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How We Researched Vaccines – Guest Post from Cara Faus

Cara Faus 400 px

When I commented at Kelly’s recent Vaccine Gripe post, I started to share about how we came to our vaccination decisions. The comment got really long, so instead Kelly agreed to let me run this as a guest post on her blog. Thanks Kelly!

The Research Begins

When I was newly married and we first got the internet (you know, way back in 2003 ~wink~), I was very pro-vaccine. But I knew that there were anti-vaccine people around, so in order to be able to carry on an informed conversation with them, I decided that I would back up my vaccination ideas with real facts. I planned to look up the statistics and prove the anti-vaccination people wrong. During that exercise, I saw that the evidence wasn’t as overwhelmingly pro-vaccine as I thought it would be.

Examples of My Research:

First I checked out the childhood immunization schedule, and systematically went through vaccine by vaccine, disease by disease, to evaluate:

–the effectiveness of the vaccine (do most outbreaks occur in unvaccinated people, or people who had been vaccinated?)

–how common was the disease (pertussis outbreaks seem to happen every year, yet measles only had 43 cases in 2007)

–how much the disease would put my child at risk (were people more likely to contract the disease if they received the shot when immunocompromised and were they likely to be severely harmed by any illness?)

I won’t go through every disease here because I want you to research on your own and not take my word for anything, but I will show you some of the things I looked for and where I found them. (Citations are linked.) I think the important thing is to ask logical questions such as those listed above, and then research to find actual statistics with real numbers to answer them. It takes a little digging, but I’ve found that it makes me much more comfortable with my decision than if I had just taken other’s opinions into account.

Let’s just take the first vaccine they give routinely: Hep B.

Hepatitis B is a pretty nasty disease; a baby contracting Hepatitis B has a 40% lifetime chance of death from liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. But thankfully, it’s not spread through the air. Hepatitis B is transferred through bodily fluids, so if mom is not at risk of contracting it (also through bodily fluids) then a newborn baby is not at risk.

Further, what are the statistics of a newborn contracting Hepatitis B?

“In 1996, only 54 cases of the disease were reported to the CDC in the 0-1 age group. There were 3.9 million births that year, so the observed incidence of hepatitis B in the 0-1 age group was just 0.001%.” and in the under 15 age group 1.2 cases per 100,000 population in 1990, 0.02 cases per 100,000 population in 2007. Given the method of transmission, it makes sense that our babies aren’t at risk unless the mothers themselves are at risk. And I personally know I’m not at risk for diseases spread through bodily fluids. If I had worked in healthcare, I would have considered getting the vaccine for myself long before getting pregnant, only after another long look at the research.

What is in the vaccine?

Ingredients: Aluminum Hydroxyphosphate Sulfate, Amino Acids, Dextrose, Formaldehyde or Formalin, Mineral Salts, Potassium Aluminum Sulfate, Soy Peptone, Yeast Protein. Just looking at a few: Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, Aluminum is toxic especially in infants.

My Conclusions

Based on the risks of my child getting Hepatitis B, the treatments available, and the real known issues with the ingredients in the vaccine, we opted not to. We ended up opting not to vaccinate against anything at all, though I will consider the mumps vaccine for my boys once they hit puberty due to the risk of infertility associated with contracting mumps. And I’ll inform my girls about the effects rubella can have on a developing baby, so they may choose to get the rubella vaccine as they approach the time that they would be childbearing. Of note, neither rubella or mumps is any more dangerous than the regular flu during childhood, so I see no reason to inject questionable substances into my young rapidly developing children in order to prevent a disease without likely permanent consequences.
In addition, catching the disease during childhood will provide better life long immunity than vaccines; vaccines need ‘boosters’ fairly often to be effective at all.

