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Vaccines

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Vaccines save lives and have helped build up our civilization into the modern world it is today. But with a new vaccine added to the schedule of childhood immunizations every few years, parents are starting to see that there can be too much of a good thing.

Many parents today don’t realize that there are a lot more shots than there used to be when they were a child. Most will take their baby in to all of the “well baby” check-ups and let the nurse give injections without even a thought. They believe immunization is part of their civic duty, to help keep the community healthy. After all, they were vaccinated as a child and turned out just fine. But all of that is starting to change and the new generations of parents are asking questions.

Vaccines: Then and Now

An interesting thing happens when you begin to educate yourself on the matter of vaccines. The most critical pieces of information come not from the science or the medicine or even the diseases themselves. The most valuable information comes from the history. It is by looking to the past that you can begin to understand the complexities of this medical procedure we call vaccination.

Vaccines really started to take off during the 1940’s when doctors recommended the smallpox and the DTP (a combined shot of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccines. After that was the Polio vaccine in the 1950’s and lastly the MMR (a combined shot of measles, mumps and rubella) came along in the 1970’s. Since smallpox was eventually declared eradicated, the remaining shots of polio, DTP and MMR were the only three recommended shots, for decades. A child would never receive more than two shots at one time.

The Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) was added in the 1980’s and hepatitis B in the 1990’s. An official annual vaccination schedule was implemented in 1995 and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Since then, more and more and more shots have been added. The current childhood schedule contains 69 doses of 16 vaccines. To give you an idea of how this breaks down, here is what a two month old baby would receive at one checkup: Diphtheria, Tetanus, a. Pertussis (DTaP), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV), Pneumococcal conjugate Vaccine (PCV) and Rotavirus (RV). These five shots contain 15 different strains of viruses and bacteria and are all injected into a ten pound baby in a single office visit.

Where Are All the Safety Studies?

With the introduction of each new shot one would assume that there are proper safety studies done to ensure parents that mixing together a combination of so many different diseases is, well, safe. But this is not the case. To date there are no safety studies done on the entire vaccination schedule as a whole. Each vaccine is tested individually. Since vaccines are considered a public health measure they don’t have to go through the same strict testing as a pharmaceutical drug would. Vaccines are tested against other vaccines. There are no double blind studies and no true placebos. Most of the safety studies are epidemiological (recording the effects reported by different populations of people.) No true medical studies have been done measuring blood, urine, bone marrow or other empirical data such as these.

A mother’s intuition is not something that should be taken lightly. If she had observed that her child became extremely lethargic after getting all of the recommended shots, napping hours longer than normal and running a high fever – this is what is called a vaccine reaction. More and more incidents like these are emerging, and scientists are beginning to take notice. Most Americans would be shocked to discover that the U.S. has the highest infant mortality rate out of 34 other industrialized nations.

Schedules in Japan and France

America has the most aggressive vaccination schedule of infants under one. Vaccines are a pharmaceutical product and in the U.S. pharmaceuticals are our biggest industry and our biggest commodity. We are the makers of the vaccines that go out to the rest of the world. The only difference is that in other countries they make their own vaccination schedules. While the U.S. has 26 doses of shots from birth to 12 months, Japan and France recommend 12-15 doses during the first year of life. Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Denmark are the same – though they all have the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.

The Future is in Our Hands

No one wants to look back one day and say that we made a huge mistake. It is up to the parent to ask questions. Luckily, generations X and Y are really good at questioning things. It’s okay to say no to certain shots and go slow with the ones you have decided were important. To be an American is to consume products, but this type of mentality does not serve our future generations. Especially when their blood is concerned. The days of worshiping our doctors and blindly following their advice are over. People are learning to take matters of their health into their own hands. Research. Ask questions. Find what’s right for you and your baby. Across the board health officials can agree on one thing – everything in moderation. From a daily glass of wine to a simple 30 minutes of walking per day. Our children deserve this as well. Their health is not determined by the amount of pharmaceutical products injected into them.

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Every time I ask a parent if they have heard of the new law Governor Jerry Brown signed into effect barring kids from school unless they get their shots, they say they have never heard of it. Every. Single. Time. I on the other hand want to shout it from the rooftops. Starting next year (the law does not go into effect until July 2016) any child who is going to be newly enrolled into daycare, preschool or elementary school must be fully up to date on their immunizations or they cannot be admitted. My son would be enrolling in Kindergarten next year and because we have chosen to delay his Hep B vaccine (with the consent of our doctor) he will not be allowed admittance. Again, my child will not be allowed to go to school under this new law because we are missing one shot. California has officially become a police state where lawmakers are infringing upon the basic parental right of being able to choose which medical procedure you want your children to have. And no one knows about it.

