When the issues of vaccines comes up it often
appears that there are only two sides. You either vaccinate or you
don't. That however is an oversimplification of a very complicated
debate. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of parents like me
who neither trust all vaccines or shun them all. It's a middle
ground of wanting what's best for our children and society, but not
allowing our children to be guinea pigs or take unnecessary
Before I chose to stay at home with my children, I worked
in health care. In fact, I used to want to work for the CDC and I
frequently worked with the FDA. I was a believer in vaccines and as
an asthmatic I dutifully got my flu shot every year. When I had my
first child (2005) we got all the vaccines on my doctors schedule
(he does them all at the end of their required time frame). We even
hunted down a flu vaccine that was in short supply and saw two
different doctors to get it.
Then I started to read about vaccine side effects in the
news and on blogs. Since my background was in health care and I had
spent years doing research I started at reliable sources:
CDC's Morbidity and Mortality
Weekly, JAMA the British
Medical Journal and the National
Vaccine Information Center, (as a counterpoint). I read
research studies, the actually studies, not the synopsis given in
the paper. What I found didn't always make me feel better about
First up was the chicken pox vaccine and the decision by
the CDC to increase the dose from one shot to two. The first reason
for the increase was that they were finding that since children
receive the first dose at 12 months and outbreaks were occurring in
second and third grade, the vaccine is apparently not as effective
as the actual disease and does not provide lifelong immunity. The
second reason for the additional dose was that parents would have
to miss work to stay home with their children. Not the
risk of complications from chicken pox, which according
to the CDC is 100-150 children dying per year prior to the vaccine.
However, I already stay home with my kids so missing work was not
something I needed to factor in. I weighed the risk of severe
reaction occurring, as well as the risks of the vaccine, which
25% chance you will still get the virus and decided it
wasn't worth the four shots (two for chicken pox and then two more
for shingles since you don't get the chicken pox). It was a
calculated risk that my husband and I made after doing research and
talking with our doctor. It was an informed decision based on
evidence and facts from both sides of the debate. Both of my
children had chicken pox. No one was hospitalized and in fact it
was very mild. They probably caught the chicken pox (per my
physician) from someone who was recently vaccinated since it's a
For someone without my background, the problem is that it
can be difficult to get that information to make an informed
decision. You get more information before signing an informed
consent for a surgical procedure than you do for a vaccine. When
you start looking for research studies (on any vaccine) you'll find
the ones that are readily accessible and linked in major newspapers
are mostly conducted by or funded by pharmaceutical companies who
have an inherent interest in continuing to sell the vaccines.
American media frequently doesn't report findings by European
scientists or journals. Why is the European health care system
something politicians frequently praise and want to emulate in
America but their research is not?
These pundits want to paint the picture of non-vaccinators
as zealots who are hurt by misinformation and circumstance. I could
easily play that card. I received the H1N1 vaccine on 12-7-2009
while pregnant. My baby died for no known reason sometime in
January, around 17 weeks. I had no history, had delivered two
healthy babies at term and genetics all came back normal. The
grieving mom in me WANTS to blame the vaccine. I want to stand on
the rooftops and shout "Pregnant women don't get the H1N1!" The
scientist in me can't. I have ingrained in me that
correlation is not causation, I am an outlier on the charts. The
events (vaccine and miscarriage) are too far apart. As a mom, they
are still too close together. I never got the flu vaccine while
pregnant or trying to get pregnant again. My children no longer get
The research I found on miscarriage and H1N1 shows
anywhere from a less
than one percent to an
over 700 percent increase depending on who the reporter
is. However when it came time to get that shot in 2009, no
one said "There's a 1 percent or higher risk of miscarriage with
H1N1 over seasonal flu." No one showed me this chart
that shows (using the government VAERS data) that
despite the fact that more seasonal flu vaccines have been given,
the rate of miscarriage is astoundingly higher for H1N1.
My ability to make an informed decision was stolen by a
health care system that protects the bottom line of the
pharmaceutical companies. Would I, would any mother, have chosen to
take an increased risk of miscarriage over the risk of
What many people who want to make the vaccine debate black
and white are missing is this middle. The middle that want to
believe and trust their doctors but have been burned or are
confused by misinformation, lack of information or shoddy research
(Anyone remember Vioxx?). With
every recall and every study that contradicts another, we in the
middle ground are becoming more and more skeptical.
We need to stop the parental bullying on both sides of the
debate. We need to stop the name calling and pressure tactics and
see how we can protect our children in a way that is best for
everyone. We need to have an open dialogue with unbiased research.
We need panels of doctors and scientists who are not on pharma's
payroll to design the guidelines for vaccine criteria. We need to
remember that science is still performed by humans and is therefore
fallible. Because no matter what side you are on; all,
nothing or in the middle, we are all just trying to do what's best
for our children and their future.
Melissa is mom to 4 kids and 2 angels. She chronicles the sticky bits of motherhood at Peanut Butter in my Hair.
See more of Melissa's stories here.
What to do with your weekend, delivered every Thursday.
Great deals and chances to win prizes, delivered every Monday.
Exclusive offers from our partners,usually delivered twice a week.
Resources for parents of children with special needs,delivered the second Tuesday each month.