Deciding if and how to vaccinate a child has become a very personal and debated topic. Parents who choose not to vaccinate say the side effects aren’t worth it. Parents who choose to vaccinate say non-vaccinated children put others at risk. Vaccines have come a long way since their discoveries, but there are still risks involved, as with any medical treatment. Each parent needs to be informed and make a well-educated decision that’s right for their family.
Vaccines, although intended to prevent various diseases, do come with risks. Some minor risks include low-grade fever, soreness at the injection site, headache, stuffy nose, diarrhea, fatigue, poor appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and joint pain. These side effects are fairly common, but generally go away within a few days to a week. More serious, though less common, side effects include seizures, allergic reactions, high fevers, fainting, temporary low platelet count, and hives. For some vaccines, rare though serious complications can include nervous system reactions, organ failure, pneumonia, severe pain, bleeding, bowel blockage, serious allergic reactions, deafness, coma, brain damage, lowered consciousness, and inflammation of the stomach or intestines. (National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, 2011) These reactions can be life threatening, though extremely rare.
After reading side effects, many people see only the negative side of vaccines. However, despite possible side effects, even severe reactions, vaccines have been successful in preventing many diseases and completely eradicating others, such as smallpox. (HOV, 2011)Diseases like Polio, Diphtheria, and Measles have been greatly reduced thanks to vaccines. Tetanus and Whooping Cough are well on their way to being eradicated. (Unicef, 2011)Thanks to vaccines, many common childhood diseases can now be prevented, such as Chickenpox and Mumps.
Are the common side effects of low fever and fatigue worth the possible benefits and eradication of these diseases? Some parents think not. While most would gladly accept a headache if it meant guaranteed prevention, it’s not always that simple. While severe complications are rare, it’s still a possibility. A parent’s job is to protect their child from everything they can. Many do not want to risk severe allergic reactions, comas, and brain damage to avoid now treatable diseases. Many vaccines may also increase your risk of getting the disease. (Mercola, 1997)This is common with flu vaccines, as many vaccinated people still contract the disease, just to a milder extent. Parents are forced to weigh the risks and benefits, deciding if a possible severe reaction is worth possible disease prevention.
One study, since disproven, linked vaccinations to Autism. This report created enough of a scare to prevent many parents from vaccinating. (“Centers for disease,” 2010) Many parents, like me, choose a middle ground. The CDC recommends a vaccine schedule, which combines various vaccines. This may save time and money, but it also increases the risk of adverse effects. By choosing to delay some vaccines, or simply take them individually, some risks are lowered. Some choose not to vaccinate based on religious or cultural beliefs. (“Vaccination liberation,” 2012)
My husband and I talk at great length about vaccinations. Our oldest son, now 8, was vaccinated on schedule until he was 4. Through a series of moves, a fire, and military deployment, his vaccine records were lost. He was not allowed to enroll in school until he had a complete shot record. We had a tough decision. If it was risky to vaccinate once, it was surely risky to do it twice. Not to mention the possible complications from double dosing. Eventually, after a long battle with school administration and the county health department, he was vaccinated again for every shot missing from his record, everything but his initial Hep B shot received at birth. It was painstaking, we battled various side effects, and eventually we got the news- our son has Autism. We can’t say for certain if his diagnosis is in any way connected, but it certainly didn’t help. Since then, we have chosen to delay and selectively vaccinate our children. Other than very low fevers and minor crankiness, our other children have not endured side effects. We choose to still vaccinate, because as a military family, we never know where we might go or what we may be exposed to. For us, it’s worth the risk.
No one can tell a parent what to do. No one can say for certain what the best choice is. Each family must do their own research, and make their own decision. What is right for one family may not be right for another. Debating over it makes no difference. If a parent who does vaccinate is sure the vaccines work, then why get upset at someone who doesn’t vaccinate? It’s an impossible choice, amongst many, that each parent must make.
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. (2011). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm
HOV. (2011). History of vaccines. Retrieved from http://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/disease-eradication
Unicef. (2011, May 16). Progress of the nations 1996. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/pon96/hevaccin.htm
Mercola, J. (1997). Vaccination statistics. Retrieved from http://www.mercola.com/article/vaccines/statistics.htm
Centers for disease control and pprevention. (2010, October 29). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/Autism/Index.html
Vaccination liberation. (2012, February 02). Retrieved from http://www.vaclib.org/exemption.htm