Vaccinate Your Damn Kids

Editor’s Note: All posts written in the “Controversial Wednesday” category come directly from the author and are in no way representative of or endorsed by Mom Meet Mom.

This post represents the opinion of Mom Meet Mom co-founder Julia High, but we want you to know that Mom Meet Mom supports all moms – even the ones who disagree with our founders. Additionally, there will be a follow-up opposing response blog coming soon from another mom.

TL; DR: Vaccines are safer than the alternative.

I’m going to lose some friends over this; the thing is that I don’t mind. There’s a chance that I’ll save some people from horrific, preventable diseases, or even death. Frankly, anyone who wants to get angry at me for that…well, let’s just say we are at a philosophical impasse.

Pregame: Why it might seem weird that I am pro-vaccination.

In nearly all other ways, I am a very crunchy, hippie mom. We buy local, organic, sustainably raised meat and produce. I wear my baby in a sling – heck, we don’t even own a stroller. Cloth diapered the older kid, still hoping to work out the logistics to do the same with the younger kid. No spanking, and we even try not to yell. Co-op preschool. I even ferment my own kombucha!

I’m a hippie mom – and I vaccinate on the standard schedule.

You know why? Because I love my kids, and I don’t want them to suffer through an awful disease. Moreover, I believe it is our civic duty to keep our vaccinations up-to-date.

And one more thing, and this is where I’ll really get in trouble:

Unless there is a medical reason that prevents you from getting your kids vaccinated (like an allergy to a vaccine component or a compromised immune system), if you choose not to vaccinate your children, I believe that you are a dangerously selfish person.

My reasons? Science and math.

I’m going to focus on the TDaP and MMR vaccines, since those are the ones that most anti-vaxxers skip.

Don’t Whoop On Me

TDaP stands for Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis. In the anti-vaccinating crowd, most people indicate that they skip this one due to the presence of “toxic chemicals,” most often specifically citing the presence of formaldehyde and aluminum. While it’s true that the vaccine does contain these ingredients, the amounts are miniscule, and their relationship to disease states is overblown. In short, they don’t pose a threat, even to an infant. You’ll find about 50 times more formaldehyde in a pear than you will in a TDaP vaccine. You heard me, in a pear. And don’t try to pull some kind of silly, “yeah, but you don’t inject a pear into your bloodstream,” argument, because a) you don’t inject vaccines into your bloodstream, either, those are intramuscular injections, and b) your body naturally produces formaldehyde, in amounts much higher than are found in any vaccine. It’s in the metabolic pathway for DNA synthesis, for crying out loud.

So, how about the aluminum? Aluminum causes Alzheimer’s disease, right? Well, actually, no, that’s not really clear. Back in 1965, some scientists injected aluminum directly into the brains of lab animals and found that their neural tissue broke down in ways that were reminiscent of Alzheimer’s disease. Then there was an outbreak of dementia among dialysis patients whose dialysis fluids contained aluminum, and another researcher noticed that in areas where tap water was high in aluminum, there was a higher prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease. But then, when researchers directly compared the amount of aluminum in the tissues of people with Alzheimer’s to age matched controls who did not have the disease, they found no difference. In fact, since roughly the early 1980s, attempts to link aluminum to Alzheimer’s have been unreliable. And, frankly, even if aluminum does cause Alzheimer’s, I’d rather have my kids live full lives that end in a few years of awful dementia than have my kids die of a preventable disease before they even get a chance to grow up.

In fact, I’m willing to exchange a few years of horrible dementia for my kids just to keep your kids from dying in their youth.

It’s Just a Measly Disease

Okay, up next, MMR. The anti-vaccination crowd suggests that the MMR vaccine causes autism. I’m going to put this in bold text because it’s important that you read this. The MMR vaccine does not cause autism. Autism is a genetically-based developmental disorder. That’s why it runs in families. That’s why it’s more common in boys than girls. That’s why researchers have documented autism symptoms in infants before they even reach the age when the first MMR booster is given. That’s why you can safely vaccinate your damn kids, because autism is a genetically-based developmental disorder that cannot be caused by a vaccine. So, what about Dr. Wakefield’s work linking autism to the MMR vaccine? Yeah, it turns out he misrepresented or straight up falsified the data from all 12 patients in his study. And the studies that have since debunked that work? Included thousands of patients, and produced replicable results clearly demonstrating that there is no link between vaccines and autism. So, if you choose not to vaccinate your kid as a result of your fear of autism, you’re really only increasing the odds that your autistic child will come down with a nasty case of the measles. Good luck with that.

