Just so you know

All right. I have ideas. I think about stuff. So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote. Like I have time for this.

Everything is provisional at this point and subject to change in the future - as far as the blog is concerned. In real life some things will remain unchanged.

Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus. We are not that cool.

Feel free to share, rant, disagree, but please remember that I'm an actual person who tries to be respectful. I'd love it if you are and do to.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why I'm Doing This (And some stuff about vaccines)

All right.  I have ideas.  I think about stuff.  I have this other blog that is full of beautiful pictures of my kids and lots of personal info about my family, but I don't really want to publicize it much because, well, there are lots of creepy people on the internet.  So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote.  Like I have time for this.

I've been thinking about this for a while, but actually am doing it right now because a friend who's a doctor posted this link on Facebook about how doctors feel that parents who don't want to vaccinate their children don't trust them.  I typed up a pretty long response and then I thought, "I always do this and this poor lady is probably tired of hearing about it.  But I want to get it off my chest and have a chance for people to read it - if they're interested.

So here's my response, for what it's worth.  Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus.  We are not that cool.

"I actually struggle with this. I want to go to doctors that I trust, but my experiences have taught me that how they view medical research and the medical establishment can make a big difference. Here's an example that doesn't involve vaccines: When I was pregnant with Lenny I wanted to decide if we should circumcise him. The AAP recommendation at that time was basically against, but I couldn't find anything online that seemed like actual evidence in either direction. I went to the library and found a book by a doctor who was on the board that made the recommendation. He was the dissenting opinion though. He had a whole list of factors which in his opinion combined to make it a good idea. On it's own any one of them might not have been enough, but when you put them together it seemed like a pretty good idea to me.

When we met the pediatrician we used for Lenny the first time I asked him is opinion of circs. He said they were purely cosmetic. I said I had been doing some reading and....He said "Anyone can write down an opinion...." or something dismissive like that and then said, "If your husband was hit over the head with a rock would you do the same to your baby?"

We went ahead and had the procedure. I never actually saw that doctor again because it was a big practice and he was the head doctor - we would probably have had to specifically request him. We saw another doctor who really listened and never made me feel like I was a threat to her because I read or had questions about "best practices." But we also often saw a nurse practitioner who gave us a hard time about delaying vaccines and other choices like co-sleeping. They also made me bring Lenny in for extra weighings because he didn't gain between two appointments - when he was over a year old."

What I  didn't get around to saying is that now the AAP has reversed its position on circumcision.  Now it's a good thing.  And what I had been reading about is probably part of the reason.  Also, I was thinking of saying that I get that vaccines are a much bigger deal than circumcision because of the threat of spreading diseases.  But the point is that a doctor who doesn't listen to my concerns, who won't discuss the research with me or who jumps to conclusions about where I'm coming from is going to be hard for me to trust.  Also, I like it better when people talk about the body of evidence and don't act like we can "prove" that something is completely safe.

Also, we eventually stopped going to that office - after the doctor we really liked left.  We are now going to a doctor who is fine with us using a modified vaccine schedule and is actually helping us do that (we had to take Lenny to the Health Department, but thankfully we can bring Linus into the office, which is much easier.)

Then I wrote this on her actual link:  The one question I have about this is, what about reactions kids have to vaccines? I know personally of a child who had a life-threatening reaction to a vaccine. Also a medically fragile baby who had seizures after two different vaccines - his neurologist said he shouldn't have any more flu vaccines. There must be risks to the general population because the literature they give you at the doctor's office tells signs to watch for and when to contact doctors. I get that vaccines are important, but I would have trouble trusting a doctor who claimed that there were absolutely no risks involved. Better to say, "The risk from vaccines is much smaller than the risk from the diseases."

Also, as a parting shot, I read this article recently about how the whooping cough vaccine currently in use may not be as effective as previously thought.  People are busy blaming non-vaccinators for the resurgence, but it could be the vaccine, which was changed because parents objected to the high fevers and seizures kids were having.   Which makes me think that we should spend less time blaming.


  1. Well, our Mister Mister does (apparently) have some kind of underlying seizure disorder. It was actually the fever that causes his seizures, not technically the vaccine. Yes, the vaccine caused the fever, but he's had fevers since then that caused seizures as well.
    If any doctor said their weren't risks from vaccine s/he would just be blatantly lying (or completely incompetent). We get a paper every time listing potential side effects. Just like any kind of medical intervention (surgery, medication, etc), vaccines have risks. Obviously, the doctor feels the benefits outweighs the risk, but to lie would be ridiculous.
    I looked at the whooping cough article. I was a little confused by the immunology jargon, but it was still kids that hadn't been vaccinated getting sick, right? The problem with the new-ish (the '90s are always longer ago than I think) vaccine is that it doesn't stop people from being able to spread it? That they wouldn't get sick, but they could still give it to someone else? Is that herd immunity? So vaccinated people are safe, but those who aren't aren't protected because it's still getting spread around?
    We were still on the fence about circumcision. The only reason I found to do it was to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. But, having unprotected sex is going to be dangerous anyway so I wasn't convinced it was worth it.
    I'm not crazy about our pediatrician, but we see so many specialists that if the ped suggests something I don't agree with I just ignore him.

    1. Your situation is exactly why it's not a simple issue at all. I'm glad we got Lenny vaccinated before he was around your little guy so I wouldn't have it on my conscience if we passed something preventable to him.

