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The Indecisive Vaccinator

Where do I fall in the great vaccine debate? Smack dab in the middle.
At two years old, this kid is partially vaccinated and perfectly healthy.

At two years old, this kid is partially vaccinated and perfectly healthy.

I pass by our pediatrician’s office building a few times a week, and every time I have the exact same thought: “I should call right now and schedule an immunization appointment for Soren. Or… maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.”

At two and a half years old, my son should have received about 27 shots. Instead, his shot record booklet is collecting dust on some corner of my desk. He’s received a couple of DTaP doses, a Hib shot or two. The PCV13 seemed like a mostly good idea. But polio? Nah. Who even gets polio in the United States? And the rotavirus vax? No thanks — babies can get rotavirus even if they’ve received the vaccine. And I know the autism/MMR theory has been debunked, but that one still gives me the heeby jeebies. Isn’t it still a little unnerving that the connection between autism and vaccines is still believed so strongly by many intelligent people?

During my 39.5 weeks of pregnancy, I pored over the literature. I was meticulous about what I put in my own body, avoiding even Tylenol when the crazy hormonal headaches hit. I abandoned my face wash to prevent salicylic acid from touching my skin. I birthed my sweet baby without medications or interventions, then breastfed him for more than two years. I used coconut oil when his bum got rashy (which didn’t happen much, thanks to cloth diapers) and slathered him with a super safe but ridiculously priced sunscreen on our beach days. When he hit six months and seemed ready for solid food, you better believe his first bites of roasted broccoli were organic.

So being skeptical about vaccines was a no-brainer for me. I mean, is it really a good idea to inject an hours-old baby with aluminum and formaldehyde for a disease (hepatitis B) that’s transmitted through sexual contact? Is it wise to blindly vaccinate when our country’s recent history includes things like the swine flu fiasco and a flu vaccine that is merely 23% effective?

We decided to embark on a delayed vaccination schedule for Soren, focusing on the immunizations that bring the greatest benefits; we also decided to allow just one shot at a time, and never any of the whopper combo vaccines. (This has made for some interesting discussions with the pediatrician. When he walks into the room his first words are, “OK, let’s negotiate. Five shots today.” I respond with a firm, “one.” He comes down to three, I hold fast at one, and eventually he surrenders to the mother’s wishes.)

At two months old, Soren should've received five shots. But we weren't ready. When I drilled the pediatrician on the necessity of the hep B shot at birth, his answer was, "Does he have a girlfriend?" That's my kind of pediatrician.

At two months old, Soren should’ve received five shots. But we weren’t ready. When I drilled the pediatrician on the necessity of the hep B shot at birth, his answer was, “Does he have a girlfriend?” That’s my kind of pediatrician.

But we never exactly put our proposed vaccination “schedule” on paper. And as overwhelmed new parents often experience, our best-laid plans quickly went awry. The result was a vaccination here and a vaccination there, mostly when we happened to be visiting the doctor for a well check-up anyway, and mostly when I’d taken time to research the particular shot right before the appointment. Not exactly a solid method.

Sometimes I blame my busy schedule for preventing me from finding ample time to study the issue out and really determine which side I’m on. But the truth is that I simply can’t decide. I’m not an anti-vaxxer. But I’m not fully on board with the whole thing. I like the idea of everyone vaccinating for the good of the community. But I’m also selfish. I want to believe the research. But when there aren’t any solid studies on long-term side effects, how can I?

So where do I fall in the great vaccine debate? I’m on both sides and I’m on neither side. I’m smack dab in the middle.

I’m certain I’ll never feel that vaccinations are free of risks. I realize they’re probably safe. The benefits of vaccinating my child most likely outweigh the costs. But it’s very possible I’ll remain on the fence forever. So what’s an indecisive mom to do? For now, I’ll continue to follow my instincts, vaccinating occasionally and somewhat haphazardly. Am I wrong? Some doctors would say so. The most passionate anti-vaxxers might disagree with me.

But being on this middle ground has shown me that all of us have the same goal — to keep our children healthy and safe from disease. The way we each go about it, however, is quite different. It’s all part of the great experiment we call parenting. And aren’t we all just giving it our best shot?

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