Some starting questions I’ve asked, researched, and thought through:

  • How bad is the disease?
  • How many children who have normally functioning immune systems have serious complications from it?
  • What would be the treatment should my child contract the disease?
  • How common are outbreaks?
  • If there was an outbreak, what would I do?
  • What is in the vaccine?
  • What are the known problems with the vaccine ingredients?
  • How many children who were part of the outbreak *were* vaccinated?
  • If I do decide to vaccinate, why is it necessary to do it while my child is so small?
  • How long does the vaccine normally provide immunity for? (Just because a vaccine is only recommended to be taken every 5 years, doesn’t mean that statistically it has been shown to provide immunity for 5 full years.)
  • Has anyone in my child’s family had a reaction to a vaccination?
  • Are there other ways we can strengthen our immune systems?
  • How does where I live affect my child’s likelihood of catching a disease? Am I in rural Montana or in San Francisco?

What other questions are part of your vaccine decisions?

Other resources:

Cara lives in Montana with her husband and two young children. She writes at Health, Home and Happiness about traditional foods, healthy families, and natural remedies.

Note from Kelly: Thanks for sharing how you did your research, Cara, I know it will help many parents. As Cara said, and I’ve said many times here, don’t let what we say make your decisions for you. Look into it yourself after taking in as much information as you can find. Here is my list of all posts on Vaccine Issues in case you missed any, and this includes our own story and how we made our vaccination decisions.


  1. Cara, I’m very impressed with the thorough, methodical way you researched each vaccine and disease. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines but I haven’t looked as closely at other vaccines. In general I’d say a case-by-case analysis for most vaccines makes sense. Some are very useful, some are not worth the risk.

    I think the evidence is fairly strong that flu vaccines are worthless for most people. I appreciate that you didn’t make a blanket judgment towards all vaccines, either for or against, but really looked at the evidence. Too many people all sides of the issue are too dogmatic without necessarily being fully informed
    Great job.

  2. Thanks for these thoughts.

    It is so hard to talk about vaccinations, since it’s such a hot topic. I don’t even tell some people that we’re considering not vaccinating our third child — after some very adverse effects on both my second and third children made me conclude that the only cause could have been their vaccines.

    It’s easy for me to understand people’s shock and dismay, though, since I once thought the same thing. All it takes is a very sick child (from the vaccines, not the diseases), and you can easily begin to change your thoughts.

    • I usually choose to not tell people we don’t vaccinate unless I think they might be receptive to it. I allow all rants about ‘those people who don’t vaccinate put everyone at risk’ go right by me and smile and change the subject. That argument doesn’t even make sense, but because it’s such a hot topic, I choose not to debate it :) If someone says they were thinking about skipping vaccinations, I do go ahead and share the information I’ve found, or offer to email a few sites or articles.

      I don’t really lie if we’re asked about ‘shots’- but I will skirt the issue and say things like ‘his doctor has him on a little different vaccine schedule, and that’s what we’re following’ – we do actually see a naturopath who doesn’t want us to vaccinate, so it’s true, but it’s implying something else.

      • Cara — we, too, are seeing a naturopath — Just started with my two youngest who both have immune system issues (one had severe infant eczema with a current ton of food allergies, the other has a mystery fever syndrome). She just treated my youngest through NAET for a severe allergy to the DPT vaccine. I know you said your children weren’t vaccinated, but have you had any other experience with your naturopath and NAET treatments?

        I know this is a bit off-topic — but my husband is still quite skeptical (ok, I’ll admit… so am I!) of the treatments (we, locked in our thoroughly western ways), so I’m looking for any info I can find. Our naturopath is also very anti-vaccine, and I’m now in a position where I’ll need to do some serious convincing for my husband to concede keeping our youngest away from the shots.

        • Katy, I took my dog to a holistic vet once who tried to treat her food “allergies” with NAET. It was so hard to find an alternative vet in our area so I went to her without knowing much about the treatment. The session was really strange, to say the least. It looked like she was trying to treat her through some kind of mental telepathy. I’ll admit, I don’t know anything about NAET but we decided not to return to that vet for a second visit. I asked her if the allergies could be yeast related and she gave me the usual line about giving her a healthy diet. Eventually, I treated her for candida by switching to raw food and giving her lots of probiotics and digestive enzymes. The food “allergies” disappeared in a few months. Best of luck with finding something that works for your little ones!