Surely This Can’t Happen to Me.

Next, some of you will suggest that the risk of these diseases is so low that there is really no reason to vaccinate.

Really.

Perhaps you aren’t aware of the huge measles outbreak in the UK this year? Or the one in Texas? Did you know about the confirmed cases of measles in Boston, New York, Orlando, and Seattle? How about the 9,000 folks who were diagnosed with whooping cough in California in 2010? And, can I say for the record that both the 2010 pertussis outbreak and the current measles outbreak have been linked to low vaccination rates, with the highest rates of disease found in those communities with the lowest vaccination rates? That’s the thing; your choice to forgo vaccination doesn’t just affect your family. By increasing the odds that someone carrying one of these diseases will come in contact with another person lacking immunity, you not only increase the risk to other unvaccinated and under-vaccinated people (like, you know, newborns, old people, kids with allergies, and kids with cancer), you also increase the risk that the efficacy of existing vaccines will be reduced by giving the viruses and bacteria an opportunity to mutate. So don’t try to pull some ridiculous excuse that your vaccination choice is just between you and your doctor when you’re actively putting my kids at risk.

“Well, yeah, I had a cough for 4 months, but it wasn’t that bad.”

But enough debunking. Let me talk about these diseases for a few paragraphs, because kids are dying, and suffering horribly, and the parents of this generation have the luxury of not knowing what these diseases do to people because vaccination so effectively eliminated them from our experience. These statistics and symptom lists are all from the CDC:

Tetanus: Tetanus is a bacterial infection that you can get when a cut or puncture wound is exposed to dirt, feces, or spit (so, basically, any cut a kid gets). Symptoms include headaches, painful muscle cramping of the jaw, muscle spasms throughout the body, and seizures. The muscle cramps are intense enough to break the infected person’s bones and can make it impossible to breathe. 10-20% of patients will die, usually as a result of this breathing difficulty.

Diphtheria: Diphtheria is horrifying. Someone coughs or sneezes, exposing you to the bacteria. You get a fever for a few days, then suddenly your body starts to produce a grayish green coating in the back of the nose and throat that is so thick that you lose your ability to breathe or swallow. 10% of patients die. The good news is that vaccination has been particularly effective for diphtheria, with fewer than 5 cases reported annually, as compared to the 100,000 cases and 15,000 deaths each year before vaccination was common.

Pertussis: You have a cold – runny nose, maybe a mild fever for a couple of weeks. Then the coughing starts. The coughs come in fits, and it can be hard to breathe, and you might even throw up. The coughing fits last for two months, or sometimes even longer. Babies are particularly vulnerable to pertussis, with half of those infected ending up in the hospital, 1 in 8 ending up with pneumonia, and 1 in 200 dying. It’s no picnic for older kids or adults, either. Symptoms typically last 6-8 weeks, and can include coughing so intense that you lose bladder control (1 in 4), pass out (1 in 20) or break a rib (1 in 25).

Mumps: Admittedly, the mumps are pretty mild. You get a fever and a headache, and your salivary glands swell up painfully on both sides of your jaw. Every once in a while, someone might get encephalitis. Slightly more commonly, male patients end up with tender, inflamed testicles.

Measles: You feel a little run down with a sore throat and a cough for a few days. Then, suddenly, your temperature spikes, and you get a rash all over your body, spreading from the head down. One in 20 kids will end up with pneumonia. One in 1,000 will develop encephalitis. One in 1,000 will die.

Rubella: Rubella is an interesting one. The disease is pretty mild – a low fever, a rash that lasts a few days. No big deal, right? Unless, of course, you catch it while you are pregnant. Among pregnant women who get rubella, as many as 85% will give birth to a child with birth defects. Congenital heart defects, mental retardation, and deafness are the most common.

Did I mention that my mom was deaf?

Show Me the Money!

One last thing. Some of you will retort with, “All of your sources were funded by big pharma!”

Okay, here’s the thing: producing the MMR and TDaP vaccines? That’s not profitable for big pharma. In fact, until the avian flu scare ten years ago, investment in vaccine research and development was dropping off dramatically precisely because there simply weren’t profits to be made in the vaccine business. It was only the demand for flu vaccines and the development of new vaccines like Gardisil that allowed a resurgence in interest in the vaccine market. Second, whose data, exactly, would you trust? If you’re unwilling to accept anything short of Jenny McCarthy in a lab coat (and, incidentally, upon learning that her son didn’t have autism, Ms. McCarthy reversed her stance against vaccination), then you are essentially putting forth a complete unwillingness to accept any scientific support for vaccination. Let me put it plain: you are accepting the intuitions of celebrities over the data of research scientists, and it is costing children their lives and their happiness.

