This rant is based on my local health department. I fantasize that health departments in other cities employ more informed citizens but since it is a government entity, I suspect mine is representative of the rest of America. You can see my initial vaccine post here, where I explain why I have created a select/delayed schedule.

Today I took my child to the health department for a single vaccination. One shot. We went there because they are free for children and I do not have health insurance or Medicaid. My pediatrician charges $50 for a vaccination, on top of a visit fee. I explained to the amazing nurse that I am very particular and concerned about my child’s immunizations and that I only came for the DTaP. She was understanding and sweet but since I was alternating from their schedule, she had to get her supervisor’s opinion. Her supervisor was also extremely kind but thought that they needed one more supervisor to weigh in. Awesome, but what are the chances I encounter 3 nice people in one visit?

The chance was zero. The second supervisor walked in with an attitude, ready to argue with me. I did not see this coming and I do not handle confrontation well so I turned red and spend the next 15 minutes trying not to cry in front of this woman, because I was so angry. Highlights:

-She said my child would never get into a daycare and probably not school. I told her that was perfect because I don’t want her in daycare or public school (at least not here and an apology to my local teacher friends [you too, mom]).

-She basically said (not an exact quote) that it was dumb to give my child some vaccines (as opposed to either all or none) because I do not qualify for a religious exemption from the state and therefore, can’t get my child into daycare or school. She is quite wrong about that; you can get an exemption for none or select vaccines. In fact, I have been to that exact same office with a friend who has done partial/delayed vaccinations and had no problem getting the waiver signed. Maybe it’s time for an office-wide memo? Or a fancy lunch that Oscar can pay for with his tax dollars?

-I told her that one of the reasons I do not do all of the vaccines is because they contain cells from aborted babies. She laughed at me and said “where did you read that?” I told her that it was a FACT and they also include fetal monkey, pig, and cow tissue. Now, I am sure they don’t list “dead baby” on the ingredient pamphlet but they are in there. And I feel really awesome that you are administering them and have no idea. Let’s not even start on aluminum.

-I told her that Beau has not had the Hep B vax because that is transmitted sexually. She told me I was wrong and that it was a blood disease. Well, yes. You can also get it from needles (drugs, tattoos, piercings) and being around infected blood but at 18 months, that is not a concern for us and regardless, she should know that it is transmitted sexually.

In the end, Beau got the vaccine. They put a note in her record that I see a pediatrician who is supportive of my choices and that Beau is not one of their patients (you know, we just dropped in for a cup of tea). I was a little disappointed in myself that I let this woman bother me so much and that I was not better prepared. It’s not just the fact that she didn’t understand why I was skipping a lot of Beau’s shots it’s that she thought I was stupid for doing so and it made me so angry that I couldn’t focus. I could never be a defense attorney.

So, I hope this is helpful to someone. I know I wrote in my previous post to not let people intimidate you but I should have added, don’t allow them to make you cry. And if she thinks I’m an idiot, what do I care? This woman was not respectful of my choices and I’m sure if I would have shown up with 6 kids sniffing MSG off of a chicken nugget, chased with shots of formula, but who got all of their shots, she would have been much more impressed with me. I also want to reiterate that the first two nurses were reasonable, amiable, and not judgmental and I know not all employees of this facility are dim.

Photo from flickr via swanksalot

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Vaccinate This

2 September 2010

I’ve gotten a number of emails/calls in the past two weeks regarding my vaccination choices for Beau, so I thought it’d be easiest to put them on web paper. I chose to vaccinate my baby on a selective/delayed schedule, based on the one offered by Dr. Sears in The Vaccine Book (my main resource), although I did read other books. The reasons I chose for her to not have all vaccines and not get too many at once are: she was breastfed; not in daycare; vaccines do not grant you lifetime immunity and many adults do not get boosters; some of the ailments we vaccinate against are not that severe (99% of the time); there are aborted fetal cells in some vaccines; the FDA has not set a recommended aluminum content for infants and many vaccines contain way more than the limit for adults; not all strains are covered in a vaccine so you can still get the disease; and some of the diseases are not infant illnesses. Here’s Beau’s schedule, for the first 12 months:

2,4,6 months: DTaP (Daptacel brand)
3,5,7 months: HIB (actHIB) and PC (Prevnar)
12 months: Polio

