The controversy surrounding vaccinating was in full-force as I went from thinking, "kids, maybe?" to scheduling sex for the optimal chances of conception with the precision of a NASA engineer. Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaccination arguments stuck with me when I finally got pregnant after a round of IUI, though they have long since been debunked. The thought of there ~maybe~ being a correlation between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination and a child developing autism made me second-guess vaccinating my daughter after all we had gone through. Becoming a parent means dealing with so many difficult decisions — what is your sleep approach? Will you supplement? — but somehow, those choices didn't have the fear associated with them that vaccination did a few years ago. I had mixed feelings about vaccinating, but I’m so glad I did. Still, it showed me first-hand how powerful the pressure can be on new moms to make big decisions under a deluge of conflicting information.
I felt overwhelmed with all the information thrown at me and completely second-guessed my personal feelings regarding whether to vaccinate or not.
Although I wavered between vaccinating or not vaccinating my daughter, my husband stood firmly in the pro-vaccination camp. And despite all the blogs and celebrities advocating for not vaccinating our kids, he eventually convinced me that vaccinations were imperative to keeping our daughter safe. But, like many first new moms, I felt overwhelmed with all the information thrown at me and completely second-guessed my personal feelings regarding whether to vaccinate or not. I mean if other moms who came before me have pored over documents and have first-hand accounts of vaccinations harming their children, then they must know what they are talking about, right?
Although I did not personally know anyone whose child was negatively affected by vaccines, I worried that someone I was hurting my child by not considering how vaccines could impact my daughter. That's what people were telling you, when the anti-vaccination movement was at its peak. I have to admit my husband did a very thorough job researching articles and studies on possible implications of not vaccinating your child and would forward them to my email every week. All the anti-vaccine hype caused by celebrities and being broadcast in the media only piggybacked on my fears and made me question every study, article and blog post on vaccines.
I honestly do not understand the elements that make up a vaccine or the effects they could have on my child, and fear of not knowing how my daughter would react to all those combined vaccines made me worry. It would have been helpful to have a doctor or someone in the medical field break down exactly what is in vaccines, and in layman's terms explain how they work, and why they will not hurt my kid.
In my third trimester, I decided to talk to my OB-GYN who has two children of her own about all the rumors swarming around vaccinations and autism. She acknowledged the anti-vaccine wave that had hit the U.S. but explained that there have been no credible studies that proved vaccinations caused autism, in fact that the evidence that autism is caused by vaccines had been disproven. When my husband and I interviewed potential pediatricians a few weeks later, I also asked them about their beliefs and suggestions about vaccinations.
One doctor dismissed my concern, basically telling me, "research findings, blah blah." But the second pediatrician completely helped ease my mind. He smiled at me and acknowledged my concerns, but explained how important vaccines are to protect our babies from infectious, preventable diseases. He also handed me handouts on immunizations and potential side effects. Having an open dialogue with my daughter's pediatrician put me at ease because he took the time to explain how vaccines work, addressed recent studies and gave me some websites to visit.
I gleaned tons of information from the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which breaks down how vaccines work, what a vaccination schedule should look like, and the risks and benefits of being vaccinated. Herd immunity was not a benefit I was aware of until I read more about how a critical mass of vaccinated people puts non-immunized and immunocompromised kids at a lesser risk of contracting a disease. The CDC has created resources for medical providers to help talk to parents about vaccines for their children, and the risks if they are not vaccinated.
Today, some pediatric offices have policies to refuse to take on patients who are not vaccinated. The most common reasoning is safety concerns for other patients, particularly other kids who are not yet immunized.
But the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages medical providers to service unvaccinated children, revisiting the topic and continue to try and persuade the parents to vaccinate their children. Even so, the AAP provided some guidance in its Clinical Report for providers who may want to cut ties with anti-vaccination parents:
Thankfuly, I left my appointment feeling confident that we should vaccinate our daughter. I trust my doctors, and believe they only have my daughter's best interest in mind. My husband and I both were vaccinated as kids and we both received the influenza and the pertussis vaccine in anticipation of our daughter being born.
I allowed myself to get swept up in the anti-vaccine movement despite all the credible information provided online. I read the reputable reports that showed no correlation between vaccines and autism, and read information on Infant Immunizations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The American Academy of Pediatrics that spoke in support of vaccines. This time, I read them with an open mind. When my daughters were vaccinated, they experienced a low-grade fever, some fussiness and soreness on the injection site. Just as our trusted pediatrician told us.
While I respect the parenting choice argument, I also worry that declining vaccination rates may put other children at risk, specifically children who are immunocompromised or too young to be vaccinated. Even vaccinated children are at risk, according to JAMA Pediatrics study, which noted that a “5 percent decline in measles vaccination rates could as much as triple the
number of kids who get infected with the virus in the United States."
I had mixed feelings about vaccinating but I’m so glad I did. Both of my girls have been, and will continue to receive vaccines according to the vaccine schedule. Of course my daughters are not invincible and I am aware that they will get sick, especially since my girls encounter germs everyday at school, the gym, and basically everywhere they go. But I feel secure knowing they have a layer of protection against common diseases that could be fatal.
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