Sunday, January 25, 2015

the middle

Measles at Disneyland. Measles in Orange County. Measles in San Diego. The only thing I'm sure of at when I see stories like this on the news is that it will undoubtedly incite the vaccine debate wars. I will see tons of "articles" on newsfeeds blaming and shaming the anti-vaxxers. I will see countless more posts of moms trying to defend their reasons and choices. I see friends at war. I see dividing lines. Do you vax or not? What side are you on? You have to pick a side and staunchly tell the other side how wrong they are. That's the way it works in this debate.

It's incredible how polarizing this argument is, however it would be so much more logical and effective for the greater good if each side could take into consideration the valid points of each side's argument. This is where I stand. The middle.

Debate is good. I shouldn't fear this debate, but I do because it is SO POLARIZING. But, without debate, without questioning, our society would be in status quo forever.

Let's talk about a different debate. One that is not so charged. I am thankful for the people who have lead the 'Food Revolution.' Questioning where our food comes from, how it's being grown, pesticides, questioning GMOs, questioning Monsanto: this revolution is bringing about awareness and healthy change.

You can look at any movement in a similar way - when a large body of people question "is this really the best way to do something?" I question most everything in life for myself, my kids, my family. I question feeding them McDonalds so why wouldn't I question something that is injected into their little bodies. It's so hard to know what is the right thing to do as a parent and we want to cause the least amount of harm. When you really look into the ingredients of vaccines and their side effects, it is really quite scary. Certainly scary enough to put fear into any mother. Are we really producing vaccines in the safest possible way? The "question vaccine" movement has already helped identify and protest against toxins that have now been removed from vaccines. That is a step in the right direction! Let's keep going! 

Are vaccines beneficial, important and vital to our lives and our society? Yes! Is the age we give them, frequency, and schedule at which we give these vaccines appropriate? I'm not so sure. What about the ones we are giving? Are they ALL appropriate? Nope. Why are we giving newborn babies the HepB vaccine? It's a disease associated with sexual transmission and IV drug use. I'm thinking that vaccine is probably not necessary for my newborn baby, so let's question it! I did once and the answer I was given as to why it is protocol to give it to babies is because they can't often be sure the mother doesn't have HepB in certain populations, and if the mother has it, she can pass it to her baby. Thus the vaccine at birth. Well, that's great for populations with high prostitution and IV drug use, but I'm pretty sure you can exclude me and my baby from that. 

Here's me. I completely vaxxed my first child on the government recommended schedule, with a few exceptions. I declined HepB at birth (because above reasons) and delayed MMR by 6 months. I have also declined flu shots on most, but not all occasions. Why did I do or not do any of this? Well, I think I was starting to "question vaccines" and educate myself a bit more about them, but yet I do still believe they are important. I come from a science background, worked at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals for 8 years, and I understand the history of vaccines and how they work and why they are so important. I'm no stranger to the innovations in medicine that have helped reduce death and improve life. BUT, I am also a mother who is now responsible for the health and happiness of another life. I now question EVERYTHING. It is not just deciding if I was okay putting something in my body, but now I had to make that decision for another life.

It led me to recall a time when I was in the Army. I was forced into many, many vaccines while serving our country. I did not have a choice. But, I went along with it. That's what we all did. But, I did take note and I did question some things. I was given duplicate vaccines so many times it was mind-bottling (Will Ferrel). They said you could carry your shot record with you so they didn't give you vaccines you already had, but that was never the case, they always gave them to you anyway. I once had to get 6 vaccines at one time. It was going to be 2 in each arm and one in each cheek. By the time they finished the 4th, I was extremely lightheaded. One the 5th, I could barely stand. On the 6th, I passed out. Lost consciousness. That has still to this day been the only time in my entire life that I have lost consciousness in a way that was not on purpose, like surgery.

And, now I'm about to put 6 vaccines into my newborn, baby, child at one time? I was a grown adult and I passed out. What would happen to my baby? Something just didn't sit right with me and it still doesn't. However, I let the doctor inject those 6 vaccines at once. I think I was also scared not to at the time. She was grumpy, fussy and had a mild fever, but I have no way of asking my newborn how her legs feel where the injections went in, if she has a headache, if she has blurry vision or just feels "funny." She did fine. I think? I will probably never know if that caused any harm or not. I won't deny that I have thoughts to this day wondering if those vaccines may have triggered something when I see my spirited first born struggle with her emotions, having tantrums a little bit crazier than other kids, and acting in ways that sometimes have me question if she is possibly "on the spectrum."

Something in me had changed by the time my second was born. She is not quite two as I'm writing this, and she is as of now, un-vaxxed. Do I plan to vaccinate her? Yes, at some point. When I feel she is strong enough and can communicate with me. I also plan to space out her vaccinations to no more than two at a time. And, I probably won't do all the "recommended" (read mandated) ones.

So, back to my point, is it possible to meet in the middle? Pro-vaxxers - can we start taking a look at the schedule and type of vaccines we are giving? Can we question if the ingredients are completely safe? Can we take a look at the side effects to be sure we as parents are okay with that risk? And, anti-vaxxers - can we take into consideration where we live and the potential for disease? Are you in a remote commune with little or no contact to the outside world? Okay, no vaccines for you. Are you in an area of high tourism, do you travel internationally, are you in a big city and actively engage in activities with lots of other people? Maybe certain vaccines would benefit to your children at certain times in their life. Let's not just say no to all, but let's take a closer look.

I will say one thing about this whole debate that does really get my goat and puts me in that "polar" area and that is the mandated nature of our vaccine system. It seems very totalitarian in a country that is born of freedom of choice. I dislike being forced to inject myself or my child with something that is not completely safe. But, I don't really like being told what to do in general. In California we are fortunate to have "opt-out" forms, even though those are being legally attacked, but not so in other states where choosing to go against the mandated schedule is illegal.

In closing, let's remember debate is good. Let's seek to educate, not alienate. Let's find a better way for our future. Let's continue to question everything that doesn't seem quite right. THAT is the scientific way. THAT will lead to enlightenment, discovery and innovation. THAT will lead to a better future for all.

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