Yep, we vaccinate.

Note: All underlined words in this post are links to articles that reference the item I’m talking about. Click on them to see what I’m referring to if you’re lost. There are also links at the bottom of this [long-ish] post for those who are looking to further your knowledge about vaccines.

Hello everyone. Let’s take a little quiz. You could call it a personality inventory, a pop quiz, or an exercise in imagination. But, humor me and do it. Yes, I mean actually answer a, b, c or d. Don’t put yourself in between categories; no one likes those people.

Let’s say you and your family, along with a small group of friends, go to a fair. In the parking lot, you’re all crossing a lane together. It’s a group of about 10-15 people, some kids riding happily on shoulders, all kids anxious to get into the fair. Suddenly, a car comes down the lane a little to quickly. You can see your kids, could probably touch them if you moved ninja-style. In this situation, the car is moving quickly enough that it makes you uncomfortable. Do you:

a)    do nothing. Wait, there’s a car coming? Oh, well, your friends are responsible and you’re with a huge group, right?

b)   proceed cautiously sans ninja moves, stopping all conversation with adults, assuming the car will surely stop for such a large group, then let out a sigh of relief when the driver does apply the breaks just in time.

c)    Call for your child(ren), alerting them to the car and telling him/her/them to be careful.

d)   Move swiftly to your child’s side and grab whatever you can to make sure that the car comes nowhere near your child! Probably also calling his or her name in your ‘stern’ voice.

As you might have guessed by now, the four choices above represent stereotypes that are very, very broad. I’m not promoting one stereotype over the other, but I do believe that the same arguments apply to vaccines. I’ll let you figure out which one you are. 🙂 Me, I’m a safe D. But, I have alive children…and killer ninja moves.

We vaccinate our children on the CDC schedule. We do so for various reasons, one of which is that my husband is exposed to many things throughout the day and we want our children as protected as they can be, as soon as they’re able to be so. As a pediatrician’s wife, I hear various reasons why people are opposed to vaccinations or the CDC schedule. While I understand the doubts, questions and concerns, I have the benefit of living with someone who makes it his mission, every time, to make sure that what we’re doing with our own kids is still what we need to be doing. Justin lovingly researches every question I throw at him and answers patiently every. single. time. If you know me and my tendency to ask questions, you know this is a feat.

Justin also makes sure that the vaccines are still safer than the potential risk of exposure (or the illness itself) and that each vaccine has a low risk of poor outcomes, every time we get shots. But, to say that they’re risk free would be lying. So is not vaccinating, or vaccinating at a slower schedule. So is driving. So is eating. So is drinking water, tap or bottled. So is taking a walk. So is sleeping. It’s all got risk, but for us, vaccinating makes sense. Here are some things I’ve learned while Justin’s been a pediatrician that has help me understand.

0) I love my kids. This is reason zero because it’s the underlying reason why we do everything we do. At the end of the day, I couldn’t live with myself if my kids got something that I could have prevented. Period. To me, an alive kid is always better than a not alive kid, ASD or not. The potential benefit outweighed the potential risks. It’s why we don’t bed share. It’s why we leave our kids rear-facing until they’re two. It’s why I tried my darndest to breastfeed our biological kids until they were a year old. Also, the tiny part of me that looks at the bigger picture, as infrequent as that may be, looked at the kids that die from these diseases, all over the world. I couldn’t justify living in a place where preventing them was within reach, and I chose not to. This should not be your reason, unless you actually feel this way. And, if it is your reason, you can credit me for it! Ha!

1)   The mercury in the MMR vaccine has been taken out. So, you’re giving your kids more mercury when you feed them fish. Mercury was the ingredient everyone was so worried would somehow get into kids’ brains and cause autism. It’s gone now, so everyone can take a collective sigh of relief.

2)   The vaccines have been researched so much that they actually know when our bodies are the most receptive to them, meaning that they pose the least amount of risk at the time the CDC says to give them.

3)   Slowing them down doesn’t help your kid. See above. I’m not sure what toxins people say we’re overloading our kids with, but changing the schedule makes our bodies less receptive to them, exposes our kids to those illnesses for longer than necessary, and gives our kids MORE shots and office visits (read: exposure to whatever illness is in the office with us that day). In the words of my two year old, “No, no thank you.”

