Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's Not Just About Vax....

This post is going to address something I’ve researched/thought about/agonized over for a long time. It all boils down to this: in my opinion, it’s not the doctor’s job to decide how to care for your baby- it’s yours. Yes, doctors should provide their professional opinions, as well as the risks/benefits for each procedure, but in the end, YOU are responsible. YOU are the person who decides whether or not to actively consent to whatever procedure your child undergoes. YOU and YOUR BABY are the ones who will live with the consequences of your decisions- not the doctor. I have plenty of respect for doctors- that's not the issue. However, I also know that doctors are HUMAN BEINGS. They have biases and opinions and make mistakes. Do I trust my doctor/midwife? Yes. Do I BLINDLY, ABSOLUTELY trust my doctor/midwife? No. I know some people who do- their doctor could tell them that Snickers bars cure cancer and they’d believe them. I’m not one of those people. Here goes.

Lucy has had no vaccinations so far. And no, it’s not because I don’t trust vaccines or doctors or that I don’t understand how vaccines work or that I have a curious religious belief. It’s just that I have decided to postpone Lucy’s vaccines until she’s six months old, and then vaccinate selectively. I’ve weighed the pros and cons, and as long as I am exclusively breastfeeding, I’m comfortable with the fact that my breast milk is providing her a great deal of immunity. Now, if a) I wasn’t breastfeeding or b) Lucy was in day care, then I would not have postponed her vax. I would strongly urge any mother who is either formula-feeding or has her child in day care or any other large group setting to consider those risk factors when making her decision.

Of all the procedures advocated by CDC/AAP, my biggest beef is with the use of the Hep B vaccine in newborns. We refused it when Lucy was born, and didn’t get any negative feedback from our ped or the nurses working in the hospital. Here’s the issue: Hep B is, primarily, an STD. It can also be transferred via an infected needle. Why, then, vaccinate babies only a few hours old? According AAP’s pamphlet:

“Some parents question why infants and young children should be vaccinated against hepatitis B when they don’t have the risk factors (drug use, sexual activity, professional risk) that lead to many infections. There are two reasons. One is that babies and children can become infected too. If a mother infects her baby during birth, for example, and the baby is not immunized immediately, it will probably become chronically infected too. One out of 4 of these children will eventually die from cirrhosis or liver cancer. The other reason is that vaccinating only high-risk adolescents and adults has proved not to be a very effective way to control the disease. It was only after we began routine childhood vaccination that rates of disease began to drop significantly.”

So, basically, if a mother is Hep B positive, her baby could contract the disease. Noted. But I don’t have Hep B and neither does my husband (I was required to be vaccinated by the military, anyway- he was, voluntarily). I fail to see how the blanket application of the vaccination benefits my daughter- or most children. It's the typical scenario used in the medical community these days- rather than test women individually and identifying those who need treatment, everyone is treated, regardless of their status. Another example of this is the administering of antibiotic eye ointment for newborns (which we also refused) because so many women have STDs.

On a side note, I also dislike the scare tactics employed by the AAP here. Another example of the “dead baby” technique- i.e., do what we’re telling you, or your baby could die, and that would be your fault.

Anyways, I digress. If I listed all the reasons why I made my decision or the research I consulted, it would be pages long. And boring. So instead of continuing with my own decision/opinion, here are a few resources:

Dr. Robert Sears

The CDC’s vaccination guide

Immunization Action Coalition

The bottom line for me: Don’t let the doctor make all the decisions for you. Listen to what he/she has to say, do enough research to be able to discuss vax (or any other procedure) in an educated manner, and, in the end, do what you are comfortable with. Don't be afraid to question things- especially the "routine"- whether it's circumcision, vax, supplementing, pacifier use, etc. Be an empowered parent!

Copyright Tracie Birch

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