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The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement in many parenting communities. I belong to several “natural” parenting groups who believe that when it comes to vaccination – mom calls the shots. I personally believe that a selective, delayed schedule is the way to go, which I write all about here. However, this schedule was carefully considered by three doctors and seemed appropriate for me and my family at the time. Every parent needs to talk to their doctor when it comes to vaccines, and decide what’s appropriate for their own family.

Sadly, a senate bill was introduced a few weeks ago that would take away this parental right. SB277 would require all children to be fully vaccinated on schedule in order to attend school and daycare. The bill is being called “draconian”, far reaching and just plain over reaching. There is even a section in the bill that states, “Any other disease deemed appropriate by the department,” which means not only would your child have to be up-to-date on vaccines but also would have to get any new vaccines coming down the pipeline. I will break down the potential problems I see happening if this bill passes, which could be as soon as January 2016. Mostly I’ll focus on the infants, because that’s the area I am most concerned with.

When it came to my babies “well baby” visits, I went to all of them – right on time. At one day, three days, two month, four months, six months, nine months, twelve months, fifteen months and finally two years! That’s nine visits to the doctor in just a little over their first year of life. Not counting the “sick” visits when you call your nurse hot-line freaking out because there are black worms in your babies diaper (aka banana strings) or he has a deadly “cold”! The first year of life you practically live at your doctor’s office. I was extremely fortunate that I could openly discuss my concerns about vaccinations with our doctor. He was ok when I told him I wanted to wait until at least six months before any shots so that our babies had a fully developed blood brain barrier.

Our doctor was the beloved pediatrician in La Jolla, California, Dr. Richard Walls. He sadly passed away recently of a heart attack. Though he left this world early – in his early sixties, he was actually a cancer survivor of over thirty years. He attributed his remission to pursuing holistic, alternative treatments. So when we brought up eastern medicine regarding vaccines and “blood brain barriers” he immediately started talking acupuncture and chi flow. We were so lucky to have logged in so many hours with him during all those visits.

Bently died on April 10th, 2012 after getting 13 vaccines.

Here is a very different story I came across recently. A young mother brought her six month old son to the doctor for the first time. She was reluctant to bring him in for any “well baby” visits prior to that because she wanted to delay vaccines until he was a little older and she was afraid that her doctor would pressure her into getting them sooner. Her doctor was immediately put on the defense by this “six-month-old-unvaccinated-infant” and began a plan of action to get him fully-up-to-date on his vaccines. The mother never questioned the doctors plan, which included giving double doses of DTaP, a three-in-one vaccine combo, during their first visit. Tragically, her baby died five days after receiving 13 vaccines. I highly recommended that you read the full story here, because this is something that I see happening all over the country if this senate bill 277 passes.

This is a very complex issue simply because the sheer volume of vaccines on the CDC schedule today. In the 1980’s when I was a baby, there were only three shots. Look at the chart below to see how many there are today. Too many to even count. I actually feel bad for the doctor in the story above. When you are a doctor and you are working with the assumption that vaccines are perfectly safe, it would be a logical conclusion to double up on a few in order to catch up a child. I foresee parents actually demanding this of their doctors if this law passes, simply to ensure that their child will be enrolled in school. Sadly, these children will become real-time experiments of what happens when you start demanding more and more vaccines.

1983 and 2015 CDC immunization schedules

I also see the opposite reaction occurring. I see super crunchy moms refusing to take their children to the doctor ever again, denying that child potentially necessary medical care. I happen to know several moms who are so afraid to even bring up vaccines to their child’s doctor that they haven’t been to any check-ups in years. I don’t blame them, either.

Here is the closest to what we did in our family. I say closest because my doctor was ok with me doing a delayed schedule as well as a selective schedule, and Dr. Bob’s selective schedule is pretty close to that. Notice how Polio is not on here (shocker, right?) Neither is chickenpox. Or measles. Certain shots were omitted on the basis of being either benign childhood illnesses or not common in our country.

SB277 throws all this out the window. All the hours I have spent with three pediatricians. All the hours of reading about vaccinations. All the hours of thinking and wondering if I have made the right decisions regarding vaccinations. All these hours are mine. They are special to me. They are my right as a parent to keep. My right as a parent and what I have decided is an essential part of my parenting philosophy. I refuse to let anything or anyone take that away from me. I vote no on SB277. I hope you will vote no too.

For more info on how to stop this bill, visit
http://www.yourfamilyyourchoice.org

 

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Seven months ago my small home daycare had a whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak. I have an “open door” policy regarding vaccination and the children in my care range from fully vaccinated to having no vaccines at all. I considered this fact very carefully when we were one of 10,000 cases that appeared throughout California in 2014 – the largest outbreak to date. Out of the six children in my care, three came down with the cough. The first to show symptoms was a fully and recently vaccinated 18-month-old. The second was my own son who was on a delayed vaccination schedule. Lastly my daughter was confirmed though her only symptoms at the time were a runny nose. I write extensively about it all here, my most popular post to date.

