Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Just Shoot Me

I am so frustrated.

When Little Guy was born, I followed the standard immunization schedule and he got all of his shots on time (or at least most of them). When he was about a year and a half old, I read What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Children's Vaccinations. The book opened my eyes a bit to the additives in various shots and some of the controversy regarding multiple dosing. Around the same time, I also became aware of the many anecdotes from parents linking the MMR vaccine with the onset of their child's autism. Despite the fact that the leading governmental health organizations have said that their studies show no link between MMR and autism, I became worried enough to delay Little Guy's MMR vaccine until he started daycare at two years old.

But now, I am facing decisions about how to vaccinate the new baby and the more I read, the more confused I am. I believe that vaccinations are important - actually critical - to keeping disease incidence down on a population level. Vaccinations save lives, no doubt about it. However, I am also concerned that vaccines are being administered in a way that may be more convenient for hospitals, but less safe for children. Specifically, I am not a fan of the super-duper combo vaccines that are becoming more and more common.

Today was the baby's 2-month check up. I went in armed with a suggested alternative vaccination schedule to discuss with the doctor.

Here is how the conversation went:

Doctor: So today is shot day! (He said it like we had won a prize.)

Me: Yeah, actually, I was wondering if we could talk about that. I'd like to discuss an alternate immunization schedule.

Doctor: Oh?

Me: Yeah. I just don't really feel comfortable with the idea of all of the additives that are in vaccines going directly into my baby's bloodstream all at once. I'd like to space out the vaccines a bit.

Doctor: Well, the problem with that is that it's really hard to keep track of what vaccines you need and which ones you've had when you get off the standard schedule.

Me: I understand, but I'm just concerned that the baby's immune system isn't ready for all of this.

Doctor: They have done studies and found that these vaccines are perfectly safe though. They wouldn't be on the market if they hadn't been safety tested.

Me: Well, what about the old Rotavirus vaccine? Wasn't that pulled from hospitals after problems a few years ago.

Doctor (missing the point): Oh, there is a new Rotavirus vaccine now though.

Me: But isn't it pretty new?

Doctor: Well, it depends on what you consider new.

Me: Well, my two-year-old didn't get it. Isn't it just a year old?

Doctor: But it's been tested on 100,000 people before it came to market. Plus, this one's oral so it doesn't go into the bloodstream.

Me: OK. Well, there is at least one that I don't think we want at all - hepatitis B. I was reading that it's often transmitted sexually and that those at highest risk are IV drug users, people with HIV, health care workers, etc. (basically, not babies home with their mothers). Plus, I read that the immunity wears off in 10-15 years, which is when he would probably be most likely to contract it if he were sexually active. So we don't want this one.

Doctor: Well, you have to have it because it's in the Pediarix.

Me: What's that?

Doctor: Pediarix is the DtaP, polio and Hep B combo vaccine. That's what we're giving now.

Are you fucking kidding me????

Me (to the doctor): Oh, well, that must be new because my 2 year old had these three vaccines administered separately.

Doctor: Yes, it's new.

Me: Well, that kind of throws my schedule for a loop. I was hoping to do DtaP and polio one month apart and skip Hep B altogether.

Doctor (just staring at me)

Me: Anyway, I want to read The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears before I make any final decisions about the vaccines. I just ordered it.

Doctor: Just because a doctor writes a book doesn't mean he knows what he's talking about.

Me: That's why I'm consulting a number of sources. I just don't want to get any vaccinations today.

Doctor: OK, but moving off the standard schedule makes things very confusing and we don't recommend it.

God, he must think I'm a complete moron.

Me: I think I can keep it straight.

Later at the shot clinic down the hall.

Me: Can I get a list of the ingredients to the vaccines?

Med asst: We don't have the ingredients.

Me: Well, can you tell me what the brand names are so I can look them up.

Med asst: Uh, hold on. Let me ask the nurse.

Nurse (to me in a snippy tone): What's your concern?

