In Defense of Not Vaccinating

We don’t vaccinate.

There, I said it.

Okay, actually, our older kids are vaccinated, and our younger kids are not.  Somewhere along the line, I had a change of heart about vaccines.  Somewhere along the line, I went from not questioning conventional wisdom, authority, and expertise to questioning all of those things and making choices that place me firmly in the outskirts of the mainstream.

This post isn’t about trying to convince anyone of the evils of vaccines, though.  What it’s really about is trying to dispel the assumption that anyone who chooses against vaccination is “reckless,” “ignorant,” and even “crazy,” or that our views on vaccines are based on the gospel of  Jenny McCarthy.  (For the record, I’ve never read anything Jenny McCarthy has written or listened to a single interview with her.  I only know that she is the scourge of the vaccinating majority.)  Sure, there are those who don’t vaccinate because they believe that God will protect them and theirs.  But not all of us even believe in any god.

Routine, compulsory vaccination concerns me for many reasons.  This isn’t about autism, or a belief that there is some conspiracy at the heart of compulsory vaccination – although I do believe that loading babies’ and children’s bodies with toxins and live and deactivated viruses must have some effect on natural immune response, and yes, neurological function, and there is no question that pharmaceutical companies stand to profit more the more people buy into the vaccination agenda.

It concerns me that every medication and drug out there has risks and potential side effects, ranging from mild to severe, but we are apparently supposed to ignore the risks associated with vaccines.  As parents, we would give thoughtful consideration to the risks and benefits of any drug recommended for our children – but with vaccines, it’s a different story.  There is no drug or medication – including everything from Tylenol to, yes, vaccines – that is 100% safe and risk-free for every individual.  Potential side effects range from pain and swelling at the injection site to fevers to anaphylactic shock to seizures and encephalitis.  Now, I’m not saying that all vaccines are inherently evil in all cases.  What I am saying is that I have a problem with the fact that there are risks, but we are all expected to disregard those risks (and the vast majority of people never ask for or read the package inserts from the vaccines they are consenting to).

It concerns me that we are consumers but we cannot choose where our vaccines come from, how they are manufactured, or how they are administered.  Don’t like the fact that MMR is three vaccines in one?  Tough shit.  You can no longer get a measles vaccine separate from a mumps vaccine separate from a rubella vaccine, period.  Even though many, many consumers have expressed grave concerns about this, the drug manufacturers have no reason to cater to their consumers – even to humor them for peace of mind – because consumers have nowhere else to turn to for those vaccines; it’s not like you can shop around.  Take it or leave it (and if you leave it, you’re crazy, of course).

It concerns me that you cannot hold a drug manufacturer liable for a vaccine injury.  It’s true.  If you or your child suffer a severe reaction to a vaccine – however remote that possibility is – you will not be able to sue the drug company.  The drug companies that manufacture vaccines are legally immune from liability for injuries their vaccines cause.   You can take your case to “vaccine court,” which is really just a no-fault insurance program, and which is also a little like a police department investigating one of its own for wrongdoing; it’s not a neutral, unbiased process.  Unlike conventional trial court, there is no discovery, there is no jury, and your case is decided by a Special Master who is paid by the same government that has enacted compulsory vaccination laws.

I, of course, have specific concerns about specific vaccines.  For example, why are we still routinely vaccinating for polio, which is considered eradicated in the Western Hemisphere?  Why is the HPV vaccine being pushed so heartily when it does not eliminate the recommendation for yearly pap smears, which remains the best defense against cervical cancer, and nobody really knows how effective it is long term?  The flu vaccine is a guessing game each year – some years they get it right, and some years they don’t.  But the flu virus just keeps on mutating, and people get sick every flu season, shots or not; flu certainly isn’t the only illness people contract during flu season.  Last flu season, Joey became sicker than I’ve ever seen him – so sick that we had to take him to the ER.  Everyone assumed it was the flu, and I was lectured by more than one person for not getting my kids flu shots.  They swabbed him for influenza in the ER and it was negative; he had acute bronchitis, which is a bacterial infection and could not have been prevented by a flu shot.

