New parents have to make many very personal choices in the first months of their baby’s lives. Some of these decisions, like whether to co-sleep or exclusively breastfeed, have much greater (and longer-term) implications for baby’s physical and emotional wellbeing than others, like whether to use cloth or disposable diapers or follow the Chinese tradition of shaving the head before the three month mark to promote thicker hair growth. Few choices however, are as deeply personal, or controversial these days, as vaccinations.
Even before Baby N was born the vaccination issue was stressing us out. The stress did not derive from a strong conviction to vaccinate or not but rather because we were looking for the middle ground, which is not easy, when you are navigating through a minefield.
There are extremists at both ends of the spectrum – the “anti-vaxers” believe that a strong immune system, bolstered by natural remedies, is all that is needed to protect your children from potentially life-threatening diseases, particularly in developed countries where incidents of the most dangerous of these diseases are extremely rare. The “pro-vaxers” on the other hand think that opting out of vaccinations for your child is not only socially irresponsible but also science-denying and puts your children’s health at risk. Personally I think blindly following what the government has mandated is best for everyone based on often outdated and/or flawed research and under the influence of powerful pharmaceutical lobbies is just as misguided as ignoring the overwhelming proof that vaccinations have played a big role in improving health and reducing child mortality in many parts of the world.
Sadly, the fanaticism that seems to be prevalent in both camps makes it difficult for new parents to make objective and well-informed choices about which vaccination schedule to select for their children. Articles with titles like “Pro Vaxers are Paranoid Nuts” and “How To Argue With The Anti-Vaccine Crazies” don’t exactly contribute to a reasoned debate, and conspiracy theories abound on both sides of the fence. While the contemporary debate is largely fueled by Internet users and 24-hour news watchers who no longer have to worry about access to clean drinking water or staying alive in the midst of violent conflicts, public discourse around the efficacy and dangers of vaccines goes back almost 300 years.
Ultimately it is a deeply personal choice for all parents and far from being a black and white issue. If you need proof that there is no “right” or “wrong” approach to vaccinations (despite what the pro and anti-vaxers would have you believe) you only have to look at how different the vaccination schedules, both in terms of quantity and timing, are in different western countries such as the US, UK and across Europe and Australia and New Zealand. As common practice in many European countries illustrates, the schedule in the US is completely over the top and is likely the result of a combination of fear mongering and a government usurped by vested interests.
In the end we have decided to go with a delayed and selective vaccination schedule for Baby N. She did not have any shots in hospital after the birth and had her first jab last week at three and a half months old. To be honest this is a few months earlier than we would have liked, but we are traveling this summer to some countries where incidents of certain diseases are more common so we made the difficult decision to move a couple of shots forward.
My final word on this topic is that you don’t have to be a doctor to come to the conclusion, although many doctors now agree, that jabbing a newborn with a cocktail of disease germs, preservatives, antibiotics and toxic metals hours after birth can’t be a good thing. Delaying by just a few months — when the baby’s immune system is stronger — and opting for vaccinations where the benefits far outweigh the risks seemed like a logical choice to make, at least for a new mother and father who were searching for the middle ground and who prefer moderation to extremism!