Once again, we have media-generated hysteria over a viral outbreak. Someone cue Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s tears.
There is no debating that vaccines save lives. The Department of Health and Human Services tells us that we can protect our children from more diseases than ever before; vaccines are subjected to long, careful reviews by scientists, doctors, and healthcare professionals; immunizations protect the people you love most; those vaccines save families time and money because non-vaccinated children can be denied attendance at schools and daycare; and immunization protects future generations, evidenced by the eradication of smallpox. All positive things.
Having two children on the spectrum, I heard, like everyone else, the vaccines-cause-autism claim. Obviously, I did not buy into this link because my older boys got all immunizations in accordance with the CDC’s schedule, and the original study has been debunked over and over again.
When I was pregnant with Thing 3, I started wondering about what I could do differently. I have no idea what causes autism–nor does anyone else on this planet apparently–but what could I possibly do differently during pregnancy and his infancy to abate the risk? The answer may be absolutely nothing. My husband and I started thinking about the timeline of Thing 1’s progression and regression. He hit his milestones through 14-15 months until we had a series of small events: MMR shot at 15-months old, anesthesia and ear tubes at 16-months, and strep throat around 20-months. Could it have been a combination of those environmental factors that caused a regression of all language and self-help skills?
But what does that matter if Thing 2 did not have those issues but also has autism? Is autism inevitable?
Kind of a tangent, but I started researching PANDAS, which stands for Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus. Kids with PANDAS or PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome) show OCD behaviors, moodiness, anxiety, and other autism-like symptoms. The theory is that an infection–whether strep, Lyme, flu, or another bug–led to antibodies that mistakenly attack the part of the brain that controls behavior, and doctors are only starting to study this phenomenon. I could not find enough information blaming PANS for language regression, so investigating a PANS diagnosis for my kids is probably not appropriate…but it led me to a bigger question wondering if something weird was happening with the boys’ immune systems.
So that goes back to the vaccine issue. I am not a hipster, not anti-authority. While the benefits of vaccination outweigh the likelihood of an adverse reaction, it is my responsibility as a parent to know what is injected into my children and how it was made. I learned that vaccines are not an all-or-nothing argument, and those who question the preservatives in the MMR shot or opt for a different vaccine schedule do not deserve such ridiculous vilification on social media.
I do want my children protected from diseases like polio and measles. Through long, sometimes tedious hours of research and investigating the vaccines myself (does anyone bother to request and actually read the informational inserts that come with those shots?), I settled on a modified version of Dr. Sears’ staggered vaccine schedule for Thing 3. His Vaccine Book is enlightening and not anti-vaccine. He offers numerous articles on safe vaccination here. I am now a Dr. Sears groupie.
Here is the immunization schedule we settled on for Thing 3, with the blessing of our pediatrician. I’m grateful she respected our wishes and was open to having a discussion with me about the pros and cons of each shot.
If you are unsure or have questions about vaccines, I encourage you to do some research, talk to your pediatrician, check out The Vaccine Book, read the information included with those vaccines–just like you hopefully read the warnings and information that come with any medication. And please use a little common sense instead of blindly following the TV’s talking heads.