A Greener Mama Part 3: Immunizations

This is part 3 in a week long series on becoming a more eco-friendly mama.  Today’s topic is immunizations.  Bare with me, this is a pretty deep topic and this could get lengthy!
vaccinations Pictures, Images and Photos

This has become a hot topic of debate in our country and everyone seems to have an opinion on it.

On one side you have the staunch advocates for immunizations that believe that every child should be immunized on the “correct” schedule as determined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  Some people that prescribe to this belief think that parents who chose not to immunize their kids (or chose to delay their immunizations) are stupid, uneducated and are engaging in “risky” or irresponsible behavior.

On the other side of the battle are those that are opposed to vaccinations.  Some chose to delay certain vaccines and others choose to avoid all of the vaccinations altogether.  There are some on this side of the argument that believe that immunizations are to blame for various childhood illnesses and diseases the most common one being autism.

Mothering magazine (there I go mentioning that magazine again–I really do love it though!) had an article about immunizations this month.  It was a great eye opening article.  There are many things I could talk about that were mentioned in the article but one of the most interesting parts to me was in regards to the Hepatitis B vaccine.

Hep B is a disease that affects the liver and eventually if untreated will cause liver failure and ultimately death.  How do you contract Hepatitis B?  It is transmitted through contact with infected blood or bodily fluid that contains blood.  So that would mean through sexual activity, dirty needles or through blood transfusions (although this is rare in this day and age).  Newborns can contract it if their mother is infected.

It is considered the “norm” that infants receive the Hep B vaccine prior to leaving the hospital after birth.  I have often wondered what the hurry was.  I didn’t receive this vaccine until I was 20 years old and was enrolled in nursing school.  What infant do you know who engages in elicit sexual activity (or well, any sexual activity elicit or not!) or who has a risk for being stuck with a dirty needle?  I don’t understand the rush.

There is so much that could be said about the pros and cons of vaccines.  Here are my thoughts on a few:

Chickenpox:  I had chickenpox as a child and it was torture!  I would be all for the vaccine even if the only reason was to prevent a chickenpox outbreak because it sucks.  But here’s the thing about chickenpox.  If you have chickenpox as a child, you can develop shingles as an adult.  If you have never had chickenpox, you will never have shingles.  So I think this vaccine is two-fold.  (Shingles is also a terrible painful illness that can cause long lasting nerve damage).

Polio:  Due to the widespread use of polio vaccinations, polio in America was eradicated in the 1950s.  However worldwide polio remains a problem.  Are children in America at risk for it?  Not really.  But if we don’t vaccinate against it then aren’t we moving backwards and putting ourselves at risk for another endemic in this country?

MMR:  This one’s a big one.  If any vaccine receives flack, it is this one.  This is the one that is most often attributed to causing autism.  I have been asking questions and researching this one because I’m just not sure of my thoughts on it.  One friend who is a teacher and the mother of an autistic child believes that kids are predisposed to autism and the mercury that was once used in vaccines “brings it out”.  Another friend also has done her own research and has decided that she is going to delay this vaccine with her child until she is sure that her motor, speech and psychosocial interaction is developing normally.  What is interesting to me is that Merck is the only drug company that produces the MMR.  They no longer can separate it so if you want your kid to get the “M” but not the “R” you’re out of luck.  What is so interesting to me about Merck is the gobs and gobs of money that they “donate” to the American Academy of Pediatrics each year.  Is it a coincidence that pediatricians are so adamant about promoting this vaccine?  Just something to thing about.

