Choosing Vaccination For Your Child Is An Informed Decision
Jan 27, 2012

When it comes to issues regarding disease prevention, our choices impact our children now and throughout their adult life.  Whether we choose to vaccinate our children or not, or delay certain vaccines or not, we are making decisions that have consequences.
A child who falls ill with a vaccine preventable disease may end up just fine.  However, others will have to endure permanent health problems.  And still others will suffer and die, like the many whose stories appear on sites like Vaccinate Your Baby and Shot by Shot.
Earlier this week a comment on the Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page that made me think about the challenges parents face.  A concerned mother, seeking guidance states:

“I have a 28 month old son and have been delaying and selectively vaccinating. I am looking for a neutral page where I can find information to help me make decisions about what vaccines to get. This page appears to be a page that will deliver only one side of the story. Where can I go to get information both positive and negative about vaccinating? I am faced with some decisions very soon and wish to make an informed decision. I have read some information about vaccines, but not enough to be comfortable just yet.”

I have heard these sentiments echoed time and time again.  When faced with uncertainty, parents often delay or selectively vaccinate until they can feel more comfortable with the idea.  While I understand this rationale on an emotional level, I believe that parents must begin by understanding the importance of research, science and statistics in order to make an informed decision.  In other words, it’s not that parents should look for a “neutral page”, as this mother suggests, but more importantly, an accurate one that uses scientific evidence to support their recommendations.
First, we must have confidence in our resources. 
I believe one of the best things a parent can do is to learn how to properly evaluate medical information on the internet and identify credible resources.  There are plenty of documents, such as this, to help parents discern facts from the myths.
In regards to vaccination concerns from a parental point of view, I suggest reading Dr. Rachel Dunlop’s piece entitled 9 Vaccination Myths Busted. With Science and Alice Callahan’s recent article in MamaMia, On Parenting, Science and Trust – and Choosing To Vaccinate.  While blog posts such as these can often present a great deal of personal perspective, both these authors do a fantastic job of linking to the scientific evidence so that readers can see the research that supports their beliefs.
While Vaccinate Your Baby and other public health sources appear to only present “one side of the story”, it’s important to recognize that they present information that represents the side of expert evaluation – not speculation, misinformation, conspiracy theories or anecdotes.
Second, parents should consider that what they are trying to do has already been done by the experts.
What we parents are hoping to understand is what immunologists (the people who study the way in which the immune system works in the body) and epidemiologists (the people who study the cause and transmission of disease) have studied for decades.  The good news is that there are countless experts all over the world that have done the research and agree on the importance of vaccination.
Parents should be reassured that the specific safety profiles for each vaccine are shared with the general public through the Vaccine Information Statements.  If there were something to hide there certainly wouldn’t be laws to ensure parents receive these statements.  They provide critical information regarding the risk of adverse effects – the risks that have been determined in scientific studies.  Parents who weigh these risks against the risks of complications, hospitalizations and deaths related to these diseases can easily determine what the experts have;  that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.  Certainly, if this weren’t true, the vaccine would never be added to the recommended schedule.
Third, parents need to understand the methods of monitoring vaccine safety.
Like other pharmaceutical products, vaccines undergo extensive safety and efficacy evaluations in the lab, in animals and in sequentially phased human clinical trials all prior to licensure. However, because vaccines are administered to healthy individuals, their safety standards are more stringent and they undergo more testing than the average pharmaceutical product.  They undergo lot testing for purity and potency and only obtain FDA licensure after the vaccine has met rigorous standards of efficacy and safety.
Once the vaccine is licensed, extensive monitoring continues through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System and the Vaccine Safety Datalink, which ensures that safety continues to be of primary importance even after a vaccine is recommended for public use. Parents should feel confident in knowing that these kinds of reporting systems have helped to identify problems in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.  Yet they also need to understand that while the reporting systems and data collection are critical to the process, these reports undergo diligent medical review before it can be determined whether the adverse event was coincidental or causally related to a specific vaccination.
Small risks of adverse reactions shouldn’t give us reason to turn away from the value of vaccines.  Most reactions are minor, like pain and swelling at the injection site that can sometime occur with inactivated vaccines.  Others may be systemic and cause more generalized events such as fever, muscle pain and headache following live attenuated vaccines that must replicate in order to produce immunity. And yes, while there may be a small possibility of allergic reactions to vaccines these are extremely rare.  According to the course book for Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, known as The Pink Book, they only occur at a rate of less than one in half a billion doses.
These are just some of the statistics that experts use to evaluate the risks versus the benefits of vaccines.  They conclude that it’s better to accept a small risk of an adverse reaction than to leave your child exposed to a disease that presents a much greater risk of complications, hospitalizations or death.
Nothing is 100% certain.
I understand that parents want to be educated about vaccines enough to be comfortable with their decisions.  After all, they’re ultimately responsible for their child and only want what’s best.  However, parents must accept that nothing is 100% certain, 100% of the time.
A child can be vaccinated and still get the disease the vaccine was designed to prevent (because, for example, science has proven that there are cases when certain people don’t elicit an appropriate immune response to every vaccine).  On the flip side, a child can remain unvaccinated and yet be lucky enough to avoid vaccine preventable diseases because they either haven’t been exposed to that disease (as a benefit of herd immunity), or their body has effectively fought off the infection. However, that doesn’t mean that a healthy child will always be able to fight off infection.  Nor does it mean that a vaccinated child is never provided protection.  The way I see it, vaccination is like an insurance policy; helping to provide assistance and protection when the unanticipated, unforeseeable happens and our children are exposed to dangerous diseases.
If we abandon vaccination out of fear or complacency, it’s possible that we will begin to witness more widespread disease.  Scientists are continually working to improve our immunization practices and reduce the impact of disease across the globe.  What good evidence do we have to abandon that?
It’s my hope that parents trust and respect the extensive science that supports vaccines as a safe and effective way to protect our children from preventable disease and therefore feel confident in their decision to vaccinate.
For more information on vaccine safety, I recommend parents explore resources like the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center, and view their wonderful video series that helps to separate facts from fear.  There are also a host of other responses to frequently asked questions on the Vaccinate Your Baby website as well.

