My daughter. My motivation.

What has motivated me the most to really dig into researching the anti-vaccine community? To begin, I would have to say that, honestly, it began with YouTube. I already know what you may be thinking. But, before you judge me, let me explain. My fiancé and I were discussing our daughter and her eventual growth into her teenage years. Yes, she is only two years old, but we talk about our future as a family on a regular basis.  Eventually, our conversation trailed off into talking about her dating boys and her prom and so forth. My fiancé is sure that she will wait until marriage to do anything physical with any male, but I tend to have a more practical view of life, in general.  I was once a young hormonal girl, so I have a pretty good idea of what we are in for. But, back to my story. We talked about the different types of birth control and then we ended up talking about a shot that we heard of that teenage girls are receiving. The shot we learned eventually is called Gardasil.  Gardasil is said to vaccinate girls against HPV, which is also said to cause cervical cancer.   Immediately, I began to “Google” Gardasil to see what would populate. My mind was genuinely curious to know if parents were actually taking their teenagers to get yet another vaccine. Since my daughter was born, I have always been slightly overwhelmed when we went to well-baby check-ups and our baby girl would be bombarded with shot after shot. On one visit, she must have been injected with four or five shots! I soon became obsessed with researching Gardasil. Memories flooded my mind and I was reminded of that familiar feeling of helplessness as nurses injected my daughter time and time again with unknown substances.   Honestly, that is when my shame set in as a mother. Why do I not know what my daughter is being injected with? I know what she likes to eat, I know what kind of fabrics make her irritable, I know which foods give her gas, I know how many diapers she goes through in a day, and I know how many times to pat her back in order to get her to burp. So why do I not know what kinds of ingredients are in the immunizations that I am told that my daughter needs? I was determined to do better. However, when I came across a video that discussed teenagers suffering from vaccine related injuries, I was floored. And from there, I began to empathize with the movement that has parents up in arms. I am not the only mother that does not know what her daughter is being injected with, in fact, no one is certain, and the manufacturers and doctors who are certain, are not displaying the sort of efficacy that can put parents’ minds at ease.

 

 

I believe my curiosity and concern is relatable. I also believe that the Internet can almost assuredly convince anyone of anything they are inclined to believe as truth to begin with. So, if at the end of this investigation series, I end up on one side or the other of the argument, please know that I am reaching out to as many resources as possible, that I have the best of intentions, and that I am only a human making choices that are based off of facts that I have gathered, not ignorant assumptions or random guesses as to what I think is right.   This is my proof that I conducted the research in order to make informed decisions for my family and that I care about our health and safety with my whole heart.

Out of the Frying pan and Into the Fire

If you are a hardworking parent like me, with sometimes an uncanny intuition and enough education to back it up, then this blog will probably be enjoyable to you in some way. While I earn a living and have a very demanding career, in addition to devoting time to my higher education, sometimes, when I get a free moment to actually turn on my television for a reprieve from the day, I have a tendency to sneer at the celebrity figures of this era. I am constantly in awe of the outlandish actions they display for the public and their general unappreciative attitude towards their rare opportunity and wealth.

 

Okay, I know I sound a little judgmental, but I think most normal civilians think celebrities appear to be strange creatures with access and privilege to things most will probably never experience. On the other hand, along with making an obscene amount of money, they also have a way of sparking interesting conversations around interesting and controversial topics. One celebrity, by the name of Jenny McCarthy, has fueled a particular subject, and that is vaccine safety.  To be honest, I have always been curious about vaccines, their contents, the efficacy of the manufacturers, and their legitimacy, but I never did much research on this subject.  But since becoming a mother, I find it to be one of the biggest concerns of my life.

 

I decided my blog would be a place where I will share some of my own findings and a place where I can post my opinions based off of those findings and create some continuity for my work. I am a person who never believed in the old adage “if it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger.” I have always felt that saying to be a load of misguided nonsense. Too many people spend their lives miserable, in broken relationships, in unhealthy cycles, in ignorance and regret. There is available information and enough resources available to conduct your own research. Any decision worth making is worth putting thought into. Vaccinating our children is one of those decisions.

