Whole Parenting Family

The Great Vaccine Debate: Where Do You Weigh In?


I’ll admit, when I first heard there was anything controversial about vaccines for infants and toddlers, I was surprised. Why wouldn’t everyone want their child immunized from such terrible things as polio, measles, chicken pox? I remember having the chicken pox as a little girl (the same day I came home from the doctor with the diagnosis, my little brother informed me that my imaginary best friend “Ben” was now his best friend. How can you forget a double-whammy like that?) and that it was quite unpleasant.

The more I’ve read, and the more people I’ve talked with, the better I understand the vaccine debate. For many children, there’s no fall-out from vaccination, but for a small group, there can be serious reactions, or even life-changing or life-threatening ones. Mothering Magazine just began a forum for discussing vaccines, pros, cons, and the extended schedule. Check that out here. There are other great resources out there too, like the Vaccine Pro/Con website. And a plethora of very partisan blogs and websites.

And then there’s the pervasive Autism-Vaccine concern. Huffington Post had a great article up last year by David Kirby that discussed why the concern over the link between the two hasn’t yet gone away. Most pediatricians are pro-vaccine on the regular schedule as recommended, a few are not. Most parents have an opinion one way or the other. We chose to vaccinate J on the regular schedule, with the exception of Hep B as a newborn. He just began that one as a year old. I was not concerned about my child contracting Hep B through sexual activity or a dirty needle as an infant.

A girlfriend’s daughter just had a terrible reaction to the MMR, and I’ve heard of other friends having bad reactions as well. What have your experiences been with vaccinations? Pro/con/bad reactions/no reactions? Any advice to mothers of vaccine-aged children?


  1. roselady on February 1, 2012 at 8:59 am

    The more kids I’ve had, the fewer vaccines we’ve done…The controversy surrounding the scary side effects is not worth the risk of contracting illnessnesses that we can probably deal with when they happen.

    • Novice Natural Mama on February 3, 2012 at 8:39 am

      A girlfriend’s baby had a terrible reaction to one of the vaccines (now I can’t remember which one) and she did a TON of research on the different side effects. She ended up deciding she’d rather deal with the short-term illness, and not the long-term potential scary side effects, and that approach makes sense to me. It’s hard to self-educate enough to make a solid, firm, call on it for me. At some point it feels like, as with most things parenting related, we just have to go with what we think is best.

  2. Hannah on February 1, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Ohio requires the chicken pox vaccine which I really dislike (although our guy got it). One of my husband’s uncles had polio so I knew that our guy would be getting that one – no questions or debate. I think that vaccines are a personal decision and the parents need to be informed and need to be their own advocate for what they feel is right for their child.

    • Novice Natural Mama on February 3, 2012 at 8:37 am

      That’s interesting that Ohio requires it. I haven’t looked into the different requirements in different states, but I think that would be a fascinating study. And I’m so sorry to hear about your uncle-in-law. How difficult. I agree with you about the informed, personal choice aspect of vaccinations, and that as with all things medical, we have to be a passionate advocate for our families as no one will care as much about their health as we do, even the most loving of MDs. It all comes back to where the balance between my choice to not vaccinate (we’re talking hypothetically here on our part), and how that may impact another person’s child’s health. Tough balance and I don’t have any answers!

  3. ejones217 on February 1, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I agree with Hannah. It’s a personal decision, and for me, I trust my son’s pediatrician, who has gone to medical school, Whereas I? Have my medical degree from the Google School of Medicine. I do know that I saw a little girl in CVS a few months ago with the mumps. And I thought? Why the hell does this kid have the mumps? And poor thing looked so miserable. I want to spare my son from that. Also, how do you send your kids to school or daycare or camp or anything iike that without vaccinations? For some mamas who can’t be home with their kiddos or home school them, it’s really a non-choice.

    • Novice Natural Mama on February 3, 2012 at 8:34 am

      I think it’s got to be tricky if you don’t vaccinate as to what you feel comfortable exposing your child to (camp, school, daycare, etc). Just having J have RSV and be out of it for a few days (his first real “I’m-super-sick” moment in 19 months) has been so stressful and overwhelming at times as we’re operating on little sleep and lots of help from family. Maybe vaccinations provide a mental safeguard from the really bad stuff, but vaccinated kiddos get sick too (my child, case in point, from the local children’s museum’s look and touch room).

  4. ejones217 on February 1, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Please excuse the grammatical errors in my post. It’s still early. Le sigh.