Like Gavin Norton, who died of pertussis when he was barely 10 weeks old. He contracted the disease before he was eligible for his first TDaP vaccination.

image credit: natalie norton, used with permission

Like 7-year-old Alijah Williams, who cut his foot, and ended up with a tetanus infection so severe that he was put into a medically induced coma. He hadn’t been vaccinated because his parents believed what they read online about the risk of adverse reactions to vaccines.

Used with permission, from vaccinews.net

Like Dakota Colfer-Williams, who lost her dad at the tender age of 4. He died of measles earlier this year; fortunately, she survived because he had recently brought her in for vaccination.

Father of Dakota, posted by Daily Mail

My youngest daughter, Isabelle, is still 7 months away from her first scheduled MMR vaccine.

One of those confirmed cases of measles in the Seattle area is a kid known to have visited my town while contagious. That kid? Not vaccinated. And now, every time my baby gets a rash, I have to wonder whether she’s going to end up with encephalitis.

Vaccinate your damn kids. Please.

Sources:

  • http://justthevax.blogspot.com/2009/05/toxin-gambit-part-1-formaldehyde.html
  • http://www.vaccinesafety.edu/components-DTaP.htm
  • http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com/2012/04/demystifying-vaccine-ingredients.html?m=1
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056430/#!po=17.0290
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/6350535/
  • http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930114101.htm
  • http://m.nydailynews.com/1.950012
  • http://www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/autism-and-asperger-syndrome-an-introduction/gender-and-autism/autism-why-do-more-boys-than-girls-develop-it.aspx
  • http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/closer-look-early-autism-symptoms-emerge-infancy
  • http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/29/vaccine-autism-connection-debunked-again/
  • http://pediatrics.about.com/od/measles/a/measles-outbreaks.htm
  • http://m.nbcnews.com/health/vaccine-refusal-fuels-whooping-cough-outbreaks-study-finds-8C11301986
  • http://www.cdc.gov/tetanus/about/causes-transmission.html
  • http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/diphtheria/fs-parents.html
  • http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/signs-symptoms.html
  • http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/complications.html
  • http://www.cdc.gov/mumps/about/signs-symptoms.html
  • http://www.cdc.gov/mumps/about/complications.html
  • http://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/signs-symptoms.html
  • http://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/complications.html
  • http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/rubella/fs-parents.html
  • http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/43/Supplement_3/S164.full
  • The Value of Vaccination – World Health Organization – https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&ved=0CDgQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.who.int%2Fimmunization_supply%2Ffinancing%2Fvalue_vaccination_bloom_canning_weston.pdf&ei=dNBMUorAFOHniAKI6oDgCQ&usg=AFQjCNEScPw1TOb9lzG13tmcrE0Spm4PKw&bvm=bv.53537100,d.cGE
  • http://m.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/conditions/how-vaccines-became-big-business/article572731/?service=mobile#!/
  • http://hollywoodlife.com/2010/02/26/jenny-mccarthy-says-her-son-evan-never-had-autism/
 If you are interested in submitting a post for a future Controversial Wednesday feature, email a detailed description of your idea directly to christa@mommeetmom.com

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Early Childhood Development: Managing Through Development Delays

The following guest post is from Dr. Alicen-J. McGowan PhD, a  Child and Adolescent Therapist in Chicago. Her specialties are Substance Use Disorders and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Dr. Alicen J. McGowan

 

Parenting is challenging enough without added pressure from outside sources. Meaningful relatives and friends ask questions such as, “Why isn’t she walking – your cousin’s girl was walking at this age?” or “My grandmother always told us that he should have teeth by four months – I wonder why he doesn’t have teeth.”  We begin to doubt ourselves and think that maybe we should talk with the Pediatrician, but we don’t know where to begin. And besides, we don’t want to bother the Doctor about silly things. But at some point – and it is different for everyone- we feel the need to have outside professional help if our child is behind in certain areas of development.

As a mother, grandmother and Child Therapist myself, I understand your concerns. Conversations about parenting challenges and your child’s development are difficult. We fear the worst.  If you feel like your child is falling short in one or a few areas, the following tips will help you determine how to move forward.