 

During my research, I have learned that many parents are under the impression that vaccines are a requirement. I felt surprised to learn that could not be further from the truth. And if it is a choice to be made by all, then I would like to be a reliable resource to aid in the decision making process. That is what I will be sharing in the next few posts:  information I have uncovered that I was not privy to before, things that alarm me, videos that have moved me, and testimony that encourages me to think confidently for myself. I urge others to do the same for themselves and their families.

 

Some of my sources I post about will be news articles, research studies, court documents, CDC information, other parenting blog blurbs, policies, magazines, Facebook, and even twitter posts around the subject of vaccine safety. I hope others feel comfortable to share their own thoughts, while respecting the process of research being conducted on my own accord.

 

In the spirit of diving right in, I would like to post a video that has been something I look back on rather frequently, because it reminds me of my purpose for beginning this journey. I first watched this video when I began my research. It shows real doctors, real parents, and real children suffering post Gardasil vaccinations.  Before you watch the video, I urge you to read a little further into the Gardasil controversy.

 

Video Courtesy of YouTube: http://youtu.be/GsjYREV0YLA

Why Jenny McCarthy should NOT be the face of the Anti-Vaccine movement

First I want to make it known that I do not hate or dislike Jenny McCarthy. Actually, I find her beautiful and I relate to her confusion as a mother having to make pertinent choices on behalf of her children daily. However, I believe that Jenny should not be the face of the movement against vaccine related injury and illness. It implies that the goal of the community of individuals fighting for vaccine safety is to gain attention or glamorization. That is not the case. It pains me to see people use her as a weapon to mock and disparage the anti-vaccine community. Since spending hours upon hours and days that turned into months of research, I have discovered that parents bucking the vaccine system do not want attention whatsoever. Most importantly, they want all of the attention paid to young children and their access to dependable healthcare and safer vaccines. They do no want massive outbreaks of contagious diseases; they want to be immune to that sort of occurrence just like the majority of parents around the globe. I will discuss other myths and common misconceptions later in my blog, but I want to make that my main point in this post. The fight of the anti-vaccine parent is not for everyone to walk around without condoms or immune systems that aren’t equipped to fight off even the most common colds, in fact, it is the opposite. They want to be able to believe in the health system again, and they want vaccine manufacturers to show more efficacies and devote substantial time into the development of vaccines so that they can ensure their children are taking advantage of modern medicine. The Hollywood version need not apply here, nor is it sought by the anti-vaccine community.

 

 

But, I understand using the celebrity face for promoting sales for sneakers, perfumes, clothing, and even cars. But, when it comes to our children’s safety, health, and the like, it is my opinion that it is best to use doctors or other parents as the most profound model figures.  And there are many of those aforementioned leaders in the community, but, unfortunately, those who make a living making a mockery of the anti-vaccine community, have plucked Jenny McCarthy’s every appearance from the media and positioned her as the face. This was a massive setback for the parents who believe whole-heartedly that vaccines are not the safest they could be, or for those who have actually sustained preventable vaccine related injuries. Their stories are muffled by the blonde hair and blue eyes of Ms. McCarthy and it is my belief that the community against the vaccine industry as it stands today is just as upset as the apparent illegitimacy as the pro-vaccine majority.

The Beginning, Pertussis, and Autism

Medicine is a risk benefit analysis. Virtually all interventions carry an element of risk and we must utilize the available information to determine if the benefits outweigh those risks. The science itself is complicated and most times outdated, making it difficult for the average parent to sort through all of the misdirection and misinformation. Standing against this is simple respect for scientific integrity and the commitment to follow the evidence wherever it leads. With that, I have a few points to make:

 

1. Long before Jenny McCarthy was involved, vaccine controversies began in the late 18th century.  In fact, in 1722, a Reverend by the name of Edward Jenner gave a sermon entitled “The Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Inoculation”.  In that sermon, he argued that “Diseases are sent by God to punish. Any attempt to prevent small pox via inoculation is a diabolical operation”. Vaccines have been a subject of controversy for decades.