(Interestingly, back in 2009 when the swine flu – or H1N1 – was sweeping the nation, everyone in our house got it except Michael, who at the time was undergoing chemo and was therefore much more susceptible to it.  I have my own theory about why he didn’t get it, but that’s fodder for a whole other post that I may never write.  Suffice to say that there are unconventional ways to boost a person’s immune system, as we discovered the year Michael battled cancer.)

Another argument I’ve seen a lot of lately is that we all have a duty to vaccinate, if not for ourselves, then to protect those around us who may have compromised immune systems.  My friend Tara wrote about this just recently here.  Now, I will just say that I’ve never attended a “Pox Party.”  I’ve never been invited to one, for that matter, and I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that trend, or how I would respond to an invitation to a pox party.  I will say, however, that while people are talking about a duty to vaccinate in order to protect hypothetical strangers, virtually nobody is talking about the fact that those same immunosupressed hypothetical strangers can become infected by indirect contact to a live virus vaccine via direct contact with a person who has recently received a live virus vaccine.  So in reality, there is just no way to ensure that kind of protection for people with compromised immune systems, and the truth is that the vast majority of us just aren’t that altruistic anyway; we all make personal decisions based on our perceptions of personal risk and personal benefit, and not so much on societal risk and societal benefit.  For fuck’s sake, we can’t even manage to address poverty and hunger in any meaningful way, and we sure as hell can’t seem to pass sane gun laws.  Poverty, hunger, and guns are all prevalent, and they end far more lives than all of the diseases and illness we routinely vaccinate against, combined.

What it very much comes down to for me is how we view illness and disease.  We have crummy immune systems because of the unhealthy lifestyles we lead – feeding our bodies all kinds of chemicals and genetically altered foods, spending our days sedentary under artificial lights, manipulating our hormones.  Then we inject our bodies (or at least our kids’ bodies) with all these vaccines and believe on some level that we’ll never get sick (but we do anyway, of course).  I don’t think we humans were ever meant to eradicate every illness and disease possible.  To be brutally honest, I suspect that disease is nature’s way of ensuring population control.  But here we are, trying to outsmart nature, trying to eradicate every disease that crops up (but diseases are always one step ahead of us, so it’s an endless and futile proposition), trying to make people live as long as possible – and we have an overpopulated planet, a world in which there are just more human beings than we are able (or willing) to house and nourish, and we’re using up the planet’s resources at a frightening rate.  I’m not saying I do not fear illness or death, or that if one of my kids got sick that I wouldn’t do everything I could to try to make him or her better – I’m just saying that on a global level, maybe we’re focusing on the wrong things.

In the end, I would never advocate for anyone not to vaccinate their children.  We all make the best choices we can based on the information available.  I wish there was a little more respect for those of us who make our choices a little off the beaten path.

For further reading:

Should Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Be Prosecuted?

Flu Deaths Reality Check

 

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38 Responses to In Defense of Not Vaccinating

  1. jisun January 14, 2014 at 1:56 am #

    Well. I agree with everything, what can I say? I suspect that the heart of the issue is that vaccines give us a false sense of control.

  2. Stephanie January 14, 2014 at 5:02 am #

    We have had Owen vaccinated, but I have been reading a lot more about vaccinations and I have to say that if Owen would have been born right now, I’m not sure I would do all the shots. I just pulled his immunization record (Kindy registration next month!) and I guess I didn’t realize how many shots the poor kid has had in the last 4 years.

    I have never, ever gotten a flu shot. Not once. I’ve never done the flu mist thing either. Guess how many times I’ve had the flu? I believe the last time was in 1996, which I picked up from my family who had it during Thanksgiving break (that was fun to deal with in my college dorm room). My husband gets the flu shot every year and just about every other year he gets the flu. Go figure!

  3. Annika January 14, 2014 at 9:28 am #

    Some ideas from Europe 🙂 I live in Estonia and we are having a comeback of whooping cough in our country, that some link to the fact that a lot of parents are not vaccinating their children anymore. Also I have read about other diseases, long thought of as bygones, including polio, for example, reappearing around the world. Here are only a handful of them:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-07/polio-threatens-europe-as-virus-makes-comeback-amid-wars.html
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-orin-levine/the-comeback-killers_b_860704.html
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/09/060912-polio.html

    And another interesting read (in my opinion) is an article by Amy Parker, who grew up unvaccinated and had her own children vaccinated
    http://www.mamamia.com.au/social/vaccination-growing-up-unvaccinated/

    Although I’m also sceptical about flu shots: never had any myself and not going to give it to my son, either. Mainly because the virus keeps changing and mutating and you never know, what strain is it going to be this year or that; and that everyone I know, who gets the shot, gets sick immediately after it, so why bother.

