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Friday, October 07, 2005

Before vaccines, every year parents could expect:

  • Polio would paralyze 10,000 children.
  • Rubella (German measles) would cause birth defects and mental retardation in 20,000 newborns.
  • Measles would infect about 4 million children and kill 3,000.
  • Diphtheria would be one of the most common causes of death in school-aged children.
  • 15,000 children would get meningitis, leaving many with permanent brain damage.
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) would kill thousands of infants.

Now we have vaccines. They save lives, and the diseases are far worse than the vaccinations' side-effects:

One of every 600,000 doses of Hepatitis B vaccine is complicated by a severe allergic reaction. However, no one has ever died because of the vaccine. Without the vaccine, 5,000 people die annually soon after being infected.

About one percent of kids will get a high fever from the Pneumococcal vaccine. However, before the vaccine, there were 700 cases of meningitis, 17,000 cases of bloodstream infections and 71,000 cases of pneumonia every year.

The Meningococcal vaccine may cause pain or tenderness where the shot is given, but there are no serious side effects. Without it, about 2,600 people are infected with meningococcus and 300 die every year.

Finally, if more vaccines become available, Toddler in Chief will be first in line.

Permalink | Vaccinations | Comments (2)

It appears the issue has frayed into a chiffonade of confusion. My wife and I chose to delay our kids' shots, not bag them entirely. MIC, on the other hand, seems to advocate adhering to the recommended schedule, no questions asked. I guess as far as she and I are concerned, only one of us is pro-choice.

I'm not going to argue that inoculations haven't been a boon to mankind, but no one can convince me that an infant born to Hep-free parents needs a Hep B shot when he's a week old. The probability that a rabid two-year-old will sink his fangs into my kid's arm is nothing compared to the risk of potential side effects of neurotoxins on a newborn's central nervous system. So as long as the debate rages so passionately (on both sides), I'm going to read all I can, trust my pediatrician, resist the fear-mongering, and act prudently.

Of course, all of this ardent discourse might be moot, because it appears we're all about to be wiped out by a pandemic of avian flu. (Presumably the germophobes, with their antibacterial soap  and depleted immune systems, will be the first to succumb.)

And, like, maybe humanity is really just a virus attacking the Earth, and the bird flu is, like, an inoculation against us. Dude, that is totally trippy.

Permalink | Vaccinations | Comments (8)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

If you believe that doctors give babies Hepatitis B vaccines so they don't catch the disease through unprotected sex--like Laid-Off Dad suggested--then you probably also believe that you can get AIDS from a toliet seat. Wrong and wrong.

Many people who get Hepatitis B--including children--don't engage in high-risk behaviors (sharing needles or having unprotected sex) that LOD used as example for not vaccinating his kids. The risks are not as easily preventable or as straight forward.

There is a misconception that young children only get Hepatitis B from their infected mothers during birth. But that is wrong. Before the vaccine for Hepatitis B was introduced in the United States in 1982, there were 25,000 cases a year in children less than five years of age, and 75 percent of them did NOT get it at birth.

While many early childhood transmissions occur in households of people with the infection (about 1.25 million people currently have HBV in the US), transmission is linked to child day care centers, schools, playgrounds, and contact sports.

LOD also mentioned that he's holding off on vaccines because he doesn't want to expose his kids to thimerosal, a preservative that contains mercury and is an ingredient in some vaccines. Many anti-vaccination advocates believe mercury from vaccines accounts for a rise in autism. However, no study has found any difference in the rate of autism between kids who were exposed to little or no thimerosal and those who received the maximum exposure through vaccines.

If mercury is the real issue, concerned parents should focus on a proven threat, like dangerous levels of mercury in our food. Every year, 630,000 children are exposed to unsafe mercury levels in the womb, which could damage babies' developing nervous systems.

So even though some vaccine ingredients score high on the Disgusting Meter and others--if accidentally ingested in large quantities (like antifreeze)--require a call to Poison Control, I'm thankful someone assembled them into safe, single-serving-sized shots for my kid.

