[Editor's note: The following is an opinion piece, and should not be taken as medical advice. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Pregnancy.org. We encourage you to carefully research the choice to postpone vaccinations for the first months of a baby's life and thoroughly discuss it with your pediatrician or healthcare provider.]
by Christine Silva
After many months of soul-searching and multiple failed attempts to get information from my pediatrician, I decided to do some research on vaccines and the risks to my newborn. It was difficult to understand why my old vaccine record from 1974 had only seven vaccine stamps on it, but my pediatrician wanted to give my newborn over 40 vaccines over the course of the next four years.
The medical community recommends at least four polio vaccines, six hepatitis B vaccines, five DTaP vaccines (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), at least two MMR vaccines (measles, mumps, rubella), two influenza vaccines, three PCV vaccines, three HIB vaccines, and at least two varicella (chicken pox) vaccines, and two Hepatitis A vaccines. All together, these average over 40 vaccinations before the age of two.
Other medical communities have chosen to recognize possible dangers from vaccines. For example, in the late 1990s, over-vaccination was definitively linked to cancerous tumors in domestic cats and dogs. At the time, I worked for a veterinary office, and the doctors were extremely concerned about the health of their animal patients. They decided, within a month, to modify their vaccination recommendations to a more conservative regimen, even though it would cause a decrease in income. The health and welfare of their clients was more important than the possible profit loss. It is unfortunate that human doctors cannot come to a similar consensus regarding infant vaccination. Until then, it is the responsibility of parents to educate themselves regarding vaccines and their risks, and make appropriate choices.
Why has the medical community deemed it necessary to vaccinate a newborn child over 40 times, when just thirty years ago, eight vaccines seemed an acceptable number? And, although the medical community refuses to link vaccines to autism, or Attention Deficit Disorder, it is extremely difficult to reconcile the fact that autism and vaccine reaction rates have skyrocketed in the last twenty years.
Using my experience in education and research, I have compiled a more conservative vaccine schedule for my child based on risk factors. As a parent, I want to do whatever I can to protect my child from disease, as well as possible side-affects from any medication or medical treatment.
Many of the vaccines given to infants seem ridiculous and unnecessary, and the risks do not outweigh the benefits. For example, the tetanus vaccine is routinely given to newborns, even though the risk to newborns from this disease is infinitesimal. Tetanus is usually spread by the urine or feces of an animal on an outdoor object, such as a rusty nail. When an object enters the body, the bloodstream is infected by the toxin.
Now, I remember getting a tetanus vaccine as a young teenager after piercing my palm on a rusty hook. My father grumbled, looked at the wound, and took me to the hospital for a shot. My father received his first tetanus vaccine in his forties, after stepping on a rusty nail while clearing brush.
So, if this toxin enters the blood through a puncture wound, why does the medical community insist on vaccinating newborns against this disease, especially if they cannot walk, and probably have no contact with sharp objects, much less filthy outdoor objects that may be covered with animal urine and feces?
Fewer than 50 cases of tetanus are reported every year in the United States. That makes the possibility that your child will have tetanus in their lifetime about one in 220 million. Compare this with the possible risk of autism, which is about one in 220.
Now, another vaccine that seems risky is the varicella vaccine, which is the vaccine against chicken pox. This mild disease strikes thousands of children every year, and usually results in dozens of pimple-like itchy sores, mild fevers, and two weeks home with mommy. As children, my brother and I both had chicken pox, and I have a small scar on my cheek as a result. Subsequent lifetime immunity to chicken pox and shingles also came with my childhood bout with this disease.
The varicella (chicken pox) vaccine is one case where the dangers of the vaccine almost certainly outweigh the benefits. A child with chicken pox is a delightfully cranky inconvenience to working parents for two weeks. A child with a brain damage from a debilitating vaccine reaction is an inconvenience for a lifetime.
