Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Our Whooping Cough Story

The Beginning:

It all started back in early May.  Heidi came down with this random cough.  It started as just a cough...no runny nose, no sniffles, no fever...just a mild, slightly irritating cough.  We actually thought it might be seasonal allergies, as we were assured by several people that 'everyone develops allergies in Virginia.'  About a week after the cough started, she developed a runny nose..and I was actually relived because I figured it must just be a cold.   Somehow having one mild summer cold seems preferable to suffering from seasonal allergies every year (so far, no one in our family seems to get seasonal allergies or hay fever).  A few days later, Greta and John started with a runny nose and cough and a day or so later, I started with the congestion and runny nose. 

I loaded everyone up with the home remedies I use to get rid of a cold or flu FAST and they seemed to be helping.  Heidi's runny nose stopped running, but she still had a lingering cough which progressively got both worse and better.  It got better in that she was coughing a lot less frequently,but it got worse in that the coughing episodes started to last longer and longer.

The Diagnosis:

At that point, I started to suspect that we may be dealing with the whooping cough.  This was about 2.5 weeks after Heidi first showed symptoms.  She was the only one having these "longer coughing episodes".  Greta, John and I still seemed to have just a regular cold.  That afternoon, Heidi had one coughing episode that involved the classic "whooping  sound".  It sounds like a sharp intake of breath....almost a cough, cough, cough, gasp/whoop, cough, cough, cough, cough, gasp/whoop.   That was IT...I called our pediatrician and made an appointment to take them in the very next day. 

She just had  that one bad coughing spell, so I still didn't really think it was whooping cough.  The doctor didn't think so either, but decided to test all four kids (even Elsa, who wasn't showing any symptoms at all).   So she did the test (a nasal swab) and sent the results off the health department with the promise of the results the next day. In the meantime, she diagnosed Heidi with a sinus infection and prescribed antibiotics (which I really don't think she had a sinus infection as her sinuses didn't really hurt).   Anyway,  the next day I got a call...all four kids tested positive.  She wanted to put everyone in the family on antibiotics (including me and Ben) and we were told to quarantine ourselves for five days.  After five days of antibiotics, you are apparently no longer contagious. 

So, like dutiful  little citizens, we got our antibiotic pills (or bright pink, artificially colored syrup as the case may be) and stayed home.   I wasn't thrilled about the antibiotics...normally we avoid them but this was the first time since 2009 that anyone in our family had been on antibiotics...(it was John's first time ever at age 6 and Elsa's first time ever at age 19 months) and the following week was my little brother's wedding. We didn't want to miss that or worry about spreading the whooping cough, so we took the antibiotics.

So, after the initial cold portion of the disease, Heidi, Greta and John each settled into the coughing portion.  They would otherwise be fine, but a few times a day would have a coughing episode that ranged from slightly to moderately severe.  Only Heidi and John ever coughed with the whooping sound.  It didn't really keep them up at night (they might each wake up coughing 1-3 times per night, but that was all) and didn't really affect their day to day activities.  Occasionally, they would have a ton of mucous and throw up with the coughing, but generally it wasn't bad.  Over time, the coughing episodes got less and less frequent and just started to fade away.  Now, they still occasionally get a mild coughing spell if they laugh too hard, or swallow a bit too much water while swimming, but they are basically over it. 

Strangely enough, Elsa developed coughing symptoms about 3 weeks after everyone else.  And, she never had the initial cold part....just started with straight on coughing.  Her coughing was never that bad and went away sooner than with the other kids.  I can only assume that she got antibiotics early enough for them to actually make a difference. 

Despite the fact that I showed initial cold symptoms, I never developed a cough and Ben never developed anything at all.

About a week after we were diagnosed, John came down with a fever/lethargy...right before my brother's wedding.  We actually took him to urgent care, and they said he was fine...lungs were clear, no pneumonia or anything.  He was better the next day and  the doctor seemed to think it was some random virus, unrelated to the whooping cough. 

With all four kids, I did the Vitamin C protocol and that made a noticeable difference.  When I slacked off on the Vitamin C, their coughs got worse (in both severity and frequency) and when I was diligent with the Vitamin C, their coughs were less severe and less frequent. 

Overall though, it wasn't that bad. No one broke a rib coughing.  No one got pneumonia.  No one turned blue or had to go to the hospital.  The worst that happened, is that a few times, someone would cough so hard they threw up..but that wasn't that frequent and not often enough to really affect them negatively in any significant way.

The Health Department and Social Issues: 

To be honest, the social ramification of getting a vaccine-preventable disease (like whooping cough) were worse than the disease itself for us. As soon, as I got the diagnosis, I immediately started contacting EVERYONE we had been in contact with in the last 2-3 weeks to warn them.  THAT was hard.  And, the health department got involved. I was in contact with them, and they wanted to know the names of EVERYONE we had been in contact with, so THEY could warn them as well.  Lots of calls back and forth with the health department, and one worker even came to the house (we just sat outside and talked, much to my relief, she didn't actually go inside my house), but it was easier to go over everything in person rather than over the phone).  The thing with whooping cough, is that apparently the severity can be greatly lessened if antibiotics are taken VERY EARLY in the course of the disease (before symptoms start or right when they first start and the disease resembles a common cold. 

To be honest it was pretty humiliating.   But, everyone was super nice about it.  No one came and threw tomatoes at our house.  No one yelled at us or ostracized us.  In fact, I got the nicest email from our homeschool coop leader.  She said a lot of people were concerned about us and were praying for us.   She wanted to know how we were doing, and wanted to let me know that people were praying for us.  That REALLY touched me.    I wasn't even concerned about us.  My kids didn't have it that bad and I never really worried about them. For us I didn't find it to be a scary disease.   I mostly worried about other people....if we had inadvertently spread the disease to a young baby or someone who had asthma or breathing problems or otherwise wasn't able to weather the disease as well as we could. Spreading the disease was actually a bigger concern for me than the actual disease itself and how it would affect us.

