Category Archives: vaccines

Dear doctor: I don’t care if you’re mad.

Chad Hayes, MD posted a piece on his site titled, “Dear Anti-Vax Parents: We’re Not Mad At You“. In it he apologizes for the harsh tone that many in the medical community have taken following the Disneyland measles outbreak and asserts that doctors aren’t upset with non-vaccinating parents, they’re just mad that their poor patients have been lied to and duped. He calls for the two sides to join together, but then fails to take into consideration that by playing the expert card and downplaying their concerns he’s not really engendering trust. Instead he comes off like a parent telling their child they won’t be in trouble anymore if they just do what they’re told.

As I posted as a comment to his post, I honestly couldn’t care less if a doctor is mad at me or not. But I do care when one treats me poorly, threatens social services, uses ridiculous scare tactics, or kicks me out of a practice for not following their suggestions to the letter. (And yes, all of these things have happened to me and/or personal friends for reasons related to vaccination.)

It took me a while to find a doctor that would work with us in making decisions on which vaccines to give and when. I just wanted to find someone that would answer my questions and treat me like the concerned parent I am, rather than as an uninformed, emotion-driven idiot who bases decisions on celebrity opinion and shouldn’t be trusted to make decisions for my child.

I know I am not alone on this. One of the most common question asked on the local “crunchy moms” online groups I frequent is “How can I find a doctor that will work with me?” (on vaccines, but also other issues like CAM use). They’re looking for the good doctors, the ones that will take their legitimate concerns into account. Unfortunately those good ones are hard to find, and once the word gets out they often fill up quick and stop taking new patients.

Many people report it can be really hard to get questions answered by a doctor without being force fed information and told to swallow it or get out, especially when it comes to vaccines. Doctors must be open to questions, rather than assume a god complex.

Most parent’s concerns about vaccination are related to safety, and are not baseless. It’s a fact that some vaccines do sometimes cause harm, so ignoring that does nobody any good. Much better to address questions directly, from a scientific standpoint, without hyperbole.

As I’ve posted about before, I think both sides on the vax debate could come together if we focus on vaccine efficacy and safety, and not on trying to prove each other wrong.

Similarly, doctors and patients might be able to come together if both sides listen to each other and accept their role. We do go to doctors for their expertise. You are paying for their advice so it makes sense to listen to them and consider their reasoning. But doctors also need to recognize that we know our kids best and are the ultimate decision makers.

Vaccine safety debate

The appearance of H1N1, and the resulting vaccine, has brought the issue of vaccine safety to the public square. Unfortunately, it is also bringing out the worst in people on both sides of the fight. The arguments are heated and vitriolic. We see little in the way of balanced, rational, and scientific points of view.

I’ve grown tired of the lies, propaganda and fear tactics I’m seeing on both sides. The pro-vaccine side does not allow any room for criticism, doubt or deviation from their position that all vaccines are a godsend and beyond reproach. The anti-vaccine side often gets their facts wrong and discounts science. (For the millionth time already, the U.S. flu vaccines do NOT contain squalene. Read the package inserts.) Both sides have resorted to name-calling, fear-mongering, and even threats!

Here’s a round up in case you’ve missed out on the fun:

“The anti-vac loonies are killing our kids”

“Because of vaccines, diseases that once killed millions are now invisible. But if only a few families stop vaccinating, the illnesses could reemerge in a community.”

“one drop of mercury on your skin is fatal, we know who owns and runs the FDA…the less shots, the less money they make and they have shareholders that dont care if you or your kids has an allergic reaction, gets sick and dies”

“We’re one mutation away from something that virulent and we live in a world with VASTLY more possible methods of propagation. The next flu we have as deadly as the 1918 flu will kill 100s of millions.”

“The flat-earthers are back! Well, not exactly, but their descendants have come up with the flat-earth equivalent for the 21st century. They reject vaccination.”

” Schoolchildren = guinea pigs. Results to be fully know in ten years. Profit to Glaxo/Smith/Kline? Right now.”

“In the case of vaccinations, insurance companies should deny coverage for vaccine preventable diseases and their complications in anyone who did not get the recommended vaccinations.”