I worked closely with a public health nurse and scoured the CDC database for answers. Was this because I had children in my care who were not up to date on their vaccines? This turned out to be an easy question to answer. I simply asked the public health nurse about the vaccination status of the cases in our area. Here is her reply:

“Dear Ms. Trotter,
 
Your e-mail asking for further information about pertussis cases in San Diego was forwarded to me by my staff member, ——. 
As of 8/8/2014, the total number of pertussis cases in 2014 in San Diego County is 1,183.  Of those cases, 84% were up-to-date on pertussis vaccinations, with 11% not up-to-date, 1% too young for immunization, and 4% immunization status unknown.”

I was shocked. How can 84% of confirmed (via a swab test) cases be fully up-to-date on their pertussis vaccinations? It was maddening. Mostly because I found nothing that clearly stated we were dealing with a vaccine failure. I looked and looked and found nothing. No CDC studies. No articles in scholarly journals. We were just one of the “unlucky” 1,183 people who had to go through this. It didn’t matter that we were the 11% that were not up-to-date. Over a thousand people who were fully vaccinated still got sick.

A few months later the “Measles Outbreak” was a steady headline in the six-o-clock news. Initially a wave of sheer panic came over me, but it was quickly dismissed when I saw the numbers. To date only 116 people linked to that outbreak came down with measles. In my state of California alone there were over 10,000 cases of pertussis last year. As unlucky as we were to have come down with that cough, I knew I could trust those odds against measles. This realization started me back on my quest to find out why so many cases of pertussis in the fully vaccinated?? The measles outbreak lit up the vaccine debate like never before and was quick to blame the un-vaccinated for the cases that started at Disney. Here is what the CDC says about that, “The outbreak likely started from a traveler who became infected overseas with measles, then visited the amusement park while infectious. However, no source has been identified.”

Measles is an interesting side-project, but my real purpose of late has been to get to the bottom of the pertussis outbreaks. After digging, and digging and digging it turns out that the answers were there all along. I just had to piece them all together. Is wasn’t easy. Many of the online medical journals require a subscription and even charge a fee to download and read about recent studies. I was determined. Here is what I found after searching extensively through credible sources of information. All of the scientists agree on one thing. The problem with pertussis is not a simple one. There are actually six or seven things wrong with the vaccine. Here are some of them.

The current pertussis vaccine DTaP is not as effective as it’s predecessor DTP. In the 1980’s a group of parents noticed that the DTP vaccine was causing bad reactions including high fevers, seizures and inconsolable crying after their infants received the shot. Many refused a second dose and a small group successfully sued manufacturers for vaccine injuries including devastating neurological damage. These parents successfully drove the old DTP vaccine out of the market and forced vaccine makers to create the current DTaP shot which is a more diluted version but much less reactive. It is also much less effective and recently has been discovered to only last 3 to 5 years before wearing off. The New England Journal of Medicine stated that “the major epidemics in 2005, in 2010, and now in 2012 suggest that failure of the DTaP vaccine is a matter of serious concern.”

There is a new strain of B. Pertussis that the current vaccine does not cover. One study showed that up to 85% of recent cultures were actually a new strain of pertussis. Scientists were able to conclude that this new strain is capable of invading vaccine-induced immunity, causing the rapidly increasing number of cases. What is most alarming is that those who were fully vaccinated with the DTaP were 2 to 4 times more likely to become sick with this new strain (called pertactin-negative bordetella) compared to the un-vaccinated. Even those who were partially vaccinated had an increased risk in getting this genetically mutated form of pertussis. “In the United States, pertussis is currently the least well controlled vaccine-preventable disease despite excellent vaccination coverage and 6 vaccine doses recommended between 2 months of age and adolescence.” -The Oxford Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The recently vaccinated are actually spreading the disease. Whooping cough can be spread by the recently vaccinated who show no symptoms but still can transmit the disease to those who have no immunity to it. This finding was released by a prominent medical journal who studied baboons after they were vaccinated with B. Pertussis. While they showed no symptoms of the disease after being vaccinated, they would still spread it to those they came in contact with. We now know that the current DTaP vaccine is not as effective and begins to wane after 3 years. Therefore, the majority of the vaccinated children over age three are susceptible to acquiring the disease when having come into contact with a recently vaccinated person. Infants and children who have been recently vaccinated are actually silent carriers of pertussis into the community. The purpose of this study explains it best, “we hypothesize that current acellular pertussis (aP) vaccines fail to prevent colonization and transmission.” Here is an article the New York times wrote about it. “When you’re newly vaccinated you are an asymptomatic carrier, which is good for you, but not for the population,” the article explains.