The influenza vaccine is only recommended for children that have very obvious risk factors, such as cardiac disease, sickle-cell, HIV, or diabetes. However, most doctors insist on vaccinating healthy children against influenza. Once again, a child with the "flu" is a great inconvenience to working parents.for two weeks. And, once again, a child with a brain damage from a debilitating vaccine reaction is an inconvenience for a lifetime.
The safety of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is hotly contested. At a recent news conference, reporters asked England's Prime Minister, Tony Blair, if he vaccinated his young child with the MMR vaccine, and he refused to answer. Although I believe that vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella is necessary, I do not believe that these three vaccines should be given in combination. Especially since, in a combination vaccines, it is impossible to determine which of the three vaccines cause a serious vaccine reaction if one occurs.
Hepatitis B is another vaccine that is routinely given to newborns, even though newborns have almost no risk of contracting the disease. This disease affects about 320,000 Americans annually, and is mainly spread through unprotected sex and IV drug use. The vaccine is recommended for homosexual men, drug users, and anyone working in the medical field. Does your newborn fall under any of these risk categories? No? I didn't think so.
Here are my recommendations -- the recommendations of a concerned mother.
- Try to request separate vaccines. Decline combo vaccines. Pay extra if you have to. It's worth it.
- Ask the vaccines to be "pulled up" in front of you. Make absolutely sure that the vaccine vial is a single-dose (the bottle should be really small, like the size of a brazil nut). If the bottle is big, a multiple-dose vial, refuse the vaccine immediately and do not return to that doctor! Multi-dose vials are cheaper, and they may contain a deadly preservative, thermerisol, a mercury-based preservative that is an actual human poison. Although vaccine manufacturers voluntarily stopped adding mercury to vaccines, these vaccines are not illegal, and no one knows how many thousands of bottles still exist on doctor's shelves.
- Eliminate all unnecessary vaccinations. Unless your child has actual risk factors, decline vaccines that are unnecessary. I have chosen not to vaccinate my newborn against chicken pox, influenza, Hepatitis B or tetanus. I received most of these vaccines in my teens, and I survived easily on chicken soup (and a mother's love) through my childhood bout with the chicken pox.
- Only allow one vaccine per office visit. Your pediatrician may protest, but I guarantee that most doctors will not vaccinate their own newborns with nine vaccines all at once. If you only allow one vaccine at a time, you can track any possible reactions.
- Have an anti-inflammatory handy in case your child has a reaction. Ask your doctor for the safest (probably infant Tylenol), and have it ready just in case. If your child gets a reaction, such as a fever, give him the anti-inflammatory, and take him to urgent care. Don't worry if they think you're overreacting. Who cares what they think? Protect your child's health at all costs.
- If there is any way you can stay home with your newborn the first six months, and expose him to as few risk factors as possible (daycare, other sick children, etc), try to delay vaccination until your baby is at least six months. Enormous amounts of brain development take place at this time, and anything you can do to ensure your child's protection against possible vaccine reaction, as well as disease, is a good thing. Beg, borrow, steal, use credit cards, whatever! Protect your child's future!
- And last, but not least, trust your own instincts. If you feel that your newborn is not reacting normally to vaccines, question your doctor, and if you get a condescending response, get another doctor.
As parents, we all want what's best for our children. You are the final arbiter of your child's health and wellness, and the more you can delay any type of intervention, the better. You have the choice to vaccinate your child conservatively, and there are risks to any vaccine, and also risks when you choose not to vaccinate.
If you are concerned, remember that many childhood diseases, such as chicken pox, influenza, and even the measles, are rarely fatal. However, severe autism can be a "death sentence" for a lifetime. Consider your options, do some research, and trust your heart as a loving parent.
Christine P Silva, BA, CRTP, lives in California with her husband, two children, and three spoiled cats. She earned her undergraduate degree from San Jose State University, and her advanced accounting certificate and California tax registration from Cosumnes River College. She is the founder of the Sacramento Volunteer Tax Preparation Clinic, a free service offering tax assistance to low income and Spanish-speaking taxpayers.
Copyright © Christine P. Silva. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.