    And I agree with You on the gruesome fact, that the diseases are probably there to “weed out the weak”, as horrible as it seems and we are meddling in nature way more than we really should.

  4. Holly January 14, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    I read a great article in the New Yorker a couple of years ago on the rampant childhood asthma and food allergies in the US & UK (the only 2 countries where these problems are epidemic). Part of the problem? Our immune systems are flaccid because they rarely get a proper work out.

    Because he wasn’t vaccinated, one of my children contract Whooping Cough when it was making the rounds in our region. It was awful, truly awful. He’d cough until he wretched and tears ran down his face. But he recovered. Unlike asthma, it’s not a chronic condition.

    I have struggled with vaccination for 20 years. I chose to wait until age 2 for my older kids. Then I was made to feel a fool for insisting on killed polio only, which is all they use now. DPT 20 years ago was a filthy, filthy vaccine. I don’t doubt for a moment that because people started opting out (and complaining) that the DPT vaccine is now far cleaner.

    While there may not be easy choices, it is all the harder because we’ve been given little reason to trust anything big pharma says about anything.

  5. Kara January 14, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

    Why I vaccinate- a very close friend was not vaccinated and got a severe case of the mumps as a child. He is now profoundly infertile. He will never have the ability to father children. I can’t do that to my kids. Sure, the chance of that happening is incredibly low. But knowing that I could have prevented it would haunt me for the rest of my life.

    • Lisa January 14, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

      Yes, and I and my brothers all had the mumps as children and none of us are infertile.

      Kara, I do understand this mindset, but it can work either way. There are plenty of parents out there who believe that their children have been injured – in some cases profoundly – by vaccines, and the fact that they believe it could have been prevented haunts them. I will say that receiving Finn’s diagnosis of Down syndrome when he was a newborn was really the deciding factor for us to not vaccinate him. Because he has Ds, he’s already at a higher risk than the general population for developing autism, epilepsy, and a whole host of other neurological conditions, and I just couldn’t live with the risk of causing neurological insult to his system by way of vaccines – however remote that possibility.

      My point is that all of us parents who think long and hard about it think long and hard about it. It’s not a snap decision, and even if some parents’ choices don’t mesh with other parents’ choices, it doesn’t mean they’re crazy or stupid.

  6. Anna January 15, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    I sure understand the worry with vaccines and will admit I have to take a deep, deep breath each time we do it, but I do hope you will continue to research and think about this topic. I also really understand your decision for Finn. In fact, children with health issues who have trouble with vaccines are exactly the reason the rest of us should get them. I even understand skipping the flu shot because the illness is sort of in a different category, but the flu (the real flu– the one the shot helps to cover) kills healthy people — ten 20-30-year-olds in my county this past month, alone. It is easy for those of us born after vaccines made a real difference in stopping disease to think that there’s no need for them and to rightly question many of the things you question, but the bottom line is that vaccines save many, many, many lives and keep many people from suffering horrible diseases (polio, etc.). Keep asking those great questions — they will only improve them, but please do also continue to reassess this decision.

    • jisun January 15, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

      There’s actually debate about whether vaccines have saved as many lives as it is currently claimed, or whether a large part of that has to do with better nutrition and sanitary conditions.

      But your implication that if Lisa just did more research, just thought about it a little harder, just opened her eyes a little wider… That is exactly what she is talking about (if I understand the post correctly, and it is certainly how I feel as a person who has chosen not to vaccinate my children). Of course there is always more to learn, but that cuts both ways and it is pretty presumptuous of you to assume that the non-vaxxer has everything to learn and you have nothing further to consider or learn.