Gardasil:  This vaccine is relatively new to the market.  It is manufactured by Merck and it is promoted as a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.  There are others similar to it but this is the main one you see commercials about on tv and in magazines.  Here’s the thing–the vaccine does not guard against all cervical cancers.  It only protects against 4 strands of HPV (human papillomavirus) which is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer.   HPV is the most common STD in America and studies show that “most sexually active men and women will become infected at some point in their lives”.  Ok–so if it’s a vaccine against HPV and you can only get HPV by being sexually active then why are pediatricians promoting it for 9 year old girls?  NO, I’m not naive–I know that as disturbing as it is, there are girls at that age that are sexually active.  And no, I don’t think my parenting skills are perfect and I know that kids have a mind of their own.  But my husband and I believe in abstinence and we believe in teaching our daughters to make the right choices in their lives.  I am not going to give my 9 year old a vaccine and not explain to her what it is for.  And how do you tell a 9 year old that you don’t want them to be promiscuous but “just in case you decide to how about we vaccinate you against an STD”?  I might as well put them on birth control and give them a handful of condoms while I’m at it.

Generation Rescue (founded by actress Jenny McCarthy) has tons of information about vaccinations and what I found very interesting was the comparison between recommended vaccinations in 1983 as compared to 2008.  In 1983 children would receive about 11 vaccinations starting at 2 months old all the way up to 16 years old.  In today’s world, they are recommending about thirty-two (!) vaccinations starting at 1-2 DAYS old up to 6 years old!  And that is not counting the recommended yearly flu vaccine!  Thirty-two vaccinations in 6 years time compared to 11 in 16 years time back when I was a kid.

Now I know that medicine is constantly changing and improving and we have to move with the times.  I just think that we as parents need to question why our kids need certain vaccinations.  What are the risks if they do get them?  What are the (real) risks if they don’t?  If my infant is not at risk for contracting Hepatitis B do I really HAVE to vaccinate her at 2 days old?

So with my 2 oldest daughters I let the doctors vaccinate them whenever they said they needed it.  I quickly read through the papers and signed them and that was that.  With Layla I am going to ask more questions.  I am going to investigate the vaccines more thoroughly and I am going to make INFORMED decisions about her vaccinations.  I am thinking that we will likely delay the Hepatitis B and the MMR.  The others I am still researching.  Five pediatric vaccines still contain mercury including the Hep-B vaccine.  Mercury is the preservative component of vaccines that seem to get the biggest blame for autism.

So what about all you mamas out there?  Did you vaccinate on schedule?  Delay them?  Or not vaccinate at all?  How did you make your decision?

17 Responses to “A Greener Mama Part 3: Immunizations”

  1. 1 Amanda H. Avery July 28, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Very interesting post.

    Both of my girls have gotten their shots on schedule, no questions asked.

    In regards to the Hep B, after teaching in several terrible communities (in regards to high drug usage, prostitute mommies, and the like) I can see the need to immunize a baby as soon as possible to avoid contact with dirty items. When the ghetto is right over the fence, there are lots of fun items found on playgrounds. . .I’ll just leave it at that.

    In regards to the Chicken Pox–I had a whole grade level of students contract the virus when I was teaching in a rural community because they all went to the same doctor and received the same batch of vac. and ALL OF THEM came down with it around the same time. Crazy. I HATED CHICKEN POX when I had them as a 3 year old. I still remember the agony.

    I don’t know how I feel about Gardasil. Do I want to let my daughter think it’s ok to have sex before marriage–absolutely 100% no! However, I do know that there is a 50/50 chance that she will or won’t–and I’m not foolish enough to believe that all kids with parents who promote abstinence will remain abstinence. I also want to think about the possibility of my children’s spouses–I don’t know what decisions they are going to make,and what if they have something that could harm my daughter? It’s my understanding that the HPV doesn’t always present itself, and it could be something that is not detected until years later (if ever)–correct?

    I think it’s ok to say to a 9 year old, “This is a shot to protect you from a disease” just like all the other shots. I want to protect my daughters from any harm–especially since cervical cancer runs in my family.

    And yes, I have known some elementary students who are sexually active. And yes, it is very, very sad.

  2. 2 Amanda H. Avery July 28, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    I’m feeling less “green” with every entry–haha!!!

    I guess I’ll go to the other end of the spectrum–purple?

    What can I say? At least I’m honest in my non-greeness! 🙂

    I am enjoying these posts, though.

