Religious views. Political views. Sex.
The three taboo topics from which to steer clear. I’d add to that, vaccinations and vegetarianism. Also potential fiery topics in some circles.
Which is why I hesitate writing this, because well, the issue of vaccinations is such a controversial subject.
But (sigh!), I cannot help myself. This subject has been stewing in my brain for quite some time now and I have to get it out.
I want to make it clear I’m a fence sitter when it comes to the issue of vaccinations. I admit it. There are a lot of things I feel I have ample proof for which to make an informed decision. When it comes to vaccinations, I still have not made up my mind entirely.
I feel there are two camps out there (I know there’s more to it than what I’m giving either camp credit, but this is general summary of their views as I see it):
Camp 1: Pro-Vaccination
Most health care professionals are in this category. Vaccinate, and vaccinate according to schedule. Vaccinations save lives, and whatever supposed side effects (autoimmune disorders, asthma, juvenile diabetes, ect.) that some claim to be associated with vaccinations, are of little concern because there is no solid evidence to support it. All vaccinations are good, even for things like chicken pox and the flu. Those who choose not to vaccinate are irresponsible, possibly ignorant, and put the rest of the population at risk. The benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the rare risks.
Camp 2: Anti-Vaccinations
All vaccines are unnecessary and potentially very harmful to the body, possibly contributing to a plethora of severe side effects, even death. The body’s immune system, if given the proper environment (through dietary and lifestyle choices) is capable of resisting disease. The decrease in mortality due to certain diseases was due in large part not from vaccinations, but rather improved living conditions. Fillers and preservatives, including mercury and animal by-products, increase the adverse side effects of inoculation, making vaccinations unduly risky.
Neither approach sits well with me. The issue has become so polarized, that it is difficult for me to listen to either side. Both sides seem to contradict each other. So I sit on the fence. And I don’t want to anymore, especially as my children are getting older, I need to determine what my stance will be.
Let me share a recent occurrence that took place in the office of my pediatrician that further solidified my frustration with the issue.
“Not a shred of evidence,” my pediatrician said. He continued, “There is not a shred of evidence that vaccines cause autism, or asthma, or any other health problem.” At this point, any of the credibility my pediatrician had went out the window. There most certainly are risks involved with vaccinations, and to state that there are not, is just plain wrong. Of course the level of those risks are up for debate, but don’t tell me, Mr. Pediatrician that there is no evidence that vaccinations can cause adverse health problems!
He stood there, clenched his clipboard, firm and resolved to make his point clear. “Vaccines save lives.” These statements were in response to a previous conversation which went something like this: “So is your son up to do date with all of his immunizations?” (He knew full well they were not, as he was looking at my son’s chart). “My husband and I have decided not to inoculate our children,” I told him matter-of-factly.
I knew this discussion was bound to come up. In fact, I had been avoiding the pediatrician since our last visit, about 3 years ago (I’m happy to say we’ve not had a reason to return since for any sickness or malady!), when I took my son in for his eighteen month check up, at which point, I caved to pressure from the doctor. My son was given all of the vaccinations he had missed up to that point (he hadn’t been vaccinated at all, previous to this visit) in one sitting. That experience of feeling very pressured, and allowing my son to be given the vaccinations without being informed as to what he was being given, the potential side effects, left me with a bad taste in my mouth and I haven’t been excited to return to that place again.
Rather than have an open dialogue, which is what I would have liked, the doctor was right, I didn’t know anything about the issue, and for my own good, I should take the literature he gave me, read it, and ultimately do what he says. A very faith-based approach (have faith in me, and do what I tell you).
I believe most people want to be able to have a dialogue with their physician. An actual relationship where the patient feels like the doctor genuinely cares and listens. I don’t know if it is possible to have such a relationship when the physician takes a skewed patriarchal approach in his dealings with patients (I’m right, you’re wrong, I know what’s best, Shut up and take your prescription). There are several reasons why perhaps this is at best, wishful thinking. First, doctors don’t have a great deal of time to devote to each patient (again, back to simple economics). Second, and more importantly, they’ve gone through about a decade of specialized schooling, therefore, they are clearly the “authority” (right?).
I know I ought to be going to a naturopath. Then perhaps I won’t feel like it’s me versus “them.” The dilemma here is that insurance almost never covers visits or procedures performed by a N.D. Herein lies the problem which boils down to simple economics.
In a way, I’d like to choose both sides. Because I can see both sides of the argument and I think to some extent both sides have some compelling points.
So far, what makes most sense, is to do a modified schedule of vaccinations (instead of 10 vaccinations at one time) and opt to do some but not all (like the chicken pox vaccine, which I believe is unnecessary). Yet still, even this resolve is weak. This is why I’ve opted to do nothing so far, hoping that further research into the subject will empower me with the knowledge I need to make a decision I can feel good about.
You know when you go take your car into be fixed and the mechanic says, “Okay, you need this, this and this done to your car and this is how much it will cost.” Then you’ll say something like, “Well what is the serpentine belt exactly and why do I need to replace it?” Then he’ll go into some lengthy explanation, most of which makes little sense to you, but he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about so you think, what the heck, let’s go for it. And then you get the repairs, trusting that your mechanic knows best (this is of course assuming you’re like me and don’t know your engine from your carburetor).
I’m willing to do that with my car, but I’m not sure I’m willing to do that with my children.
My husband did point out that the issue of vaccinations (I believe it was a lawsuit initiated by parents of autistic children) was brought before the highest court in the U.S. (the Supreme Court) where they had the best doctors and experts speak on both sides. You know what the decision was? Inconclusive. There are just too many factors involved to prove that autism is caused by vaccinations alone.
Is it too much to ask though that a physician, instead of telling you what to do, gives you options, making you aware of the risks and benefits of a procedure, prescription, or other practice/protocol? I’m very aware that there are benefits to immunization. However there are risks involved as well. Everything in life involves a certain amount of risk.
I hate looking at my kid’s health and future health in terms of a sterile cost-benefit analysis, but that is what it comes down to, right?
Do the benefits outweigh the costs (or potential costs/risks)? Should you, or me, as the consumer, have faith in our physicians, and do whatever they tell us to do because they’ve gone through the training, have the degree, and know what they are talking about?
I think I’m just as undecided as was when I began writing this post, but if you, dear reader, have some light you’d like to shed on the issue, my ears and mind are open.