    • Stan January 20, 2014 at 2:58 am #

      Well, you do have the right to not vaccinate your kids. You absolutely have the right to refuse to have your kids get a vaccine and assume the teeny-tiny risk that goes along with it in order to protect the vulnerable on society — like my preemie who can’t yet be vaccinated and thus relies on herd immunity. Or my mum, who had a life saving kidney transplant and will be immunosuppressed for the rest of her life.

      Fortunately, I live in Canada where everybody is REQUIRED to vaccinate themselves and their kids. There’s no conscientious objector to vaccines option. (A doctor’s note with a valid medical reason is the only acceptable “out” from vaccination).

      • Lisa January 20, 2014 at 3:05 am #

        I’m not sure you’re correct on that, Stan. I have a friend who lives in Canada and hasn’t had her kids – now teens – vaccinated.

        I appreciate your sentiments, but don’t appreciate the guilt. As I said, we all have to make our decisions based on what we feel is best for our families. I’m sure you do the same, even if you don’t make the same decisions I do.

  7. Nicole January 15, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

    Jisun – I’m not sure where you grew up or how nutritionally sound your diet was as a child, but I definitely eat better as a 34 yr old adult as opposed to my younger years. I think nutritional values have evolved for the better, for the most part. Sanitary environments have evolved too. There’s much to be researched about how many chemicals we leave about our homes after cleaning – many more than decades past. There are studies linking such chemicals to autism, ADHD, etc.
    Yes, both sides of the vaccination debate have much to research. If I read this blog post correctly, Lisa capped it off basically stating we should all feel like we are doing the best by our children. I think it’s unfortunate that “vaxxers” aren’t allowed a diplomatic opinion to this post without “non vaxxers” feeling threatened in some obscure way. I mean, unless I’m mistaken – shouldn’t this be open for healthy discussion? I doubt Anna was implying Lisa was/is misinformed.

    • jisun January 15, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

      You’re right, I shouldn’t presume to know 100% of what Lisa intended or didn’t intend in writing the post.

      But calling my objection to what looks like a clear implication that of a person simply did more research, they’d want to vaccinate, obscure… Well that doesn’t feel great. As someone who has done some vaccinationsfor some of my kids and none for some, I’ve run up against this assumption over and over again and it is subtly condescending (well intended or not). I fully understand why a person would choose to vaccinate their children, and in response to someone saying they didn’t *feel respected* in vaccinating, I would not try to say l suggest that if they researched more, perhaps they would change their mind.

      I’m all for healthy debate but I didnt think this post was about debating vaccines (but I’m open to hearing that I’m wrong in that). The reason I said what I said about nutrition and sanitisation (which I think you misunderstood, as my point was that these things are better, and therefore some argue that it is difficult to attribute the fall of many diseases solely to vaccines), was to respond to the assumption that vaccines have saved X number of lives, and if a person doesnt vaccinate they are closing their eyes to supposedly obvious evidence. Im not saying anyone has to agree (i frankly am undecided on that specific point), but only to question the assumption. Hope that makes sense.

      • Anna January 15, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

        Yikes! A reminder of why I almost never respond to posts. The reason I hoped Lisa would continue to consider is primarily because it was clear she was a “considering” kind of person. She obviously changed her mind of this topic as she received additional information and my hope is that she (and the rest of us, btw) will continue to be open-minded. I had every reason to believe she has been and will continue to be well informed. People on both sides are certainly well informed and the fact is there are compelling reasons to take both sides. I thought I made my tolerance of a dissenting view pretty clear.

        This is certainly a hot topic and no one writes about it without expecting spirited debate. To be honest, I think the only reason I even said anything (very respectfully, I thought???) was because I was reading this while watching a news clip about a healthy 23-year special ed teacher-to-be who died over the holidays from the flu. She was the 10th person in my county in her 20s to do so and it struck a cord. And, as I said before I tend to put flu shots in a different category from polio, for example, where the strain doesn’t change and herd immunity really has eliminated the disease.

        I don’t give my kids one drop of medicine that I can possibly avoid and vaccs sometimes scare me too, but I hold to my original position that the small risk does indeed keep many people from suffering horrible diseases and/or dying.