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35 responses to “Choosing Vaccination For Your Child Is An Informed Decision”

  1. cia parker says:

    Recommended sources for learning about the other side of the issue:
    The Vaccine Guide by Randall Neustaedter, Make an Informed Vaccine Decision by Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, Raising a Vaccine-Free Child by Wendy Lydall, Just a Little Prick and From One Prick to Another by Hilary Butler, What About Immunizations? by Cynthia Cournoyer, When Your Doctor is Wrong by Judy Converse, and Vaccine Epidemic, an anthology of articles. Read as much as possible before making this irrevocable choice!

  2. Another great resource is WHO’s list of websites that offer reliable information on vaccines:
    Also notice that the resources recommended by cia parker are all written by uneducated, unqualified people with absolutely no training in infectious disease or immunology?
    Randall Neustaedter is a homeopath (aka quack).
    Dr. Mayer Eisenstein has been successful sued for wrongful death and believes vaccines cause autism –,0,3826791.story
    Wendy Lydall is a writer with no scientific training.
    Hilary Butler’s book is self-published and she also does not appear to have any qualifications in the topic.
    Cynthia Cournoyer is a natural childbirth educator.
    Judy Converse is a licensed registered dietician.
    Why pay for garbage information on vaccines when the above websites are free to access and written by experts?

    • Steve Michaels says:

      Homeopaths were only label ‘quacks’ after the AMA took control of the US healthcare paradigm. I suggest you read the history of how the AMA has attacked cancer treatments that work. I give you a starting point, Royal Raymond Rife. He was curing cancer in 1935 but refused to sell his technology to the AMA so he was destroyed. By the way, you can also research pleomorphic germ theory to find out why the entire current medical paradigm is based on false assumptions.
      Your claim about Eisenstein is non-sequitur.
      Your sites that you claim to be ‘experts’ are so rife with conflicts of interest that they are easily discredited.