Permalink | Vaccinations | Comments (1)

It’s funny that you mention not taking any chances, because I feel the exact same way. To me, though, it’s a much bigger chance to invest so much trust in corporations, whose bottom line often strays from the public good. I’ve got nothing against free-market capitalism, but frankly I’m not convinced that a large drug company wouldn’t put weapons-grade plutonium in its vaccines if it thought it could turn a bigger profit and, if necessary, buy its way out of any trouble. They’re not evil at heart; they just want the green, baby.

Lots of esteemed scientists and researchers with impressive strands of important letters after their names are absolutely certain there’s a link between the ethylmercury in thimerosal and the meteoric rise in autism cases. Other equally credentialed, equally passionate people assure us that the body metabolizes thimerosal harmlessly, and that the rise in autism cases is a result of improved diagnostic techniques. So who’s right? I lean toward the former, but the simple fact is that not enough is known. The prudent thing for us, therefore, was to exercise caution and listen to our pediatrician, whose diagnoses over the years have led us to trust him implicitly. If he agrees that the current recommended inoculation schedule is unnecessarily frontloaded, and that a delayed schedule in keeping with our son’s well visits won’t put him in any danger, then it’s OK with us.

Permalink | Vaccinations | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

As many times as Toddler in Chief has watched the episode "Blue goes to the Doctor," taking him in for vaccines is about as fun as scraping my knuckles along a cheese grater. Even though his pal Blue got the shot with hardly a whimper, my son screams, sobs, and projects sounds of assorted frequencies. Plus, he's two, and he just doesn't quite grasp the concept "it will hurt, but it's good for you." He can't understand why Mom and Dad hold him down while a stranger in a lab coat jabs him with large needles. It just sucks for everyone.

Yes, there's guilt from letting my kid spend a few minutes in the life of a pin cushion, but imagine the guilt if he ended up in the hospital with a preventable disease, like Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, or Measles. Giving your kid vaccines keeps them healthier. And parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids are taking unnecessary risks with their kid's health, and even their lives.

It's true that many of the diseases that we vaccinate against are rare. For example, there has been no case of Polio in the United States for more than 20 years. Still, it is prevalent in other parts of the world. Currently, there are outbreaks in Yemen and Somalia, and the World Health Organization launched a polio immunization campaign on September 13, to slow its spread.

No, my kid isn't going to Africa or the Middle East anytime in the foreseeable future, but if there is a chance--any chance--that my kid could acquire this or any other debilitating and life-threatening diseases, then I'm going for it. This goes for every possible vaccine, even if it means a few minutes of tears. One can argue that there are risks associated with vaccines and it's just not worth it, especially when the diseases are rare. But I'm not taking any chances.

Just as I slather my kid in sunscreen, use antibacterial soap, and marvel at that surface made from recycled tires that has replaced cement at the playground, I'm grateful for any advances--medical or otherwise--that keep my kid healthy and out of harm's way.

Permalink | Vaccinations | Comments (9)

Inoculations definitely serve a purpose, because tetanus and polio and meningitis are serious diseases that will mess a body up. But keeping to the “recommended” injection schedule by forcing all that serum in such a young little body is ludicrous. If your goal is to bolster your child’s immune system, you might want to wait until s/he actually has one.

When we were looking for a pediatrician, our primary criterion was an open mind toward delaying inoculations as long as possible. We did a lot of research, as all parents should, about the pros and cons of early immunization, and we decided there really wasn’t much of a need to guard against Hep B, for example, since we were reasonably certain our infant son wasn’t sharing drug needles or having unprotected sex.

We were also put off by all the heated controversy over thimerosal and its alleged association with the appalling surge in autism cases over the past ten years. We learned that thimerosal kept costs down by allowing drug companies to sell the vaccines in larger, multiple-dose vials. And now, despite years of preaching its harmlessness, Big Pharma has suddenly decided to start removing thimerosal from most vaccinations. Imagine what other policy shifts might await us.

Our older son has started preschool, so we’re listening to our pediatrician and catching up to where the AAP wants us to be. And were taking our time, because we’d rather keep our sons’ intake of ammonium sulfate, pig blood, rabbit brain, monkey kidney, fetal bovine serum, formaldehyde, monosodium glutamate, antifreeze, and washed sheep red blood cells to a minimum.

Permalink | Vaccinations | Comments (9)