However, I was relieved to learn (from the health department) that it takes direct and  prolonged contact to spread whooping cough. They weren't worried at all about random people you pass in the grocery story or anything like that.  They were only worried about people that we had direct and prolonged contact of more than 1 hour with. Kids in the same class, playdates, chess club...etc. Apparently the health department has this whole formula they use to determine who at risk and who is not and it involves the length and proximity of contact. 

Thankfully, we caught the whooping cough early enough, that we were able to notify everyone, take antibiotics (to stop it from being contagious) and warn everyone so they could take antibiotics if they showed symptoms, as I do believe that antibiotics are an effective treatment IF they are taken early enough (usually they aren't, as the first two weeks resemble nothing more than a cold.)

I also learned that whooping cough is highly under diagnosed and under reported.  If 2/4 of my kids hadn't developed the classic "whooping sound" we would have never suspected it.  And, the fact that Ben and I never coughed with it, means that we probably at some point had gotten whooping cough (likely in college) and just never realized because it wasn't that severe.  At least, I know for a fact that I hadn't had a whooping cough vaccine since I was a tiny baby (when I had a very severe reaction to it). 

The health department said that we were the first case of whooping cough they've had all year.  But, clearly Heidi got it from SOMEONE and since we hadn't left the area, she'd had to have gotten it locally. Since there hadn't been any other reported cases, whoever that SOMEONE was, was undiagnosed and unreported and not counted in any sort of statistics.   

The Vaccination Question. 

Now, for the part of the story that is likely going to be my most controversial post yet.  What about the vaccine? Why didn't we get it?  Or did we?

Heidi did get the vaccine...she was fully vaccinated up through 6 months of age. 

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 After her 6 month shots, she had a bad reaction...that night she cried inconsolably for several hours.  It was awful.  She was normally a very happy, content, laid-back baby. At 6 months, she was well past the colic stage and almost never cried.   Except that night she did and when I called the doctor's office, they said it wasn't from the vaccine.    But, what else could it have been from?  It was so out of character for her.  She wouldn't nurse, she wouldn't calm down..she just cried, inconsolably.   This was a baby who never turned down nursing and rarely cried. Eventually she did nurse and fall asleep and all seemed to be well.  Although in her early years, she was diagnosed with global developmental  delay and required several years of speech and occupational therapy.  I'm not saying the delays were from the vaccines....I'm just saying that she was the only one of my children to ever have any sort of "diagnosis" of anything. 

After that I started looking at vaccines a bit more closely.   I'm only going to take about the DTaP vaccine here, but Greta, John and Elsa never received that particular vaccine and Heidi never received any boosters.  I feel that all vaccinations are a risk/benefit analysis.   It drives me crazy, when the "pro-vaccine experts" refuse to acknowledge the risks involved.  I definitely believe that vaccines offer benefits...I do think they can be effective at preventing disease.  That said, I also think they carry risks and that the decision to vaccinate is a personal decision where everyone must make that risk/benefit analysis for themselves and it may vary depending on the vaccine/disease/individual. 

They say that the DTaP vaccine is "safe." But, you know what...they said that about the DTP vaccine as well...the vaccine that I had a horrible reaction to as a baby...the same vaccine that was routinely given to babies for over 20 years (I think), before they came out with a safer version (the DTaP) and pulled the DTP. Before they took thimerosal out of vaccines, they said that thimerosal-containing vaccines were "safe", but if they were so "safe" why did they remove that ingredient?  They say that hormonal birth control is "safe", even though it's a known Class  1 carcinogen, that doesn't stop doctors from prescribing it to millions of women every day.   I'm not against drugs or vaccines...they can be life-saving and useful.   But, I do think one needs to carefully weigh the risks/benefits of them. In many cases the benefits outweigh the risks, but not all.

I'm very fortunate that my kids are very healthy.  They don't have any allergies or asthma or eczema.  They haven't had any serious illness.  No one has a chronic disease. Heidi (so far) is the only one who had any sort of delays or learning issues.   However, from where I'm sitting, it looks as though Americans are getting less and less healthy.  It seems as though more and more people (of all ages) are suffering from chronic illness and disease...especially autoimmune disease and immune disorders (like allergies). It seems as though cancer is increasing at an alarming rate.  Am I saying that vaccines are the cause for all that?  NO!  I have no idea what the cause is.  I suspect it is combination of factors.  But, I do think scientists need to look at these things more critically....and I'm not sure that they are.  I'm not sure that anyone is really studying why allergies or diabetes or cancer are increasing at an alarming rate.  It says right on the vaccines inserts that vaccines are not tested for carcinogenicity or mutagenicity.  With the alarmingly increasing rates of cancer, that concerns me..a lot. There are a lot of different theories out there about why autoimmune disease and immune disorders and cancer are increasing....and I would guess it is likely due to a combination of several factors.  I do believe that it is possible that vaccines may play one part in that.  I'm NOT saying that vaccines definitely play a part, but I do think it is possible that they might

I'm NOT anti-vaccine. I'm NOT trying to convince anyone to do what I do. I'm just trying to explain my thought process...why we were/are a bit hesitant about certain vaccines.  

I can understand how people have a hard time understanding why in the world anyone WOULDN'T choose to get all the vaccines possible. Why possibly put yourself or your children at the risk of a disease if you could possibly prevent it?  I used to be one of those people.  

