Vaccinations — TMI!

So, today I was browsing the blogosphere and literally stumbled on the following article/link:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/07/06/jenny-mccarthy-spreading-dangerous/

For those of you unfamiliar, and if you have any children 5 years old or younger this would be unlikely, Jenny McCarthy has a son who is autistic. She has made it her mission to, at worst demonize the vaccinations that are given to children in the United States today, at best call for more research to be done.

Let me just warn you right off the bat that this post is not intended in any way to choose a side and argue with empirical evidence for either. My point today is that one must be careful in the age of the Internet to do one’s own careful research, and come to one’s own conclusion.

I mentioned some of this in my first post on this blog, but the issue of immunizations is HUGE with parents of young children today. I took my time and read almost all of the comments on the link above, and all it did was frustrate and anger me. Why is it that we (and by we here, I mean specifically Americans — please forgive the generalization) are so incapable of saying “I don’t know”?

When faced with the first couple of rounds of immunizations on our son Xavier, my wife and I admittedly had not done any homework on the issue. Kerry was the first to question what we were doing after the 2nd month checkup when Xavier was given 4 injections plus an oral rota-virus vaccine. He was irritable for a couple of days, and ran a mild fever for one night, but on that night he had a short burst of terror inducing crying, the sound of which thankfully has faded from my memory. Kerry had heard some stories about other parents refusing to get their children vaccinated on the recommended schedule, or even at all, and was seemingly leaning that way.

I am naturally skeptical when I listen to debates between the unknown and science, so I decided to do some homework so that we could make an informed decision about our son’s health. This is where the frustration immediately began. There is so much “information” out there on this topic, and so much steadfast assuredness of individual beliefs that it caused in me information overload, and I mean brain shutting down…period!

It became quickly apparent that if I chose to vaccinate, I was buying into the government system of lies and deceit, and was poisoning my child. On the other hand, if I chose not to vaccinate, I would be considered a new age quack, and would very surely endanger my son’s health, AND eventually his ability to go to school. So, what is a parent supposed to do? I can only tell you what we did, and ask you to honestly share your own decisions here for others to use to form their own opinions.

Kerry and I discussed it (sometimes endlessly), and chose to continue the full immunization schedule, but on an extended time frame to avoid multiple injections at the same visit. Our pediatrician, one who we are very happy with, advised to stay on schedule, but seemed more than happy to respect our wishes and slow down the barrage. We have continued this decision with our new daughter, Hayden, and all is well with both children thus far.

You see, the fact is that there is not a good answer to the question, “is the current immunization schedule the best thing for our childrens’ health?” I hate to use a movie as an example, but I will anyway. In the first Jurassic Park movie (c’mon, who didn’t like that flick?) Jeff Goldblum’s character was explaining the inherent flaw in the scientists self-assuredness that by only breeding a single gender, they would avoid massive dinosaur re-population on the Earth. “Life finds a way,” he explains while spinning a yarn about some frogs that are able to change gender spontaneously in order to procreate and continue their species.

My point is that we must be very careful to avoid hubris in thinking that because we have tested something with the scientific method, it is surely correct. On the other hand, we would be completely irrational to refute the scientific evidence we have discovered as so much crap. I do not need empirical evidence to suggest that the world’s population is exploding right now due to births significantly outnumbering deaths. This is due to any number of factors from advances in sanitation and treatment of clean drinking water to yes, advances in medicine…including immunizations.

Let me go on record as saying that we know what our children don’t get sick and die from as a result of immunizations, e.g. measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and more. There is very solid evidence as well that we have diagnosed far more children today with autism than we did 30 years ago. These two things need not be related. It would seem that enough work has been done to suggest that there is not a causal relationship between the current immunizations and the increase in autism cases, but does that mean we should not better understand why there is such an increase in autism? I have heard it suggested that the increase in autism can be at least partially explained by our increased knowledge of the disorder, and therefore increased diagnoses in individuals determined to have something else in the past. I have spoken with too many parents who are choosing completely different paths to consider this a case closed, and if it will take more research to put people’s mind’s at ease, then we should fund that research.

Is there more I am not aware of? If so, then I’d love to hear it. In any case, I hope if nothing else, I have created a place for an intelligent discussion of this matter, and very much welcome your participation.

Be well!

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