  3. 3 lsaufley July 28, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Thanks for the input Amanda! I was hoping some teachers would comment because I know you all see a lot of stuff that maybe the rest of us don’t!

    It’s true that someone can have HPV and not know it and if cervical cancer ran in my family, I too have to say that I would consider it. I’m still not convinced that my 9 year old needs to receive it. I think once my child is a teenager and can fully understand the whys and the risks then she can (along with her dad and me) make the decision herself. I talked to my old pediatrician about it and she said she and her daughter discussed it and they decided together that she was not going to get it (I think she was 11 at the time). I think I will probably take the same route. I just think 9 is way too young.

    As far as the Hep B–I can totally understand the risks (especially given the community we live in) and can see where it would be important for a child to receive it before going to school. But for my children who are homeschooled and do not go to daycare I have to say that I’m just not sure that they need to receive it at such a young age. Especially at 2 days old! The fact that it has mercury in it is a little scary to me too. Then on the other hand I think–well her sisters were fine and they both got it. So what do I do? Don’t know yet…!

    That is terrible about your kids with the chickenpox. Chickenpox SUCKS. I have horrible memories of it! I remember wanting to just sit in a bathtub all day long because that was the only time I got any relief! I was so happy to hear that they had developed a vaccine and by the time I had kids it had been around for awhile and I felt it was a safe one.

    Thanks for the input! I hope to get some more comments!

  4. 4 lsaufley July 28, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Oh Amanda…you poor purple thing you! : )

  5. 5 Carol L July 29, 2009 at 6:25 am

    I just got vacc’s for one of my boys last week. One of them was a vaccine to prevent Meningitis. Of course most cases of meningitis are seen in college or military settings, so it will be several years till this is needed. I was told that if it’s given early (around age 11) it increases it’s effectiveness. (Maybe the same with the vacc that girls are starting to get these days.)

  6. 6 Alison July 29, 2009 at 7:32 am

    Oh, don’t get me started on Gardasil…wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. I’ve been doing Charlotte and Ivy’s immunizations on schedule, though (b/c they were born at the birth center) we’ve delayed some and when they were born they didn’t get the ointment for their eyes at my say-so. I struggled w/ this subject when I was pregnant…

  7. 7 Amanda H. Avery July 29, 2009 at 8:45 am

    I think 9 is early–and I understand the delay. However, I still think I’m going to lean towards giving it to my girls, but perhaps delaying that one won’t be so bad.

    Just know that elementary school (public, private, and homeschool) conversations are no longer just about Rainbow Brite and NKOTB. . .errr, I mean the Jonas Brothers. I know you and Aaron are awesome parents and are going to be more involved in your girls’ lives. . . but I have also seen some great parents blind sighted by their children’s decisions. I guess then you could go down the path of, “well, their children made those decisions (sins) and now they have to live with them”. . .a pretty dark conversation for another day that I hope NO OF US ever have to have. I’d like to believe that all of us (including you guys, Chris and I, Chris and Lindsey, and Alison and Dean) will raise our children to have the same beliefs and values that we do–and that our children will make wise decisions. But, we’ve all seen minister’s children gone wild. . .haha.

  8. 8 Heather and Reber July 29, 2009 at 7:52 pm


    This website has a good table halfway down the page that shows the brands of vaccines and which ones contain Thimerosal (aka Mercury).

    I got the Gardasil shot a couple years ago b/c I got it free with my insurance. Obviously I’m a “very low risk” as the doctor said, but hey, it was free!

  9. 9 lsaufley July 29, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Heather–if you make it back to this comment section. I’m curious to know if you have parents that come into the health department and refuse vaccinations? What is your stance on it since you work there? I’m just curious. I think the nurses at the hospital and the doctor’s office are going to think that I’m wacko if I refuse any of the vaccinations.

  10. 10 Wendy July 30, 2009 at 8:48 am

    I did alot of research myself on all these vaccination and the risks associated. I also talked to my pediatrician who is also a mother of a baby. I think it is always good to hear both sides of the story. I decided to vaccinate on schedule but I always pay close attention to how Ethan reacts. I really don’t think there is a cut and dry answer.