I do believe that vaccines can be life-saving...but I also believe that they may carry long-term risks and that those risks may not be well studied or even known.  With the bad reactions in my family that we've had to both the DTP and DTaP vaccine, we opted not to get that particular one for our children.

Do I regret not vaccinating against whooping cough?

No. Some would say that we played the vaccine game and lost, but I don't feel as though as though we lost at all.  We got the disease, we weathered it okay, we survived and in the end, we likely gained  stronger immunity than we could have gotten from the vaccine. (I say "likely" because how immunity from getting the disease compares to immunity from the vaccine is not well known although I believe that generally getting a disease provides stronger and longer-lasting immunity than getting the vaccine).  

So that's our story.  Do you have a story to share?

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  1. SHUT UP!!! We're living this exact post right now!! My 13yo and 20mo have it, we've all taken the abx. My 13yo is fully vax'd (dtap) 20mo not at all.. we're following the Vitamin C protocol, and no one whooped for at least 2 weeks!!
    **actually we're out of OJ, and no one can tolerate the sodium ascorbate w/o it.. I need to fix that today**
    I feel exactly the same way about the disease.. and my 20mo is vomiting often with her cough..
    It's hard to be in the middle, no pro-not anti, vaccine.. I'm so glad we're not alone...

    1. Sorry you guys are dealing with the same thing. Hope you all recover soon!

  2. Thank you for sharing your story Amelia, and I'm so happy everyone is better and feeling well! I am not a vaccine expert, but we make sure to never miss our kids shots. Neither of my children has suffered any side effects from their vaccines as of yet. Like I said, I am no expert, but I have a hard time believing that no one in the scientific community is studying the effects of these medicines or the reason why allergies and cancers are increasing. I do believe that there are a variety of factors causing the increase of disease: diet, lifestyle, environmental factors, etc. The whole thing about vaccines causing autism has been discredited (thank goodness) because I really couldn't stand Jenny McArthy and other celebrities who acted like they were experts and advocated for people to not get their children vaccinated when they were not telling the truth. I don't know if vaccines are a factor in the increase in disease (although I tend to lean more towards diet, lifestyle, and environment), but I do know that since there has been this movement towards not getting children vaccinated among young families, diseases that were essentially extinct have come back: measles, mumps, etc. When I had my first baby, my husband and I had to get DTap boosters because there was an outbreak of whooping cough in our area. You are very fortunate that your children were not at a fragile age when they contracted whooping cough. I've heard several stories of infants less than 6 months who have gotten it and most do not survive. I understand it is a very personal decision, but when we make these decisions, we can't just think of our own family/children. We need to think of the community. There are people who have medical conditions who can not get vaccines who rely on others being vaccinated to help prevent them to get disease that could potentially kill them. You are right in that all families need to weigh the risks/benefits of the vaccines/medicines. For me personally, after researching and hearing stories, the benefits of vaccines greatly outweigh the risks. Just my two cents! Thanks again for sharing your story!

    1. Disease is such a complicated thing, and since it likely is due to a combination of factors (genetics, enviroment, diet) it is really hard for scientific studies to pinpoint what the "cause" is when there are likely a variety of factors AND different factors likely affect different people in different ways. This is especally true if there is no "obvious" connection that is easily studied (like the connection between smoking and lung cancer).

    2. Also wanted to add that I defintiely understand what you are saying about how it affects other people. I'm very glad that we were diagnosed early enough that we could really mitigage the spread and warn others before they started symptoms (when it can be prevented with antibiotics).

  3. I'm so glad you wrote this, Amelia! You told your story well.
    I personally don't have any exciting vaccine/illness stories. We tend to accept *most* vaccines that our pediatricians offer, but we delay and stagger them when possible. We also only get flu/pneumonia vaccines in years when I'm pregnant or we have a newborn during the winter. My son with type 1 diabetes also gets a regular flu vaccine since vomiting posses significant risks for diabetics... but... he DID get a bad stomach bug this past winter, so you know you can't protect against it all :) You can just do the best you can do for your family. Thanks for sharing your perspective on the issue! I'm so happy that your little ones are on the mend :)

  4. When I was a teacher, we had a few cases of whooping cough at school. It was made into a big deal - meetings after school and everything. The big problem is not so much in children and adults, but it can be fatal in infants. The health dept suggested that all students with infant siblings stay home until the cases were under control! During my last pregnancy, my doctor's office pushed that my husband and I update our pertussis shots and gave us the infant danger speech too. Now, I don't know how much of it is just doctor paranoia, but ever since then, I have absolutely been paranoid about whooping cough with my infants and avoid taking them out until they have that first round of shots. It actually makes me feel better to know that it has to be prolonged contact to spread, not just a grocery store visit. We do fully vaccinate, but I do understand why people don't. I'm glad it worked out okay for y'all!

  5. While I've read that stem cells have been used in vaccines, there are morally derived ones as well. As someone who vaccinates, I don't think comparing birth control and vaccines is fair.

    Scientific research has borne out vaccines as the best means we have for preventing diseases that can cripple and kill. They of course have side effects and I'm so glad researchers continue to modify and improve to reduce those side effects.

    Between my 9 y/o and my 2y/o, I noticed a significant improvement in vaccines. My older daughter has a peanut allergy. I think this is no way caused/correlated to vaccination. I think it's more likely due to the generic modifications of food.

    There are people that can't/shouldn't vaccinate. I think your family may very well fall into this category with adverse reactions to that particular vaccination. But, I think that makes it even more important for those of us who do not have those reactions to be vaccinated.

    I vaccinate my children just as much to protect others as I do to protect my own family. We are healthy and able to be vaccinated, and it's our immunity that many others depend on to stay healthy.

    It is wonderful that no one in your family has had long term consequences from whooping cough, but I've met the mothers with the hospitalized newborns. This story could have had a much different ending. Thank God it didn't.