      • Homeopathy is magic water. It is a quack treatment with no evidence of efficiency. For someone so insistent on evidence of efficiency for vaccines, I’m surprised you would defend homeopathy which doesn’t even have a basis in reality, yet alone any evidence that it works.
        Then again in your next point you promote a theory that was discredited over 90 years ago, so obviously you aren’t really current on the medical literature. Just for giggles, please explain how the “current medical paradigm is based on false assumptions” and do include the evidence for the “pleomorphic germ theory”. I hope the evidence is something more recent than the 1920s, other wise you’d have to explain why 90 years of science with hundreds of thousands of papers have been wrong all this time.
        I’d think knowing that Dr. Eisenstein killed a baby would be very relevant before taking medical advice from the man. He may be a doctor, but obvious he isn’t a very good one.
        And dismissing several worldwide websites with a big broad “conflict of interest” would be an ad hominem. But nevertheless, why don’t you dismiss cia’s sources? They also have conflicts of interests, where the money goes directly into their pockets? Furthermore, please explain the benefit a government receives by promoting vaccines, if vaccines were indeed as dangerous as you claim?

  3. “Where can I go to get information both positive and negative about vaccinating?”
    What you want is the truth. Telling you about anti-vax ideas, except to debunk them as myths, would not be helping to educate you about vaccines.
    I would suggest the book “Do Vaccines Cause That?!.” Or after reading a couple of anti-vax books or visiting a couple of their sites, read a few of Dr. Offit’s books, and then come here and ask questions about the things that don’t seem to make sense. Only then can you really say you have done your research and have made an informed decision.

  4. cia parker says:

    It’s good to read lots of books on both sides. I read Offit’s Vaccines: What You Should Know, and I don’t think he’s a reliable source of information, he’s a vaccine patent holder and big shareholder, and made milliions when he sold the patent for the new rotavirus vaccine he developed. For instance,on page 40 of Vaccines, he says: “no child has died from the ‘old’ pertussis vaccine.” I don’t know why he said that. If you read A Shot in the Dark, you will read blow by blow case histories of a few of the many babies and children who developed permanent seizure disorders or were killed by the old pertussis vaccine. This book was so well-documented and so gruesome when it came out in the mid-’80s that it was instrumental in getting the ‘ old’ vaccine taken off the market and replaced by the ‘new’ (but still dangerous) DTaP vaccine. If you bear in mind that Offit often tells untruths in order to promote vaccines, it’s interesting to read his books. His book on the overuse of antibiotics was good, and the home remedies he suggests to treat symptoms which doctors used to throw antibiotics at, with dire consequences. After asking questions here, I”d recommend asking more at Age of Autism, to get input from many parents of vaccine-damaged children (like me, my daughter got encephalitis and autism from the hep-B vaccine at birth).

    • Nice ad hominum, there cia.
      “A Shot in the Dark” is also written by someone with a conflict of interest. Barbara Loe Fischer collects a salary for promoting vaccine misinformation. So why do you recommend this book and those of others that collect a profit, but then attack Offit for actually being an expert in vaccines? Should Offit not profit from his hard work and expertise, especially if you allow uneducated folks the opportunity for profit by spreading misinformation?
      Recent science has shown that the DPT was not associated with causing seizure disorders. The parents were wrong to blame the vaccine. Do you see Barbara Loe Fischer correcting her mistakes? Nope.
      Recent science has shown that vaccines don’t cause autism. Do you see Age of Autism correcting their mistakes? Nope.
      Many parents, like you, believe that your child is vaccine damaged when in fact, they aren’t. You were recently promoting such a story on another thread where you claim that a child died from a flu vaccine, when the cause of death reported by the parents certainly does not. With your own daughter, your story changes repeatedly and you have been repeatedly been shown to tell your own untruths about her medical history just by inconsistencies in your stories from one day to the next, one site to the next. Nevermind that there is no science that supports your claim and you haven’t presented any evidence that what you say is true.

