“Is vaccinating your child really necessary and is it safe?”
This question is a familiar one to us Sinclair ladies. Mom wrestled over it years ago and now Danica and I are wrestling over it ourselves. There are both simple and complicated answers. Firstly, regarding the necessity of vaccinations:
No, from a technical standpoint, vaccinating your child is not necessary. Your children can live without vaccinations and not die– people did it for centuries! And you, as the parent, get to make the final decision. Many will tell you that you have to vaccinate your children to enroll them in school (that’s a “trump card” I’ve often had played on me), but you are officially allowed to sign an exemption, should you so desire. That said, I would not be surprised to see increasing resistance from officials on this issue. Last fall in Maryland, parents were threatened with jail if they didn’t comply to the school system vaccination requirements.
As far as whether or not vaccinating is necessary for our children’s medical and future health prosperity– and if it is indeed safe– the lines are much grayer. It all depends on who you’re talking to! Here are some of my brief thoughts on the matter:
1. Know what your vaccinations are made from.
We assume that everything a doctor may recommend giving our children is good for them all the time. If you’ve been a parent for long, you know this simply isn’t true. Often in the medical community, risks are weighed and doctors make the decision that they feel is truly best. The problem is when a doctor’s conclusion is different than yours would be– if you knew what to weigh.
For example, do you want formaldehyde and ethylene glycol (antifreeze) injected into your infant?
Or much, much more horrifically worse, what about the possibility of vaccines that are developed with the use of human diploid cells (the dissected organs of aborted fetuses)?
Ask questions. If you want a certain vaccination, ask for the manufacturer information and call them to get all the facts so that you can be comfortable (from both ethical and safety standpoints) about everything that is being put in your child’s body.
2. Some vaccinations are for illnesses that can be medically treated without being dangerous, but we don’t know they’re not dangerous because they’re unfamiliar.
Recently, I realized that my children will grow up hearing tales about the chicken pox my sisters and I had as girls much the way I grew up hearing tales about the mumps my parents had when they were young. To me, chicken pox is not a serious illness, provided you get it real good when you’re a child and develop all the proper immunities, while measles and mumps make me very nervous because they are unfamiliar and treated as always-deathly illnesses. [Note: I realize chicken pox is much more serious for adults in regard to both reproductive systems and unborn babies and I assume our moms did, too, else they wouldn’t have been sending all of us to each other’s houses to get chicken pox.]
My mom didn’t grow up with an ignorance-based fear of measles or mumps, but I did. Likewise, I didn’t grow up with an ignorance-based fear of chicken pox, but it’s very plausible that my children will.
One thing I did years ago was briefly research each of the diseases addressed by vaccinations. I did a quick overview of the common symptoms and possible complications (and I made a list– prior to the days of google docs– which I’ve since lost on a computer that won’t start… Bummer!). In familiarizing myself with these illnesses, I found that I was no longer so intimated by them because I had eliminated the unknown factor.
3. Vaccinations don’t always work and can then increase our risk much more than if we were simply exposed to and created natural antibodies to illnesses as children.
When I was pregnant with Gabriel, it was discovered that I was not immune to rubella, which can be very dangerous to an unborn baby, even though I’d been vaccinated years before. My midwives were justifiably nervous and I was instructed to be seen immediately should I experience any of the symptoms of rubella.
In regards to chicken pox, there are many questions about its long-term effectiveness; so while we’re making it so that children aren’t getting chicken pox (I fear the motivation is sometimes that they not miss school days and require their moms to take time off work), there’s a very good chance that they will deal with shingles as adults and possibly even contract the illness at a much more dangerous time for their (or their unborn babies’) bodies. Do we really want to take such risks just so that we don’t have to spend a week or two caring for our children?
4. There are real risks associated with particular vaccinations.
When even the government is admitting to a correlation between vaccines and autism, we parents should all stop and take note. For years, there have been suppositions and suspicions and testimonials regarding such things, but the government has flatly denied the possibility. Not so now.
