Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pearls Before Swine

In keeping with the things that we don't discuss in mixed company, let's talk about the great vaccination debate.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following schedule for children:

The first vaccine, Hepatitis B is to be administered at birth. The rest of the vaccines begin around eight weeks of age. Kind of insane, right?

Unless you're us. We have decided not to follow the recommended chart, and instead follow our instincts about the vaccination schedule.

There are many reasons that parents choose not to have their children immunized - Themerosol; the suspected autism link to some vaccines; the comfort of herd immunity; some believe that natural immunity is far superior to lab created immunity; some feel the risks of the vaccine outweigh the risks of the illness it is vaccinating against.

For us, it's a small combination of all of those. I intend to have my children vaccinated fully (well, as "fully" as I'm willing to go) probably by the time they start school. Both children had their first immunizations around six months of age. They both received DTaP, HiB and Polio vaccinations, and that is where it has stopped for both. The decision caused such a ruckus that we were fired from our pediatricians practice, and told we were a "threat" to their healthy children.

But then this whole H1N1 nonsense began. The media was all over it, and soon it was all anyone could talk about. My sister and the Hubbin's cousin both managed to get The Swine and recover fully.

However, what truly scared me about this pandemic (and I truly use that word loosely) was the fact that healthy children were dying of it. The seasonal flu kills people every year. It also kills children every year. But this particular strain of flu seems to be preying on healthy children. And it just so happens I have two healthy children.

Our (new and much loved) pediatrician broached the subject at Lucas' one year appointment the beginning of September. He, of course, did not have the vaccine yet, but he had a list going of parents that were potentially interested. I wasn't 100% certain that I wasn't interested, so I cautiously put my name on their list.

And then last night they called. One of my favorite things about our current pediatrician is that a doctor personally calls you, you never get stuck with a temp hired to make 700 vaccine phone calls. So after talking to the doctor for a solid 20 minutes, he gently pointed out that he had 600 people to call regarding this vaccine. I made an appointment for the kids for noon today, and decided we could continue the conversation then, figuring that if we don't end up with the vaccine, nothing would be lost but an hour or two of our time.

I called everyone who I thought might have any input regarding my decision last night. I carefully outlined a list of questions, and went in armed with a print out from the CDC with points I wanted to discuss highlighted.

My defining concern was: Are children dying because they waited too long to go to the hospital for care, or are children dying because there is nothing they can do to help that child?

The answer, in a clear as mud way, was they just don't know. In some, the virus progresses as a normal flu, and in some, it progresses at lightening speed, rendering doctors helpless, even in the finest of hospitals.

Since my children are my life, I took a deep breath and wrapped my firstborn tightly in my arms, holding her hands in mine as the administered the first dose of the H1N1 vaccination. She cried "That hurts me, Mommy! That hurts my leg!" and I cried with her. Luckily, the nursing staff realized I was a basket case, and they helped calm Cecilia so that I could hold Lucas for his turn. They are snuggled together on my bed, watching Ni Hao, Kai-Lan (yeah, I don't know, either).

Watching them drift in and out of catnaps, curled together, I truly hope beyond hope that I have made the right decision.

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