 

Please see Microbiology PDF for Rev. Edward Jenner information: http://mmbr.asm.org/content/47/4/455.full.pdf

 

 

2. Many pro-vaccine debaters will say that Pertussis vaccines are not INEFFECTIVE because research does not support it.  I assure you research has produced evidence of the lack of effectiveness. However, it is up to each parent to decide weather or not to forego the vaccine altogether or to still trust that the vaccine their child receives is the effective shot after all.  I have just read a New York Times article, in which the journalist interviewed, Dr. Baxter, the Co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center, where he clearly stated “whooping cough vaccine COULD BE BETTER”, and that “ I hope that manufacturers begin to work on a vaccine that has a BETTER EFFECTIVENESS.” Also he said, “Effectiveness in that age group (11 years old) was only about 53 to 64%”.

 

Furthermore, much like the flu vaccine, there are strains, (more like thousands), the vaccines doesn’t protect against. Does that not mean the vaccines are INEFFECTIVE? If the Webster definition of effective is “successful in producing a desired or intended result”, yet people are still contracting and suffering from vaccinate-related illness, does that not make them INEFFECTIVE?  As I am always a concerned parent, it seems like a tough call. I do not know how any parent could make the decision without a second thought.

 

Please reference the article I mentioned above: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/24/whooping-cough-vaccine-lags-in-efficacy/?_r=0

 

 

3. In conclusion, I would like to invite “posters” to please click on this link: http://youtu.be/3wwDPcNdxJQ and watch the Congressional Panel For AutismONE and Generation Rescue. The lead researcher for the CDC, on 21 of 24 studies on Autism and Vaccines, Dr. Poul Thorsen, who was indicted, but later fled, was charged with 13 counts of wire fraud and nine counts of money laundering. A federal grand jury alleges that Thorsen stole over $1 million from autism research funding between February 2004 and June 2008. One might ask: how does this have anything to do with autism and vaccination research? Aside from the research integrity aspect, and the financially-guided intention, he was also discovered to have been falsifying and destroying documents. The CDC and many other organizations have been dealing with money laundering issues and the like.  All impacts research, integrity, and subsequently, peoples’ livelihoods.

 

Side note:  The vaccine court exists for a reason.  By 2008 the fund had paid out 2,114 awards totaling $1.7 billion. Thousands of cases of Autism-related claims are still pending before court today.  If that kind of money is budgeted to award to the victims of these ailments resulting from vaccination, could it be used for preventative measures?  Why not proactively place those funds into reducing the margin of error, closing the gaps that have made this a topic of contention…..just saying.

The Dynamics of The Choice

From what I have gathered, the community of people behind vaccine safety have the same goal: protecting the health and safety of their children.  There are many different ways that people have chosen to take action against what feels unsafe. Some are completely against the vaccine industry as a whole. The anti-vaccine community generally has a strong disdain for misinformation and the side effects the vaccines have had on people, they are not vaccinating their children nor themselves, and they have a supportive backing by peers who are doing the same and believing in the same.

 

Another group of people are adjusting the vaccine schedules their children are receiving. With children scheduled to receive so many shots in such a small window of time, often without question, or even a brief education on the necessity of the vaccine, many believe spacing out the shots is safer and gives children an easier chance at recovering without severe reactions.

 

Next, is a group who are selective about which shots they will allow their children to receive. Under the belief that not all vaccines are entirely necessary and are excessive, some people are opting out of some, but not all.

 

Another group is pushing for “greener” vaccines, and, in the interim, opting out of all of them, studying literature and medical journals, under the advisement and watchful eye of homeopathic doctors. These individuals are often focused on raising awareness, under the belief that thorough testing of vaccines prior to hitting the market is not the norm, but that it SHOULD be.  Aluminum has long been an ingredient and is one of the substances said to be causing some adverse effects after injections.  This is just one example of an ingredient that many anti-vaccine individuals are demanding that further, more in-depth testing needs to be done before they will ever consider vaccinating again.

 

There are those who are advised by medical doctors that they cannot receive some or all vaccinations due to weakened immune systems or other health issues.

 

Finally, in front of the line, are people who believe in the necessity to receive all vaccines as long as the CDC and their doctors say they are safe and offer them.

