Tuesday, September 28, 2010

V-Day Monologue

Yesterday, I took Katarina for her first round of vaccinations. Those of you in the know realize that this is a little late in the game for a first vaccination. We're on what you would call a delayed schedule. Or as my doctor put it, We're finally making the RIGHT choice for our child.

As in her delicate and oh-so-scientific, "You can choose not to vaccinate your child. You can choose NOT to do what's best for your baby."

Yes, she makes it sound so clear and logical. Obviously, I'm trying to do what's not best for my baby.

Let me back up a little and fill you in on my concerns here. I tried to do a little reading on vaccinations and, wow, does it ever bring out the disproportionately strong opinions. People feel very strongly on both sides of the issue. There are horrible stories of children who contract preventable diseases and horrible stories of children who react to vaccines. People do a lot of name calling and angry ranting. I wish the dialogue could be taken back by the sane people. I guess it's my own little rally cry for some sanity here, where's Jon Stewart when you need him.

I don't want my child to contract a preventable life-threatening disease, but I also don't want my child to have a life-altering reaction to something I purposely give her. Neither of these worst case scenarios is likely; they are each a matter of small percentages. So, to avoid the unlikely chance that my baby will get a certain disease (which I realize is slim, thanks to the prevalence of vaccinations) I take the other unlikely chance that my baby may react to some of the components of the vaccine.

After a bit of reading and research, the more you learn the harder this choice gets, I decided to go for a kind of compromise. It would have been great to be able to discuss this with my doctor, but her answers consist of statements like, "If it wasn't safe, we wouldn't give it to you." Then I'm left wondering, what about the versions of vaccines that that have been discontinued. Is right now the moment in science when we're certain that we understand the way bodies react to the chemicals in the shots? The canon of which shots they choose and how those shots are constructed is evolving. I found Dr. Sears' book and website quite helpful, if you're interested.

I'm not into the crazy conspiracy theories. I was vaccinated as a kid and I'm arguably fine. But kids now get a lot more vaccinations that we did - 39 doses overall. I don't think the drug companies are evil and intentionally trying to make a profit at the expense of the health of the babies who are vaccinated. I just want to be sure I'm making reasonably good choices for my baby. Ultimately, I formed this tentative plan which I approach with fear and trembling:
  • We delayed the start of vaccinations until Katya was six months old. This was reasonably safe because she's exclusively breast-fed, doesn't attend daycare and wasn't at risk of exposure to the diseases we could vaccinate against.
  • Now that her world is expanding, a little bit, I am choosing (with help from good research) which diseases we will vaccinate her against based on the risks of exposure and the safety of the vaccinations. For example: we didn't vaccinate her against Hepatitis B at birth. I don't know that we'll vaccinate her against chicken pox.
So yesterday we embarked on our first vaccination appointment with fear and trembling - the way I've approached a lot of parenting decisions. Everything has been fine. I think my doctor thinks it's the initial sting of the needle that I fear, but I can live with that. Katya hardly reacted to the needle at all. Now, when the doctor wanted to lie still on the table for her measurements - that evoked a great fury of wailing and teeth-gnashing.

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