        • Lisa January 15, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

          See, I am a little skeptical about the news reports of seemingly healthy people dying from the flu. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but as we all know, the media certainly misreports and sensationalizes events. I did find the one article I linked to at the end of my post very interesting in that it explained how flu deaths reported each year are not actual body counts, but numbers dumped into and spewed out of computers. They are very skewed and do not accurately represent actual numbers of people who die from influenza each year. In a lot of cases, if someone dies – from whatever cause – while they happen to have the flu, or are suspected of having the flu, their death is dumped into the “death by flu” statistical model. I would only believe someone actually died from the flu if an autopsy was performed and that was actually found to be the cause of death.

          In any case, yes, this is definitely a hot button topic. As you said, Anna, “People on both sides are certainly well informed and the fact is there are compelling reasons to take both sides,” that was really the point of my post, and I appreciate you acknowledging that.

          • thelaker January 16, 2014 at 12:48 am #

            The link below may provide some response to your skepticism about healthy people dying of flu:

            http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/immuneSystem/Pages/overreaction.aspx

            Key quote for the time constrained:

            “Although most influenza deaths occur in those with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, certain flu viruses can cause death in young, healthy adults. Some studies have suggested that overreaction of the immune system contributes to the lethality of these highly virulent strains.”

            Some researchers believe this was the mechanism that made the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 so deadly.

            Flu is a serious illness even today:

            http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/even-in-2014-influenza-kills/

          • Lisa January 16, 2014 at 5:41 am #

            The fact is that there are risks that go along with vaccinating, and there are risks that go along with not vaccinating. I understand that – I am certainly not saying that I have chosen a path with no risks. It feels like there is no perfect choice. And it feels very much like the risks associated with vaccinations are risks that are generally minimized and even laughed off. But people have been claiming injury due to vaccines since vaccines began making the rounds in the early twentieth century. The fact that there is a government fund set aside specifically to compensate people who have been injured by vaccines – however flawed that system is – acknowledges the fact that it is expected that a certain portion of the population WILL be injured by vaccines. In the end, each of us has to choose which set of risks we can best live with, and it’s not an easy choice to make for all of us. I do struggle with it from time to time – sometimes I am very torn about it. For now, this is what we are doing.

        • jisun January 15, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

          Anna, I did respond strongly, but I thought I was being fair (you cab disagree of course). But to be clear, I didn’t think you were disrespectful. I did think that what you said had implications that were problematic for me and wanted to say so. Reading what I wrote, I can see paces when I could have taken a different tone. I didn’t intend to disrespect you so I apologize if I have. I also appreciate your willingness to say that people on both sides are informed.

  8. Susan January 15, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    Do public schools and daycares require your child to be fully vaccinated before they can attend?

    • Lisa January 15, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

      In California, parents can sign a waiver.

  9. Sheila January 16, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    Most.stressful.topic.for.me.ever. I’m getting a stomach ache just typing about it. I was completely stressed in our old state, then realized a simple waiver that was notarized was enough for school, despite the pressure I received from the school nurses office. Now we are living in another state, which as I’m told by our pediatrician, is beginning to go the way of “all or nothing” and are not interested in parents who are trying to accept some but not other vaxes and instead are flagging you in their statewide electronic system if you are noncompliant. I’m guessing this will potentially mean no school admittance (we are still working through preschool, but this is a huge concern for the Fall and I’m still sorting out if that will be true or not). I cannot begin to list the lectures I have had from vehemently pro-vax people, parents, doctors, etc. who all but do, in fact, tell me I’m crazy to my face am ‘risking the health and lives of al others’. One ped we visited here, when I told him my concern over my daughter having Ds, therefore, a compromised immune system (and the reasons you described above), is a huge concern for me, to which he stated “all the more reason she should be vaccinated”. Um… once again, not listening. In my world, this topic has surpassed every controversial topic I can think of.

    • Lisa January 16, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

      I think one of the most fundamental problems I have is the idea that the government can dictate what we put into our children’s bodies. I have a lot of trouble with that.

      • Sheila January 16, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

        ALOT of trouble with that, is right.

  10. Alex January 16, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    You are right in saying that vaccines are not without risks, as any other medication. However, they have been invaluable to help humankind fight infectious disease. Vaccines offer different levels of protection, and some are downright crappy, like the flu vaccine, and there is misuse and overuse too. I don’t disagree with most of what you say. I do have a couple of issues,though.