  5. cia parker says:

    What inconsistencies? Tell me, I don’t know what they are.
    Yeah, there are hundreds of thousands of us who say that our children were damaged by vaccines, from encephalitic brain damage (autism, etc.) or autoimmune disease triggered by vaccines. We stand by what we have lived, we saw it. They now say to take your child to the emergency room if he cries for more than three hours without stopping in the week or so after getting a vaccine, because that is a symptom of encephalitis, which should be treated at the hospital. The Merck Manual says that encephalitis can be caused by vaccines. Which one of these statements do you deny, and why? Do you deny that vaccines ever cause encephalitis? Do you deny that encephalitis often causes permanent brain damage? Do you deny that vaccines can sometimes kill? Do you contend that they are always safe for everyone?

    • Chris says:

      The Merck Manual says that encephalitis can be caused by vaccines. Which one of these statements do you deny, and why? Do you deny that vaccines ever cause encephalitis?

      Actually, we do not deny vaccines can cause injury. But what you are ignoring is that the diseases cause encephalitis much more often than the vaccines. Why are you denying the harm from measles, mumps, pertussis, hib, etc?
      Tell us exactly how many cases of encephalitis occur with the MMR vaccine, and then compare those numbers with measles. From The Clinical Significance of Measles: A Review:

      Postinfectious encephalomyelitis (PIE) occurs in 13 per 1000 infected persons, usually 3–10 days after onset of rash [39, 131]. Higher rates of PIE due to measles occur in adolescents and adults than in school-aged children (table 2 [124, 132, 133]). PIE usually begins with the abrupt onset of new fever, seizures, altered mental status, and multifocal neurological signs [131, 134]….. As many as 25% of people with PIE due to measles die, and ∼33% of survivors have lifelong neurological sequelae, including severe retardation, motor impairment, blindness, and sometimes hemiparesis [39, 131].

      Now please tell us, with good documentation, if the MMR causes encephalitis more than thirteen times in a thousand doses.
      Here are some other papers:
      Vaccine. 2011 Nov 12. [Epub ahead of print]
      Lack of association between childhood immunizations and encephalitis in California, 1998-2008.
      Pediatrics. 2010 Jun;125(6):1134-41. Epub 2010 May 24.
      On-time vaccine receipt in the first year does not adversely affect neuropsychological outcomes.
      Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2006 Sep;25(9):768-73.
      Encephalopathy after whole-cell pertussis or measles vaccination: lack of evidence for a causal association in a retrospective case-control study.
      J Infect Dis. 2005 Nov 15;192(10):1686-93. Epub 2005 Oct 12.
      Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis: more cases of this fatal disease are prevented by measles immunization than was previously recognized.

      • Steve Michaels says:

        No Chris, you do not deny that vaccines can cause injury. You just deny EVERY case where the evidence indicates that an injury is vaccine related. You can accept it theoretically, but not practically. And you go on to cites concurrent and/or concomitant studies that prove nothing.

      • Chris says:

        You just deny EVERY case where the evidence indicates that an injury is vaccine related.

        List some, just make sure they are real. Because I don’t recall you presenting a case that was more than a guess from untrained people.
        List them. Because I don’t believe you.

    • gattarian says:

      “Yeah, there are hundreds of thousands of us who say that our children were damaged by vaccines”
      How about this one. Somehow, this number grows every time I hear it. Can you document this? Just this?

      • Steve Michaels says:

        Read VAERS. Oh, sorry, I forgot, VAERS isn’t reliable, but is is the main mechanism for discovering patterns of vaccine reactions, but, of course the FDA and CDC have not found ANY patterns that they felt warranted further investigation. Why? Because correlation does not equal causation and investigation into causation on these reports has NEVER been done because they have been deemed correlative and not causal. This is circular reasoning which precludes ever investigating the VAERS reports. Very convenient considering the documented conflicts of interest with the CDC.

      • Chris says:

        There is a a button on the VAERS site that is labeled “I have read and understand the preceding statement.”
        What does that preceding statement say?

