Monday, May 5, 2008

Stick'em Up

There are a lot of things I didn't know were controversial until I became a mother. Things like breastfeeding in public, letting your baby cry themselves to sleep and circumcision. Another something that falls in that category is vaccinating your children.

James just had his first round of shots today (they start later in Denmark than in the States) and I've been reading up on the issue a little more lately. The best recent article I've read on the subject that seems to go beyond both extremes in the vaccination debate is The Needle and the Studies Done published recently in Brain, Child. It seemed to give a fair hearing to both sides of the argument and offers a middle ground (complete with the necessary Dr. Sears endorsement).

I've never had a good grasp on why some parents choose not to vaccinate their children but I tended to take a "live and let live" attitude toward the whole thing. Largely because I thought that not vaccinating a child was only risking infection in the nonvaccinated child. But then I was reading in passing about the measles outbreak in the States. Measles is still an active disease that effects 20 million people each year. In this case it was brought in by travelers and picked up by nonvaccinated children who in some cases passed it along to infants who haven't yet had their MMR vaccine. Infants like James.

To me this goes a little beyond live and let live.


Judit said...

Oooh, I love Brain, Child! And I liked this article too.
The problem with measles is that it is highly infectious... but it tends to be milder in children... except for complications, which can be bad... and 64 cases in 300 million somehow doesn't scare me... but I am very much a 'live and let live' mother who vaccinates late and selectively. My baby is 12 mos now so she's actually due for her measles shot and I will let her have it; I am much more concerned with the number and frequency of vaccines in early infancy.
Did you notice that the CDC article mentioned 'infants too young to be vaccinated' contracting the disease? This might be a bit misleading to those who are not aware that the MMR is not given before age 12 mos because typically, infants retain measles antibodies transmitted from the mother during pregnancy. I gather a hint of an emotional appeal in the phrase 'too young to be vaccinated' without further explanation. I really wonder why those 14 babies did catch measles though. Immunocompromised? Mothers don't have antibodies? Not breastfed? Bad luck? All of the above?

Rebekah said...

I can see how there can be a reasonable argument for not giving your kids a number of vaccines all at once but do find a problem with not giving vaccines at all.

As far as those 14 babies go, you're right that the CDC didn't really explain how they caught the measles and babies don't start their round of MMR vaccines until they're 12 months. But that's still 50 kids who were needlessly sick, 49 of which (presumably) weren't protected from the measles. Also, nonvaccinated girls grow up to be mothers who can't pass along measles antibodies to their children - breastfed or not.

I must say it is still unsettling to think that a mom could just be taking her baby in for a well baby visit and her baby could pick up measles or something more serious from a nonvaccinated child.

Judit said...

Yes, I see your point, that is the big question--what the immune status of this upcoming generation will be... As a society, we are now dependent on near universal vaccination by having lowered disease rates to a point where it's unlikely that kids can acquire natural immunity. I held off with varicella until age 4, and seeing that my son didn't get chickenpox 'on his own', and because he was entering preschool, I got him the vaccine. Made sense to me... I wonder what the all-out non-vaccinating parents plan to do over the long run. The anti-vax movement needs to start asking that question... and that will be a test of the integrity of the movement as well; can they come up with sensible recommendations to their own followers?