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Monday Health and Wellness: Unfortunate Rumors in the Vaccine Debate

admin January 28, 2013

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Daily Tip: Ask your family to get on board with your new plan, so that they can both remind you and cheer you on.  They may even join you!

When you are a new parent (or maybe even a not-so-new parent), you hear about the Great Vaccine Debate.  I’ve posted on it very extensively already, including an entire series that explains the ingredients, risk/benefit of each vaccine, natural course of each illness, and so on.  Suffice to say it is a subject I am passionate about.

And what I am most passionate about is that everyone has all of the true and accurate information.  I can’t stand the anger, animosity, lies, and scare tactics that surround the debate.  I can’t stand the fighting and misinformation passed around to try to bully people either way.  This is a medical decision, people.  And it should be left in the hands of the parents, who know their children best, along with the input of the medical professionals they trust.  It should not be a decision made by a friend, neighbor, school, grandparent, the government, or anyone else.  Period.

That said, there are some pervasive and annoying myths passed around by both sides that polarize the debate which people need to stop saying.

Point #1: It’s Illegal Not to Vaccinate/You Must Do It For School

This is completely false but often passed around.  A new parent is thinking about what they feel is right for their child, and someone pops in with the oh-so-(not)-helpful bit of information, “But they can’t go to public school if they aren’t vaccinated.”  The new parent then thinks that they must choose a delayed schedule, at most, but get all the ‘required’ vaccines.

This is a lie!  In all states except WV and MI, there are religious exemptions.  In all states, there are medical exemptions (but it is harder to obtain in some states than others).  About half of states have philosophical exemptions.  Children absolutely can go to public school without some or all vaccinations.  What the school or government thinks should not be your concern when choosing this medical procedure for your children.

Point #2: You Are Endangering Society If You Don’t Vaccinate

The logic here basically says that vaccines are absolutely necessary/the only way to protect children from illness, and that children who aren’t vaccinated are spreading diseases around.  It’s pretty silly because it neglects two very important points: 1) Only children who are sick can spread disease, and both vaccinated and unvaccinated children can get sick (including with ” vaccine preventable” diseases — many children who were vaccinated have gotten pertussis, mumps, measles, etc.).  2) There are lots of other ways to protect children than vaccines.

And, you know, this might be a little bit mean, but...if you have a child who is a newborn or who is immunocompromised, it’s up to you to take extra steps to protect him/her.  Stay home, avoid certain public locations (like indoor playgrounds), use face masks, take immune-boosting supplements, whatever is needed.  I will be taking precautions when I have a newborn again in a few weeks and I know it is my job.  You don’t, can’t know who is in public sick…or about to get sick, whether that’s with a cold or the measles.  And these can be equally dangerous to those with weak immune systems.  You can’t vaccinate for a cold, either.

My opinion is that if you know you are sick, stay home!  That is your responsibility to society.  Don’t purposely go out and expose everyone. If you must make a quick trip to the grocery store or something, then do it.  Don’t take your kids to an indoor playground with runny noses and coughs.  A lot of people say “Well, by the time they reach _____ stage, they’re not really contagious.”  Yeah, someone told me that when coming for a play date when I was very pregnant with my third…kids acting fine and noses dripping.  And guess whose kids woke up with bad colds two days later?  If they’re dripping, they are still contagious.  Be smart.  And this has nothing to do with being vaccinated or not.

Point #3: Your Children WILL Die If You Don’t Vaccinate

My goodness…this is just over the top, but I hear it all the time.  There is no basis for a statement like this.  It’s a scare tactic and it is false.  there is a teeny, tiny chance that a child could catch an illness, develop complications, and die from it.  It could happen.  But it really is a teeny tiny chance.  There is no certainty in this.  There is not even likelihood in this.  While we need to be realistic that there is a chance of this, there is absolutely no reason, nor any evidence to support the idea that it “will” happen.  Ridiculous.