        • Katy, I’ve done some NAET. I’m not sure how exactly it works, but I have seen it work. The NAET used on me, used acupuncture protocols and some theory–however I am not qualified to talk about it’s efficacy or exactly how it works not having taken the class.

          Not all naturopaths and acupuncturists do NAET–it is a continuing education elective course in most cases. Some people who learn it get GREAT results. Others sort of drop the use of it after awhile because it’s not as effective for them. Every practitioner tends to get attached to certain ways of healing (even in the naturopathic field–or most especially in that field because it is so wide open) so it’s always best to find someone who works with the things that you are comfortable with.

          It sounds like there may be some level of discomfort with this method. It becomes very important to have a practitioner who can talk to you about your desires AND concerns AND the desire to know if you are doing the right thing. If you can’t communicate, it may not be worthwhile.

          Given your concerns, I’d be very direct. If you don’t get what they are saying, how do you feel about it? Even if it doesn’t make sense logically do you feel good about it when you are told about it, or do you still get that nagging feeling that you are just wasting your money? If the latter, then it’s probably not the treatment of choice for you. There are other natural options. If you realize that, you’ll find them–AND you’ll find the treatment and advice that you need.

  3. Thanks for the input. I did vaccinate my children up until my school told me I “had” to vaccinate for chicken pox. They said they wouldn’t let them in so I got the first one but after much discussion I found it wasn’t “required”. Now my kids haven’t had chicken pox and only one of the vaccinations–I’m scared if they get the chicken pox virus as adults!

    Also, there is a big push for my girls to get the HPV vaccination but what they don’t tell you is that is only good if YOU ARE SEXUALLY ACTIVE. We teach abstinence and I don’t see the purpose of this at such a young age. It’s almost like giving your girls permission to have sex at such a young age.


    • Yes, the pro-vaccine info comes from lots of well-meaning but ill informed people. I don’t think that in any state you have to immunize your children. I think in the military it might be different, but for everyone else I think there is a way around it.

      I’ve heard of the HPV vaccine pushing- it’s frustrating to me since the vaccine is so new, and they have no idea how long it will really last! Also, it doesn’t protect against all strains. And if the girls aren’t sexually active, there is absolutely no reason to give it!

      • I read an article (CBS news I think) that the complications from the vaccine (HPV) are the same or greater as from cervical cancer (which has a high early detection rate because of pap smears).

  4. Cara, this is great. I never gave much thought about vaccines until I had my last baby (now 6 months old). I haven’t gotten him vaccinated, though I may in the future. Thanks for the links so I can do more research on the subject.

  5. This was an easy decision for us. It just took a very bad reaction in me and in my son to make me think maybe they would be better off without them. They are the healthiest children I know and most of what kids are vaccinated for are not of serious concern to me and are treatable. I feel that modern hygiene has prevented the fatal nature many of these diseases had in the past. I am more afraid of the vaxes than the diseases. I nursed them both until they were 4.5 years old which boosted their immune systems and a good diet is essential (although we fail on the later as of late 😮 but still better than most). Everyone needs to decide for themselves and be willing to accept the possible risks of the decisions they have made.

  6. Cara, I like your methodology in your approach to dechipering which vaccines to choose – if any. We chose not to vaccinate either, after much research and thought.

    I wanted to add to your list of ingredients that were worrisome – aborted fetal cells called human diploid cells. The DNA from the aborted fetuses do come with the vaccine. Viruses are cultured on media -‘monkey kidneys, chick embryos and human lung tissue from aborted fetuses. Some folks may opt out of chicken pox and rubella knowing that they contain the human cells – for moral and health reasons.

    Also, it is worth mentioning that a parent could ask their pediatrician to draw blood and check titers for antibodies before just going in for booster shots. Some kids may have adequate levels of antibodies and could forgo a booster. (The current schedule is so full compared to what it was when I was a kid in the 70’s).