    You say in your post “why are we still routinely vaccinating for polio, which is considered eradicated in the Western Hemisphere?”. Well, polio was a truly devastating disease that affected hundreds of thousands of kids all over the world until it was eradicated… by the polio vaccine. And it was eradicated, because everybody vaccinated against polio, not just a fraction of the population. Same with smallpox, another deadly disease eradicated by a vaccine.

    Also, I won’t argue that our western diet is crap, full of chemicals, etc etc. But in the “good old days”, when food was completely free of chemicals, infectious disease was by far the number one killer. So, even with our crappy diet and our crappy immune systems (which I do believe are worse off today), we are definitely getting less infectious disease than we did when we were not eating this diet. The fact that today infectious disease is well below cancer and heart disease in death toll speaks to how far we have progressed in the fight against pathogenic microbes. And vaccines are a huge part of that fight.

    Lastly, the whole “we all have a duty to vaccinate, if not for ourselves, then to protect those around us who may have compromised immune systems” is actually about something called “herd immunity”. That is something you achieve when the majority of a population is immune against an infectious disease. Because pathogenic bacteria and viruses need to be on their human host to replicate and grow in number to then infect other humans, when the majority of the population is immune, it leaves pathogens with very few places to live, i.e. susceptible people that can contract the disease, and that protects those in the community that cannot become immune (because they cannot get vaccinated, or because they are immunodeficient, or other causes).

    I like your attitude about questioning everything, we should use our brain and our knowledge to make decisions, and not just follow directions blindly. Many things are decided in medicine because they are good “on average”, and that doesn’t mean that they are good for you as an individual. Thank you for being a refreshingly honest voice in the internet.

    • Lisa January 16, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Alex.

      I am familiar with “herd immunity.” Again, though, a lot of people don’t seem to realize that immunosuppressed people are at risk by contact with anyone recently vaccinated with a live-virus vaccine.

      I wonder a lot about the fact that, back in the day, disease was so rampant and killed hundreds of thousands of people. I don’t doubt that vaccines HAVE placed a huge part in the war against disease. It’s not just diet, though – it’s our entire lifestyles now, all the chemicals and artificial shit we constantly expose ourselves to. In any case, however, I also have to wonder if, even with our crappy lifestyles and the impact it’s had on our overall health, medicine has advanced by leaps and bounds since the olden days, and we would be far better able to treat illness and disease than we were able to way back when.

      • Alex January 17, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

        I guess I am scared because people seem to think we have won the war against infectious disease, and that is why they even consider not vaccinating. If your kids had a 50% chance of getting a potentially deadly disease, and you could lower that risk to less than 1% with a vaccine, you probably would do it. Because we have had many successful vaccines and vaccination campaigns, that kind of widespread disease doesn’t happen anymore, and the population as a whole has gotten relaxed about microbes. Make no mistake, we are not “designed” to live 75+ years. The early Homo sapiens was lucky to get past 30. Hey, even in 1900, 100 hundred years ago, the average life expectancy in the US was less than 50. You didn’t have much cancer and heart disease then, I’m sure, and that was because most people didn’t live long enough to suffer them. But humans died by the millions because of infections. We have mostly conquered that problem in the developed world, but we only need to lower our guard, for example stop vaccinating in large numbers, to see some of that reappear.

  11. lisa January 16, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    I think the lobbyists from the drug companies have the government in their back pockets. So they aren’t going to be watching out for us
    . I think vaccination is a risk absolutely but unvaccinated kids do die from those diseases. Iguess you have to decide which risk you want to take. I have to say your comments about diseases being natures way of population control odd. You have seven kids. If you are concerned about the earths resources why did you have seven? I actually agree with most everything thing you say and I love your blog. But this seemed very contradictory. I actually do believe in population control and not by not providing pharmaceuticals but by having less children .wouldn’t it be easier to loose a child that never was than a child you held in your arms? I really really wanted another child but held to my beliefs and didn’t. Maybe I am one of the few alturistics. Ha ha. I hope I didn’t offend you but this post just seemed odd.

    • Lisa January 16, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

      You find the entire post “odd”? Huh.

      Yeah, I have seven kids (believe me, I’m aware of it!). Why? Mainly careless birth control. Maybe we should get rid of a few of them? Lol.

