Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm Not Crazy

I watched last weeks episode of Private Practice tonight and was angered and saddened by what I saw. I was angered that, yet again, we non vaccinating parents were portrayed as superstitious whack-jobs, and saddened that the general public might believe it.

In the episode a mother brings her three sons into the Pediatrician. The oldest has Autism and they’ve been off exploring therapies in Switzerland. She’s bringing her second son in today, however, because he seems to have a cold. Only, it’s not a cold. It’s the measles. So all hell breaks loose. The doctors begin discussing how vaccination shouldn’t be an option. Another doctor says that they shouldn’t turn children away just because their parents believe in conspiracy theories.

Of course, the child gets sicker. At this point they’re pushing the mother to have the youngest, and as yet un-vaccinated son, immunized. She’s refusing because she doesn’t want to risk him getting Autism (because of course that’s the only reason parents ever refuse vaccines) and the doctors begin saying how they should call the Department of Child and Family Services because not vaccinating is child abuse. Yup, child abuse. Now I’m ready to throw my shoe through the screen.

Eventually the tension leads the pediatrician to corner the youngest son and immunize him against the express wishes of his parents. My jaw hit the floor. That’s assault. But of course he did what he thought he had to, to protect the poor boy from the crazy mother. And to drive home the importance of vaccination, her middle son dies. Because it is a risk of the measles.

Of course, they left a ton out of the picture. So, here’s the skinny on why I don’t vaccinate for the measles (among other things):

There are risks associated with the measles. Those risks include pneumonia and encephalitis (which can be dangerous but are treatable), and death. These risks are very small. Measles were, in my parents generation, what the chicken pox were in mine. The complications rate is about 1:1000 cases. The death rate is about 1:3000 cases. Those numbers drop even lower when we’re talking about healthy children. The risks are greatest in the elderly, the immuno-compromised, and the malnourished and impoverished children who most likely lack access to quality health care.

There are also risks with the vaccine. Those risks include deafness, long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness, and permanent brain damage. I got those from the CDC website. Those are the most severe reactions of course. Other reactions are milder and transitory with the exception of anaphalactic shock in the case of an allergic reaction.

Note that I can treat the worst reactions associated with the measles, but not all the worst reactions associated with the vaccine. The chances of those complications are rare, but the chances of my healthy kids dying from the measles is pretty slim as well. It’s a risk vs. benefit issue. They can’t tell me that an amniocentesis, which leads to miscarriage in 1:200 cases is safe while telling me that a 1:3000 risk in the case of the measles is dangerous.

Also the ingredients in the MMR are not things I want in my children’s bodies. Things like chick embryonic fluid (taken from the brain cavity of an embryonic chick), and human diploid cells from aborted fetal tissue. Nice. And let’s not forget that it’s a live virus, so your child could actually get the disease from the vaccine itself.

I wont even begin to get into the antibiotics and the ingredients used to preserve the vaccine (like formaldehyde) or how even those that are now “mercury free” have only been washed of their mercury and have high doses of aluminum (a known neurotoxin). I won’t get into the fact that thousands upon thousands of people report vaccine injuries every year. After all, you’re welcome to head over to the VAERS website and look at that yourself. I won’t get into the lengthy discussion about FDA approval and the ethical issues that have occurred surrounding the approval of vaccines without much, if any, safety research by doctors who were on the payroll of the companies manufacturing them. And I won’t bore you with all of the information about how vaccination doesn’t necessarily promise immunity.

Let me just promise that those of us who don’t vaccinate do NOT make that decision because we’re uneducated, or haven’t read the research. I read a lot of research, from both sides of the argument. And while my convictions about vaccines are strong and sincerely held, I respect that other parents feel differently, and I believe in their right to make informed decisions for their children. And I very much resent being portrayed (as is often the case) as a nervous busy body easily swayed by fear tactics, as if those tactics are never employed by the establishment that has a huge financial stake in making sure that their product is injected into every child.

I’ve done my homework. I believe the risks outweigh the benefits. That’s my right as a parent and I will exercise it. I made that decision before I knew I had two sons on the Autism Spectrum.

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