Sunday, November 10, 2013

A crunchy mom's reversal on vaccinations.

I was mainstream. Then I had a bad hospital birth. Next birth I questioned everything and planned a homebirth. That started a period where I was leary of ANY intervention by the medical community. Add to that my son's terrible experience with circumcision and my subsequent intactivism that made me sure I didn't trust anyone especially traditional doctors!

My sixth baby got very close to her first birthday not having seen any pediatrician. I was very proud of that fact. I wasn't necessarily "anti-vax" I was just... done. I got Dr. Sears book, I read some online resources against the popular wisdom of vaccinations and it made sense to me.

Then at about the same time two things happened. I "found" an instagram friend. I think through plus size babywearing tagging but I'm not positive. She was a tattoo'd babywearing mom of two with backyard chickens and her pics helped me relate to her. Until one day she posted about the vaccine conference she was attending...

blink, blink.

Crunchy moms don't vaccinate! So I read her 'about' section and she described her parenting as "evidenced based parenting" And that she was a doctoral candidate, vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins. I was like hmmmmph (picture hands on hips with emphasis). But I kept an open mind.

THEN I decided to attend a lecture about vaccines by a Chiropractor. I can't remember all the details but I felt two overarching themes: fear and lack of scientific literacy. The biggest red flag was when he said germ theory was just a 'theory' he used air quotes, and the latent science major in me was like AAAHHHH in scientific terms, 'theory' means fact.
Even though I was hesitant to vaccinate my kids - I was not about to throw vaccines under the proverbial bus. I knew that the dramatic decrease in Polio was not only related to sanitation.

SO after a while my ultimate rejection of doctors and vaccines caused me some mental hiccups and I decided I would really dive into the research. My goal would be to arrive at a decision that could be defended with no logical fallacies. The most common in the antivaccine literature is anecdotal, appeal to emotion(fear), cherry picking data, and middle of the road.

The ultimate conclusion? The scientific consensus supports vaccinations.
The standards for vaccines are rigorous. The schedule is safe and is to support the best immune response at the most appropriate ages to prevent disease. The resurgence of diseases we are seeing (and yes those numbers are still low) are due to the increase of non-vaccinating families and undervaccination by alternate schedules.
I learned vaccine researchers, whose research funding comes from various sources not just "big pharma" have to show their multiple trials, evidence and undergo demanding peer review, while Dr. Tenpenny, Mercola can just make statements with no evidence to back their claims. The vaccine schedule is thoroughly reviewed while Dr. Sears just makes up a new schedule - no research, no evidence to back it up.

There needs to be sensitivity to the fears of vaccine injury yet perspective as well. My schooling and career before I was a stay at home mom was as an occupational therapist. It is a heartbreaking process to test and diagnose developmental delays. Often the time frame age wise is congruent with vaccines. Therefore very many reports of vaccine reactions and injuries result. But correlation is not causation.

The research has been done! Ever since Dr. Wakefield with fraudulent methods suggested the connection between autism and vaccines, this theory has been volleyed about. The science has shown over and over and over again there is no connection between vaccines and autism.

There is also the vaccine reaction vs. injury. One can have a reaction and it not be a vaccine injury. Red spots, fussiness, fever, and even febrile seizure are reactions that don't automatically equate to vaccine injury or any lasting damage. There are vaccine injuries. Doctors should be up to date on vaccine research and not vaccinate anyone with contraindications. But like most decisions in life, it is a risk benefit analysis and the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.

Vaccines have improved greatly even since we were kids. They have less antigens than ever. The combo vaccines elicit a better immune response with less injections. The aluminum salt (yes aluminum salt) in vaccines is in similar rates to the aluminum salt that appears in our food environmentally EVEN in breastmilk and is such low rates they are easily processed by the body, even by infants.

On the other hand, every day we are a more "global" society. And these diseases are virulent and dangerous.

I do sympathize with vaccine fears. I do know the mentality to be against them, I have empathy for that position. I have become quite fascinated with the method of thinking on this issue. Are the positions raised by antivaccine proponents intellectually honest? Are online gurus that espouse views against vaccines but then suggest their supplements to boost immunity not also working under conflict of interest? Is the data in support of vaccines given fair merit?