      Anyway, my comment about population control was a general observation about the world, certainly not a specific judgment about how many kids each person should have. I’m well aware that I’ve contributed to overpopulation. Not sure what to do about it at this point! But thank goodness there are people out there like you who are making a conscious choice to do their part not to overpopulate the world.

      Thanks for the comment.

  12. Life After Grad School January 19, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    I’m an immunologist, so obviously I’m biased towards vaccinating. That said, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a few common misconceptions about vaccines (some of which were expressed in this post or comments to this post, but some were not).

    1. The flu vaccine is not completely useless. Yes, the flu vaccine is a crap shoot in that scientists have to use statistics to make a guess about which strain the flu virus will become in the coming year. HOWEVER, the vaccine protects against the strain you are vaccinated with. Thus a vaccine this year may not protect you from this year’s strain, but it may protect you from the strain that appears 5-10 years after you are vaccinated. Therefore getting a flu vaccine every year is an investment in your long-term future health more than your immediate health.

    Flu-mist, the nasal flu vaccine is the ONLY version of the flu vaccine which contains actual infectious flu virus, thus it is the only one that can actually make you sick.

    2. The majority of vaccines given today are inactivated pathogens (viruses or bacteria that cause disease). Thus, these vaccines are safer than the live-attenuated vaccines many of us received as children (assuming you were born prior to 1993). Because they are safer, they require more frequent boosters and the addition of certain salts (alum) in order to effectively stimulate your immune system to a protective response.

    3. Subunit vaccines, vaccines that contain proteins from pathogens, are the gold-standard of safety in the vaccine field. There are no actual infectious material in these vaccines. However, because of this, they are not always effective. The Hepatitis vaccines are the best example of subunit vaccines. The reason that they require 3 boosters over 6 months is it truly takes that dosage to stimulate an effective response due to the absence of infectious material.

    4. The HPV vaccine would actually be more effective if it was given to males as well. Males carry HPV (generally with no symptoms unless they are immunocompromised). To be honest, the reason that PAP smears are still required despite the success of the HPV vaccine preventing cancer is that scientists don’t actually know how HPV is spread. A girl may acquire the virus in utero from her mother or only from sexual contact. The same is true for boys – they could acquire it from their mother or they could acquire it from sexual contact. The truth is, while it COULD be a sexually transmitted disease, we don’t actually know that it is. HPV “hides” from the immune system. What the vaccine does is stimulate the immune system with HPV so that when the virus reactivates, there is a quick response (2-3 days), which is what actually what prevents cancer. The normal initial immune response takes 10-16 days, which is more than enough time for HPV to mutate cells into cancer cells.

    5. Timing of vaccines. I’m actually not really comfortable with the timing of vaccines in the US. From my own laboratory research, most vaccines aren’t going to be effective until a baby is at least 8 weeks old, perhaps older. I also have issues with the lack of well-controlled studies on the effectiveness of administering 5-8 vaccines at a time. For the record, my son is vaccinated – I just insisted that he get each vaccine separately with 2 weeks between each vaccine. I did this to limit the amount his immune system was responding to at a time as well as to ensure that each vaccine had the best chance of being effective.

    I’d be happy to answer any technical questions. Or clarify anything that was unclear. I was trying my best to not use jargon, but sometimes I succeed at that better than others.

  13. Nicole January 20, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    I’m glad the immunologist chimed in. More importantly, I really value the opinion of “timing”. I like that you spread out the immunizations in order for the body to respond to them individually. I’m pregnant with my last child, and my previous two are vaccinated. There is an almost 14 year difference between my first and second child, and the administration of vaccines for my 2 year old was wildly different/more than my first born. Your thoughts give me some peace of mind once my next one is due in April. Much to read up on!
    Thanks for the hot topic, Lisa. For what it’s worth, your opposition to vaccines brings forth many intelligent
    responses that allow your readers to consider some different options.

  14. Olga January 20, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    Hi Stan, I live in Toronto and from my personal experience, there is no such requirement. The daycare happily accepted my explanation letter as to why we choose not to vaccinate. They just have to keep the letter on file to produce during the inspections. The schools need a notarized statement of conscience or religion, not a doctor’s note.