WATCH FOR EARLY SIGNS AND COMMUNICATE

This is tough because sometimes things are not as simple as they seem. Your Pediatrician will provide you with a list, detailing where your child should be at each stage of his or her development. jUST ASK FOR IT. This list is built with the typical child in mind and it’s important to understand that children fall on both sides of the markers and grow at different rates. If you start to see that your child is not excelling in a particular area- be it mentally, physically or emotionally- have a detailed conversation with your pediatrician, giving examples as early as possible. This will help the doctor guide you toward a better understanding of what to watch for. When you leave the appointment, continue to track your child and follow-up with the doctor accordingly. But remember this is just a guideline.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND YOUR SPOUSE

No one wakes up one morning and says to the universe, “Gee, I would like to have a child with all sorts of special needs and challenges.” There is little or nothing you can do to change what is given to you. This is one of those gifts you cannot exchange. But you can change your attitude. The most successful parents are those who work as a team. Talk, laugh, live well, and keep learning about your child’s struggle. But do it together. Support each other and do not take this on as a one-person crusade.

LOVE YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILD EQUALLY

Now this may be difficult at first. We are socialized into believing that our children must come first at all costs. But just as in the airplane instruction manual, when the oxygen mask falls from above, put yours on first. You need to stay in good shape by taking time each day for yourself. Reach out to a friend for an hour of their time, so you can take a walk. Sit down on a chair and read while your child is napping. Or give yourself a facial. The housework will be there later. And that one hour will be rejuvenating.

UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR PEDIATRICIAN IS NOT A WIZARD

He or she is trying to be compassionate. They take your observations and put them into a category. That is all the name or diagnosis is – nothing more, nothing less. It is a starting point for developing a game plan to help your child become even more wonderful. You already know there is a challenge ahead. So deal with the news as a newspaper reporter does.  It is just information. Don’t give the label power. The words are a guide – neutralize them. And begin your plan for a new adventure with your amazing child!

TRUST YOURSELF

You can tell if your child has delays. You can see if he or she is behind what are socially expected norms. Your child will develop on his own time schedule – not yours or mine! If you are certain that your child needs more time, so be it. You and only you are the authority on your child. Now, that does not mean that you keep your head in the sand. Make sure you continue to monitor your child’s development and educate yourself along the way. If he or she continues to excel at their own pace, that’s wonderful. If not, it might be time to get some outside support.

Lastly, keep this in mind. Your Pediatrician or Nurse Practitioner are there to help facilitate your child’s wellness. They understand that we, parents, do not have all the answers and neither do they. But if we work together, we can be certain that our child will have a great head start on a wonderful life.

Gain Support and a Positive Attitude by Finding Moms of Children with Autism Nearby

Discovering that your child has been diagnosed with autism can be extremely difficult. Without the right  support system, you could find yourself living and parenting in isolation. The truth is you are far from alone on this journey. There are very likely several moms and caregivers nearby who are going through the same emotions and facing the same challenges in your town. Just like you, they’re trying to provide the best atmosphere and education so that your child can thrive and move forward.  And though doctors and local organizations that cater to the autism community are very helpful in providing you with tools to help your child, there is something to be said about connecting with someone who is living what you are living day in and day out.

Here are three ways you can defeat the isolation that can come with an autism diagnosis at any age:

Plan some playdates that will cater to your child’s needs. Children with autism often thrive in different settings than children who do not fall on on the spectrum. Though it is very important to engage your child in activities with children outside of the spectrum, it is also critical to stimulate your child in an environment that he/she thrives in. Rather than go at it alone, try to find another mom in the area with a child who is also on the spectrum and focus playtime on activities that your children can enjoy together.

Discover new social learning techniques that come from real-life experiences. With all of the research shared within the autism community, present day moms with children on the spectrum are armed with some remarkable tools and tactics that are truly groundbreaking. There is no question that the medical community and society have come a long way, and we are bound to see some pretty amazing things in the future. Take advantage of the resources available, but also seek out real-world techniques that other moms have discovered while raising their children. You may be surprised to discover the simplest techniques that have help a nearby mom tremendously also work for your child.

Give yourself a break. You deserve it. Every mom needs a break from the day-to-day momma routine. You are an amazing parent and you should celebrate all that you do with some social time. Hire a sitter or ask the hubby to watch the kids for a night or on a Saturday while you get out with another mom who needs the break just as much. Hit a local spa for that message, go see a new movie, indulge in a shopping spree, or go out on the town for a few much deserved cocktails.

At Mom Meet Mom, we understand firsthand that many mothers face unique family challenges. Don’t forget that it takes a village to raise a child and your village could very likely be right down the road. If you are raising a child with autism, we would love to hear from you. Your input/feedback will help us to continue to improve the Mom Meet Mom experience for families whose experiences include autism.

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