I chose the first three because they are the most detrimental to infants under 2. I asked my pediatrician which brands she carried and of course she did not know. The brand they carried for DTaP had the largest AL content. I told her I didn’t want to use that brand because of the AL and she replied “Yeah, but there’s no mercury.” Uhm, yes, I know that. She did not know why they chose that brand (I am sure that pharmaceutical company gave out sweet vacations and lots of candy). I told her I wanted to use the Daptacel brand (less AL and no animal tissue) and they actually carried that in-stock because that is what Medicaid patients get. So, she set that aside for me. Otherwise, they were not going to order it. HIB and PC do not contain animal tissue. I am not opposed to the animal tissue vaccines entirely, but I try to limit them. I wish the DTaP was just P (Pertussis) but you have to get all things at once (diphtheria and tetanus and pertussis).

The hardest part about implementing this is finding a pediatrician who will be flexible with you. When we were in NYC, my pediatrician flat-out told me I was crazy and that she did not know what was in vaccines but she knew what they prevented. Awesome. Please make more decisions about my child’s life. But, she let me do whatever I wanted, so I stayed with her. When we moved to FL, I made a point of finding someone who is open to alternative schedules. We have no insurance, so I pay out-of-pocket to see her but it’s worth it to me. You can also get free vaccines at the Health Department, so I am going to look into that for her next round.

I did not do Rotavirus because I do not think the virus is that bad. And, this year, they had a recall on one of the brands because of contaminated pig tissue. I did not do Hep B because that is primarily from a needle or STD and I’ll decide on that later. I just take it one year at a time. At 12 months I did give her Polio. It has been around a long time and I consider it responsible for eradicating Polio in the US, so that’s the thing–there is no polio here. But since it’s been around so long I felt like it was safe and I gave it to her. I am undecided on the MMR vaccine and will examine that in a few more years, since they no longer offer it as separate shots. She will not be getting the chickenpox (varicela) vaccine. I would rather her get chickenpox and have lifetime immunity, although it’s getting harder to find chickenpox since most kids are vaccinated. I do not give Beau the flu vaccine nor do Oluv or I get it. Somewhere in the back chapters of The Vaccine Book, Dr. Sears talks about the statistical chance that your child will get any of the diseases and be hospitalized, which is really helpful when making these decisions.

Remember, you have the right to walk out of a doctor’s office. Do not let them intimidate you or make you feel bad. Some doctors do not actually know what is in the vaccine–all they know is what the pharmaceutical rep told them. And, if they are older, they may just do things the way they have always done them; or, so has been my experience. No one cares about your child as much as you do. I had so many regrets about what happened with Beau in the NICU that it gave me the courage to do things differently than my doctor advised and I am totally happy about the vaccine choices that I made. I did so much research that I honestly felt like I knew more about the vaccines than my pediatrician (at that time) did. This is not representative of every pediatrician and is just based on what I went through and discussions I’ve had with friends in the medical community. You are not violating a law by not/selectively vaccinating. All states offer a religious exemption for school (and some offer philosophical), so you just have to get a form signed by your pediatrician or the Health Department. In FL, they don’t ask any questions. They just sign it. I have been through that first hand and so have a few friends. But, the explanation that I have prepared, in case someone asks, is that vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue and I am religiously/ethically/morally opposed to abortion and don’t want those cells going in my child. That should suffice. The three vaccines that Beau received do not have aborted fetal cells in them. Although, I am more concerned about the pig, cow, and monkey tissue they put in vaccines. It is usually more helpful to discuss all of this with the pediatrician before you go to the first vaccine appointment, so you know how they feel about it.

I know people who get all vaccinations and people who get none and at the end of the day, you have to do what you believe is best for your child based on your experiences. I am not pushing this schedule on anyone, I do not think I have all the answers, and I am not a trained physician–I have just been asked about what I did and how I came to that decision and I thought it would be easier for people to reference here than in an email.

Resources:

The National Vaccine Information Center

Dr. Sears Vaccine-Friendly Pediatrician List

Dr. Tenpenny’s Website

BabyCenter Message Board for Alternative Vaccination Schedules (top post has additional resources)

Chickenpox Vaccine Article by Compassionate Souls

Read my follow-up post to this (recounting a trip to the health department) here.