I remember my mom mentioning to me years ago how confusing all the controversy about vaccines is, and how she hoped that by the time I had kids, all the vaccine controversy would be sorted out. Yeah. . . right.
I was pretty typically vaccinated through early childhood, and then caught up on any missed shots before entering college (state school requirements), or as needed (tetanus when I had stitches, for example). I didn't get my booster shot for MMR, for example, until college. This probably had mostly to due with the 105.6 degree fever and convulsions that my brother experienced after his first MMR shot :-P. Can you say "emergency room visit"?
A few months ago I mentioned to Adrian that I wasn't wildly enthusiastic about all vaccinations, especially the standard schedule used for infants (especially the vaccine offered at birth, and then loading up several shots at once at successive check-ups - 6 different shots in one visit at age 6 months!), and I wanted to do some research before our baby was born. He thought that was a good idea, but being the wise, level-headed man that he is (*grin*), he told me I had to look at both sides of the issue. That was just fine with me, as I wasn't interested in conspiracy theories or blind acceptance of current practices.
In the last few months I've read (online and through a La Leche League magazine) about Robert Sears' book The Vaccine Book, and finally ordered it last week. It arrived earlier this week, and I devoured the first 10 chapters in one sitting. The rest of the book was polished off in another sitting. I really liked this book.
Now, before I go farther, a disclaimer: "I really liked this book" doesn't mean I completely agree with all of Dr. Sears' recommendations; it does mean that I think the book was well-researched, informative, and very helpful. Dr. Sears is a medical doctor who spent 13 years researching this issue. The pro-vaccine people would think he's too lax and skeptical, and the anti-vaccine folks would think he's way too vaccine-friendly.
The first 12 chapters detail each of the 12 vaccines on the standard vaccination schedule for a child. There are 12 standard vaccines, not 12 standard vaccinated-against diseases; for example, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) is counted as 1 of the 12 vaccines, since it is standardly given all together, though it can be given separately. Each chapter gives detailed answers to the questions:
What is the disease?
How common is the disease? (mainly in the U.S., but he does bring in some international discussion)
Is the disease serious?
Is it treatable?
When is the vaccine for the disease usually given?
How is the vaccine made?
What ingredients are in the final vaccine solution?
Are any of these ingredients controversial?
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
Then in each chapter he gives reasons to give the vaccine and reasons some people choose not to get the vaccine. Then he highlights [international] travel considerations, options to consider if getting the vaccine (delays, splitting up combined vaccines, etc.), and then a few concluding paragraphs explaining how he views the vacccine.
He does end up recommending more vaccines than I think are necessary, but the nice thing is, he gives the information so parents can make up their own minds, and he thinks that parents have the right to deviate from his opinion.
The last chapters discuss assorted topics such as: the ingredients in the vaccines (more in-depth look at aluminum, formaldehyde, MSG, animal and human components, etc., and the controversies surrounding them), collected statistics about vaccine side effects and disease rates, and some very helpful suggested alternative vaccination schedules that spread out vaccinations (no more than two per visit), limit aluminum-containing vaccinations (no more than one per visit, if any), and in the case of one of the proposed schedules, eliminates the vaccines that he considers to be "less important", like chicken pox, for example. Then he gives rather detailed advice for parents who do delay some of the vaccinations, if they would be worth "catching up on" at some point (pertussis and rotavirus, for example, would not need to be "caught up" if vaccinations are begun after age two, since those diseases are really only serious for babies), how many booster shots would be needed, etc.
This book was written in a very level-headed manner. My husband and my brother are two of the most skeptical people I know (I love you both!) when it comes to conspiracy theories, alternative methods, scare tactics, etc. I know that if I find a book (or article) that I can unashamedly show them, then it is one that is very well done, and this book passes that test (I could call it the "Adrian and Ben test"; I would be happy to show it to either, and I think they would both find little fault with it and actually appreciate it. Adrian plans on reading Dr. Sears' book, and I think he will really appreciate it. Dr. Sears' has a real head for spotting logical fallacies and gaps in statistical data.
Dr. Sears also recognizes that information on vaccinations is constantly changing. A nice plus is that this book was published last year, so it is very up-to-date. But just to ensure it stays that way, he is maintaining a website that has a lot of resources on vaccines, and he posts updates to any of the vaccines, as it becomes available.
Notice I didn't come right out in this post and announce which (if any) vaccines we have decided to give our son. That's because we haven't firmly decided (though I have a much better idea after reading the book through the first time). Adrian still wants to read through all the info, and then I'm sure we'll talk through pros and cons of various vaccines, and the pros and cons of delaying those we do decide to do.
Oh, and speaking of Brother Dear, he and his Wife Dear now have reason to think about these sorts of things. . . our little baby is going to have a cousin! Yay :-).