Vaccines are counter-intuitive, so this makes it a hard issue to depend on mother's instinct. Why inject an antigen into your child? It does make reason stare. Think of it as a doctor. You see sick kid after sick kid after sick kid... think of a better treatment for them or even better! a way to help them NEVER get sick. That is the concept of vaccination - the ultimate preventative medicine. Vaccines have been around since the 1700s. We are starting to reject a science while it has made our lives longer and decreased suffering.

Herd immunity is not a myth and it is not a bad thing. If there were no kids on crutches at your kid's bus stop this morning, thank herd immunity for that. We are on the cusp of global eradication of Polio. Then we won't vaccinate for it anymore.

The choice to not vaccinate does increase your child's risk, your family's risk and the community's risk. It is important to give ample time to credible sources about vaccines.  I think crunchy moms are a great group willing to really look at the evidence and for starters to not be at all afraid to stand up and say: Our family is vaccinated.

Vaccine Science:

Herd immunity is NOT a myth.

The vaccine ingredients are safe.

Not too many too soon. The vaccine schedule is safe.

An alternative schedule increases your child's risk. (and increases needle anxiety with spread out schedule.)

On credibility of sources: Developing a keen sense of the credibility of sources, based on such clues as connection of author to the subject, audience, source of publication, and documentation of supporting evidence,  can also help you evaluate print and other types of sources.  Though  many search engines rank material according to their idea of what is relevant, that doesn't mean the material is relevant to want you want or  is reliable. These guidelines are to help you become familiar with various types of Web resources and the reliability of the information. 
1. Is there any evidence that the author of the Web information has some authority in the field about which she or he is providing information? What are the author's qualifications, credentials and connections to the subject? 
2. With what organization or institution is the author associated? Is there a link to the sponsoring organization, a contact number and/or address or e-mail contact? A link to an association does not necessarily mean that the organization approved the content. 
3. Does the author have publications in peer reviewed (scholarly and professional) publications, on the Web or in hard copy? (If an author does not have peer reviewed articles published, this does not mean that she or he does not have credible information, only that there has been no professional "test" of the author's authority on that subject.) 
4. Are there clues that the author/s are biased? For example, is he/she selling or promoting a product? Is the author taking a personal stand on a social/political issue or is the author being objective ? Bias is not necessarily "bad," but the connections should be clear. 
5. Is the Web information current? If there are a number of out-of-date links that do not work or old news, what does this say about the credibility of the information?
6. Does the information have a complete list of works cited, which reference credible, authoritative sources? If the information is not backed up with sources, what is the author's relationship to the subject to be able to give an "expert" opinion? 
7. Can the subject you are researching be fully covered with WWW sources or should print sources provide balance? Much scholarly research is still only available in traditional print form. It is safe to assume that if you have limited background in a topic and have a limited amount of time to do your research, you may not be able to get the most representative material on the subject. So be wary of making unsupportable conclusions based on a narrow range of sources. 
8. On what kind of Web site does the information appear? The site can give you clues about the credibility of the source.

Reliable & accurate:

Unreliable with inaccuracies:

Top Ten worst sites:


Unknown said...


Janie said...

Thanks Tony

Holly said...

Lots of great research here!! Thanks for doing all the legwork :)

Unknown said...

Thank you for the interesting post... could I suggest you use something like the below in future? Keep fighting the good fight. Cheers Tony.

shahna said...

Great Post.

On another note: Do you watch "Call the Midwife"? It is a series on PBS but I discovered it on Netflix. I think of you when I watch it. I think you would love it if you can get your hands on it.

Janie said...

Thank you Tony Floyd, I have never heard of that before!
Shahna, YES. LOVE love love that show.

Sarah said...

You're freakin' awesome!!! I've told you this a million times before--- but just had to tell you again!!!!

leglessballerina said...

Thanks for this! Now I don't feel so alone being PRO-VAX crunchy mum!

Kimie said...

This was good to read -- thanks for sharing all your sources and helpful sites!