Point #4: Parents Who Do/Don’t Vaccinate Don’t Love Their Children

Everyone needs to stop saying this.  Right now.  Everyone loves their children and they only want what is best for them.  They want their children to be safe, healthy, and happy.  Some believe that vaccinating is the best way to achieve this.  Others believe not vaccinating is.  And we may all disagree on that point, but we all love our children.  Nobody should ever accuse another parent of not loving their child because they made a different decision about something!  Frankly I think this is something people say when they don’t have enough of an argument to support their decision, or when they are angry and don’t know what to say.  Here’s a hint: step away from the debate and say nothing.  Never say this.

Point #5: Parents Who Do/Don’t Vaccinate Are Just “Sheeple” And Do Not Do Real Research

This, too, needs to stop being said.  There are parents on both sides who are making the choice because “everyone else is doing that” or “my doctor/chiropractor said so.”  Basically, they’re doing it without much research and based on misinformation.  There are also parents on both sides of the debate who have researched extensively and have come to believe that vaccinating/not vaccinating is the right answer.  It’s not possible to tell how informed or well-researched a person is just by what decision they made.  And supposing they are doing it “just because others are” do you think calling them names is going to help them feel open to research?  I don’t think so.  No name calling!

Point #6: Vaccines Are a Government Conspiracy To Harm and Kill Us All

I really believe that at least the vast majority of people who support vaccines do so because they honestly believe that they are necessary and good.  I do not think that they are a government conspiracy to kill us, thin the herds/eugenics, microchip us, etc.  And frankly when people default to saying this instead of staying grounded in the scientific research, they sound crazy and do not help their cause.  Although there are fringe theories about this and supposedly some “evidence,” it is very fringe.  Let’s keep the debate to the health and science behind immunity and vaccination.

Point #7: No Studies Show Vaccines Are Linked to Autism Or Other Issues

This is demonstrably false.  It is a phrase commonly passed around and therefore it is believed.  Through extensive research into a number of health topics, I have found dozens and dozens of studies showing benefits to alternative remedies or alternative view points, which are ignored by the mainstream.  There are hundreds to thousands of studies published everyday and most never get much attention.  It does not mean they don’t exist.  Basically, anything that doesn’t fit the mainstream line of thinking is ignored, unless it is replicated enough times to get attention.  It is ignored longer is there is a strong belief and/or a financial incentive to do so.  But again, pretending the evidence doesn’t exist doesn’t mean it doesn’t.  Here are many to look at.

Point #8: Vaccines Have No Risks

This is one of the silliest things that is ever said.  Of course vaccines have risks — anyone who is being honest will say that they do.  Whether those risks are major or minor, and whether or not the benefits outweigh the risks is something else.  It is entirely appropriate to say “I believe the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.”  Okay — I understand that (I disagree, but I fully support someone coming to that conclusion).  To say there are no risks is completely wrong.  There are risks to anything!  People need to be willing to admit that this entire discussion is about a risk-benefit analysis because there are risks to both sides.  Downplaying that doesn’t help anyone.

Point #9: Not Vaccinating Makes Your Child Magically Healthier

While some early studies have shown that children who are not vaccinated have a lower risk of asthma, autism, etc. they have not proven a causal link.  Children who are not vaccinated are also likely to have parents who take a healthy diet, supplements, and other aspects of health more seriously.  While I believe vaccines play a role in these conditions, simply not vaccinating does not guarantee your child health.  There are other steps you need to take to protect your child’s health.

Plus, some parents seem to think that their child will be so healthy from not being vaccinated that they won’t actually catch anything.  This is dangerous.  If your child isn’t vaccinated (and frankly, even if s/he is), s/he might get sick.  S/he might get the measles, or the mumps, or pertussis.  All of these have circulated in recent years.  You need to learn what the typical symptoms of these diseases are, the signs of complications, when to call the doctor, how to treat at home in minor cases, and so on.  You have to accept the risk that your child might get sick.  Now — it’s unlikely if your child is not a newborn and not immunocompromised that the illness will be serious or permanently harm or kill your child.  But s/he still might catch it.  Know it, prepare for it.

If we could take all of these lies out of the debate and focus on the science, as well as believing that every parent just wants what is best for their children, this would be a whole lot better for everyone.

What myths have you heard?

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29 Comments

  1. Would love to focus on the science, but I haven’t seen much honest science coming from the government. They twist the results to make it look like vaccines have no downside, and they’re safe as water. And they won’t touch any of the studies that the pro-safe-vaccine side are calling for. Other than that, I love this article!

