Vaccination Altercation

Who directs our health care—the care of our bodies and our children’s bodies? Why do some nurses believe that only they know what is best for kids? I ask these questions because recently a friend related her experience with her child and vaccinations.

On the family’s first visit to the pediatrician they discussed explicitly their philosophy on vaccinating: They are not opposed to all vaccines, but believe that some are not necessary; that they should be given one at a time, rather than several at the same visit; and that they would choose to forgo some of them until the child is older, including the hepatitis vaccines.

Now, a year and a half later, they were taking their child for her final HIb vaccine. My friend was dreading it, in part because the nurse-practitioner had been so mean-spirited and condescending about their decisions on what vaccinations to get when.

The nurse came in and said that she hadn’t drawn up the vaccine yet because she thought they might want to get another vaccine at the same time. My friend calmly reminded her that they had already discussed that the baby was only type of vaccine to get one per visit, spacing them out over a longer time period. The nurse at first claimed that she had gotten two in the past; but after checking the records she was forced to recant.

Then she went on to attempt to bully them into getting the baby a hepatitis B shot, again having to be reminded that they chose not to vaccinate for that until the baby was older. “Well, they get really sick,” was the response. My friend countered that she had researched the issue, and that her daughter didn’t have any risk factors. She then made the mistake of mentioning Dr. Sears’ alternative vaccination schedule. “Dr. Sears!” the nurse said, as if he were the most oily of charlatans.

I understand the need to protect “the herd,” when it comes to vaccination, but until we understand the potential risks to the body of bombarding it with vaccines at an early age, I think that parents should exercise caution. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Guest post by Cheryl K. Smith
Midwifery Today Managing Editor

Audio tape on Attachment Parenting with Martha and William Sears.


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# Joy Johnston said:

Thanks Cheryl for addressing this topic.

I am concerned that many parents who become convinced of the value of natural childbirth take an antagonistic approach, and often choose no vaccination.

The outbreaks of illness from air-borne viruses such as diptheria, measles, mumps, HIB, ... have become less likely as a reasonable level of immunisation in a community is maintained.  These conditions can potentially be eradicated by vaccination.  

However, tetanus will not be eradicated, as it is spread by spores in the soil.

The child who has not been vaccinated against tetanus will be at risk of serious illness until natural immunity is present.  The  way to get natural immunity is to be infected by tetanus - something to avoid if possible.  

In Australia we have been advised that the only product that can be used to vaccinate children against tetanus is the combined DPT vaccine.  (diptheria, pertussis, tetanus)   The tetanus booster is, of course, available separately.  For this reason I encourage parents to access this vaccination before the child is running around.

I hope your friend's consultation with the nurse brought about some reflective learning for that nurse, and perhaps she will be more respectful and support informed decision making better next time.

Monday, March 23, 2009 7:38 PM