Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A True Tale of a Vaccination Near Miss, Sort Of...

Before Aias was born, we researched vaccinations to the point of exhaustion.  This was easy, as there are LOADS of studies to read about vaccinations.  Even after choosing to limit ourselves to non-biased, peer reviewed studies that lacked emotionally charged anecdata, we still found ourselves reading approximately ~45 studies before Aias was born.  When I say we read these studies, I mean we read these studies.  I don't mean we read abstracts, or blog entries reviewing studies, or that we went to websites that picked choice quotes from these studies.  I mean we sat down and read sometimes 50+ page studies.  Why did we do this? We were terrified of vaccinations because we knew we could be damned it we didn't vaccinate, and we could be damned if we did.  It seemed horribly unfair to be faced with this possibly life threatening decision that couldn't simply be ignored or walked away from: we had to vaccinate our child, or we had to not vaccinate our child.  You know all about this struggle from your own parenting choices, I'm certain of this.

Ultimately, we decided to vaccinate.  How it boiled down to this decision was both science, emotionally driven anecdata, and a series of math equations we had written up on a napkin during dinner that evidently brought us to the conclusion that the odds statistically of Aias being harmed  by a vaccine ultimately was less than if he wasn't vaccinated.  I wish I still had the napkin, and I know if you Googled such information you would be able to find stats and equations that support both sides of the question (To Vax, or Not To Vax!). As far as our opinion on vaccines in general, we both think it's ultimately up to the parent whether or not they want to vaccinate their children.  In fact, much to my surprise I recently discovered that despite our having a vaccinated child, I'm one of the few child care providers in my area that doesn't require the children in my care to have their vaccinations. At any rate, we delayed the vaccines due to my own likely senseless paranoia of having him vaccinated during the "high SIDS risk" period, so Aias didn't have a single shot until he was 6 months old.

In the last few weeks I've noticed two websites appearing on my Facebook feed; http://shotbyshot.org/ and http://www.thinktwice.com.  Both websites are dedicated to two very important things, and both devote themselves to this with equal passion.  However, their messages are exactly opposite to each other. Shot By Shot tells stories of kids who became gravely ill or died from illnesses that most definitely could have been prevented had the child or others been vaccinated.  Think Twice tells stories of people who suffered from vaccine injuries, or sicknesses/illnesses/death from having received vaccines.  When people post stories from these sites, I always go have a look.  In nearly every case, I feel horribly saddened by what happened to the life impacted, but I'm still left with that "damned if they didn't, damned if they did" sort of feeling in my stomach that makes me feel a little ill.  If you can't see into the future, how can you possibly prevent these things from happening?  

Now, finally, without attempting to make a "pro-vaccine" or an "anti-vaccine" argument, I want to share some of my own anecdata.  Please remember I'm not implying anything here, because this story is just something I pondered quite a bit having experienced it myself and it's something I've thought about a lot.  As I said above, we delayed Aias's shots until he was 6 months old.  When he received his first shot at 6 months, nothing out of the ordinary happened.  I was paranoid and freaked out, and analyzed every breathe he took after receiving the shot and even took his temperature an embarrassing amount of times out of fear he'd get a fever.  I scheduled his next shots for 9 months and then lined up more shots for when he was 12 months old.  When his 12 month appointment came, it had been a rainy few days.  Not only was it rainy, but the shots were scheduled for 9am which was all too early, and the appointment was about 45 minutes away by bus.  He was due to have the shots at 9am but I called the day before and I rescheduled.   The next morning at instantly 10:15am, as though a ball had dropped, Aias got sick for the first time in his entire life.  Until this point he had never had a fever, not even once.  The fever raged and raged, he vomited (which he had done only once in his life, he'd never even spit up before) and he was sick for a good solid 3 days.   All in all, he wasn't himself. It was like he became a totally different child for those days and for weeks after.  It was a nightmare, as it usually is, when a small child gets sick.

All I could think to myself after this experience was how if I had taken Aias for his shots at 9am that morning and then he had gotten sick at 10:15, I would have been 1000% sure that the shots had caused this illness.  I would have bet any amount of money, my life, whatever, that the shots had done it to him.  I would not have been able to be told otherwise.  Not only that, but I would have blamed myself endlessly for making the "wrong" choice about vaccinations.  But because I had cancelled, Aias DIDN'T have his shots that morning, it was just a CRAZY coincidence that he happened to have gotten sick for the first time in his life 1 hour and 15  minutes after his shots had been scheduled.  If I had gotten him the shots that morning, I probably would have been freaking out and swearing off vaccines forever. 

Like I said above, I'm not suggesting here that vaccines don't do bad things to some kids: I'm certain they do, as are many others whose kids have most definitely suffered from vaccine injuries.  This is simply food for thought, and it's an experience I won't soon forget.

In case you are curious, Aias has had his remaining shots. We don't do the "bonus" shots like the flu shot, and I keep myself vaccinated so that the kids I work with don't catch something from me.  As far as the debate whether to vaccinate or not, I'm happy it presses on, because I think in the end, vaccines are AWESOME in theory, and the more pressure put on society and the medical community to make them SAFER and BETTER, the better off all our kids will be in the end.


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