  5. Rachel on February 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Would love to say that this is a personal choice, but the consequences are not. When we had to find care for our daughter as I returned to work it was frightening to find so many places that didn’t require vaccines. While it might be ok for a 3 year old to face mumps, it is a much more deadly risk for a 3 month old. I’m not able to articulate this clearly, but I worry that as everyone decides this is a personal choice and only affects them we’ll see the return of some very nasty illnesses. A non-choice for me. I haven’t had a chance to read the book but this podcast was illuminating:

    • Novice Natural Mama on February 3, 2012 at 8:31 am

      I think you articulate it very well, Rachel. Little babies are SO so so delicate and fragile (and surprisingly tough at times). You make a really good point that none of us can parent as islands, and that our decisions do affect each other, some decisions more directly than others. Vaccines or lack thereof have a much more immediate and potentially dangerous effect than, say, screen time overuse. But unless we live an unhealthfully isolated life, all these parenting choices DO intersect and overlap and affect one another’s families and children. Where is the line between what we really have to conform to as a society (in order to remain a functioning one) and personal choices? And who’s going to enforce it? I look forward to listening to the podcast. Thanks for weighing in!

  6. Liv on February 1, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    My daughter did have an awful reaction to the MMR; days of 99-102 fever with a finale at 104 followed by a rash. Apparently this is a relatively “normal” reaction. But then for about 4 days after she fussed, would only eat smooth, cool foods, had another low fever and woke up with red, raised bumps all over, having an extremely close resemblance to measles. From what i read of the disease it consists of a sore throat (cool foods), runny nose (which she had), low to high fever, and red slightly raised bumps. I’m no doctor, but i am convinced she got measles from the vaccine.
    I’m not anti vaccine, but I will NOT give my next child the MMR at 1 yr, and we aren’t going to do the chicken pox vaccine. At least our daughter was too little for it and though she’s back to herself it took almost 2 weeks and was scary for us to see.
    The other thing we were told by our doctor was that the chicken pox vaccine has 2 main purposes: to keep children from the uncomfortablenes of chicken pox and to keep parents from having to take time off work to be home with their sick child. I do hear her reasons but think its sad that we are vaccinating our children because our culture is so engrained in work work work, vs family and being free to stay home and are for your child.
    There are obviously many diseases that are scary and that we seem to be able to safely vaccinate our children from, and that’s great. But I hope we are able to draw the line as to what, when, and how much is truly necessary.

    • Liv on February 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      I just want to add that I know it’s not parents that might not want to be home with their child when they’re sick. It’s employers that make it difficult. I hope that can change.

      • Novice Natural Mama on February 3, 2012 at 8:26 am

        The system is not very parent-friendly in many ways!

    • Novice Natural Mama on February 3, 2012 at 8:28 am

      Your story hits home so true because you’re not the first mama who’s shared this kind of very intense reaction. And what could be scarier??

      All of parenting seems to require this impossible balance of work/home/family/best interest of family. At times, these appear to be mutually exclusive!

      That’s really interesting about the chicken pox. My grandmother had shingles (the adult form) as an older lady and it was very very difficult on her. But we all got chicken pox as kids and were itchy, but fine.

  7. Kim on February 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    We vaccinated our son after doing research, picking the brains of close friends and families, and careful consult with our pediatrician. A good friend of ours is a nurse practitioner who has worked in clinics in Chicago and in Minnesota. She said that she was always struck by how deliberate Hmong and Somali families were about making sure their children were vaccinated. She saw how people who live in societies where vaccines aren’t the norm (and where many of the diseases are) wanted the vaccines for their children. I found that compelling.

    • Novice Natural Mama on February 3, 2012 at 8:25 am

      My sister works with an immigrant population as well and says they are VERY conscientious about vaccinations, probably due in part to having seen some really terrible diseases at work in their countries of origin. Someone mentioned this on facebook after the post as well, that they’ve traveled the third world and those are not diseases we want to revisit, in her opinion. That is very compelling.

  8. Donielle Olson on February 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    My Dad had Polio ( one leg is shorter than the other almost died) So I think some vacs are needed but I also have a nephew who has autism. Funny enough it was at the point where they thought nothing of giving 4-5 vacs at one sitting. I am worried about doing in home childcare and having parents ask me this question! It is a hard one because it is such a personal family choice but not letting your child suffer is important! I read an article in Rolling Stone mag years ago that said Autism was almost not present in china and other places until we sent our “extra” vacs over there and the same guy pointed out that all the problems started when shots came out of multidose containers which required added chemicals for presevring the meds. Interesting….

    • Novice Natural Mama on February 3, 2012 at 8:24 am

      It is a hard one! What a tough thing for your dad. And an interesting article in Rolling Stone. So maybe it’s the multi-dose pack thing?? Any additional chemicals seem like a bad thing to me.

  9. jencliffdominic on February 2, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    This is such an on-going debate that has so many arguments for both sides. I thought I had done all the research needed before giving birth but once I met my little man, I did SO much more research because of the fear that I didn’t want him to be hurt by such a huge choice I made to vaccinate or not. In the end we chose to do the selective schedule by Dr. Sears and have been happy with our choice. I will also keep away from the chicken pox one and MMR will not happen until right before he’s ready to go to school. But it’s all a personal choice and I don’t preach to the choir much about it because of the heat it can create! Great post though and much needed topic everyone should look into very deeply before vaccinating their children from the big pharmaceuticals.

    • Novice Natural Mama on February 3, 2012 at 8:23 am

      It’s so great that you made an informed decision and feel comfortable with it. That alone is hard to do!!