    Reply

    • There is science out there, but you do have to look far beyond the official sources. The most vocal voices in this debate often do not use studies, but they do exist!

      Reply

  2. Our 4 children all went to the local public schools without any vaccinations and it was very easy to get them in. None of them had to be vaccinated until my son went to dental school. Then he had to get a few but we took him to a doctor who got the vaccinations from a lab that makes them for autistic children so they had no mercury and other garbage in them. He also spaced them out 6 weeks. Fortunately, he was able to get a waiver for orthodontic school. I am happy none of mine went into the medical field because I am not sure they can get out of them there.

    Reply

    • This scares me. My daughter wants to go to medical school and we are a non-vaccinating family. I know she will never take a vaccine.

      Reply

  3. Its WV and MS that only have medical exemptions, not MI. 🙂

    Reply

    • Yes, I noticed that. I think the M-state abbreviations are confusing. Off the top of one’s head, MI might be “Michigan” or “Mississippi.” 🙂

      Reply

  4. I think it’s important to note that not being vaccinated leaves your child susceptible to diseases that are otherwise curtailed by immunizations. If your child falls into the small percentage of people who contracts a disease (measles, chickenpox, polio, etc.) it’s not easily treated. Prevention is more effective than treating.
    I agree that using scare tactics isn’t necessary or effective. Educating with actual cases is a better route to take. Great topic!

    Reply

    • Oh, I totally disagree that these diseases are “not easily treated.” Chicken pox and measles are quite minor and quite easily treated. They’ll make for an uncomfortable few days or week, but that’s it. Most of them are very minor, in fact, in children!

      Also, vaccines are NOT the *only* method of prevention. That is a myth. There are many other ways to protect your child’s health. And yes, they may still get sick, but they are unlikely to have any complications. I find it ironic that parents are so scared of rubella (which is incredibly minor in a child, even less severe than roseola), but they are not very scared of autism, allergies, or other chronic illnesses. We also need to be very careful about using “cases” to educate. Large-scale data is much better than any individual stories or cases, which don’t tell us the likelihood of our children having any problems.

      Reply

      • I had to laugh that “chickenpox” was listed in the “not easily treated”. As if it were some big scary disease your child might not live through.

        Reply

  5. OK…I really need some help. I have tried looking on the internet but I don’t know where to get information that I feel confident in. My son will be 6 in a few short weeks and he has to go in for his annual check-up. I know they are going to ask me to give him a flu shot and I already know that’s going to be a definite no (he had the flu shot at 5 and he ended up in the hospital) but I don’t feel that he should have any other vaccination that may be “needed”. Does anyone have any advice or places I can go on the internet that have actual facts?

    Reply

  6. I am so glad for the information you present, Kate. I’ve been struggling with this issue when I mentioned vaccinations off-hand one morning and my mother (with whom my husband and I live ) pointed a finger at me and said ” You WILL get your children vaccinated.” We don’t have children yet, but I like to be informed, especially since I’ve opted out of flu shots for years and hate needles. It bothers me that she would practically command me to get our future children vaccinated, claiming that the benefits outweigh the risks when I know she’s never researched this.

    Has anyone else dealt with this sort of flak, despite not even having a decision?

    Reply

    • Oh yeah. Neither my mom nor my MIL could believe that I would forego vaccinations for our boys. I was armed, though. I took a class online from a certified homeopath Sheri Nakken (she’s on Yahoo group ‘vaccinations’ and has her own website) to inform myself about the vaccinations themselves and the diseases they supposedly prevent. I read and read and read some more. I watched tons of videos (Mercola has some, Barbara Loe Fisher has great one, so does Sheri Tenpenny). Even DH wanted to have the kids vaxxed and while he would not do the research himself, he would listen to me. I would quote facts to him as I learned and by the time our first son reached the age of 2, he was against vaccinating as well. Our boys are now 3 and 8.5 and while their diet is not stellar by any means they are healthy. The younger one had roseola without any complications, the older one nothing besides colds so far. Let me know if you need any links or more info about sources.