This is one of the reasons I am especially skeptical and try to learn a lot about newer vaccines. What sorts of things might we find out in 10 or 15 or 20 years about the hepatitis A and B vaccinations, for example? Maybe nothing bad! But do I really want my children being guinea pigs for medical research?
5. Certain vaccinations at certain points in time can be a real blessing.
Believe me, as soon as Gabriel was born, I got a rubella vaccination (after checking the source and how it was made). The possibility of contracting that sort of illness when carrying an unborn baby was enough to make me very, very grateful that there was some sort of prevention available. And while I hope that my children will be exposed to and generate natural antibodies to chicken pox at some point in their childhoods, should they not be, I’m glad there will be something available for them as adults who are faced with bigger concerns about the illness.
6. Don’t be afraid to create your very own Vaccination Schedule.
I remember the first time Danica and I went to a restaurant with some friends and one ordered a meal, only to then tell the waitress all the things she wanted different: “No onions, and instead of fries I’d like a potato, and please put the mayo on the side,” etc. Mouths hanging open, we were astounded! “You can do that???” (When you eat out with a big family, the options are usually pepperoni or no pepperoni on your pizza!)
I think some parents would have the same reaction upon finding out that you can decide when, how, and what in regards to vaccinations. Yes, you can! You’re the parent and you are the one ultimately responsible before God for making good decisions for your child(ren). If you don’t feel comfortable with the rubella vaccination but you want measles and mumps, you can get separate measles and mumps shots. If you think getting the tetanus shot for your son who likes to play in the run-down barn nearby that is probably full of old, rusty, bacteria-covered nails is a good idea but you’re not interested in the diptheria or pertussis part of the DTaP shot, then say so. If anything, I’ve found that doctors respect me more when I start discussing vaccinations intelligently with them. They realize I’ve not just bought into a movement that is anti-modern medicine, but that I’m a genuinely concerned and invested parent.
Regarding when you get vaccinations, my greatest word of caution is to highly protect your child’s developing immune system. Doctors are concerned about this immature immune system, too, and their solution is to expose it to disease in as controlled a fashion as possible: vaccinations. Attentive mothering, at least 12 good months of breastfeeding, good hygiene, and caring for your baby at home (vs. a daycare center– if you must work it is better to find a friend or family member to watch your baby in their home) is, if you’re able, the better option during this delicate time. [Note: breastmilk has the best natural antibodies! Vaccinations can’t even come close to breastmilk in terms of effectiveness, let alone safety!]
A child’s immune system and brain are both pretty fully developed by age 2. If you want to do any vaccinations, it would be much kinder to your child’s body processes and development at this time than earlier. The exception to this is MMR– the vaccination most associated with autism– which may be better to wait on at least until your child is beyond the formative preschool years.
Also, consider talking with your doctor about getting your child’s titer levels checked prior to immunizing. Your child may have developed immunity to certain viruses just by exposure.
7. Pray about and make decisions that are best for your child(ren).
Sometimes people have said to me something like, “You’re being selfish by not giving your kids the MMR vaccination. What if you start an epidemic?”
I don’t honestly know all the logistics of such a possibility because I’m not a doctor, a medical researcher, or an expert on statistics. I have a good measure of confidence in the fact that most of the major illnesses that vaccines address were on the decline before vaccinations due to good hygiene, better medical care, and a general increase in knowledge about them, but that’s about it.
Epidemics aside, we know our children. We know what we have faith for and peace about. We know that we can trust the Lord to honor our sincere-hearted obedience.
I also know this: fear can too easily be our motivator. There are times when I’ve spoken with a doctor and come away very shaken and worried about what could happen if I don’t vaccinate my baby. Similarly, there are other times when I’ve read about vaccinations and been fearful to get any vaccinations ever. That’s when I come home and say, “What is God saying to me? What are the facts I know to be true?” I don’t want to live my whole life dictated by the What-Ifs. That would mean never leaving my home, never touching that grocery cart or getting in that vehicle, never being at peace about my children’s welfare… never having children.
In ending this very long answer to a very short question, I realize there is probably much more to be discussed. Please feel free to comment, share information and insights, and encourage one another as we process and make these not-so-black-and-white decisions!