Earlier this year at the height of the measles scare, several of my patients approached me with questions and worries. Since my office is in southern California, and the outbreak is believed to have started at Disneyland, it was a valid concern.
I got questions ranging from, “How do you feel about vaccines?” to “Are the measles really that serious?”
I think my responses surprised everyone, considering my general view of conventional medicine. Yes, I do think measles can be a serious condition, especially in very young babies and people with weak immune systems. And yes, I do support vaccination…to a certain degree.
You see, I’m unlike many holistic physicians who feel childhood vaccines are the devil. That being said, I also believe parents should make informed, educated decisions about this issue.
Investigate Before You Vaccinate
I’ll start by saying that I had my own daughters vaccinated. But before doing so, I did a lot of research.
One of my biggest concerns had to do with some potentially damaging ingredients—primarily mercury (thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, was once in many children’s vaccines and remains in the flu vaccine.)
Mercury can be toxic to the brain, but it also happens to work well as a preservative. For decades, drug companies used thimerosal in the manufacture of childhood vaccines. And as I’m sure you’ve heard, thimerosal has been blamed for the explosive rise in neurological and behavioral disorders, including autism, ADHD, and seizures.
The science behind this is mixed. One recent study concluded that “the effects of thimerosal in humans indicates that it is a poison at minute levels with a plethora of deleterious consequences…”
In stark contrast, a meta-analysis published late last year stressed that “the components of vaccines (thimerosal or mercury)…are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder.”
So What’s a Parent to Do?
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what you should do. But I will tell you what I did.
I chose to have my daughters vaccinated because I felt the benefits of protecting them from horrible diseases like polio and tetanus outweighed the risks. However, I believed at the time that the recommended vaccine schedule was extremely aggressive.
And believe it or not, it’s even more aggressive today! If you follow the current CDC schedule, your child would receive their first shot—for hepatitis B—a few hours after birth. Unless the mother has hepatitis B, I see no reason to vaccinate an hours-old child against a disease that is mainly spread through blood or sexual contact.
This shot can wait until much later in childhood.
The next round of vaccinations—given at two months old—totals four shots and one oral dose. A total of seven diseases! Babies receive the exact same lineup at four and six months of age too.
I found a pediatrician who was willing to administer vaccines on a widely spread-out timetable. I believed that spacing out the shots would reduce the amount of stress placed on my babies’ tiny bodies and immature immune systems.
I allowed the pediatrician to give one shot per visit. I watched for any reactions such as fever, rash, irritability, etc. If they were fine, I went back two or three weeks later for the next shot. But if they had any reactions—no matter how minor—I waited longer. This meant I visited the pediatrician much more frequently than most parents.
But for my peace of mind, it was worth it.
If you have any concerns about the standard vaccine schedule, find a pediatrician who is willing to work with you to alter it. It may take a little time, but they do exist. Don’t let a conventional pediatrician bully or guilt you into following a one-size-fits-all approach. It may work for some, but not everyone.
An alternate vaccination schedule is a personal decision and a choice only you and your pediatrician can make together. And there are many, many different ways to modify it. You may decide to give your child all recommended vaccines, but in a very spaced-out timetable (like I did). Or you may choose to immunize your baby against high-risk diseases, and wait until they’re older to vaccinate against lower-risk diseases such as hepatitis A and B.
Finally, I encourage you to take a lot of videos of your children/grandchildren—especially before and shortly after they get their shots. That way, if they do suffer a serious reaction (which, remember, do tend to be rare), you have documentation of their behavioral changes.
Vaccines to Avoid
My stance on childhood vaccines may surprise you. But let me assure you, I don’t have as open an attitude about a few adult vaccines: the flu, shingles, and HPV. The first two I find to be relatively useless, while the HPV vaccine is downright harmful.
Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: April 22, 2015