What does the CDC have to say about the pertussis vaccine? “In 2012, the CDC acknowledged that pertussis vaccine immunity has waned in older children, that DTaP/Tdap immunity begins to wane within five years of vaccination and that unvaccinated individuals and children with vaccine exemptions are not to blame for current whooping cough outbreaks.” -From the National Vaccine Information Center. However, the CDC still stands by their premise that the current pertussis vaccine does shorten the severity and duration of the illness even if it does not prevent infection. In 2012 they launched a huge campaign to have all pregnant women vaccinated in hopes that they will not become sick while their baby is a newborn. Infants less than two months old are the most at risk of death from this disease.

The top three reasons the DTaP vaccine is a failed vaccine:
1. The infants and children who receive the vaccine are silent asymptomatic carries of the disease which can “shed” or infect those who have no immunity to it for up to six weeks.
2. The vaccine only protects against one strain of pertussis called pertactin-positive when studies show this may cover as little as only 15% of cases while the other 85% are a pertactin-negative strain.
3. The current DTaP vaccine is much less reactive but a lot less effective than it’s predecessor because it is a more diluted version.

Seven months ago when my daycare and then my family came down with a “vaccine-preventable disease” I never stopped wondering if this was because we were not up-to-date on our vaccines. Now I know we are not to blame. I even looked back at the shot records of each of the children in my care to see if any of them had been recently vaccinated with the DTaP shot during that time. It turns out that a six month old baby in my care had just had his second dose of DTaP five weeks prior to the the first sign of coughing in my house. Sadly though, this story will go mostly unheard. I will most likely be labeled as just another typical educated, upper-class, anti-vaccine heretic whose voice will be quieted and disproved with factoids. Maybe the 40 friends and family who are fans of my blog will click this link and maybe they will even get to the end of this post. But even if just one person who reads this has a five-day-old baby, my hope it that they will be better able to protect her.

“All of this implies an enormous effort, but I believe that we cannot allow a vaccine-preventable disease to be incompletely controlled, and that a new pertussis vaccine is needed.” –Clin Infect Dis. (2014) 58 (6): 830-833. doi: 10.1093/cid/cit934 First published online: December 20, 2013                 

 

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Understanding vaccinations is completely overwhelming for any normal parent. The abbreviations and names are difficult to pronounce, let alone remember. It’s just damn confusing. My daughter is five and I never really bothered to even try and understand what each vaccination was or what disease it helped you not get. That is until about six months ago when my home daycare had a pertussis outbreak. I write about that hell extensively here, and it was one of my most popular posts generating quadruple the amount of views I normally get. I can only guess that this was because people were like, “Holy shit. Isn’t that one of those diseases we vaccinate against?” Yes it is. I then immersed myself with all things related to the pertussis vaccine. I read everything I could get my hands on during the six weeks we had that cough. I still read about it. We all made it through with no complications. What I was left with was a mountain of information on one vaccine.

The pertussis shot is a really interesting place to start if you want to dive into the topic of vaccine history. It was originally called DTP and was introduced in the 1940’s. Nearly 50 years later parents discovered that some babies were suffering devastating neurological damage from the shot. These parents of children who suffered successfully sued manufacturers driving the vaccine maker out of the market. In the 90’s a new, more diluted version was created that we use today called the DTaP. Recently, this newer version has been under intense scrutiny because there have been so many outbreaks in highly vaccinated populations. Scientists are faced with a huge dilemma of fixing this problem. The Bordetella pertussis bacteria is a beast of a thing to try and understand. Scientists will have to spend years to try and develop a new vaccine and the cost would be in the hundreds of millions. The companies that benefit from the current vaccine would not be happy. At all.

This leads me to the topic of industry. Vaccine industry?? Yes, industry. As in making a boat load of money for every single shot given to every single baby in this country. Every day. So here’s the deal. It actually goes back to those parents who sued the DTP manufacturers and won. After that, the Bush administration responded to this “threat” of the vaccine supply by enacting into law The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in 1986. The NCVIA is still in effect today and protects vaccine makers from financial liability due to vaccine injury claims. In other words we protect the vaccine manufacturers from going out of business. So basically parents cannot sue the maker of any particular shot if their baby has a bad reaction to it. Instead, they are directed to a program that was established two years later in 1988 called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. This is also know as “vaccine court.” To date, the VICP has paid out over $2.8 billion dollars in compensation to parents or families of vaccine injured persons. This may seem like a lot over a period of 27 years, but it’s more like a drop in the bucket compared to what these companies make every single year.