Me (equally snippy): I want to know what's going to be shot into my kid.

Nurse: Well, you can go to the CDC website to look it up.

Me: OK, but I want to know the names of the vaccines so I know what to look up.

Nurse disappears with Med asst. Med asst returns a minute later with a yellow sticky with pediarix, prevnar, acthib and rotateq scribbled down

Med Asst (handing me the sticky): The nurse wanted me to tell you that we haven't had preservatives in our vaccines for five years.

Me: OK, thanks.

Upon returning home, I looked up the first vaccine, Pediarix. The ingredients are, among other things, 2-phenoxyethanol (as a preservative), thimerosal (at "undetectable" levels) and formaldehyde. Hmmmmm. Sound like preservatives to me...

So, I feel very annoyed and confused. Why are drug manufacturers combining so many drugs into one shot? I don't like it. It takes choice away from parents.

And I don't like being treated like an idiot by my health care professionals. I'm not an idiot. I'm just proceeding with some caution when it comes to health care decisions for my children.

I researched for 2 weeks before I bought my double stroller. Am I supposed to be less attentive about this?


Blogger Corey said...

I thought that they don't put Thermisol in vaccines anymore. Are there different brands of Pediarix out there?

4:08 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

In the Pediarix patient information that I received thimerosal is listed in the ingredients, but it says that the "thimerosal levels are undetectable." I'm not sure what that means. I guess thimerosal is present, just not in as large a quantity as in past vaccines. I am going to edit the post to clarify.

Also, I believe that some flu vaccines still contains thimerosal. At my hospital, they give a non-thimerosal vaccine to children and pregnant women, but everyone else gets the thimerosal vaccine (unless you know to ask for the other one).

4:27 PM  
Blogger Kyla said...

I think the combo shots are a good idea for parents who do want to go the recommended route. I'd rather my kid get one stick rather than 4 if I'm going to be doing them all the same day anyway. BUT! And that is a big but, they should NOT be the only option. Parents should be able to do individual vax at their choosing.

And my pediatrician always checks my child's shot record at each appointment, and then writes in the shots they receive, how HARD is that? Your ped is just trying to make you feel like it is an inconvenience.

5:47 PM  
Blogger kel said...

Good for you! It bugs me that a lot of parents see it as an all or nothing choice. I've had friends who don't vaccinate their children, but their real reason is because of the mega-vaccine approach, or the mercury. They don't consider that they can get the vaccines seperately, or get ones without mercury. It will be harder and take persistence, but good for you for going the extra effort.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

I'm extremely wary of vaccinations and always have been. You're brave for posting this because I'm sure you'll get the same comments:

1) The risks vs benefits are LOW.
2) You're making sure that diseases that have been effectively non existent in this country for many years stay that way.


But my opinion comes from a history of bad reactions (THE DPT now DTAP) to vaccinations amongst other things.

My daughter isn't vaccinated. I will vaccinate her with what she is about to enter school (I have a fantastic awesome peds who tells me her opinion on what she thinks she'll need). And I probably won't do them all -- just the MMR and perhaps the HIB when it's "recommended."

With Drew, we did the HIB and Prevnar -- those two are the most important (IMHO) for babies. Pertussis is going around and many doctors see it -- it's very risky/lethal for kids under 6 months, however, it's also the most reactive of the shot.

My kids aren't in public school or daycare, and so I passed on those. Drew had a significant reaction to his third shots (HIB/PREVNAR) -- fever for 5 days and the dr. reco'd we pass on last Prevnar.

If I get anything, it will be the MMR before they both go to school. I'll probably give it to Drew sooner than I did with Quinlan. I'm still very concerned about the DTaP and probably won't do it since the DT is fairly useless for young kids.

The ped said as their brain gets bigger, the lower the potential for a reaction and so until we decide to start traveling overseas, etc. then we'll probably wait. My doctor asked about our lifestyle and made her recommendations. If you can find a doctor that listens to you and offers you her/his opinion based on that and not "you have to because I said so" routine, it's wonderful.