    I've always viewed vaccines as a kind of necessary evil. I don't like to be exposed to the vaccine, but my parents tell stories about children being crippled and killed by things I no longer have to be concerned for.

    I'm so glad your story had a happy ending. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    1. By comparing vaccine to birth control I wasn't saying anything about the MORALITY of vaccines. I definitely don't think vaccines are immoral or anything at all.

      My point is just that birth control is KNOWN to be a dangerous carcinogen, yet it is still routinely prescribed. So, it's not a stretch (to me) to think that there are other medical treatments that are dangerous, yet still in use. Birth control was just one example.

    2. Bu while Amelia did not argue it, the morality of vaccines is clearly a question that needs to be examined as well, especially the principle of double effect. There is no definitive answer since the facts differ in each case. We must all pray for a gift of proper discernment when confronted with these questions and courage to go through with it, should the answer we think is proper prove to be unpopular.

    3. Ben is completely right.

      I thought it was fairly clear in your post, Amelia, that you had discerned your decision. Discernment rightfully means weighing all options unique to your situation and making the best decision you can from them. It sounds like you have done just that. And it sounds like you are continuing to discern, which is important too, as it keeps us in the proper disposition to be able to make the right decision if circumstances change, whether a popular one or unpopular.

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Amelia. I appreciate you making yourself vulnerable to share an important decision that you've made and how the consequences are not always clear, no matter which path you've taken.

  6. You are lucky that your family made it through Whooping Cough. Many do not. My thirteen month old niece died from whooping cough several years ago. Her parents did not vaccinate her. It is something they will never forgive themselves for.

    1. I am very sorry to hear this. In the United States at least, for many years now, all deaths from whooping cough have occurred in infants under the age of 6 months. I'm sure it's different in some other countries, though. This info is from The Vaccine Book, by Robert Sears.

  7. I'm so sorry about your niece. You're right in that the disease can be dangerous. According to this website the death rate from whooping cough was 1% in the 1940's (before the vaccine and I'm also assuming before we had as advanced medical treatment). http://www.whoopingcough.net/statistics.htm Again, I'm so sorry about your niece.

  8. Thanks for sharing your story, Amelia. And I am sorry that it has been such a long saga for you all.

    One thought that comes to mind, though, is that the TDaP is used to prevent not just pertussis, but also diptheria and tetanus which have the potential to be much more deadly than whooping cough. Whooping cough is typically only fatal in infants, and even then, the mortality rate is only 1-2%. Those older than the age of 1 have a very low risk of actually dying from the disease. Tetanus and diptheria, though, are another story. The risk of death from tetanus ranges from 5-42%, depending on age. The risk of death from diptheria ranges from 5-20%, again, depending on age. I am definitely not saying that you should be vaccinated with TDaP. In fact, I generally think along the same lines as you in that I would rather get an illness if it is simply going to be a nuisance and not actually harm me or my family than get a vaccine or take other pills to prevent it. But, I am simply pointing out that the vaccine you mentioned is also designed to prevent other more fatal diseases than whooping cough.

    I am so glad to hear that you are all finally on the mend!

    1. Yes, I do worry about tetanus (diptheria not so much because it's so rare in the US although tetanus is pretty rare too). We definitely try to keep on top of wound care to prevent tetanus and would seek medical help and get the tetanus immunoglobulin if it was needed after an injury. I really hate combined vaccines....I so wish that they were available for a single disease instead of combined...it seems as though it would be easier to determine adverse reactions if they were single instead of combined.

  9. I am glad that everyone in your family is feeling better!

    We tend to hear about whooping cough every year here because we live in a community with a high Amish population, so it definitely makes it rounds.

    My children are vaccinated, but they are delayed. I have never noticed any reactions from the vaccination other than tenderness at the injection sight. I have always been thankful for that.

    I think you discussed your family's story in a gentle way. I wish more people on both sides of the debate would approach the subject like you have here.

  10. Very well done, Amelia. We have a very similar story: my eldest had a reaction to the DTaP. (My brother and I both had severe reactions to the DTP.) At my pediatrician's suggestion, we delayed for her and the rest of our kids. When I was pregnant with my current youngest, all my kids got that same illness you've described. The difference is that we tested *negative*. We still went through antibiotics, but a few months later, before Zeke was born, I had all my kids tested for pertussis titers (antibodies) and they all tested positive. So, the original test had given a false negative.

    A few thing no one mentions: the DTaP has only a 60% efficacy rate. So people who are fully vaccinated are still very susceptible to the disease, but for the most part, they don't know it. There are also two strains of pertussis, for which the vaccine only protects against one. Another thing, and the most concerning thing for me, is that pertussis is airborne, and can be spread as easily by people who are fully vaccinated as by those who aren't. The thing is when we're visibly sick, we stay home. People who show no symptoms aren't going to know to do that.

    Vaccines are not covered by Catholic doctrine, so we can each choose to do what is best for our families. I for one greatly appreciate that the Church supports my rights as a parent to determine the best course of health for my family, and I honor each parent's right to vaccinate or not vaccinate.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I know it's hard to put vaccine stories out there, because it is such an emotionally charged subject, but you did it well.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing this story and your thoughts. I don't have any children yet so I haven't looked into the vaccine debate too thoroughly yet but I imagine it's a very hard choice to make mad kudos to you for making the decision you thought best for your family. Hope everyone is feeling better soon!

  12. Thank you for sharing this! I think stories like these need to be told. Yes, an incredibly small percentage of the time whooping cough can be dangerous but it is much more prevalent and treatable than people realize. The fact that there IS a vaccine that is so routinely given makes it less understood and turned into a scary unknown. Vaccines are SUCH a hard issue. But I think each family needs to assess their risks vs. benefits. The possible reaction and lack of research done into long term risks are enough for me to say no and accept that risk.

