When it comes to hot debate topics, the safety and necessity of infant and childhood vaccinations sits right up at the top. Of course, health official agencies like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and American Academy of Physicians (AAP) all advocate that vaccinations are safe and that the current schedule of vaccines is necessary for the protection of our children and the people around them.
Then, with the alarming increase in incidents of autism, autism-related spectrum disorders, and other neurological/cognitive conditions, with onset seemingly corresponding to administration of immunizations, a lot of parents began to question what we were doing to our children. As a brief aside, 1 in 88 children according to the CDC in a March 2012 media release has autism or an autism-related spectrum disorder (1), which is up from 1 in 2000 prior to 1970. (2)
Before I continue, I wanted to present my perspective on several things – these are opinions based on my experience, not any particular medical evidence.
First, I believe and agree with the overall philosophy and goal of vaccination. I’m not opposed to vaccinating children, though there is definitely room to reconsider bombarding infant immune systems with vaccinations, particularly if they’re breastfed.
Second, I don’t believe that there is any one particular cause of autism and autism-related conditions, and that the cause and/or trigger can be different for many children. I do believe that vaccinations—whether the vaccine itself, or the timing of them in relation to the natural development of the immune system and brain development, and individual genetics—may be a trigger for onset of cognitive disabilities and other conditions.
Third, my two boys had pretty severe reactions to vaccines (when I eliminated all other possible sources); the first was to the MMR vaccine with screaming-high fever for three days, vomiting that I’ve only ever seen on TV and in movies associated with radiation poisoning, and febrile seizure; the second had a reaction to the DTP vaccine which was a moderate fever that escalated into a febrile seizure (several of them in a row) during which I had to use infant mouth-to-mouth because he had started to turn blue (there was also a family history of febrile seizures). I have also seen children more than I would care to see with very similar reactions when they reached the same age my sons had been at the time of their reactions – enough for me to question what’s going on and not to accept everything I’m told at face value.
Fourth, it was very difficult to find independent information for this article. As with most things, information that bucks the trend and questions we’ve all been taught to believe is usually not widely broadcast and, if it is, then it’s put down as misinformation. The problem is that many of the studies out there that are contrary to the status quo, have some serious flaws in methodology and, as with many medical-related things, it is difficult to eliminate all possible and plausible causal or trigger factors. So it took me a while to compile information that I thought was reliable without having any particular slant or political statement attached to it. I just wanted to provide facts. This research has really clarified a bunch of things for me.
My purpose in writing this article is simply to provide information and jump start your research and investigation. We, as parents, don’t have to make care decisions for our children blind and without questioning current practices. We don’t have to go along with something simply because everybody else is doing it or has stopped doing it.
There is an obvious advantage and medical reason for vaccination, but it’s still your choice as a parent whether or not, and even when you decide to go ahead with them.
In 2003, babies (2 – 18 months) were given only eight vaccinations. (9) Now, there are 24. (5)
Some would argue that this is too many vaccines. I would be inclined to agree just on the sheer number of them. Many say these are necessary. Some have started to question, however, the effectiveness of such vaccines given at such a young age. Proponents argue that these vaccines are necessary because an infant’s immune system is still developing and wouldn’t be able to fight off any of these diseases if they were to contract them at this age. Still, the debate rages between letting an infant’s immune system develop on its own and mature before introducing these diseases to their bodies – particularly if the baby is breastfed and is thereby protected by his/her mother’s antibodies — and protecting their little bodies now, as aggressively as possible.
Some parents and doctors advocate a modified immunization schedule that doesn’t start until after the baby turns 1, and then basically follows the same interval between vaccinations as the standard schedule.
Another consideration is the ingredients. Many of us are aware of the argument about mercury in vaccines, but there are other ingredients, as well.
We are so diligent about reading the ingredients on the food we give our children, and yet the ingredients in vaccines we overlook, assuming they’re safe because the doctor gives them to every other patient.
Thimerosal is about 50% mercury by weight. It is used as a preservative. “During the 1990s infants received 12.5 mcg [micrograms] of mercury at birth followed by 12.5 mcg at one month, 50 mcg each at 2, 4, 6, and 15-18 months [for a]…total of 237.5 mcg for a child, who at best weighs 10kg.” (2) “The two-month dose of mercury is at least 30 times higher than the recommended daily maximum exposure as set by the EPA.” (2)
In 1999, in response to the increasing outcry of parents and physicians, “the FDA, NIH, CDC, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) together urged vaccine manufacturers to reduce or eliminate thimerosal in childhood vaccines. Pharmaceutical companies complied, and ultimately reduced the infant thimerosal exposure by 98%.” (9) However, incidents of ASD continued to increase. So clearly, there is more at work in relation to autism.
This table from Healing-Arts.org, shows the thimerosal content of infant and child vaccines, which is current as of 2007. The MMR vaccine has often been cited or questioned as a potential cause or trigger for autism and autism spectrum disorders whether just because of the vaccine itself or the mercury content. According to this table, the MMR vaccine has never contained thimerosal…so the mercury content obviously cannot be connected – although that doesn’t mean that children don’t react to any of the other ingredients, as described in the lists above.
If we looked at the list of symptoms associated with any of the diseases that vaccinations protect us from, I’m sure we’d all agree we’d never want any of our children to fall victim to something that could have been prevented. At the same time, we need to be aware of the ingredients and effects these vaccines have on our children’t bodies. There is no room for complacency when it comes to our children’s health.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for Empowher.com
1) CDC estimates 1 in 88 children in United States has been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder. CDC. Web. Sept 21, 2012.
2) Autism and Mercury (Thimerosal in Children’s Vaccines) Testimony Presented by Stephanie Cave, M.D. Before the Committee on Government Reform U.S. House of representatives. July 18, 2000. Autism Research Articles – Mercury in Vaccines, Vaccines in Autism. Web. Sept 21, 2012.
3) What are the Vaccines that still Contain Thimerosal? Autism Research Articles – Mercury in Vaccines, Vaccines in Autism. Web. Sept 21, 2012.
4) Table 1. Thimerosal Content of Vaccines Routinely Recommended for Children 6 Years of Age and Younger. Autism Research Articles – Mercury in Vaccines, Vaccines in Autism. Web. Sept 21, 2012.
5) 2012 Recommended Immunizations for Babies. CDC. Web. Sept 21, 2012.
6) Vaccine Excipient & Media Summary: Excipients included in U.S. Vaccines, by Vaccine. CDC. Web. Sept 21, 2012.
7) Vaccine Ingredients & Side Effects. Generation Rescue. Web. Sept 21, 2012.
8) 2003 Immunization Schedule. Generation Rescue. Web. Sept 21, 2012.
9) Questions about Prenatal Ultrasound and the Alarming Increase in Autism. Rodgers, Caroline. Midwifery Today, Issue 80, Winter 2006. Web. Sept 21, 2012.