administer them with greater care." Not only that, but study after study said, "No link between vaccinations and autism."

Well, ok, that made me feel a little better about vaccinating, but what about all the parents over at Mothering Magazine? Not only the writers there, but the editor herself and the thousands of anti-vax parents on the message boards who don't vax. Are they all wrong? And what about these groups?: Vaccination Liberation website, The Anti-Immunization Activists, and PAVE (Parents Advocating Vaccine Education). Are they telling the truth and all those scientists and the government are covering up a big conspiracy that, ultimately, is about money from lobbyists? Do the granola parents know something I don't?

In the end, I decided to go ahead with a vax schedule that was spread out (like Jenny said). I had already postponed the HepB vax at the hospital since I felt it was a bit too much for an infant who wouldn't be traveling any time soon. Additionally, my pediatrician had long ago switched to mercury free doses and so that also eased my mind. - On April 6th, Hawk got his first chicken pox vax. He'll get another one when he's 2 and then he's done until 4 and 11 years old.

Despite deciding to vaccinate my son I was still extremely nervous about the outcome. So, to cosmically balance the vaccinations I also have kept his diet wheat and dairy free due to the positive effects this diet has on children already diagnosed with autism.
... Our experience is that this diet tends to benefit most children. The simple explanation is that wheat and dairy proteins are very hard for the body to digest, often permeate the gut of children with environmental toxicity, get into the bloodstream where they do not belong, and serve as a neurotoxin creating "brain fog". Most parents see faster results when they remove dairy... -Generation Rescue Website
I also keep checking back to the check list of symptoms: Is he making eye contact? Is he social with other kids? Does he refuse contact? Is he developing normally?

And then I try to chill the fuck out.

If he's going to be autistic, then, well... ok. I'll take it. I'm more willing to push the envelope there than participate in a backlash to medical intervention. I want to be a willing participant in the global community that fights disease.

It seems that we parents are constantly having to choose between one risk or another. I'm not sure if it's avoidable. I'm doing that very thing, am I not? I'm taking the risk of autism in order to contribute to a community that eliminates diseases. The no-vax parents? They're risking disease in favor of avoiding foreign substances in their kids which may cause an array of side effects (like autism).

I'm all for making decisions that go against the grain. I believe in midwifery over OB/GYN services for pregnancy and birth. I believe that the "business of birth" has taken much of our grace and dignity away from women in the birth process. I believe boys should choose to circumcise or not. I believe that doctors are always trying to make that tee time and so that "Tuesday at 3 pm C-section at exactly 40 weeks," is the only option. I believe that drug free is optimal if at all possible. I believe that we need law reform regarding maternal and paternal rights in the work place. I believe that 6-weeks leave for a birth is obscene. I believe in breastfeeding and child-led weaning, homeopathic remedies over pill popping, and pesticide-free, organic foods for my kids. For all intents and purposes, I'm "granola," right? But some would say no because I chose to vaccinate.

The difference there, to me, is that all of these decisions are contained to my nuclear family. I'm not going to affect my neighbor in any way because I choose a home birth or homeopathic teething tablets. But I will affect my neighbor if I don't vaccinate my kid.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that in 1994, the the DSM-IV (Diagnostics and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) expanded its definition of autism disorders exponentially from previous editions, and therefore more kids than ever fall somewhere on the spectrum. We are able to test kids who would have been called "off" or "slow" 100 years ago and say that they fall right about *here* on the spectrum. And boom, one more autistic child to add to the books and look at those giant, scary numbers. This could be one very important reason why we're seeing all the alarming numbers of autism diagnoses.

Also, since kids are getting most of their shots in the first two years, when some of the earliest signs of autism show up, parents draw the conclusion that it was the vaccinations that caused the autism.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that no-vax parents love their children and want the best for them. I KNOW THAT. I have friends who have made this same decision, but it really does perplex me. I get that it's daunting. I get that it's scary, but I just don't get the refusal to participate in the global push for disease resistance. It really is a first world luxury to turn down a vaccination.

I'm sure they might say I'm a sheep, a follower. I don't know. I'd like to have warm fuzzies about this, but I don't. The whole thing sorta bothers me. I mean, do the no-vaxers plan on home-schooling their kids and living in communities that are somehow protected against the diseases we get vaccinated for? What's their plan?

It seems to me that the no-vax parents are inherently relying on us vaxing parents to keep the population protected. If no one vaccinated, we would all be screwed.

I know that we all make decisions as parents that are wholly (and holy) personal and intimate. We try to balance what we know in our hearts with what we know in our minds. Nothing we do is ever simple and everything we do is born out of love and the best interests of our kids. So, having said that, I want it to be clear I'm not beating up on those parents who make decisions different from my own. Far from it, I'm just sharing my confusion over this one in particular.

And yet... I still wonder if I've made the right decision...


  1. The herd immunity threshold floats around 85% for most vaccines. Deciding not to vaccinate is dangerous not just for a child, it's dangerous for the community.

    There is no _real_ controversy when it comes to vaccines. Just like there is no _real_ controversy when it comes to evolution. The small groups of people who deny science yell loudly, but the evidence is not on their side.

    We should not continue as a society to let ignorance prevail out of "respect", "emotional anecdotes" or in Jenny McCarthy's words "listening to mommy instincts". At some point the rest of us need to stand up and say enough already.

  2. I have no problems with vaccinating my children... I did it with my first born and am doing it with baby number 2. There really is nothing to worry about, from what I have read and from what my children's pediatrician has told me. I know here in Canada, a child can't be admitted to school if they are not vaccinated.

  3. I saw your post on twittermoms and thought I'd come over to see what you had written.
    I think this is a fantastic post and one you should be very proud of.
    Both of my daughters had their vax's and I didn't have any issues. I feel a lot better knowing they had them, then if they were walking around today as the teens they are unprotected!
    As many people said on the forum post, write what you feel and think, and try not to worry what other people will think. I've found 99% of the time people are very respectful on other people's blogs~
    Well done,

  4. Thanks for linking back to this post because I don't remember reading it originally. Now that I'm pregnant, this is one of the things that is weighing on my mind. You want to do what is right for your kids, but whose research do you trust the most? It's a hard call. I'll probably end up vaccinating, just because I'm not willing to risk the repercussions. But you're right, there's no warm fuzzy feeling about it.

    You know, also - right now - I'm debating whether I should get a flu shot. I've never had one before - and never had the flu - but they say its highly recommended for pregnant women because our immune system is so compromised. I'm really, really torn. I'm definitely not a pill popper and rarely take medicine unless it's absolutely necessary, but I don't want to not get it and then put both my baby and I at more risk of getting the flu... and then possibly ending up in the hospital. Did you get a flu shot when you were preggo? What are your thoughts on this?