      Reply

  7. This is such a great post! Unfortunately it is difficult to find the studies out there because there is very little unbiased science happening in the field of health and nutrition. The fact is that big-pharme pays for most of the studies. There is very little money to be found in natural prevention and remedies, thus very few studies.

    Reply

    • You’d be surprised how many studies there really are about prevention and natural remedies. 🙂 They are never going to be splashed across the front page of a newspaper and may not even make the average doctor’s reading list. But they’re in the pubmed database and quite fascinating. As I was researching my book on children’s health, I came across quite a bit more than I had thought I would! Which then made me say, “So the knowledge is there…and they’re ignoring it?!” Oh well.

      Reply

  8. My infant niece died because she was infected with whooping cough. I guess if death is an easy treatment then, yeah, easily treated.

    Reply

    • Not *everything* is easily treated in *everyone.* Very young babies are at risk of complications up to and including death from whooping cough…and it’s usually most dangerous when they are too young to be vaccinated anyway. It’s very sad about your niece and I’m sorry to hear that.

      However, especially in older children, most of these illnesses, including the ones I named specifically (chicken pox, rubella) are NOT dangerous. They are easily treated. We need to look at each disease and each child’s situation carefully and not rely on personal stories or misinformation or scare tactics. Knowing a baby who died of whooping cough is very scary, but it’s not scientific evidence that ought to convince anyone to accept the full CDC vaccine schedule.

      Reply

      • Great answer Kate. You shouldn’t vaccinate because someone died from whooping cough, rubella, etc. You shouldn’t NOT vaccinate because someone died from a vaccine injury. You need to do some extensive research and come up with what’s best for you.
        I don’t think it’s best for anyone to accept the full CDC schedule but I came to that conclusion after doing extensive research myself. I feel happy with my decision.

        Reply

  9. Thank you for showing a balanced, rational argument.

    Reply

  10. Excellent article. I’ve been gathering as much info as I could on this subject, but was unable to find much more than opinions. Vaccinations are, I believe, intended well, but are not without their own hazards. The ones used in this country have been found to contain many harmful things according to most sources (including government websites). This is very scary, and any possible benefits may very well be negated by damage done from the vaccine itself. People who are afraid of unvaccinated children are confused, and seem to believe that vaccines are some “miracle cure” when they are not.

    Reply

  11. Stop claiming that people should be entitled to hear both sides of the argument, and then not allowing posts that are contrary to your specific beliefs to published to your wall.

    I have listed several calm and well thought out posts, putting the case for vaccinations, but you have not allowed them through. Can you explain why? I have not been abusive, I have not said anything ridiculous. Do the people not have the right to hear varied viewpoints to make a truly informed decision?

    Or do you not ‘practice as you preach’ Kate?

    Reply

    • Anfernee,

      Here’s the truth.

      This is an alternative website. We present an alternative point of view.

      Literally any other source will present the opposing viewpoint. There is no shortage of websites that are for vaccination. These websites do not feel the need to present a balanced view, to share both sides of the issue. In fact, they state that there is no debate and that people who speak against vaccines, or even question vaccines, are crazy people.

      If my readers are interested in the mainstream viewpoint, they can go to any other source to find that information. I don’t provide a specifically pro-vaccine viewpoint. And as long as all the mainstream sites continue to say there is no other side, I’m not going to. And I don’t feel bad about that at all.

      Do you honestly believe that parents who are making such an important decision only look at my blog and no other sources? I would hope not.

      Link me to one, just ONE mainstream source that provides a balanced and fair look at the topic, that allows room for parents to question or reject vaccines…and I’ll start allowing people to post whatever (respectful) links they want to my wall. Until then, it isn’t happening.

      Reply

      • Thanks for responding Kate. And I do appreciate and understand your comments. We will
        never see ‘eye to eye’ when it comes to vaccination – I can accept that. But whilst you and your followers may be more attuned to the ‘alternative’ point of
        view, may I please at least ask you to remove posts which clearly tout ‘pseudo-science’ or conspiracy theories. You seem like an intelligent person, and these posts do not further your cause – in fact, to the intelligent reader, they may draw the integrity of your other posts into question.

        Reply

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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