      • gattarian says:

        I’d take VAERS. I said I wanted documentation on those who claim such an injury. There are NOT 100s of thousands of claims of “damage”. Even whale to uses numbers in the thousands.

      • Chris says:

        There is also the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Statistics Reports. They top out at under three thousand that have been compensated in a bit over twenty years.
        Plus you can search for many of the cases here.

  6. Chris says:

    Ms. Parker, I eagerly await that evidence on how vaccines cause more encephalitis than the diseases, especially the MMR versus measles. I need to run, but I hope you have those studies posted in the next day or so.
    Remember to read the link the the review, “The Clinical Significance of Measles”, and use the references at the end of it. Then do tell us with similar documentation how the MMR causes more encephalitis.

  7. lisa says:

    there is no positive side to vaccinating except someone makes money from it. come on really? scare tactics. and stop playing God.

    • Chris says:

      Okay, lisa. Can you tell us why treating a child for measles in a hospital (about one in a thousand end up in the hospital) is cheaper than preventing it with the cost of two doses of MMR.
      Please read this paper: The Clinical Significance of Measles: A Review. Then tell us why kids getting sick is more positive than preventing illness. I am especially interested in how you think pneumonia and encephalitis are not harmful.

    • Nathan says:

      there is no positive side to vaccinating except someone makes money from it. come on really? scare tactics. and stop playing God.

      It seems like a positive thing to help prevent this from happening.
      You don’t think God approves?

  8. Jenny McKay Cooper-Butler says:

    Maybe I’m over reaching, but you better believe that if something is being injected into my child, I damn well do expect it to be 100% safe. To say that we should except anything less is ridiculous.
    I also, as the parent, have the right to read whatever I choose. Please spare us from the “approved reading list” issued by Paul Offitt and the women that worship him at WENEVET. Just because literature is on WENEVET’s book club reading list doesn’t mean the rest of us have to be forced to read that garbage.
    Damn right you smell feet 😉

    • Chris says:

      I damn well do expect it to be 100% safe.

      What in this universe is 100% safe?

      To say that we should except anything less is ridiculous.

      There is a name for your expectations: Nirvana Fallacy.
      You are not going to accept anything unless it is perfect. Except the alternative carries more risk. And as more and more fall into the Nirvana Fallacy and expect vaccines to be perfect, the chance of encountering pertussis and measles goes up.

      • jenny says:

        That’s the best you can come up with Vara? Please spare us the cliche response. Why are we as parents supposed to accept that as an excuse? We are just supposed to offer our children up as guinea pigs in post-licensure surveillance and hope they don’t suffer a severe reaction? Since when did illness/ vaccines become an ultimatum? Get the vaccine or suffer the consequences….. Seems more like get the vaccine and suffer the consequences.

      • Chris says:

        Well, perhaps you can actually answer my question: what in this universe is 100% safe?
        There is lots of information on PubMed if you wish to find more information. You could start with Impact of anti-vaccine movements on pertussis control: the untold story and then continue to The Clinical Significance of Measles: A Review
        Then you can tell me exactly how the MMR is more dangerous than measles, and then compare the risks of DTaP to pertussis. Those two diseases are returning to the USA. Just be sure to include supporting evidence by listing the title, journal and dates of the papers indexed in PubMed. That way we can learn from you.
        Who is “Vara”?

      • Chris says:

        Oh, i see the confusion with Ms. Vara. Just to be clear my name is not “Christine.”

  9. ShanNon LT says:

    Jenny McKay Cooper-Butler – spare us the drama. Save your idiotic ideals for Great Mothers Questioning Vaccination.

  10. Shawn Seagull says:

    Jenny, how about get the disease and suffer the consequences? Colloidal silver will not save you from SSPE. Or disseminating Varicella. Should we rather bow at Andy’s feet with the likes of Notsogreat Mothers? I think not.

  11. Shannon Finkle says:

    No, Jenny something or other. It is about informed choice. Informed implying reading various scientifically based sources. But then, it would also require a certain amount of reading comprehension you clearly lack.