  13. I'm not strongly one way or the other about vaccines. We look at each one and decide. And I delay. The AAP schedule is insane. Hep B at birth? My newborn is not at risk for a blood Bourne/ sexually transmitted infection. And we skip chicken pox vaccine. It's not worth it to me to avoid a nuisance level disease with vaccine derived from aborted fetal tissue. Anthony's had just about everything else but Katie Rose is way "behind" for various reasons.

    So glad that your whooping cough saga ended happily, and thank you so much for sharing it! I completely agree with you that the long-term effects are not nearly studied enough. It's very frustrating to try to make an informed choice, because the necessary information just isn't available.

  14. Good post. Another moral question imbedded in these issues is whether or not we DO have some sort of obligation to the general public to vaccinate our kids, as suggested by Mia Jude above. Should I be forced to ignore my conclusions from the risk/benefit analysis for my immediate family for the sake "of the community"?

    When it comes to vaccines today, and all of the moral and ethical quandaries arising from our major pharmaceutical companies, not to mention the lack of choice we are often faced with when it comes to giving our kids combo shots or individual vaccines, etc., I don't think so.

    On one level, calling all your friends and informing those you've been in contact with so they can take what measures they see fit to care for their families seems reasonable, but there's no way I'd consider calling the Health Dept. or advocating mandatory vaccines "for the sake of the community." ESP if Micheala Darr is correct in pointing out that pertussis can be spread just as easily by those fully vaccinated as by those who aren't.

    Just my two cents. :-) TB

    1. The pediatrician is required to notify the health department and CDC with a confirmed case of pertussis.

  15. We got the whooping cough this winter. Only one of us (the toddler) ever whooped, although I and my oldest son had a terrible cough for weeks. My toddler continued to whoop for 4 months in his sleep after recovering.

    I did find notifying everyone we knew a bit embarrassing! I was so worried about my friend's newborn baby we had visited not too long before!

    We delay vaccines, but I had just received the Tdap a year ago!

  16. Great post, Amelia. I feel pretty much the same way you do, except that I've gotten my children most of the standard vaccines on a delayed schedule. I'm really on the fence. The whole DTP thing scares me. What are we going to find out n 10 years about the vaccines we're getting now?

    I really wish there were more separation between pharmaceutical companies and the studies that are done on vaccine safety and (drug safety, etc. in general). I'm not a conspiracy theorist; I don't think big pharma is out to get us or completely out of control. But they're businesses, and businesses' priority is to make a profit. It's not realistic to expect them to put our and our children's health first. But they're the ones bankrolling most of the studies. I have to force myself not to worry about this. God asks me to make the best decision I can and He'll take care of things from there!

    Like another commenter pointed out, DTaP has a low efficacy rate. My kids frequently have bad, lingering coughs. For all I know, they might have had whopping cough at some point, even though they've been vaccinated against it.

    1. Your second paragraph is right on the money -no pun intended. :-). TB

  17. This is a really interesting read, and it proves that truly nobody besides the parent can make such a personal and important choice for their child. We choose to delay and stagger vaccinations for our kids, and we avoid cpox, MMR and Hep A for the connection to aborted fetal stem cells.

    (An aside, the Church does not ask us to avoid this as it is a matter of distal cooperation in evil, but we feel personally convicted about it, and I have a hard time imagining "good science" can come from evil means.)

  18. To me, a big question about vaccination comes from the ethical/community health standpoint TB mentioned. In particular, deciding whether or not to get vaccinated seems like a "free rider" problem. For the sake of argument, lets assume diphtheria is a somewhat dangerous disease. If no one got vaccinated against diphtheria and it wasn't too uncommon, there's a good chance you would want to get vaccinated in order to prevent yourself from getting diphtheria. If this is the case, it seems like the only reason you can "get away with" not getting vaccinated is because everyone else does get vaccinated and so the disease is uncommon.

    If you agree with this line of reasoning, the question then becomes, what can excuse one from being obligated to do their public duty and get vaccinated? The possibilities seem to be (1) you have a significantly worse reaction to the vaccine than the vast majority of the population, or (2) for you, the side effects of the vaccine are worse than the disease itself (and if this is true for much of the population, lots of people won't be vaccinated, and the disease will be somewhat common)*. Both of these seem hard to determine (except when (2) applies to a large portion of the population).

    Note that this is a vastly different question than whether or not the government (or any other institution) ought to *compel* people to get vaccinated. Insurance companies, for example, might compel people to get vaccinated because perhaps it's cheaper to distribute (say) 100 vaccines than to pay for one person in the hospital with the disease.

    *There are potentially other possible legitimate reasons to not get vaccinated too, like too much financial burden, but these don't seem to be the main issues here

  19. That's an interesting question and one I have thought about.

    I think it's really just a matter of what risks are you willing to accept.

    I do feel that the long-term health risks of certain vaccines may be worse than we know about or has even been studied. Vaccines aren't studied very well in the long-term.

    For example, when Heidi had inconsolable crying after her 6 month shots. What caused that? It was way worse than would be caused by just soreness at the injection site. In my mind, it is at least possible that she was suffering from some sort of unseen brain inflammation or irritation that later played a factor in her developmental delays. I don't know that for sure, but I think it's possible and I don't think it was just random back luck.

    To answer your question about diptheria..well it's unfortunate there is no single vaccine for that diease but even if it were to become more common here in the US, we would likely make the same decision. Maybe I'm overconfident but (so far) our family has a good track record for health...no hospitlizations, very little antibiotic use or use of any prescription medication (or even OTC mediciations). I think that with good diet, medical care and a strong immune system, we would likely weather a disease like diptheria okay. I don't think it's just random why one person dies from a disease and another person does not. I think some factors we can control and other factors we can't.