That's all I've got.

Hope that helps!

6:08 PM  
Blogger Tasha said...

I'm so happy you wrote about this because very recently I have been wondering the same things about vaccinations. With my 1st (who is 7) I was ALL for the vaccinations and felt pressured to get them, Now with my almost 2 yr old, I am having some doubts. I do believe that some vaccinations are needed, buts its so nice to here someone else who feels the same way. Usually its all or nothing, and I'm kinda meeting in the middle. Thanks for the information!

6:11 PM  
Anonymous chelle said...

Interesting. I am not sure how it is currently in Canada, but three years ago I was able to separate out what shots I wanted and when.

I would go to another doctor. I know of moms that split shots up in the last year in California (not sure if that helps.)

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Beth said...

I've got my Dr Sears book and find it to be very helpful. We also just had our 2 month appointment and my doctor's attitude is that as long as we end up with a vaccinated child in the end then she is ok with whatever timeline I choose. There are doctors that are open to this discussion...

And I just have to concur on your previous post: This shit is HARD.

7:16 PM  
Blogger dawn224 said...

Pardon my lack of class, but your ped sounds like a dick.

This is my post of what we did and the whys and etc.


We ended up not getting shots at 5 months b/c Scout was scheduled to be out of town on the day we had the appt made for, and it had been one of those weeks where the immunization debate came up two different and completely random times. I decided it was a sign and it was just as effective to do them at 7/9/11 as 5/7/9.

Based on the way your ped is acting, I'd be alert for him to want you to sign something stating that you are varying the schedule and you get that you are "placing your kid at unneccessary risk". If it happened to me, that would be the point that I'd for sure find a new doc...

Once you decide what to do, it's pretty easy to type that schedule out, print that bad boy off and have it put into your kids' records.

I'm sorry your doc is a douchebag.

(again, apologies for my lack of class.)

8:05 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

At Mira's four month checkup, I brought up this same issue. My doc resisted a little, but told me it was up to me and she'd go with whatever schedule I wanted to do. She also told me they keep each vaccine individually as well as the combos - don't let the doc try to tell you they can't get them individually!

We went with the HIB and Pneumococcal this month, and I'll bring her back in a month for the DTaP shot. I want to space out the number of vaccines given at a single time so her body isn't bombarded with making antibodies for so many different diseases at once.

Cordy had all of her vaccinations at the standard intervals. While I can't link them to her autism, I am still suspicious of them. There is no direct link, but I'm starting to think that children who are genetically predisposed to be neurologically sensitive may have their systems overloaded by multiple vaccines (or chemicals in plastic, food additives, etc.), which could lead to autism.

So I'm trying to do things differently this time around: spacing out shots, organic baby food, etc.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Dawn: no apologies necessary. Thanks for sharing your experience. I'll be sure to read your post.

Christina: "I'm starting to think that children who are genetically predisposed to be neurologically sensitive may have their systems overloaded by multiple vaccines (or chemicals in plastic, food additives, etc.), which could lead to autism". This is exactly my fear as well and precisely why I'd like to space the vaccines out this time. I'm glad you have a doc who is listening to you.

Kristen: yes, that helps! thank you so much for sharing your insights into this.

9:54 PM  
Blogger kgirl said...

Good on you. I often wonder how parents are able to accept the vaccinations for their kids with no research beforehand whatsoever.
I personally don't trust anyone besides me to know what's best for my kid on a day-to-day basis.

We said no to most of the vac's for Bee, and since things have changed in the last 2.5 years, we will reevaluate and make a new decision with the new babe.

6:21 AM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

ooh that would burn me. How hard is it to write down what's given on the schedule chart they use for the McVaccines combos? Maybe you could find a ped that is more in tune with your thinking on this?

I guess I'd better get to studying up on some of this stuff before Baby 2 is born in a few months.