    Lastly, Gardasil is a bad joke. It wasn’t tested very long, young girls have died or have been damged from it and it doesn’t prevent cancer. I see greed with this vaccine as they are going to be recommending it to all boys to prevent genital warts. I mean, really. Is that on par with something like diptheria? Warts? Why are we trying to sanitize ourseves and the world? Why do we fear getting sick and overcoming it? Sanitation and hygeine have improved tremendously and I feel that we owe the decline of these diseases to that – not vaccines. Why else would these diseases still be prevalent in Third World Countries?

  7. Thank you, Cara. Our oldest three are fully vaccinated, including chicken pox which wasn’t required at the time. Our 2 1/2 yo has had none. I knew I wanted to at least delay and not have him get all of the required vaccinations. This type of research will help me decide which, if any, he receives.

  8. Since you’re talking about the Hep B vaccine I wanted to add: did you see the recent scientific study that came out showing children who received the Hep B vaccine as infants were more likely to have learning disabilities? It baffles my mind that we take a newborn infant, someone we wouldn’t even let someone sneeze on, and we inject toxic substances into their bloodstream. Most parents are given no or little information on the disease/vaccine and it’s just assumed you will give it to your baby. It’s wrong.

  9. Unfortunately, I started researching vaccines a little too late- I never even would have second guessed it until my 1st son was vaccine damaged and having seizures. It tool several years to get him back, and I regret not thinking to question it in the very beginning. We stopped vaxxing immediately and our other children were never vaccinated (and never will be.) They go to public school just fine, too.


  10. I’m wondering if anyone reading knows how to approach so called mandatory vaccinations in one’s employment field. I work in a hospital, but I’m not a healthcare professional (I’m in a support staff position) so I don’t come into physical contact with patients. I follow all the precautions on airborne exposure. The hospital requires the flu shot each year, as well as being up to date on Dtap boosters. Last year I was able to sign an exemption but I’ve been told that won’t be an option this year. Any ideas on how to handle that?

    • Kara, wow, that is a tough one… How big of a stink are you willing to raise over it? I guess that’s the question, unfortunately.

      • That is tough. You can try throwing out the religious discrimination thing- or see if you can get an appointment with a naturopath who is anti-vaccine and say that the flu shot is against medical advice. Those are the first two routes I’d take.

  11. Great article. I agree that each person needs to do the research and place the information in relation to their own lives.

    For example, while Cara opted out on Hep-B we didn’t. I was a risk for contracting something through bodily fluids. At the time I was a teacher in a high school. As you ask how in the world would I have contracted something through bodily fluids also keep in mind that some high schools like mine violence was prevelant. It was not unusal for knock-down drag-out fights to happen in the classroom. This means blood. In many cases lots of blood. While the Hep-B shot wasn’t right for Cara’s children it was for my son.

  12. When I set out to research vaccines, I took a similar approach. At that time, my husband and I had worked with some children with autism as therapists and were aware of their parents’ opinion that vaccines had damaged their children. We felt, then, that we would be wise to choose carefully and delay.

    But then I started digging more. I purposely looked at the CDC’s website, linking to as many original studies as I could. I looked at the WHO’s website and read each individual disease paper. I wanted to know everything I could about actual risks of both the disease and the vaccine. It was really the WHO’s papers that actually convinced me NOT to vaccinate at all. The disease risks were really infintesimal, while the vaccines carried much stronger risks. And I read all the arguments against that line of logic, like “that’s only true because we vaccinate” but it just didn’t hold up.

    So yes, now I tend to be extremely anti-vaccine and I’m very passionate. But I did MONTHS of methodical research about each disease and vaccine to come to that position. And I’m very, very glad I did; my children have had none and will have none.