    The question (in my mind) is if I'm more willing to risk the diease or risk the vaccine unknown long-term health risks that could increase our chances of developing cancer of allergies or diabetes or other chronic or serious diease down the line.

    For some diseases/vaccines I might chose the vaccine and for others I might chose to forgo it.

    Some people would say I'm crazy (and maybe I am) but I think I have a different view of disease than others. I don't view it as just random bad luck.

    I don't think it's fair to say that we are just free riders off other people's immunizations. I think we may make a different risk/benefit analysis because we might be willing to accept different risks.

    I'm glad everyone has the freedom to make those decisions for themself.

    1. I only mentioned diphtheria as a potential example, not as a concern. I really don't know how dangerous the disease is to healthy or unhealthy people (of various ages), or what the chances of hospitalization would be, etc.

      The free rider problem is not so much about risk/benefit analysis in the current situation of society, but rather about the fact that your current risk/benefit analysis may not apply if everyone made and followed through with the same analysis and came to the same conclusion. You're essentially saying that if everyone were as healthy as you, it would be fine for diphtheria (or whooping cough or some other disease) to potentially make a comeback, because it wouldn't be that harmful. Such a statement is hard to back up.

      Another consideration... what if all families with good health didn't get vaccinated? Then the disease would likely make somewhat of a comeback. However, it's quite possible (and likely) there would be poor and/or uneducated people with not as good health that haven't had the vaccine, that would then get the disease and die or be hospitalized from it. Also, the more people that get a disease, the more it is likely to mutate, and thus the more likely that even people who are vaccinated will get the disease. How much of a duty do you have to protect people who are less healthy? Again, just a consideration.

      The risk of long-term health issues (depending on how bad the issues, and how significant the risk) is a fine reason to not get vaccinated. However, it seems unlikely that this is an actual effect for much of the population (at least, for the number of people concerned about it, there is not much non-anecdotal evidence, so measuring the risk seems impossible). Regardless, there are many other things that are also under-studied that could be effects. For example, 10 years ago you could have probably made the same argument for moving deep into the country to get away from light radiation made by cell-phone towers. No one now seriously believes that this is an issue, but it certainly was understudied 10 years ago. The difference between this and vaccination is that moving to the country doesn't hurt others, while non-vaccination potentially could.

    2. I disagree that it is unlikely that vaccines have no long-term health affects. If I thought it was unlikely, I wouldn't worry about it. The fact is that diseases like cancer and other serious health issues are increasing at an alarming rate..and SOMETHING (or probably more than one something) is responsible. The number of people I know (my age) with a chronic health issue is pretty staggering. And, the number of children I know with a chronic or serious health issue is pretty staggering as well.

      I'm sure there are lots of other under-studied things that could be causes as well. But, for example allergies and diabetes are a disease of the immune system and vaccines affect the immune system so it doesn't seem totally off the cuff that they could somehow be related in some way. . Maybe I'm just ignorant and crazy...or maybe not?

      You bring up an interesting point about our duty to others. I think there are a couple of points. 1) If someone is worried about the disease, they can probably get vaccined. The state is good at taking care of the poor and poor children can almost always get free health care (in some states even non-citizens can get free health care). So poverty isn't usually a barrier to vaccination..at least not for children and not here in the US.

      I realize that vaccines don't always "work"..but again do I really have a duty to assume risk for myself, to protect someone else?. I think it depends on my situation. I think the analysis may be different for someone who works with cancer parents or with newborn babies or at-risk populations as opposed to people like me, who have very little contact with the immune-compromised or at risk populations. Even friends with new babies, we don't usually spend time holding their babies or breathing on them or playing with them. And, if we were showing symptoms of a cold or any illness we would distance ourselves even more. .

      I'm not sure I understand your idea about "if everyone made the same risk analysis as me". For one thing, that is not going to happen. Why should I base my decisions on what other people aren't going to do? If suddenly everyone stopped vaccinating and these disease made a huge comeback...I would have a different risk/benefit analysis decision to make. But, that is not the situation right NOW so I can only base my decisions on what the situation is NOW..not would it "could" be.

      From the comments on this thread..it seems even less likely that other people are going to make the same decisions as me LOL, ...so again..why should I even worry about that? It's a good theoretical question, but not a practical one. Should I really base my vaccination decisions on something that isn't going to happen?.

      I'm definitely NOT trying to convince anyone to see things my way or make my decisions. I'm just trying explain my decision-making process.

      I agree that non-vaccinating could potentially hurt others. But, I also agree that vaccinating could potentially hurt us. While it's rare, people have died after receiving vacciations. Of course babies have also died from the dieases. So again..it's a question of which risk do you want to assume?

      As far the disease mutating things goes....some people would say that vaccine use has caused the diseases to mutate...just like increased antibiotic use has caused antibiotic resistance. The bacteria or viruses have had to mutate and evolve to survive.

    3. First, I'd be interested to see an argument of how (proper) vaccine use can increase disease mutation. My limited understanding of biology is that cells primarily mutate when they reproduce, and so diseases are much more likely to mutate (to bypass vaccines, or gain antibiotic resistance) if they can find a host where they can reproduce more easily, and they can reproduce more easily in a host that is not vaccinated, because the host's body does not attack the disease as quickly.

      You also assume you know who the at-risk population is for the diseases you could get from not being vaccinated. It sounds like you're assuming that all of your acquaintances that aren't newborns or in hospitals are not at-risk. However, this is a much stronger assumption than simply saying that your family is not at-risk and can fight off the disease. How do you know that your seemingly-healthy acquaintances are very unlikely to be hospitalized from a disease you get (that you could have been vaccinated against)? Couldn't there be something you didn't know about, like their genetics, or some deficiency in their diet, or past medical issues, etc?