    I whole heartly believe the rise in autism has alot to do with what we put into our bodies and the enviromental chemical exposures.

    Also…who cares if people think you are wacko. It is your child not theirs and you have every right to decided what is best for your child. 🙂

    • 11 lsaufley July 30, 2009 at 10:08 am

      Thanks Wendy! You’re right–who cares if they think I’m wacko. They won’t be the first ones to think that, right?! 🙂

  11. 12 Heather and Reber July 31, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    All the time we have people who refuse vaccines. I do understand the supposed risks so I wouldn’t call anyone wacko, but I don’t think that I want to let Jenny McCarthy sway the medical decisions I make for my child either. I thought it was pretty interesting on that chart through my link that very few of them actually contained any mercury. I think when I’m making these decisions for my own kids that I will be careful to only let them be vaccinated with the brands that use no mercury because I don’t trust that stuff either.

    I checked out both Immunization schedules that you had links to. I do think that it’s sort of incredible how much it has changed. I also know that diseases are powerful and can evolve (why we get a flu shot every year – or at least I do and I hardly EVER get sick). I noticed that Rotavirus is one that was added and I don’t know much about it so I looked it up. 60,000 people are admitted to hospitals in the US each year and 37 die from rotavirus. Most people in the world have had it by age 5 and the first time is really bad and causes severe diarrhea, then the following times their body has built up enough antibodies to be asymptomatic even though they may be infected. A little boy on WIC died from it soon after I started my job and I still remember his mom calling me on the phone crying and it was horrible. I personally don’t want my kid to have severe diarrhea or put other kids at risk for severe illness and possible death.

    I think this link explains “the other side” pretty well in plain language. Parents who refuse vaccinations are relying on the kids who are vaccinated to prevent the outbreak of disease.

    BUT I do understand proceeding with caution and doing your research is very important, just know where you are getting the information from a reputable source and remember that overall, the disease itself is probably way more of an enemy than the vaccine, otherwise the health community wouldn’t be interested in eradicating it.

    • 13 lsaufley August 1, 2009 at 7:58 am

      I have read so much about it but have a lot more research to do. On one hand….it was okay for Annagrace and Madalyn. They are both fine and healthy. On the other hand, I feel more educated now and want to be sure that I am making correct decisions for Layla. I am very leary of relying on research done by drug companies and even by reports from the AAP–which receive huge amounts of money from said drug companies. And the government making those decisions for my child. . . . .yeah, don’t get me started on that. I would not be surprised if they make Gardasil required in the next few years. I don’t feel that is a safe vaccine for kids–it just hasn’t been out long enough for me to believe that it’s okay–and I would definitely refuse if someone told me it was required.

      So then my thoughts are….if pediatricians give a choice for Gardasil, why do they make it seem like you HAVE to give your kids all the other vaccines? I never felt like it was a choice. I was basically told “here is the vaccine schedule, sign these papers”. NO discussion whatsoever about these vaccines and whether they were safe. NEVER told where the vaccines came from. I guess it all comes down to that–CHOICE. I want to feel like I am the one making the decisions and not the government or the CDC of my doctor.

  12. 14 Heather and Reber July 31, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Oh but I do kinda agree with you on the Hep B thing if a child is in a generally safe environment. I didn’t get my HepB series until I was 18 or so. I think I might wait on that at least until my kid is a little older.

    • 15 lsaufley August 1, 2009 at 8:00 am

      I really think we are going to skip the Hep B until she is a little older. At least older than 2 days old! I can’t believe I never questioned it with either of my other girls.

  13. 16 Heather and Reber August 1, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Oh yeah, I watched Sicko and read What to Eat and I know our government is MESSED UP. We don’t NEED to drink milk and we don’t have the best health care system (DUH). It’s all a scam and a lot of it is related to money!!

  1. 1 Vaccination Update « Counting My Pennies Trackback on August 2, 2009 at 7:44 am

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July 2009

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