  13. Kara,
    In regards to your choices while working at the hospital, I would go and read your employee manual very thoroughly. I believe your right to opt out for religious, medical or philosophical reasons (Bbased on your states allowances) may be trumped by your agreement. If there is nothing stated in your employee manual perhaps you can fight it. You may need to talk with a lawyer. My mom worked in the NICU of a Children’s hospital as a secretary. She was not ‘forced’ to get vaccinated for even the flu. (which is a ridiculous vaccine, IMO). Good luck!

    • I am a nurse working in direct patient care. I, and several other nurses, never get the flu vaccine. I remember reading about some hospitals that would require unvaccinated employees to wear a face mask during the whole H1N1 mess, but they weren’t “required” to get it.

  14. I have a question as I find myself in an awful predicament…
    My son was bitten in the face by the family dog and bitten pretty badly requiring medical attention…They put my son on an antibiotic and say he needs the Tetanus shot and hepatitis shot??
    This little boy have never been vaccinated and I have my beliefs about vaccines and the garbage they put in them but i must say I am scared in this case…
    Do you have any advice??
    Any ideas? to what I can do?
    :(( I am one worried mamma

    • Can you test the dog for hepatitis? I’m not sure on the incidence of dogs carrying hepatitis or tetanus, for that matter. That said, tetanus is anaerobic so the bacteria grows best in a deep puncture wound (think the rusty nail theory) where there is less exposure to oxygen. So if they are not really deep bites, I don’t know that I would worry about it so much.
      Plus, it can take a couple weeks for tetanus antibodies to form, so the vaccine may not even prevent a serious case. The tetanus toxin is so potent that in order to administer it in vaccine form it has to be diluted so much that it’s effectiveness is questionable.
      My question is, if after being infected by tetanus, I do not aquire natural immunity, how can a diluted vaccine provide immunity, kwim?

  15. What is the history on your dog? Have you vaccinated him? Does he carry tetanus? I thought only cows and horses (farm animals had it in their feces). You could always ask for a mercury-free tetanus vaccine. At least the vaccine enters the body the same way the disease does (broken skin directly into blood stream – so the body can wage a proper attack the way it was meant to.) Does your dog have hepatitis? If not, I wouldn’t vaccinate with that one, personally.

    • we had rescued the dog only 10 days before so we have little to no info on the dogs past.
      The bite was deep and right through his face to inside his cheek.
      I am giving him ledum 30c several times a day….colloidal silver…probiotics because I had no choice to get him on antibiotics. Hepatitis was something the hospital was worried about.
      As it turns out the tetanus shot is combined with the DPT shot…it is never only the tetanus shot until a child reaches 10 years of age.That was/is a hard pill to swallow as my now 23 year old son had an awful reaction to the DPT shot and almost died as a baby….
      I have a big problem with this…
      I am hoping the Ledum will be enough…
      He is also taking copper but with little success for parasites…as he will no longer take it….
      Praying for a good outcome…we have never had to deal with animal bites before

  16. Cara,
    Wonderful post. Would you mind sharing your personal thoughts and conclusion on the tetanus vaccine? We chose against all vaccines with our first, but always kept in the back of our minds that the tetanus shot was one we might get for her when she reached a certain age. Well, now that day has come and we are struggling so much with this decision. I want so badly to just decide against it and be comfortable with that, but we live on a farm and it’s so hard to research how real and probable the threat of it is. Thank you for any help!

    • Hi Megan,
      I think I looked up the number of people who die yearly from tetanus. If I recall correctly, the number is pretty low. I didn’t feel like it was that big of a risk, though I do know that farm animals can carry tetanus.
      I know they’re saying that the death rate is low because people have been vaccinated, but if you consider how many adults do *not* get the booster tetanus shot every 7 years, and how many of the same adults do not get tetanus, I feel safe declining it for the most part. If I had a really rough-and-tumble child and we lived on a farm, I might consider it after age 5. But an average of 43 cases a year with only 18% of those people dying, *and* death is most likely among people over age 60 or drug users… I’m just not seeing my children fitting into the ‘at risk’ population. Also the tetanus vaccine is one of the ‘bad’ ones that causes reactions more often.