      "...If suddenly everyone stopped vaccinating and these disease made a huge comeback...I would have a different risk/benefit analysis decision to make. But, that is not the situation right NOW so I can only base my decisions on what the situation is NOW..not would it "could" be." You can dismiss the argument based on what "could be" as being "theoretical" if you'd like, but this is exactly what I mean when I say this looks like a "free rider" problem. Many people consider this line of reasoning valid and relevant when it comes to deciding the morality of actions (especially individuals' actions in a community).

      "...but again do I really have a duty to assume risk for myself, to protect someone else?". Potentially yes, depending on how much of a risk it is to you. You obviously think getting vaccinated is high risk, and if it is truly high risk, you're correct. My main point (I suppose) is that there is little evidence of this risk (general increase in some diseases, and Heidi crying after getting vaccinated, are not strong evidence), and so the arguments you put forth here are not going to convince those who are pro-vaccine that the risk to you is high enough to warrant the risk to others via not getting vaccinated. I'm not saying you're a bad person, or that you haven't properly discerned this, or that it's not the right thing for your family; all I'm saying is that a third party would not find your line of reasoning here satisfying (i.e., "rational"; I know you're not trying to change people's minds, but there's a difference between a reasonable but unconvincing argument, and one that's not reasonable) (and if you're OK with that, I am too... I just think you should be very aware of it).

    4. Here is an article which talks more about vaccine mutation and addresses some of my concerns. http://vran.org/about-vaccines/vaccine-ingredients/biological-ingredients-2/vaccines-and-genetic-mutation/

      While you are correct that I don't know who is or is not at risk, if someone is worried about the disease, they are free to vaccinate themselves or their family. I believe everyone has to assume that risk for themselves...either the risk of the vaccine or the risk of the disease.
      I only mentioned newborns or people in hosptials as those are generally who CAN'T be vaccinated yet.

      You may think my argument is unreasonable but all boils down to what the real risk of the vaccines are...which is really where the disagreement comes in. If you believe that certain vaccines carry very little risk, then you are going to be viewing this differently than someone who thinks they carry greater risk. If vaccines really are harmless then you are right. However, if they really do carry greater risk and cause long-term damage, then I am right.

      There is a HUGE divide in this issue and rarely is anyone convinced one way or the other. I've talked to doctors who agree with me and doctors who disagree with me (granted the vast majority probably disagree but I've met a few who agree) so the medical community themselves can't come to an agreement.

      I was really hesistant to post this because of that great controversary. But, I did want to share our whooping cough story and I think many people benefited from reading it.

    5. The article you linked appears to be about genetic mutation in humans. I was referring to genetic mutations in diseases. Even if the article were on the correct topic, though, it would need to demonstrate that the mutation rate is faster due to vaccines than it would be if people weren't vaccinated and got the disease.

      As we've both stated, you strongly believe the risk due to vaccination is very high, and I'm not going to attempt to convince you otherwise (I'd need a ton of evidence to do so, which even if I had you could still dismiss by the fact that maybe your body is just an outlier). Further, you believe that this risk is so high that it easily outweighs any potential risk to the community at large by not getting vaccinated. I guess at this point all I want to say is that I don't think you do a good job of acknowledging this latter point (about risk to the community).

    6. I'm not sure what you want me to say....that we are disease-ridden vectors waking around spreading death wherever we go?.

      Yes, I ackowledge there is some risk to the community. I don't think the risk to the community is that great because *most* of the community can be vaccinated and *most* of the time that works (if you believe that vaccines work), and "most" of the time we don't have a lot of contact with at-risk populations and even most-er of the time we aren't sick and don't have a vaccine-prevenable disease. And, I don't think that small percentage of risk compels us to sacrifice ourselves "for the greater good." because I believe the risk from certain vaccines is high enough. If I thought the risk was low, we would definitely be getting them, because I AM interested in protecting others. But I'm not necessarily willing to do that at the sacrifice of my own children because I do think the risk is there.

      Clearly we just disagree which is fine because I'm used to people disagreeing with me. :)

      Hopefully we'll see you Monday. :)

  20. Amelia, You have studied "Biology" all the way up to Master's level. Ben is a graduate as well. How can you be so ignorant? You are a likable family, that is a different thing.

    1) There are many strains of any disease causing organism; It is impossible for CDC to include all organisms in one vaccine vial. Hence, they include the most common disease causing organism, in this case whooping cough. Your children may have contracted the wild type of Whooping cough that is not included in the vaccine. Actually the test can include to know what type of bacteria caused illness in your children, but it is not worth it as the test is expensive. Unless there is severe outbreak in the community, they don't recommend testing for the strain.

    2) The life expectancy of any country before vaccines and antibiotics were invented and used was below 50 years. This fact should seal your ignorant argument about concerns on vaccines.

    1. Well, I'm glad we're so likeable even though we are ignorant. :)

      As to your points.

      1) I fail to see your point...what that really has to do with anything. I realize there are different strains, which is all the more reason why I would be hesitant about the whooping cough vaccine. Why risk the vaccine if it provides less protection?

      2) I'm not totally against vaccines and antibiotics. Don't put words into my mouth. I acknowledged in my post that vaccines can be lifesaving. However, I believe both vaccines and antibiotics are overused, Doctors used to prescribe antibiotics for every single ear infection and now doctors acknowlege that they aren't needed in every case and many ear infections are viral and that overuse of antibiotics is dangerous and leads to antibiotic resistance. Plus antibiotic use kills the "good" bacteria in the body. Again, it's a risk benefit analysis. Sometimes they are useful..but not all the time.

