Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Vaccine Free does NOT Mean Risk Free

There was a question on one of the pages that I keep up with on Facebook this weekend that dealt with vaccine ‘shedding’ (secondary transmission) and the risk that recently vaccinated children pose for non-vaccinated ones. As a non-vaxing parent, this topic is of interest to me, but it also made me realize that there are a large number of non-vaxing parents who might be doing it wrong.

By ‘wrong’, I mean that they’re mistakenly thinking that by avoiding vaccines and the risks associated with them, they’re in a ‘safe’ zone. Here’s my reply to the original thread (with parenthetical remarks to clarify in absence of the original thread):

I never worried about that (shedding and exposure/danger to my unvaxed kids). If your stance is that not vaxing is ‘safer’, then you understand, accept and are prepared to deal with the fact that your child MIGHT GET SICK. Non-vaxing is not an open door to safety. There ARE risks associated with not vaxing, and it’s our job as non-vaxing parents to educate ourselves on how to properly treat a child with polio or chicken pox or measles or any other disease that they might contract. My kids are unvaxed and healthy – and they have yet to get a so-called VPD. We never worried overmuch about exposure to a vaxed child – but if they got measles or something, we’d treat them according to the research we’ve done and trust that their immune system will be stronger, and that they’ll now have the benefit of long-term immunity to it. I believe that non-vaxing is safer for my kids – but I’m also not blind to the risks associated with that choice.

There were several recommendations to avoid recently vaccinated friends’ kids, and to avoid people whom you know to have recently had a live-virus vaccine (like flu-mist). I think that’s making it harder than necessary on new parents. Isolation is a factor in PPD, and advising mothers with young babies to isolate themselves in order to avoid exposure to shedding is not the best of plans in my opinion. Now, that’s not to say that I expose(d) my kids, willy-nilly, to germs – more that it is impossible to monitor everyone around you and be aware of their vaccination status. At the park, at the mall, at the grocery store – you can’t escape children without living in a bubble.

For one thing, your child is at no more risk by being at  a recently vaccinated friend’s house than being in the grocery store where they’re administering flu-mist vaccines. In fact, I’d say there is less risk of exposure because you’re talking about one vaccinated child (who may or may not be shedding) and a store FULL of recently vaccinated people whom you know to be shedding.

Several posters chimed in on that thread with variations of ‘I want to know about this, too”. Now, I understand that some may have and just want as many opinions on the subject as possible – I’m like that and can so totally dig it – but there’s a difference in gathering info and asking ‘what should I do’ on Facebook (or any internet forum) where the quality of the information you get may or may not be up to par. Please understand, I’m not knocking the wisdom of seeking like-minded support. What I am saying is, take what you hear (or read) with a grain of salt and do your own research so that you have a well-rounded pool of information from a variety of resources to draw from, and don’t underestimate the power if your own instinctive reasoning.

Something I want to make abundantly clear here is that avoiding vaccines and the risks that they pose is not the same thing as being risk-free. The decision to vax or not is about gathering information, assessing your personal ideals and lifestyle and doing some risk management. Essentially you’re choosing between, at its most basic:

a) Vaccinating possible benefits: reduced probability of contracting a particular disease or illness and/or shortened duration or severity of illness if contracted possible risks: adverse reactions as mild as a fever or pain at injection site or as severe as developmental delays, long-term/permanent disability; death

b) Not vaccinating possible benefits: less exposure to toxic compounds and heavy metals in infancy, possibility of exposure to a disease and acquiring natural immunity to it, no need for booster shots (and additional exposure to toxic compounds and heavy metals in the developmental years) possible risks: exposure to a disease could lead to a more severe or longer duration of a disease; long-term /permanent disability; death

The risks and benefits of both paths are shockingly similar, aren’t they? This is clearly not a subject to be taken lightly or to be made casually after cruising some blogs and forums online. The part that makes this decision so very personal is how your lifestyle and habits will affect those benefits and risks. Your level of research and personal experience are also going to affect how you’ll lean when it comes to decision-making time. Choosing to keep your kids vax-free comes with a set of responsibilities that all parents should be aware of and actively filling, but that are perhaps even more important when you’re choosing to go against the status-quo. Staying away from people who may inadvertently pose a risk to your child is one way to do that, but I think a far better strategy is to be pro-active with your lifestyle and child-care practices.

Lifestyle and parenting practices play an immeasurable role in your family’s health. If you’re a breastfeeding family, that’s a boost to the immune system for your breastfed kids (no matter how long you breastfed for). If you’re an exclusive and long-term breastfeeding family, that will have an even bigger and more lasting  impact on your child’s immune system and overall health. If your family’s nutrition is ‘better’ – more fresh foods and less processed, again, this will have an impact on your child’s health. If you use complimentary alternative and holistic preventative therapies, those will also play a role in your child’s overall health. There are so many factors go into the vaccine debate – but NEVER is your path ‘risk-free’.

As I said before, we don’t vaccinate, but that doesn’t mean that ‘not vaccinating’ is the end of our health management. I went into detail about how we choose to care for our family instead of vaccinating in a previous post. Even though right now Loverly Husband and I are pretty dead-set against the currently available vaccines, we’re not necessarily against the practice of vaccination (two separate issues, BTW). There is new information released every month and medical science is always making new breakthroughs. We keep up with current info, and should safe and effective (meaning reliable and reproducible research/evidence funded by non-biased parties over a reasonable period of time) vaccines come on the market then we will re-evaluate our decision. This is one of those decisions that isn’t made once – it’s one that frequently needs to be updated and revised according to the availability of information – which a contentious parent is always seeking.

Like so many other things associated with having a child, the work associated with this decision is deceiving. I’ve often seen pregnant women stress and worry and research labor and childbirth with the unconscious thought that it will all be over once the baby is here. Then the baby is born and they realize that labor and childbirth was only the tip of the iceberg. Parenting is a long and arduous process – one that is seemingly never-ending when it comes to making decisions or revising old ones. Being responsible for another life (or lives) is an awesome responsibility and not one that can ever afford to be taken lightly. The question of vaccination is one that should be carefully examined and weighed in terms of possible benefit and possible risk – what risks are you willing to assume for what potential benefit to your child and family?

Warmly,

~h

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