  12. mary says:

    i found this article to be extremely biased on the provaccine side, without much consideration into the initial question…this article only posed one real side of the picture, from the pro vax standpoint. What everyone fails to realize is the real problem here is there is NO testing available to do on babies before administering vaccines to see who is susceptible to an adverse reaction….if we had such a test, then an antidote could be made for such children, making vaccination safer for everyone, thus more parents would be inclined to do so.

  13. Angela says:

    Shawn Seagull :
    Jenny, how about get the disease and suffer the consequences? Colloidal silver will not save you from SSPE. Or disseminating Varicella. Should we rather bow at Andy’s feet with the likes of Notsogreat Mothers? I think not.

    Well being of the pre- vaccine era (53 yrs old) with a sister 7 yrs older than me. I can tell you that I have had Measles, mumps, varicella and my sister had pertussis. My parents brought us up on a good diet, and when we got any of those diseases we experienced some discomfort and fever but got over it well. I have only ever had one course of antibiotics, and generally rarely get sick. I live in the Middle East surrounded by people of all nationalities bringing their germs and bacteria to be shared by all. My oldest son (now 27 yrs) was vaccinated DPT – one course and MMR – one course. He had TB shot age 7, and immediately went into shock after it, within 3 weeks he developed vitiligo around the eyes, elbows and knees. He had no more vaccines after that. My daughter (24yrs) had one course of DPT and one MMR. My youngest son (18yrs) has had no vaccines. My oldest son has had one course of anti-biotics for pneumonia as a baby, otherwise he has taken no other allopathic medication, my daughter was given numerous cough medicines for cough as a baby which turned out to be a milk in tolerance. The youngest has had no meds. All of us have used homeopathic meds since my eldest was 7 yrs old. I work in a homeopathic clinic and find it unbelievable how the health of children has plummeted and the problems they come into the clinic with. Forget about the virus that is being injected into children but what about all the other rubbish that goes with it. Children got these ‘childhood diseases’ in the past precisely when they were most able to deal with them, and in order to spike their immune system. I would not presume to tell parents what to do about vaccinating their children, but I also do not accept to be told what to do with my children. Now they are adults they can make that informed choice, so far they haven’t chosen to go that route. Oh and by the way both older children had Varicella, were a bit uncomfortable (a little fever and itching)

    • Lara Lohne says:

      Your stories are anecdotes and don’t prove anything. Any number of people from your generation could tell stories about pain, suffering, disability and death from the same diseases you claim are no big deal. And any number of children today who are fully vaccinated enjoy the same robust health that you are claiming as well. Individual experiences don’t count for much. Scientific data on the other hand, is vastly more reliable then memory recall from childhood.
      I have to ask why you feel the need to post on a thread that is a year old to begin with? Are you hoping to have the ‘final’ word on the subject? Because in the end, it doesn’t matter who’s story appears last, what matters is what science tells us. And science tells us that we are by far better off now then we were before vaccination was available. My children are much healthier then I was and I was raised in an anti-vaccine family. My children are fully vaccinated too. You may not have suffered any ill effects from the diseases and so you scoff at people who did? Not very friendly, I must say.
      I am very pro-vaccine, simply because, as an unvaccinated child, there are still diseases that I am vulnerable to now as an adult. I have had three vaccines total in my life, and if I could get the rest, I would. But unfortunately, childhood vaccines are not covered by my medical coverage as an adult, so I must rely on community immunity to keep from getting the diseases. Vaccination is not only about the individual getting the vaccine, it is also about the people around that individual who have a far lower chance of getting it also because the individual has been vaccinated. The more individuals who are vaccinated, the greater the protection for everyone. And eventually, the diseases will be eradicated, as is the case with smallpox, rinderpest and now we are so close to getting rid of polio once and for all. Once the disease is gone, there will no longer be a need for vaccination. That, I feel, is a very worthwhile goal, because then there would be no risk for anyone at all, no matter how tiny it is now.

  14. Leif Breeze says:

    encephalitis is really deadly if it is not treated early.:
    Remember to read this useful web site

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