Although the vaccine industry is much smaller than the pharmaceutical industry, the profits they generate are in the billions. There are five top vaccine makers. To give you an example of one of them, GlaxoSmithKline makes about $5.37 billion per year. What bothers me the most about this whole other side of the vaccine debate is this. In order for vaccine manufacturers to be protected by the  NCVIA law (the one where you can’t sue them) their vaccine must be included in the current mandated vaccination schedule. Isn’t there something called conflict of interest?? So when you take your baby to get her shots, every single shot administered is protected by a law. A law that ensures a vaccines net worth. Does this sound right to you? In fact around forty cents for every shot is a “tax” that helps fund the payouts for vaccine court.

If only we could go back to the 80’s, and back to a time where a grassroots collective of parents could stand together and create a difference. It was parents who demanded that mercury be removed from all baby shots. Eventually vaccine manufacturers listened (finally) and in 2001 Thimerosal was removed from all childhood vaccinations with the exception of the flu shot. We can still make a difference but sadly in this country normal people don’t stand a chance against multi-billion dollar companies. Especially when those companies are protected by law. It is these same companies that push to have their shots on the current vaccine schedule. The CDC is know for “getting cozy” with big pharmaceutical companies.

This brings me to my last point. Another amazing thing about the 80’s was the vaccine schedule. This schedule had three times LESS the amount of vaccinations. This picture sums it all up. Why so many shots?? The United States has more vaccines on their current schedule than any other first world nation. Parents must exercise caution. Especially because there are over 300 more vaccines coming down the pipeline. I write about alternative vaccine schedules here. It can be quite the task deciding which shots you feel are absolutely necessary and which ones you are ok skipping. Dr. Sears came up with something he calls the “selective” vaccine schedule. I highly recommend this. I think that there can be too much of a good thing.

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Measles Update

Posted - 22 January, 2015
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Recently, the media has had a field day sensationalizing a measles outbreak stemming across the country. The CDC has confirmed that the current outbreak did originate from someone who was sick with measles while visiting Disneyland between December 15th – 20th last year. Several more people also came down with measles after their trip to Disneyland during that same time period, and then brought it back to the states where they live. This is why the illness has spread to Oregon, Utah, Washington, Colorado and even Mexico. These people are being carefully monitored by local public health agencies and being quarantined to stop measles from spreading even further. I personally know what a painstaking process this is since my daycare had a pertussis outbreak over the summer, which you can read about here.

This post is not a one sided vaccine debate. I know I am tired of reading those. So tired. I am a mother who makes careful, educated decisions regarding vaccination, the food I feed my kids, and the kind of environment they are surrounded in. I also find their immune systems to be particularly fascinating which is why I wanted to see what was up with measles, and what would happen if a child came down with it. I also found it upsetting that everyone, especially on social media, is in a sheer state of panic over 59 cases of measles. After all whooping cough had over 10,000 confirmed cases last year, and that is just in my state of California alone.

So here’s the deal. In 2000 the CDC declared measles eliminated in the United States. This does not mean that measles was eradicated worldwide. In fact, it really means that on average the U.S. still sees about 200 cases of imported measles a year because it is a huge problem currently in places like the Philippines. So basically international travelers bring the illness back to our country. Now, 2014 did see a huge spike in the number of measles cases with a whopping 644 cases by the end of the year. The question is: why such a dramatic increase now after all these years??

I find it maddening that the media will tell you with 100% certainty that the anti-vaxers are solely responsible for the Disneyland outbreak, simply because it is in California where there are a higher percentage of parents opting out of vaccines. Really? The last time my family and I went to Disneyland we saw another family next to us with luggage tags on their stroller stamped with CHINA. It just makes sense to me that there would be an outbreak of a non-native ilness like measles in a place where people visit from all over the world.

So please, take a deep breath. To help calm you down, here is a quote Dr. Bob sears recently posted on his FB page regarding the recent measles outbreak, “Deadly? Not in the U.S., or any other developed country with a well-nourished population. The risk of fatality here isn’t zero, but it’s as close to zero as you can get without actually being zero. It’s 1 in many thousands.”Again, 59 cases of measles in this current outbreak with the norm being around 200 imported cases a year. That is a drop in the bucket compared to the pertussis epidemic – with over 10,00 cases reported last year in California alone. Two of those cases were infants less than five weeks old who sadly died.