And dude, I just wanted to make sure: you're not anywhere near the fires, are you? I hope not and if they get close to you, please keep us all in the loop.

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've decided to not vax the new baby at all. When I told them this at the hospital when he was born, they said that I wouldn't be able to take him to their clinic, because they wouldn't want him to give anything to the other children if he were to get anything. Um hello...aren't the other children vaxxed so they won't get anything?? If the vaccines don't prevent the diseases, they why vax them?? So, I think, there's no way I'm putting crap into my baby that may not even prevent anything anyway.

The CDC website is great because it's the same site that the doctors use.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Adventures In Babywearing said...

It's a definite problem if you are made to feel like an idiot.

And parents need to be aware that Thimerosol isn't the only "bad" ingredient that was in vaccines (and is still in some) but that there are plenty other bad ingredients. So just because Thimerosol is "out", doesn't mean that you can all rest easy now.

There is not one vaccine that doesn't have preservatives- it's impossible. What would "preserve them?" All shots have at least some agent like aluminum or formaldehyde or ascorbic acid, etc.

Combo shots might be convenient or "less painful" with one stick, but do parents realize how many toxins and disease is in that one poke into their child's small body?

You are doing a great job by asking questions!

I've posted a lot about my opinion, if you want a bit more info on the issue!!

Jaymi sent me here to put in my 2 cents! : )


9:36 AM  
Blogger Adventures In Babywearing said...

For anyone that needs it, here's the link to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) listing of Vaccine Ingredients.


9:46 AM  
Blogger Laural said...

It sounds like your doctor doesn't like to be questioned, and you might butt heads with him quite a bit going forward. There ARE peds out there that appreciate when a parent is involved in the health of their child. I have one, thank goodness.

My daughter is only vaxed for Polio at this point, due to travel. Now that she's three and has the blood/brain barrier (that helps prevent metals from attaching to neurons (I hope I said that correctly!)) I'm open to a delayed schedule.

I think vaccinations in theory are wonderful. But they way they are cuyrrently packaged, and administered in a one size fits all way, is NOT safe.

Be strong, and do what YOU feel is right for your child.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Domestically Challenged said...

Good for YOU!!! Yay Mama for standing your ground, that doesn't happen often enough.

When I did my medical training it was very clear that there is NO SUCH THING as a "safe" vaccine. Some are "safer" than others but none are completely safe by any means.

I have a medical degree. I also delay and selectively vaccinate. There are certain vaccines I will never give my children and others I very much agree with.

I hate when Drs and their staff treat patients the way they treated you. They try to shut you up with bandaid answers to make their job easier. At least I hope that is what they were doing because if they really believed the answers they fed to you they shouldn't be practicing medicine.

His comment about the vaccine schedule is actually based on research that children who do not receive all their vaccines w/in the usual 24mos time table will probably never complete them. Not because the schedule is too confusing, but because ppl move, change drs, and ultimately forget to have their children seen for well child exams.

12:43 PM  
Blogger The Hotfessional said...

Excellent points. Truly. All of them. I think you should cross-post this at Moms Speak Up.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Kar said...

If I were you I would be changing doctors at this point. I would be so pissed!

We had the same questions while I was pregnant even, and we asked our doctor (who is our family doc) and he was very understanding and went through many things with us, such as ingredients and different options for different shots. We even elected NOT to get the Rotavirus vaccine. He just wanted to make sure we understood the good part about vaccinations and weren't against them altogether.
The point your doctor made about not being able to keep track of vaccines if you're not on the "correct schedule" is absurd! I find that to be one of the worse points of our health-care system. Can't they chart when you get a vaccine, whether or not it's on the "correct" timetable? Crazy.

6:19 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Amazing how we received the same kind of disdain, same defensiveness and the same resentment that your first instinct wasn't to blindly trust the docs and nurses. I really wish there were patient advocates for every step, from basic check ups to complex medical situations. It's just so hard to feel like you aren't overreacting or losing your mind.