      I think we all should be looking at these things critically. Yes, I question a CDC that wants to give HepB vaccine...a vaccine against a disease that is blood-bourne and mostly acquired by drug users and the sexually promiscous.

      As far as vaccines go, I take it on a case by case basis. Since we have a family history of vaccine reactions to the DTP and DTaP we decided to forgo that one.

      That doesn't mean I am blanketly against all vaccines. The polio vaccine for example, I am more comfortable with.

      Also your point about the life expectancy being less than 50 years is misleading. The avg. life expectancy is greatly skewed by the fact that many people never even made it past their day of birth and many women died in childbirth. Of those who did, many babies died in their first year. There was such high infant mortality and death in childbirth. Of those people who did survive past infancy and women who survived childbearing, many did live well past 50. Yes, I acknowlege that antibiotics are partly responsible for decreased infant mortality and decreased maternal mortality. As I said, I'm not against antibiotics..just the overuse of them. However, a lot of that decrease in also because now we have things like c-sections and help for premature babies...sadly, those babies (and frequently the mother) used to die.

    2. Ooops..that should that I question a CDC who wants to give HepB vaccine to newborns,

  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. You are welcome to comment if you have something constuctive to add to the conversation. I refuse to be insulted on my own blog.

    2. I posted a constructive comment, the view that benefits the world including our children but you don't have the guts to read something that is against your views.

    3. Personal insults are never constructive to any sort of logical, reasonable conversation or discussion about anything. Don't worry I read plenty of things that go against my view (including your comment). I'm not as ignorant as you think I am....I just happen to have a different viewpoint.

  22. Thank you Amelia, for sharing your story! I am sorry for all that your family had to go through. I once had a pediatrician tell me I was playing "Russian Roulette" with my daughter's health because I wanted to delay a vaccination. We do delay our vaccinations a little but all of our kids are fully immunized before they enter school/homeschool. My 12 year old had a terrible reaction to the Dtap shot when she was little and I have been hesitant ever since then. Thank you for being so open!

  23. We're all ignorant about some things and certainly less knowledgable about some things than others. In fact, I must be SUPER ignorant, because I always find Amelia's posts interesting, instructive, and well balanced.

    But, being in a minority in so many categories as you are (Catholic, homeschooling, natural remedies), Amelia, you must either be a simpleton or a revolutionary with a martyrdom complex. You simply must not go against the grain! Or think for yourself!

    It's dangerous. For you, and for us.

    (Tongue in cheek... :-). TB
    P.s. I won't be offended if you remove my comment, as it fails even my own personal constructive comment test.
    People used to be capable of forming their own judgments and thinking for themselves in our country, but that's all been replaced by federal entities and Common Core curriculums that do the thinking for us. All we have to do is comply ...OR ELSE! (Now I've outed myself as a crazy, so perhaps your views will appear less so?). :-)

  24. You are living in a world that is safe, where everybody else follows the rules. You have a choice to make because the people around you worked hard to get rid of those germs, by following prevention measures such as vaccines. That's why your priority now is to be against the norm.

    Will you say or think the same if you lived in a country where diseases are rampant? You might say that now you have a choice. Yes, you do. But, it is because of those around you. If everybody quit vaccines, it wouldn't take more than 5 years for our country to be full of old world diseases.

    Unfortunately, you don't have a strong argument, except to say being Catholic, homeschooling, natural remedies is being simpleton.

    Doesn't make any sense.

    1. MY priority is not to be against the norm. It's to raise up a spiritually, psychologically, physically healthy family. I happen to live in a culture which I would not judge to be spiritually, psychologically, or physically healthy, so the choices I make regarding our health go against the grain, and I'm not ashamed of it.

      We may live in a First World Country, but that doesn't make our world "safe," nor does it makes us freeloaders because we're somehow relating on the immunization of others to keep us healthy.

      If I lived in a Third World Country wherein vaccine-preventable diseases were actually deadly to the general population, we might come up with a different outcome in our risk-benefit analysis.

      But the fact is that right now, most vaccine-preventable diseases are not deadly to the general population and there are worse things that can be suffered through in this world than physical ilness.

      These are my own opinions ; I'm not claiming them to be Amelia's. TB

  25. This is clearly a loaded topic.

    I was born shortly before the polio vaccine was developed. Many friends and relatives, to this day, suffer from post-polio syndrome, having contracted the disease in their youth. I got the polio vaccine.

    As a child, I received the smallpox vaccine - I had friends from India who had contracted smallpox and, while they survived, they were badly scarred.

    I had measles, mumps, chickenpox and German measles as a child. The measles left me with lifelong eye and ear problems.

    My youngest grandchild was born 3 months ago during a bad pertussis outbreak so everyone who was going to be around her had to be vaccinated. No one hesitated.

    Still, although all of my kids received the MMR vaccine, I refused to have my youngest re-vaccinated when the school district decreed it, although, had an outbreak of measles occurred, I would have had to take him out of school until the outbreak was over. That was fine with me (I did have to jump through a lot of hoops, including having a Notary Public sign off on this).

    Having recently had shingles I also chose, after it was over, to have the shingles vaccine. I also get the flu shot as any respiratory infection goes straight to my lungs.

    We are all free to make our own decisions, thankfully, but I am not convinced that there is a connection between cancer and vaccines. Coming from a scientific family I put little faith in anecdotal evidence.

    I do think that, unless one chooses to live outside society, that one has a responsibility to society.

    There is no right or wrong answer to this. If we are honest we should just admit that we do not know and we base our decisions on personal, and not scientific, factors. Fear compounds the issue on both sides.


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