So, the question remains as to why the huge increase of cases this year. Here are my two cents – measles will never take an infants life they way pertussis can wipe out a perfectly healthy, American newborn overnight. So lets not worry about measles, for now. Lets not focus on an annoying rash and put all of our attention towards a cough that fills your lungs with so much fluid you choke it back and struggle to breathe. Lets develop a new, safe vaccine that actually works for pertussis because to me it just doesn’t make sense that 90% of pertussis patients were fully vaccinated. But I digress…

Lastly, I will admit that going from 200 cases of measles to 644 does seem to be from parents opting out of the measles or MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine. But I do not blame these parents. After all, what would you do if you were asked to inject your child with a shot that also carried the nickname “the autism vaccine?” Especially if you educated yourself and knew that each of these MMR diseases can be annoying and uncomfortable, but rarely life threatening. So on one side we have an outbreak of something truly nasty like pertussis with the majority of infected fully vaccinated, and on the other we have 28 people who were not vaccinated and came down with measles after going to Disney. Just saying.

Kids get rashes all the time. Here is my daughter’s latest. No other symptoms.

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Ok. I have to start out with saying that I really dislike the anti-vaccine people. They are really intense and I hope I never get into a debate with one of them as they use lots of emotion with little reason. I also think that the pro-vaccination community (most of them scientists) are even worse and threaten and berate the hippie parents with facts and studies that have little to do with the bigger picture. I like to think of myself as Switzerland. I own a home daycare and tell everyone that I do not discriminate one way or the other. Some of my kids get all of their shots and some don’t. Now that that is said – I would like to discuss an alternative to the regular vaccine schedule. Why? Well, mostly because my kids got whooping cough and I am a little disheartened by the vaccine schedule at the moment. If you are happy with your decision to vaccinate your child with every single recommended shot, then there is no need to read on any further. If a part of you has always wondered if there were a simple alternative – nothing extreme, just a middle of the road option, then please read on. Like many of the parents I have met over the years, we were extremely reluctant to inject our tiny newborn babies seconds after coming out of a sterile womb. Our midwife was the first to tell us that many do skip the Heb B vaccine…. still reading?? Intrigued at least?

Fast forward five years. Our first born is almost ready for kindergarten and it is mind blowing. For the rest of this post I am going to use her as an example. She is actually the healthiest person I know. I worried about her growing up in a home daycare, a business I started so I could stay home and watch her grow. I was worried she would be sick all the time. I wanted to protect her from getting more than the normal 10-15 viruses kids are supposed to get each year. For you see, when you have a daycare with six kids under age four, you can compound the standard number of sickness per year with each additional child. During the cold and flu season I am able to count the number of days she is well in any given month – on one hand! So we decided to give her immune system a break from the regular schedule, and we delayed vaccinations.

When our daughter was seven months old we gave her baby chicks for Easter. They grew into backyard chickens. It turns out that those pets provided one of the greatest gifts to my daughters growing immune system – their poop. Yes. Chicken shit. Chickens are really dirty animals. They literally roll around in the dirt and take dirt baths, sifting it through their feathers. Apparently this removes mites. My daughter would love to pick up her chickens. We even got a miniature rooster for her named Jessy that was just her size. He came with that name. She carried him around everywhere. She even pushed him in her swing set and brought him inside the house with her. He loved that little girl. Each exposure to his bacteria
made her gut stronger. Your immune system starts in your gut.

The more you are exposed to as a child while your immune system is still “learning” the healthier you will be as an adult. You may even come across something truly nasty like staph or e coli later in life and your body will have a memory imprint of handling a similar situation when you were young. When you were young and you put your fingers and objects into your mouth all the time after playing in dirt. The body can only handle well what it has had practice with before. Put your baby in a sterile apartment with no backyard and a neurotic mother who shampoos the carpets every other week and you have a recipe for disaster. Allergies are the number one symptom of a weak immune system.

So one might reason that lots of vaccines would actually be good for a growing immune system, right? For this next part I want to ask you a question: how many shots has your baby or child had so far? Go ahead. Try and guess. Do you even know? Eight? Eleven? Twenty? Thirty six? Or how about my daughter… ok I will tell you. If I were to have gone along with the regular vaccine schedule my daughter would have had 49 doses of 14 vaccines by age 6. Half of those shots would have been given in the first 15 months of life.

What I think is the most controversial about the regular CDC schedule is that babies receive up to 7 shots in a single visit for up to 9 diseases. Most parents don’t even realize this fact.  My husband and I decided that fewer shots, or a selective vaccination schedule was a better choice for our family. Especially since our daughter would be growing up in a daycare which puts her at a much higher risk for ear infections and secondary bacterial infections. We didn’t want to overload her immune system. Recently I had an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) in my daycare. My daughter’s main symptom was a runny nose. We had her swabbed and she tested positive. Again, she is the healthiest person I know with the strongest immune system I have seen. Exposure doesn’t equal illness.