7:21 PM  
Blogger neeter said...

My 6 month old son received the first Hep B vax in the hospital. I didn't feel like I could speak up. I have delayed everything else since then and haven't decided what we will and won't do or a timeline. I just canceled his 6 mo well baby check up because the appt had been made with the last ped he saw for his 4 mo well baby (it's a rotation) She gave me a hard sell and was very rude about it. While I was waiting at the receptionist's desk to make his next appt, I could hear her mocking me to another doctor. I stood there and got angry and embarrassed, but I managed to tell her I didn't appreciate her comments, especially where others could hear her.

My older daughters are vaccinated. I just have a horrible pit in my stomach about having my son vaccinated. We've halted all of them at this point. I figure I can always get his done if I need to, but I can't take it away.

It's really confusing on what to do, but I cannot ignore that gut feeling.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Blogversary said...

Good for you and I understand your struggle. We waited until our daughter was 18 months to start any vaccines. And our Dr was very supportive and never made us feel guilty or stupid. The nurses have not given us any attitude.

But, it so hard going against the system. I plan on giving birth naturally and after the first time I know now what attitude to expect from the medical staff I will see. They forget that we are the parents!

I called around to other Drs and they about told me I was a horrible parent for waiting. So, there are good and bad Doctors out there as far as support.

Our Dr also lets us choose which ones to give.

My daughter just had her second round and almost no reaction, except a little sore where they stuck her. The first round she was sore and tired the next day.

I feel we made the right decision waiting.

W/ our second, a boy, we are going to wait a little longer because it seems boys are at a higher risk for autism. And, if there is any remote possibility of it coming from vaccines, I don't want to take the risk.

Follow your gut. And, know you are not alone.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

thank you

this is how change happens - when people educate themselves and ask questions and make other people THINK

you are right, vaccines are not "bad" but how they are administered needs to be reworked

it scares me that people who administer vaccines don't know that there are preservatives in them - and I would be speaking to their boss if I were you

8:39 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Oh I am so sorry to hear this. If I were cool I'd link you to my story which involved them threatening me with CPS after I wanted a new schedule suggested by the CD after my daughter was HOSPITALIZED in reaction to vaccine overload. It's not right. It should be individual; I get it's easier for them SOP, but that's not per se best for the kid.

I changed doctors over it.

New one was much, much better about it.

hang in there and stick to your guns. Know your rights and GOOD LUCK!

Using My Words

8:25 AM  
Blogger Dana a/k/a Sunshine said...

I don't have a little one (mine is 13) but I commend you on asking questions and researching. Doctors should respect that. Unfortunately, they don't. It sounds like they just get ANNOYED that they can't process you like another number. That isn't right. Anwyay, sorry you have to deal with this...but I think you are doing the right thing in researching it. I immunized my son years ago, but I think it is good to question it before you make a final decision.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Andrea: no, thank goodness, I'm not close to the fires, but thanks for asking.

Steph: thanks for your comment. I have read a number of your excellent posts about this topic. You are one of the people who has gotten me thinking more about it actually, so thank you!

Domestically Challenged: thank you for commenting. I am curious as to the vaccines that you would never give your children and why. If you'd like to email me or leave another comment, I would sure appreciate it!

Julie: CPS? Are you serious? That's crazy!

4:39 PM  
Blogger zoloftmom said...

good for you to stand your ground!

you are the boss when it comes to your kids. i think dr's sometimes forget that.

and good for you to be a thinking kind of mom. the world needs more of those.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Dena said...

I have to echo what all of the other posters said – I think you really need to consider finding another doctor, because this one is not willing to work with you. Even the CDC recommends that doctors do their best to work with parents on immunization questions. You’re not refusing the shots entirely, you just don’t want to do all the combos. That seems perfectly reasonable to me.

I’m actually a big fan of immunization, but I think that comes from my “pre-Mommy” work on health education issues. I had to work with a number of parents who lost kids to diseases like flu and whooping cough and it still breaks my heart. So I agree with you that you should definitely vaccinate your kids.