      My dr friend pointed out that "safe" in this case does not mean (to a doctor) that there are no risks, but that the risks are (I think she meant) within acceptable limits. I guess I read that differently than it was intended. I guess I get a little frustrated because the focus is often on autism or some specific ingredient and not on the fact that vaccines always come with risks which we should understand and try to manage.

      I wasn't totally clear on some of your questions from the article either. But it seems that the vaccine wears off so people who had been vaccinated but not recently could get it, possibly from people who had been vaccinated(???) I think that to eradicate whooping cough completely we would have to have a schedule of boosters into adulthood.

      I probably should have included a link to this book, which is the one I read about circumcision.

      It lists the following reasons that I can remember:
      - hygiene (especially important if a young man ends up being a soldier, especially in a dessert)
      - reduced risk of UTI - also easier to test for one
      - reduced risk of some cancers
      - the ladies prefer it (they asked a group of prostitutes.)

      The issue is that the "reduced rate" ones are on conditions that are extremely rare already. I didn't do much looking into the actual risks associated with the procedure. I am not completely consistent in my thirst for knowledge.

    2. I'll have to look at the article again. I thought it was unvaccinated people getting sick. I don't know why I was having such a hard time understanding it.
      What bothers me about some of the talk about vaccines is that many of the people who choose not to vaccinate act like there are no risks to not vaccinating. That the diseases are just mythical dangers of yesteryear. I also think the media publicizes the small percentage of children having rare side effects and many people are caught up in the sensationalism. It also bothers me that people don't recognize the privilege they have to even consider not vaccinating or the dangers it can pose to other children. I know all parents are trying to do right by their children, but I fear many parents have a 'that won't happen to my child' attitude when it comes to preventable childhood diseases. I have been in the hospital wondering if my child will live so I couldn't imagine not taking preventative measures for deadly diseases.
      I think vaccines used to just be a given and now doctors are having to convince people of the merits, people that maybe have only seen Jenny McCarthy on tv and haven't actually done any research.
      But, definitely, definitely research needs to continue and vaccines should be continuously improved.

    3. I figured out the article! It's talking about more than one finding. The baboons that got sick weren't vaccinated, but they caught it from baboons that had been vaccinated. The researchers are also saying the vaccines lose effectiveness after a few years.

    4. My hubby wasn't clear on it either. I'm not sure the article is clear. But it sounds like the vaccine could use some work. Also, it made me more aware that vaccines wear off. I feel like they get portrayed as a "magic bullet" which isn't accurate.

      It's really hard to take a baby to the doctor and know they will come home sick. It probably was easier when people had more experience with the illnesses. I think it helps the discussion when accurate info is shared and people listen to concerns on both sides.

    5. I'm sorry for monopolizing all comments on your first new blog post...

      I also wanted to say that I'm sure you and Husband (not sure if you want to use his name here, either) did research and considered the dangers of childhood diseases. I didn't mean y'all in my previous comment. I know you didn't take Linus out much nor did either of you have or have him around people that were sick or had hepatitis or anything.

    6. It's OK. That's what I thought.

  2. I hope the pediatrician in the first link would let SOME unvaccinated kids into their practise. I get their arguments about people who won't get their kid vaccinated because they think it'll cause autism - but what about if the kid is medically vulnerable or has had a life-threatening reaction in the past - i.e. if there's an 'evidence-based' reason for unusual caution.

    I find myself in the odd position of being strongly provaccination, but actually having missed out on a bunch of childhood vaccinations for reasons I now, as an adult, completely support.

    I had a minor allergic reaction to my 18 month old tetanus/diphtheria booster. Just a rash on my arm. Some kind of testing was done to determine it was an actual allergy, not just a 'normal' reaction. When it came to my next booster (at age 20, I think it was), there was a huge rigmarole around that injection. It was thought that I had probably grown out of the allerg, but, just to be sure, I had to take immune-suppressant medication beforehand, have the injection in the hospital, and initially only have 10% of the normal dose. As it turns out, the allergy had gotten worse and I had a (mild but frightening) anaphylactic reaction to the 10% dose. Then I had further 10% doses with immune suppression at 1 year intervals till my antibodies were sufficient for immunity.

    Anyway, after my 18 month old reaction all further immunisations were treated with caution as no one knew quite what it was I was allergic to and hence whether I'd be allergic to other shots as well. There didn't seem to be any way to find out. So for each immunisation, consideration was taken as to whether it was important for me personally to have it, given the risks it might pose. I didn't have a rubella vaccination, for example. In NZ they're given at age 12 to prevent fetal abnormalities if a woman catches it when they're pregnant. They want girls to get it before they become sexually active. By the time I was 12 my parents were pretty confident that I wasn't likely to be sexually active before i was old enough to decide for myself if I wanted to risk the immunisation, plus they were pretty sure I'd had rubella as a toddler anyway. Instead of getting the injection I was carefully taught that, if ever I wanted to get pregnant, I should get my rubella antibodies tested first.

    I'd hope that pediatrician would have let a kid like me into their surgery!

    1. I think it's likely that they would. I've seen articles that also argue that it's important for most kids to be vaccinated to protect those who can't for medical reasons like this. Thanks for sharing! I'm glad that they were careful after the first reaction.