Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Great Vaccine Debate

**Updated (2015)**
After doing A LOT more research I have come to the conclusion that I hadn't done enough research. Being a parent is scary and every parent wants to protect their kids and do what's best for them. Which is why we have decided to fully vaccinate (and vax on schedule, with the exception of Hep B because we homebirth and don't get that one until the kids go in to see a Pediatrician at around 6 weeks). The risks of any side effects are outweighed by the risks of actually contracting a vaccine preventable disease - and considering the uptick in Whooping Cough and Measles in CA, not vaccinating is a huge (and frankly silly) risk to take.

I encourage anyone who is nervous about vaccines to look at actual peer reviewed research before making any decisions.

Also, I decided to update this blog instead of erasing it, because I wanted anyone who was curious to see that reluctant vaxers can be swayed by data, research, and facts.

I homebirth because of science. I leave my children intact because of science. I vax because of science.

I think that everyone, the moment their child is born, becomes a worrier. There are dozens of things that, while seemingly benign before you become a parent become potentially hazardous and scary when you realize that you baby relies on your good judgment for practically everything.

Soon Bryan and I will have to make the decision whether or not to vaccinate Penelope; and if we decide to vaccinate, whether or not to follow the CDC's recommended schedule or go with a delayed schedule for the shots. I'm sure a lot of people would consider this a "no-brainer" - if the CDC recommends a certain schedule for shots, then why wouldn't you follow their guidelines? They are, after all, an authority on disease control.

However nothing is ever simple - the vaccination question especially.

While I have yet to be convinced that there is any link to vaccinations and Autism (no matter what has recently been in the media), I have very serious concerns about the safety of vaccine ingredients and the frequency with which they are given.

Granted both Bryan and I (and many people we know) were vaccinated on schedule - although the amount of vaccinations given today have greatly increased from when we were kids. The vast majority of people seem to have no adverse effects from following the vaccination schedule. However, articles like this one ( raise very serious questions about the levels of metals like aluminum in vaccines and what effect exposure will have on children long-term.

Here are some selected quotes from the article (underlines mine):
12-pound, two-month-old baby could safely receive at least 30 mcg of aluminum per day. A 22-pound one-year-old could receive at least 50 mcg safely. Babies with healthy kidneys could probably handle much more than this, but we at least know that they can handle this much.
Here are the current levels of aluminum per shot of the following vaccines, as listed on each vaccine's packaging:
  • DTaP (for Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis): 170-��625 mcg, depending on manufacturer
  • Hepatitis A: 250 mcg
  • Hepatitis B: 250 mcg
  • HIB (for meningitis; PedVaxHib brand only): 225 mcg
  • HPV: 225 mcg
  • Pediarix (DTaP-��Hepatitis B-��Polio combination): 850 mcg
  • Pentacel (DTaP-��HIB-��Polio combination): 330 mcg
  • Pneumococcus: 125 mcg
However, I (Dr. Sears) can find no references in FDA documents that show that using aluminum in vaccines has been tested and found to be safe.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), who in 1996 published a policy statement, "Aluminum Toxicity in Infants and Children," that made the following points:
  • Aluminum can cause neurologic harm.
Because a newborn's body contains about a liter (300 milliliters) of blood, more than 30 mcg of aluminum floating around in the bloodstream could be toxic if the baby's kidneys aren't working well.

Now, this is only one article, but there are others out there like it. There are also articles out there that say the benefits of immunization outweigh the risks posed by aluminum (and other metals) present in the vaccines. There are no studies (as of yet) that conclusively link vaccines to neurological disorders (such as Autism, or even ADHD), chronic illnesses (like asthma), or other serious illnesses. But that doesn't mean that there isn't a link - the lack of data only means that more studies need to be done. It may be that vaccines can trigger diseases that a child is genetically predisposed to but is dormant until they are exposed to the vaccine ingredients... or not.

However, there is enough out there for me to be concerned about the vaccination schedule that is currently recommended for infants and toddlers. I have very serious questions about the safety of exposing my child to that much aluminum (in addition to formaldehyde, MSG, and other chemicals) at such a young age. While the risk may be small, there is still a risk - and I don't take the responsibility of making that decision lightly.

Every family has to weigh the risk/benefits of vaccinating/not-vaccinating/delaying vaccination and make a decision that works for their family - but it's articles like this that make that decision a very difficult one for me.


  1. I say - follow your instincts and do what you believe is right for your daughter.

    Over the course of her 16 years, Manda has eventually had all of the vaccines that have been recommended (& / or required) to enter school. But, we continue to chose to use our own time table.

    Give that baby a hug from us!

  2. I tend to fall into the "vaccinate" camp. I had never heard of the risks of Aluminum. People used to cry foul about the mercury in vaccines saying that caused autism, but mercury hasn't been used in vaccines since 2001.

    The interesting thing is that while no studies have shown a link between vaccinations and autism, a striking correlation exists between autism rates and the rise of Cable TV subscriptions and rainfall patterns. I wrote a blog about it, that links to a couple Time articles:

    In my (admittedly unexpert view) vaccines are a scapegoat for other problems. Although I'm sure they do carry risks, I agree with the idea that the benefits outweigh them.

    Here's an interesting article from the NYTimes from back in March of 08:


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