“The H1N1 vaccination program is the equivalent of a day trip to a neo-death camp.”

“It is downright scary to see the US heading back to the Dark Ages. The reappearance of some horrible diseases once thought eradicated is downright criminal and is totally the fault of these lunatics.”

Comments like this hardly help advance debate and are unlikely to win converts for either side. The commenters constantly include accusations that the anti-vax side is not willing to look at, or doesn’t understand, science.  However, by arguing that vaccines are completely safe, the pro-vaxers are also eschewing science.

Doubts and skepticism are at the core of the scientific movement! True scientists should be willing to look at empirical evidence on both sides. They realize that science is not meant to be prescriptive, and what we know as “the truth” can change.

This means letting go of the idea that vaccines are infallible. We already know they don’t work in all cases. Why? There is evidence to show that sometimes vaccines do harm people. Why? If we pay attention to the concerns of parents of vaccine damaged children, rather than dismissing them out of hand, maybe scientists could find out if something is happening to them and if so what the cause might be. Can a test be developed to determine genetic susceptibility to severe reaction?

Further questions raised by mass vaccination programs could also use investigation. For instance, what effects are vaccinations having on virus and bacteria development? (E.g. the pneumo vaccines like PPSV23 and Prevnar have resulted in serotype replacement. How likely is it that this will happen with others, like the HPV vaccines?) Is there a way to make vaccine production safer or more efficient? (We’ve seen the delays in both seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccines due to problems getting the egg embryos to proliferate.) Is there a way to formulate vaccines that doesn’t require the dangerous additives or animal derived ingredients? Why are we seeing a rise in immune system disorders, and is it really related to vaccines?

If the CDC and FDA are meant to be the safety watchdogs, looking out for the public health, why are they not looking into these issues instead of undertaking multi- million dollar campaigns promoting vaccines as perfectly safe? If studies aren’t being done to truly understand the issues and make the public safer, why not?

The governmental agencies are far from influence free, and while it makes sense that pharmaceutical groups would do best to remain unbiased, profit clearly plays a role in their work. We need to see more independent, non-biased research undertaken. We need to see more agencies like the Cochrane Collaboration that are looking at all the studies and data on both sides with a more balanced viewpoint.

This debate is not going to disappear any time soon, but by addressing some of the core issues using science we might have a chance to improve safety and put some of the arguments to rest. Both the pro and anti-vax groups need to let go of their beliefs and work together for the benefit of all.

The Gardasil vaccine

The HPV vaccine Gardasil has been in the news a lot lately, and never for a positive reason. The death toll is rising among young women given the vaccine and reports of severe adverse affects, such as paralysis, are also growing.

No matter what your general position on vaccinations, it is always worrisome when they cause severe reactions. Unlike with infants, where the cause of death is not always certain due to things like SIDS, it’s much easier to pinpoint the problem when otherwise healthy teenagers die within hours of receiving a shot.

A news outlet asks, should parents worry about the vaccine? Most certainly! Caution should be the watchword, especially in states where it is being considered for the “mandatory” schedule. Consider the following:

  • Even though Gardasil safety testing is still underway, it is already being pushed by doctors everwhere. (At my visit to a doctor’s office last year I was placed in a room with a very large mounted advertisement for the vaccine, taking up nearly the whole wall!)
  • They still don’t know how long it will last or when boosters will be needed. The CDC says the “duration of immunity … has not been established” but they reckon it will be a “long time”. (That means there’s no guarantee your 9 year old that gets the shot will have any remaining protection against HPV by the time she is sexually active.)
  • The shot is expensive, the highest ever marketed! It costs $125 per dose plus the cost of the visits, and three are needed to complete the recommended series. There are government programs in place to help pay for it, but that bill ultimately comes back to the taxpayer. It is not yet covered by most insurance companies.
  • The shots are notoriously painful.
  • Even a lead researcher for the vaccine is unhappy with the way it is being marketed! She cautions that there is “not enough evidence gathered on side effects to know that safety is not an issue” for younger girls. All of her trials were with subjects ages 15 to 25.