 

Some people are doing a combination of the things mentioned above, and are doing so for reasons I also have not yet mentioned. However, I feel it is important to know the different perspectives and choices people are making. The media and critics of anything not going with the status quo on this topic have a tendency to lump everyone together in one anti-vaccination “cult” and that is not what is happening.

 

 

I believe myth busting should be addressed in my next post.  It is very interesting how many people I have come across, while researching, who are under so many misguided misconceptions and prone to stereotype parents who are pushing for vaccine safety and education.

photo courtesy of google images

photo courtesy of google images

Vaccine Safety: Truth or Myth?

Photo courtesy of google images, parents that don't vaccinate

Photo courtesy of google images, parents that don’t vaccinate

During my research I came across some great myth busting articles, these are the highlights that I found to be the most interesting.

1) Parents listen to the media/Dr. Wakefield study/Jenny McCarthy when choosing not to vax.

While this may be the first place parents heard about the issue, it’s definitely not the final word.  Parents who choose not to vaccinate do not make this decision lightly.  They spend hours upon hours researching every aspect and angle they can find.  Even parents who initially make the decision often feel very uncertain about it, and end up seeking out even more research to verify their decisions.  For many, the media and “celebrities” play little to no role in their ultimate decision.

2) Parents are selfish, relying on those who DO vax for protection while skipping the risks for themselves.

It is important to understand that most of the parents who choose not to vaccinate do not believe in herd immunity.  They also see some benefit to actually catching some of the childhood diseases.  Some actively seek out chicken pox and even mumps or measles!  They do not believe that their children need protection from vaccines, either directly or indirectly.  You will never hear a parent say, “It does not matter if I vaccinate my kid since everyone else does it!”  No. Parents have reasons that reach far, far beyond this; and, again, do not believe in herd immunity anyway.

3) Parents believe vaccines cause autism and that is their primary reason for not vaxxing.

There are some parents who did stop vaccinating for that reason, 11 years ago, when the study initially came out.  But these days, families on both sides are well aware of the controversy.  It may be what initially sparks a parent’s interest in the topic, but it is, again, not the last word.  Most of the families who have chosen not to vaccinate (at least the ones I have talked to) rate the autism reason at the very bottom of their “reasons not to vaccinate” list, if it makes the list at all.  There are many, many other concerns.

4) Parents do not understand what these diseases are really like, or they would start vaxxing.

On the contrary, most parents have carefully researched what might happen should their child catch any of these diseases.  They know what the usual course of the disease are, what complications are likely, symptoms to watch for, and so on.  They know what the true likelihood of complications is, and what causes them (for example, reading the WHO’s disease papers provides this information…and nutritional deficiencies are one of the primary causes of complications).  Parents then set out to boost their children’s immune systems naturally so should they catch a disease, they will be highly unlikely to have any serious complications.  Though they are aware it could happen and they do accept that risk.  The thing is, parents do not rely on the scare tactics and horror stories. They know what real statistics really say.

5) Parents’ reasons keep changing because they do not really have any argument

In reality, parents’ reasons do not change when they have done full research.  They have many reasons, but those reasons are always the same.  This is an argument primarily used in the vaccine-autism debate.  ”First it was the MMR…then thimerosal…then the schedule as a whole…they do not have an argument!”  Actually, all of these things play a role!  Parents are not shifting the blame so much as trying to investigate all possible causes.  If one particular element in and of itself does not explain it, they move on to another to see if that may also play a role (something that the scientists should be doing, too).

6) Parents do not vaccinate because they are uneducated or hippie/earth-loving mothers

This is demonstrably untrue, and rather rude.  Every study of non-vaccinating parents shows that they are likely to be college-educated with “above average” salaries and steady jobs.  This, of course, mystifies authorities.  It does not mystify me!  Parents in this category are most likely to do their research and make thoughtful parenting decisions, rather than relying on what someone else (friend, parent, doctor) tells them to do.  Many of these parents are not at all what you would consider a “hippie.”  And they have not made these decisions because they believe in “hippie ideals”. They have made these decisions because they have done careful research.  Parents who choose not to vaccinate may be very, very different in other ways (how they birth, how they eat, how they feed their babies, whether or not the mom works, etc.).  There is no “stereotypical” non-vaccinating parent.

