How We Researched Vaccines
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.
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?
- Mothering's Vaccination Forum
- Vaccine FAQ's
- Other baby and child related issues I think are important to look into
- How we pay special attention to the foods we eat to keep our immune systems up
Cara lives in Montana with three 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.