  15. Leah January 21, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

    io9 has or links to many, many articles debunking anti-vaxx nonsense. Here are two.

    http://io9.com/all-of-these-outbreaks-could-have-been-prevented-with-v-1505667747

    http://io9.com/lets-just-debunk-every-flu-vaccine-myth-in-one-fell-sw-1454237689

    http://io9.com/how-poor-vaccination-rates-can-help-viruses-beat-the-va-1492482862

    Actually, it’s worth reading the entire archive of posts on vaccination.

    http://io9.com/search?q=vaccination

    (And, no, not a troll — just someone offering a counterpoint.)

  16. Leah January 21, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    *Whoops, make that three articles, not two…so many compelling reasons to vaccinate, I lost count!

    • Keith Riggle April 23, 2014 at 12:51 am #

      @Leah, here’s a study for you: “Effective Messages in Vaccine Promotion: A Randomized Trial” (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/133/4/e835.short). For every io9 article about “anti-vaxxers,” I can offer a peer-reviewed scientific journal article questioning the safety and/or efficacy of a vaccine, to include the fact that many of the diseases are becoming resistant to the vaccines that are supposed to prevent them (pertussis is a case in point). The point is that there must be informed consent, and when’s the last time a doctor told you about the risks and side-effects of a vaccine? It’s a basic human right to be able to decide what goes into one’s own body (or those of our children). Arguments about protecting those who can’t be vaccinated are misapplications of the utilitarian argument, which has been used to justify many horrible things.

  17. Lindsey January 21, 2014 at 11:02 pm #

    Lisa, you know this is something I feel very strongly about after my child had a severe vaccine reaction. I don’t think reactions are all that “rare”, either. In my little circle of mom friends, there are more than a handful of us with children diagnosed with vaccine injury.

    Spacing is an issue. Genes are an issue. GMOs are an issue. Vaccines are not the only culprit, not by a long shot. We are in a very scary time with a generation of very sick children.

    Thanks for speaking out.

  18. Samantha - Western Australia January 30, 2014 at 7:56 am #

    Polio may be considered eradicated in the Western Hemisphere however, if we look at the movement of people around the world – from country to country and hemisphere to hemisphere – that now occurs on mass (at levels never seen before) once again diseases seemingly eradicated or have not seen outbreaks for decades, are now occurring as non vaccinated people arrive to their new country. This hasn’t been so much an issue in the past but now many more millions of people around the world have increased wealth and are able to get on a plane and travel for holidays and to live away from their birthplace.

    For instance, we have seen outbreaks of measles in Australia (which has been a rarity for decades) from infected refugees (illegal refugees, many from the middle east, Sri Lanka, Pakistan etc who have not gone through a ‘legal’ process of entering our country and therefore have not gone through medical check ups or supplied vaccination forms, almost all of these are ‘economic refugees (many paying thousands of dollars to jump from country to country to arrive in Indonesia where they can then pay for a boat trip across treacherous waters to Australia), but that is a whole other story).

    Most people who holiday overseas, particularly to the tropics, usually get vaccinated for diseases that the country they are entering still readily get but don’t see in their own country – for instance Malaria and Cholera. Things that you don’t get in your country but you can pick up just by a mossie bite or drinking the water overseas!

    Isn’t TB a vaccination success story?

    And… what about Tetanus shots? You don’t even get these? Tetanus can be picked in soil so you don’t need a rusty nail… you only have to do gardening.

  19. Connie O. Mcclain February 7, 2014 at 3:51 am #

    Vaccines may also contain preservatives to prevent contamination with bacteria or fungi . Until recent years, the preservative thimerosal was used in many vaccines that did not contain live virus. As of 2005, the only childhood vaccine in the U.S. that contains thimerosal in greater than trace amounts is the influenza vaccine, [1] which is currently recommended only for children with certain risk factors.

  20. Kyla March 30, 2014 at 4:20 am #

    Parents are not required to vaccinate their children in Canada. You can attend daycare/school without any vaccinations. Your choice to not vaccinate does not need to be based on religious or health reasons. You just need to go to the local public health office and fill out some forms. Both my children are vaccinated and the recent outbreaks of once “eradicated” illnesses worries me quite a bit.

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