Childhood Immunizations: Let’s talk about it!

There has been a lot of talk in the news this week about childhood vaccines and the increasing number of parents who are delaying them, or forgoing them all together. It’s been awhile since I had to make these decisions but it is still something I feel strongly about, especially since before long I expect my children to have to make these choices for their own children.  Parenthood is frightening. The first time I took my oldest child, just a few months old, to be immunized I thought I was reasonably equipped for these health care decisions. I had read all the recommended books.  Sometime later when my son was not yet two and my second child was a newborn, I went to the hospital to visit a family member. In the pediatric ward I met a family with an 18 month old child; a healthy child, who after his DPT booster was in a hospital bed with brain damage. He could no longer walk, talk, or even hold his head up.  This sent me on a whirlwind of research!

I talked to other parents. I asked lots of questions. I made phone calls. I collected articles and research. I discussed it with my family doctor. After my second child had a mild reaction to her first DPT shot we discontinued any further DPT shots for her, her older brother and her subsequent younger siblings in the years to come. It was a difficult decision but it was by no means one made without significant research and soul searching.  Now, I am in no way saying that I know everything about being a parent, nor do I believe I ever will. I’m just saying I asked questions and I made the best choices I could at the time with the information I had.

This is what is bothering me about the current debate.  Recent news reports and television commercials seem to give the impression that parents don’t know what they are doing. If they are just reminded, with cute little pictures of babies and some scary statistics, they will get off their couches and do what is best for the children.  I don’t believe that 1 in 20 parents in 8 states are not choosing to not immunize their children because they are too ignorant to know what is best (AP News, 11/28/11). I believe they are choosing to not vaccinate, or delay vaccines, because they DO know what they are doing! I believe these are thoughtful, intelligent, educated parents who have done their research and are struggling to make the best decisions they can for their families.

I don’t think they need the American Medical Association or The Center for Disease Control to take their hands and tell them what to do. What I do think is that the A.M.A. and the C.D.C. need to take their concerns seriously and prove to them that vaccines are safe. There is no doubt that immunizations are needed. There is no doubt that they help to prevent many diseases that used to kill children. There is also no question that there has been a huge spike in recent years in the number of children diagnosed with A.D.H.D and Autism spectrum disorders. What is in doubt, for many parents, is the safety of some of the vaccines that have been introduced in the last few years.  Is there a connection to these vaccines and other disorders? We can’t really say for sure until we back off and study them more. Many people believe the studies done initially were not adequate, or thorough enough to give accurate data. I believe the reluctance to study the newer vaccines again is directly related to the staggering liability that would be involved if there were a connection. If you believe parent’s fears are unfounded, then prove them wrong and alleviate those fears!

Parents who choose not to vaccinate are not irresponsible. In fact, they are trying to be responsible by making more informed, educated decisions. They need to respected, not placated. I’m not advocating one way or the other here, I’m just saying, hey let’s talk about it some more!


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Karen Foley

About Karen Foley

Karen Foley, has successfully been writing her blog for the BDN since May 2011. By successful, she means a few people read it, and she has not been sued, stalked or fired since starting it.