  17. Thanks for this informative post! We need to keep spreading the word and combating the health care industry that spends so much money on mainstreaming what are essentially “lies” about vaccines. For example, the truth is that the Swine Flu is more mild than the seasonal flu!
    So glad you have a voice that is clearly being heard (all your comments already).

  18. The only thing you left out of your really excellent discussion is breastfeeding. In a few cases, we discovered that breastfeeding confers superior immunity to vaccination. A lot depends on the immunity the mother carries, so it’s sometimes worthwhile to get a titer for the mother in advance. I have also heard of mothers engaging in milkshare when one mom had an immunity that another did not, since milkshare is not as yuk as a lot of vaccine additives.

    As far as the question of “what’s the treatment?”, it’s also worthwhile to look to the native modalities where the disease originates. Sometimes local medicine has a better cure for a thing than allopathic medicine does.

  19. Cara – Great job summarizing a very complex issue in a very simple way. I am very passionate about not vaccinating as well, but it took a vaccine injury in my 2nd child and MUCH study for me to get there. The difficulties encountered due to the reactions and subsequent health issues led me away from mainstream medical because they could offer me no answers and no hope. I turned to Naturopathy which helped us to overcome our issues, and it led me into a career as a Naturopath. Needless to say, our 3rd child is unvaccinated, is one of the healthiest kids around, and we’ve had no issues with school. You just need to be confident and request the waiver form. You do not need to get into a discussion about it with the school, just sign and submit. Mail it if you are more comfortable. He (kindergartener) also just sailed through chicken pox last fall since it turned up at school with the VACCINATED kids.

    *Regarding NAET* – It has worked very well for us in our quest to regain our child’s health and it has worked well for many others that I know personally. I’ve spent a significant amount of time learning NAET and use it quite often. Sometimes there are wonderful obvious results, other times there are more complex issues and success does not come as quickly. It is definitely worth trying, but ALWAYS make sure you are comfortable with the practitioner. I also acknowledge that it is not the answer for everything, but honestly sometimes when you’ve done all the right healthy things and your body still sees a food as an allergen, you need the NAET to reprogram the immune system so that it does not continue to mount the defense anymore.

    *Regarding Tetanus* – it has been shown that the tetanus vaccine is not considered effective if administered after an injury to someone who has not had 2 previous doses. Tetanus anti-toxin, aka tetanus immune globulin, can be given to unvaccinated or under-vaccinated people (meaning those with less than 2 previous doses of the toxoid vaccine) who have suffered high risk or moderate risk injuries. The anti-toxin does not confer lasting immunity, but it does contain antibodies which will attack the tetanus bacteria. There are also serious risks from over-vaccinating (usually in the ER because of unknown vaccine status), so try to keep good records if you have the vaccine. (Source: Patty Brennan – Vaccine Choices, Homeopathic Alternatives, and Parental Rights) Another good reputable source of information is Sherri TenPenny DO, and Mary Tocco.

  20. Mary Tocco is going to be speaking here in town next week but I can’t go since I have 3 other things that same evening, but I’m going to ask a friend to ask her about the Chicken Pox vaccine for me. I want to know if that is a shot we SHOULD get if our unvaccinated child has not had it by a certain age.

    • Kelly, I would love to know what she says about that too. Our oldest is 11 and had the first shot. He’s been re-exposed with our son having it last fall so I figure that should be like a booster for his immune system. They are saying that’s part of why shingles is more of a problem now (aside from everyone stressed with compromised immune systems) – people are not having the repeated exposure to remind the immune system. I just don’t like knowing that the kids will need boosters for the rest of their life. By the way, I heard that the shingles vaccine is a double dose of the chicken pox vaccine.

  21. I applaud every parent who takes seriously the decision to research what is most beneficial for their children. However, research involves more than internet searches for CDC statistics. Understanding the science behind, and the implications of one’s decisions is critical. If you are indeed going to understand how the decision to not vaccinate affects more than just your child, this is one of the best places to start.

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