Why so many shots today? When my husband and I were kids in the 80’s there were only 8 different shots. It doesn’t take a scientist or a crunchy mom to realize that the answer to this is really very simple. Vaccines generate profit. In fact many pediatric offices would be out of business if it weren’t for their well baby programs – where parents bring their child in every few months for the sole purpose of getting shots. I really like this “Follow The Money” news report that came out a few years ago. It explains the notion that the vaccine industry might have your child’s health as their number two concern. For you see the vaccine industry gives millions to the American Academy of Pediatrics each year. The American Academy of Pediatrics backs the current vaccine schedule. Pediatrician Dr. Paul Offit, the guru of vaccines and a big defender of vaccine safety, stands by his statement that a baby can theoretically handle “10,000 vaccines at one time.” In the news report I mentioned above they uncovered that Offit also gets big payouts from vaccine profits by holding a patent on one of the vaccines in the current schedule.

Here is the question we all need to be asking when it comes to our child’s immune systems: is there a breaking point? For me it is very hard to believe that 49 shots are perfectly safe for my child when the ones saying vaccines are safe are generating huge profits from every shot administered. That is why I like the idea of a selective vaccination schedule, originally thought up by Dr. Bob Sears, the son of famous Dr. Willliam Sears and nurse Martha Sears. Bob’s parents wrote one of the most famous baby books on the shelves today, “The Baby Book.” Like his parents Bob became a pediatrician too and his practice in Southern California sees many hippie moms (it is in So Cal after all.) He saw that many parents had legitimate concerns about vaccine safety and some had even seen bad reactions to vaccinations. So here is what he came up with – a selective vaccination schedule.

Selective schedule:
2 months – DTaP, Rotavirus
3 months – PC, Hib
4 months – DTaP, Rotavirus
5 months – PC, Hib
6 months – DTaP, Rotavirus
7 months – PC, Hib
15 months – PC, Hib
5 years – Tetanus booster
10 years – Blood tests for measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and hep A immunity. Consider vaccinating if not immune. Also consider a 3-dose polio series if travel to Africa or Asia is a possibility.
11 years – HPV (3 doses, girls only)
12 years – Hep B (3 doses)

The Selective Vaccination Schedule only recommends about half of the shots in the regular schedule. The shots that are skipped meet the following criteria: they are either generally mild childhood illnesses, are fairly rare or don’t exist in our country. Chickenpox is skipped for being a mild illness, though some parents (mostly vegans) decide against this vaccine because of the ingredients alone. Chickenpox is a good example of money versus health. Mostly this vaccine was created in the mid 90’s for the sole purpose of protecting kids from getting the immune building childhood disease simply because they would not be allowed at daycare for up to a week. The government decided that it was better for the economy if parents didn’t have to miss all that work, and the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine was created. The United States and Canada are two countries that vaccinate against chickenpox. Most other countries in the world do not. The way I see it this is an optional shot.

The decision not to give our kids the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine is a personal one. Our reasoning is this: my husband and I both had it as kids and therefore have lifetime immunity. When I was pregnant and nursing – the only time chickenpox can be dangerous to both mom and fetus, I knew my baby and I were protected. I want to give my kids this same lifelong protection, especially for my daughter. Recently, and I write about this in my pertussis post, vaccines are being discovered to wear off much faster than previously assumed. Therefore if I were to vaccinate my kids against chickenpox and keep them from getting a mild childhood disease  – I am actually putting them at a greater risk later in life when the vaccine wears off. I don’t want my daughter to be in college and sick with adult chickenpox, or pregnant in her first trimester – which can be potentially fatal to the fetus. So I wait for the day my kids show the first signs of those bumps, will call a few friends and have a good old fashioned chickenpox party like in the 80’s. (By the way there is an antiviral medicine for chickenpox that can shorten the duration and severity of the illness.)

I also wanted to list an alternative vaccination schedule in case you were wondering what that is – which basically just spreads out the 49 shots over time. Sears recommends this schedule because he believes it is better for babies to get no more than two shots at one time. I think two at once is perfectly reasonable given that no where in nature would a person ever be sick with 9 different diseases in their blood at once. Sears also recommends giving vitamin C and D before any shots. For more on the Alternative Schedule and making the switch to this schedule click here.