Even though we don’t have a daughter, I feel it important to keep a watchful eye on this issue. It has the potential to have a major impact on friends and family, and there’s been talk of giving the vaccine to boys as well as older women (including my age group). Already I know of one family member that has gotten the shots at the recommendation of her doctor, thankfully without a major reaction.

As I’ve said in previous comments, I’m not out to tell people what to do, but to encourage informed decisions. I encourage anyone who might need to consider receiving this vaccine, a growing number given the ever-widening scope, to research carefully. You can always go get the shot, but once it’s been given you can’t take it back.

More info:

FDA product approval information – including package insert, patient information, Q&A, etc.

Related articles:

10 Things You Might Not Know About Gardasil and the follow up 10 More Things You Might Not Know About Gardasil

Gardasil Vaccine: The damage continues

No vaccination, no school? Not so.

The story of the unvaccinated school children in Maryland was getting a lot of media attention last week. The headlines screamed that kids were being rounded up like cattle, parents summoned to court and potentially facing jail time, and that the parents must vaccinate their children or face expulsion.

In truth, the families are being called on the carpet on an administrative matter with the school district. These parents have the choice to either vaccinate their children or file an exemption. Either one is acceptable, they just must do one or the other. Let me be clear — vaccination is not mandatory in order to attend school. This may not be what you hear from other parents, the school or your pediatrician, but it is true. What is needed is for your child’s records to be up to date with the school so that when the health department comes calling, all the information is accounted for.

You can either file your child’s vaccination record or file an exemption. The kind of exemption available to you varies by state. Two states offer a waiver only if you have a medical reason not to get the shots, most offer both medical and religious exemptions, and a few offer the additional choice of a philosophical exemption.

Some in the anti-vaccination community are up at arms because it has been made out that the children were forcibly vaccinated. I’m not sure this is true (though if it was it wouldn’t be the first time). I do agree that tactics taken by officials involved in the matter have been heavy handed and that the media should have done a better job in clarifying the situation. The fear-mongering is uncalled for and there’s a need to make sure parents are fully informed of their options.

Obviously, the school district and other officials are looking at things from their own perspective. In part, they want to make sure the kids are in school so they don’t lose out on any funding. The onus is on the parents to seek out what’s right for their individual child and then comply with the law.

Research and decide

O.K. I admit it, I’m a paranoid conspiracy theorist. If that’s the moniker you get when you question something important, I accept it most gratiously.

I’d been meaning to post a link to this piece for quite awhile now. I like it because it gives a short overview of vaccination issues, explains that its not a black or white topic, and advocates researching and then making up your own mind. (I haven’t purchased the magazine it links to, so can’t speak to that.)

I try to extend this research and decide concept to everything in my life, especially when it comes to our lad. Research, research, research some more and then make a decision based on what you’ve learned and what your instincts are telling you to do. Then continue to research from time to time to see if anything has changed and reaffirm or refute your position.

I don’t like to push my viewpoint on others. I’m not an evangelist, even try to stray away from discussing controversial issues because I dislike conflict. However, when it comes to parenting issues (especially those that could mean life or death) I do think it’s important to advocate that parents at least take the time to build an informed opinion. Your ultimate decision should be your own; don’t thoughtlessly follow the status quo (or the blind wisdom of authority) when it comes to something as important as the health of you and your children.

Becoming a parent…

Becoming a parent makes you question even more. When they asked in the hospital if our babe should get the Hepititis B shot now or wait, my immediate reaction was one of caution. (I hadn’t started doing vaccine research yet at the time.) Still, when it came time to release us and they insisted I get a rubella booster I didn’t think twice. The good thing was the whole process got me thinking about shots in general, the practice of medical care and the fallacy inherent in the modern medical establishment.

After reading the general information sheet I wondered whether the shot I had been given had animal ingredients. That soon sent me searching to find out if it was possible to get versions of the vaccines without. (More about vaccines to come in future posts.) I learned more than I ever planned, and more importantly got a wake up call about the need to follow my instincts and take responsibility for our health care.