One thing that I think everyone should realize, though, is that the idea that kids’ immune systems are being overwhelmed by too many immunizations is just not true. The vaccines that our kids receive today actually have way fewer components in them than the ones we received as kids. Any side effects that can happen are way less serious than the diseases they prevent. One caution, though – if you’re going to separate out the shots, your kids will actually get MORE preservative in total than in just one combination shot. (though the total amount is still very small).

I know the whole autism controversy has gotten a lot of press, but I know a lot of parents with autistic kids (some vaccinated, some not) are frustrated that this argument that vaccines cause autism is actually diverting funding for other potential research into the causes of and treatment for autism.

Anyway, if you’re struggling with how to figure all of this out, I would recommend two Web sites that make me feel better about immunizing my kids. Quackwatch has a great description of the whole autism discussion at www.quackwatch.org/03HealthPromotion/immu/
autism.html and the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania has a lot of good info on a lot of the questions you’ve raised at

2:14 PM  
Blogger lildb said...

I'm so glad you wrote this post. I remember the first time I brought up the subject with my doc (also a Kaiser pediatrician, so...) - she got this bizarro threatened look on her face, and she visibly tensed. It was weird and not a little creepy. Why was my son's ped doc so personally invested in whether he got all his shots at once or not?

(I have my theories as to why, esp. given the current stranglehold the big pharmas have on the pill-pushing, er, medical community. Hi. I'm your friend the conspiracy-theorist. *waves*)

Thank you for bringing this one up. Btw, I miss you. On the record.

11:52 PM  
Blogger SAHMmy Says said...

I just posted on my crappy pediatrician's response to my desire to delay the Chicken Pox vaccine for a year--after reading your article I'm kicking myself for going along with their stupid schedule AT ALL! I'll be researching all past and future vaccines for sure. And re the Hep B--I refused it when my son was a baby (he's 3 1/2 now) and the MD rolled his eyes at me and said, "Don't you know he already had the first dose--they give it to all babies in the hospital when they're born!" Um, now I do--why did I sign 4 consent forms for my liquid diet but never saw anything about a Hep B vaccine being administered to my newborn?

5:32 PM  
Anonymous workout mommy said...

I also wanted to decline the Hep b shot and was told the same thing--it's all combined. When I insisted, my doc told me that they could do it, but my son will get 9 shots instead of 3. (which then triggered mommy guilt) I'm supposed to go back next week with my decision, but I think I may cancel that appt. He's only 2.5 months!!!

and like you, with my first one I followed everything they said. I had no idea!!


5:03 PM  
Blogger Staci Schoff said...

Jesus, I think you need a new pediatrician!

I sort of did the opposite of you. I read a lot of stuff and was paranoid with my first baby and didn't give him any shots until he was 18 months old. With the second I did more research that changed my mind slightly, and did DTAP and HIB on schedule and everything else later.

But bottom line, it's your kid and your kid's health. Don't be bullied by a doctor who thinks he knows everything. And, they keep a record. Every time I go they say, "he's due for this, this and this" and I say, "Okay, I just want this and this today."

It's not that complicated - tell him to deal with it.

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I told my doctor that we wanted a modified schedule, he called me uneducated. What an awful man. I was very offended since I am very educated and I have a Master's degree in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. I understand the benefit of vaccines, but I wanted options and he refused to offer any. My pediatrician is a jerk. I won't go back to his office. He thought I had been doing to much reading on the internet and not in scientific journals. I authored a article in a scientific journal so I understand the difference. I am proud that I stood up to him, but I hate the way he treated me and I know he does this to other mothers. At this time, there is no proven link between the vaccines and autism, but I don't want to take any chances. My child will get his shots, but give me choices. I have an appointment with a different doctor. I hope this doctor is better. I just want to do what is best for my baby.

1:31 PM  

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