7) Parents are “abusing” or “neglecting” their children by not vaccinating, or they don’t love them

This one really makes me angry.  Please, before you even say such a thing, remember that all parents truly love and want what is best for their children!  No matter how much you vehemently disagree with a parent’s decision, you should never say something like this (and yes…I have had this said to me before).  Parents are very careful to research and think and pray hard before making any major decision.  Not vaccinating does not mean, under any circumstances, that a parent is abusing, neglecting, or failing to love their child.  Period.  To say so is inflammatory and sickening.

8) Parents do not understand that vaccines save lives. They are too worried about rare side effects.

Parents, again, have done careful research.  Part of that research is how effective vaccines are, when they were introduced, how disease rates fell before/after introduction, how disease rates fell in other countries that did not use those vaccines, reading the VAERS database, and so on.  They are well aware of how vaccines work and how they have been used, as well as what side effects are likely and what serious ones may occur.  Some parents unfortunately choose not to vaccinate after they, or their children, are seriously injured by a vaccine.  For them, the “rare” side effects are only too real.  These parents have carefully weighed the risks of the diseases and vaccines vs. the benefit of each, and have found that the risks of the vaccines outweigh the benefit.

What myths have you heard about non-vaccinating parents?

This article can be found at: http://www.modernalternativemama.com/blog/2011/3/14/myths-about-non-vaccinating-parents.html

Shedding and Herd Immunity

For some time now, the Pertussis vaccine has been a common threat of all children and parents. Lately there has been an increase in people contracting the virus. The pro-vaccine activists claim that the anti-vaccine parents are to blame. Weakened immune systems, the spreading of the virus, and the super strands are all due to the anti-vaccine community. However, the anti-vaccine community takes a strong stance on the topic, as well. They believe that “shedding” is one of the most dangerous vaccine-related absurdities. To summarize:

 

Shedding is when the live virus that is injected via vaccine moves through the human body and comes back out in the feces, droplets from the nose, or saliva from the mouth. Anyone who takes care of the child could potentially contract the disease for some time after that child has received certain live vaccines. This was a huge problem with the oral polio vaccine, and was one of the reasons why it was taken off the market in the US.

A question often asked by the anti-community is, if vaccine believers are protected by the vaccine why are the unvaccinated an issue? The pro-vaccine say that is where “herd Immunity” comes into play. To summarize:

 

 Herd immunity from the pro vaccine side: Herd immunity is a form of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population (or herd) provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity. This has been a common complaint from the pro side because they claim the Anti’s are threatening this concept with their choice not to vaccine. http://www.vaccinestoday.eu/glossary/herd-immunity/

 

The anti community rebuttals this claim by explaining that Pro’s have been misusing this term “herd immunity”. The original idea that vaccination could strengthen the herd’s immunity, assumed that there was only one clinical event, and that one natural exposure equated life -long immunity. But this was not the case back when the diseases circulated freely. The body defends most efficiently as a result of ongoing re-exposure. They try to mimic this with boosters. But the vaccination plan leaves the elderly (due to vaccine-induced immunity being short-lived and antigens taken out of circulation) and the very young (due to lack of transferrable maternal immunity) more vulnerable to several diseases that were not a threat to them before vaccination. – See more at: http://www.vaccinationcouncil.org/2012/07/05/herd-immunity-the-flawed-science-and-failures-of-mass-vaccination-suzanne-humphries-md-3/#sthash.GA1CiSFM.dpuf

 

There are points to consider on either side of this argument, but to circle back to pertussis; I think these two debates are currently the most heated of them all. I have included some segments from pieces I’ve found documented on both sides of the controversy. There is plenty of research to conduct after reading each side, but one thing is for certain, it does not make choosing any easier when science is involved, because at the end of the day, a parent holds the responsibility; not the doctors or manufacturers or the CDC. So, choose wisely; but, if you are reading this, I urge you to take as much time as you need to make a firm and confident decision.