4)   The vaccines that we’re giving our kids are actually more refined and contain less stuff (Many of you seem to call them toxins…I’m not sure what toxins are, but I’m fairly certain it’s not a medical term.) than when we got them. For example, the pertussis vaccine contained about 3,000 antigens when I got it. Now, it contains 3-5. Yes, you read that correctly and can read about other improvements here.

5)   To be frank, to think that your kid won’t get an illness if you don’t vaccine because it’s too rare is, well, it’s not good reasoning. You probably also bed share, because you think that it just can’t happen to you. Well, that’s (again) not a risk I’m willing to take. you might not know it, but there are people in every community that don’t vaccinate. It’s scary to me to think that my kids, when they weren’t yet one year old, could have been exposed and possibly infected with diseases we’re trying to protect them from. Over the past four years, I’ve found out that several families that we come into contact with on a regular basis don’t vaccinate, but I didn’t know this when my children were under one year. Thanks be to God, nothing happened. But, if you’re going to choose to not vaccinate, please let people know. The diseases you could potentially be sharing are devastating, both to the kids you know and to the adults you’re around, specifically pregnant ones. To clarify, I’m not pregnant now, but when I was in my first trimester and pregnant with our second son, I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t tell anyone until fourteen weeks, actually. It would have been a devastating loss to our family had I come into contact with something as seemingly harmless as the mumps, which has a risk of miscarriages, particularly in the first trimester. Do your research about who you may be harming, not just about the negative effects of vaccines for your kids from bad “research”. Bottom line: you never know what your kids will be exposed to. We give our kids the best chance possible.

6)   Another reason we vaccinate is because we would treat medically if our kids got sick. If Noah came down with pneumonia, we’d treat him with whatever necessary to make him better. If you’re in the same boat with us, why would you allow your kid to get mumps, whooping cough, etc, if you’re going to treat them (medically) anyway? We choose to be proactive so {hopefully} our kids won’t get these illnesses to begin with.

7)   A study also showed that our kids are smarter because we vaccinate. Laughable to me, but it’s at least solid research. (If you don’t know me, please know that this is simply to lighten the rest of this post. It is actually good research done over a period of about ten years on over 1,000 kids, and a good read if you’ve got the time.)

8)   The arguments against vaccinating don’t have good research. I have my Master’s degree and had to do a lot of statistics to get it. One thing I learned was how to recognize credible research, and how not to. I read Jenny McCarthy’s book. It’s full of the “Well, I know a guy…” theory. We’ve all heard it. Your neighbor’s brother’s best friend’s cousin’s great grandchildren’s nephew was the exception to the rule on something, and suddenly it discredits the expert from MIT. Wait, what?!?! How do we believe this stuff? One popular article that’s surfaced lately is this one. I’ve seen it on three websites so far, always dated the day I’m looking, and it’s always exactly the same. If you’re going to try to sway me, at least change some language. You’ve all heard the stories about the twins at the newborn nursery in some big city who had the unfortunate pleasure of being named “Orangello” and “Lemongello” (Orange Jello and Lemon Jello), but let’s not be so gullible when we’re talking about the health and safety of our kids. See this article when you want to know more about autism and when it develops.

9)   The first argument I ever heard was when Jenny McCarthy wrote a book about her son. In that book, she said that the same son who has vaccine induced autism didn’t socially smile back at her until he was five months old. That’s a red flag for autism, Jenny. Come on. No, that didn’t convince me to vaccinate, but it was at least a hole in the argument against vaccinating, and I looked more into those holes. I was more comfortable vaccinating than not, according to the things I was seeing, even though she played will on my new mommy emotions.

Overall, we vaccinate for many reasons, and the list is too long to spell out here. I’ve written it before, but it’s worth saying again: I don’t know how moms and dads survive if they’re not married to a pediatrician. Please ask your doctor if you have hesitancy. Your doctor knows your kids, your heart, and your reasoning.

I also hear several people who are interested in doing more research. I totally get that and encourage you to do so. Here are some medically viable places to get good information. (This is a site you can search for published articles. It’s awesome!)