Alternative schedule:                             Regular Schedule:
2 months – DTaP, Rotavirus                    Birth – Hep B
3 months – PC, Hib                                  1 month – Hep B
4 months – DTaP, Rotavirus                    2 months – HIB, Pc, DTaP, Rotavirus, Polio
5 months – PC, Hib                                  4 months – HIB, Pc, DTaP, Rotavirus, Polio
6 months – DTaP, Rotavirus                    6 months – HIB, Pc, DTaP, Rotavirus, Hep B, Flu
7 months – PC, Hib                                  1 year – MMR, Chickenpox, Hep A
9 months – polio, flu (2 doses)                 15 months – HIB, Pc
12 months – mumps, polio                       18 months – DTap, polio, Hep A, Flu
15 months – Pc, Hib                                 2 years – Flu
18 months – DTaP, chickenpox               3 years – Flu
21 months – flu                                        4 years – Flu
2 years – rubella, polio                             5 years – DTaP, Polio, MMR, Flu, Chickenpox
2 years, 6 months – Hep B, Hep A           12 years – Tdap, Meningococcal, HPV (3 doses, girls only)
3 years – Hep B, measles, flu
3 years, 6 months – Hep B, Hep A
4 years – DTaP, polio, flu
5 years – MMR, flu
6 years – chickenpox
12 years – Tdap, HPV (girls only)
12 years, 2 months – HPV (girls only)
13 years – HPV (girls only), meningococcal

*note: the Alternative Schedule has one less shot than the regular because HepB at birth is omitted. Even though it looks like more shots than the schedule on the right, there are actually less. It is amazing to see it stretched out two shots at a time. There are also double the number of trips to the doctor with the schedule on the left. This takes dedication.

For me the selective vaccination schedule is like drawing a line in the sand. We have done the research and decided that there can be too much of a good thing. When it comes to our children’s blood, shouldn’t they be protected first and profited off of last? Sadly it is the other way around. What is so interesting is that America is the only country that injects it’s infants with so many shots. In Japan they only recommended 6 injections during the first year of life – compare that to our 25. Why are we so different than other countries? Well mostly because in the 1980’s congress granted liability protection to vaccine makers. That means they have legal immunity. To what? You ask. If your child has an adverse reaction to a vaccine you would not be able to sue the vaccine manufacturer or go after the pharmaceutical industry. As each decade went by after that shield system was passed in 1986 the government added more and more shots to the recommended schedule.

So what do you do if your child has a bad reaction to a vaccine? First you go to the Vaccine Adverse Reaction Reporting System, VARES to file a report. This is a passive surveillance system managed by the FDA and the CDC. Anyone can do this for any type of vaccine reaction even if it is just a sore arm. Sadly mistakes do happen like a nurse giving a double dose of a combination shot or the vaccine makers creating “hot lots” where something in the shot’s formula was off. This system keeps track of it all and doctors are supposed to make reports into the system as well.

Then there is the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program enacted in 1986. This program offers compensation to those who have injuries presumed to be caused by vaccines as long as they happen within a certain time table. A portion of every shot given is taxed (around 75 cents) which raises money for the compensation program. The program is also know as “vaccine court” and uses a no-fault alternative dispute resolution system for resolving vaccine injury claims. Since the start of the program awards have totaled over $2 billion.

I really think it is important to know about the role our government has in the current vaccine schedule. When it comes to my children I am the one who makes the decisions regarding their health. I choose what to feed them, when to put them to bed and what I will or will not inject directly into their blood. In as recent as 2001, mercury in the form of thimerosal was a standard preservative in all vaccines. Today it has been removed except for the flu shot (which is why Sears does not recommended the flu shot containing mercury for babies and pregnant women.) I believe it was moms who simply wouldn’t put up with having a known neurotoxin in their children’s vaccines that eventually led to its removal. I hope that soon there will be a set number of shots determined that a child can safely receive. I know the number that I am comfortable with. No government agency will be able to convince me otherwise.

Read more here about regular, alternative and selective vaccine schedules.

The Regular, Alternative and Selective vaccine schedules listed above come directly from “The Vaccine Book” by Robert W. Sears, Copyright 2007. For the 2014 schedule visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/

Rooster inside the house.

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Recently, our son got pertussis (whooping cough) which you can read all about in my previous post. I spent so many hours researching and reading up on this disease. Reading was a healthy outlet for me while we sat around waiting for him to get better. It was a fascinating experience to learn about an illness as I was going through it in real time. The CDC website became added to my favorites tab. I was constantly referring to them for information about our diagnosis – pertussis. As the weeks went by the thing that got me thinking was that no one was right about our prognosis – how his sickness was predicted to develop.

Whooping cough is also referred to as “the 100 day cough.” The mucous that develops in the lining of the lungs is extremely thick – making it difficult to expel. Videos on YouTube are horrifying. One shows a young girl, on day 27 of whooping cough, coughing until she throws up. The video is only a minute and 26 seconds long but it feels like forever.  That is a common occurrence with kids, according to the description of the disease. In adults who get sick it can be even worse, and some can cough so hard they crack a lung or pass out. This was what kept me up at night. My husband too. Not knowing how bad or for how long our son would be sick was the worst.

Here’s what actually happened. Our experience. My son started coughing on a Thursday. It was a dry cough at first and I expected he was just getting another cold and would be better in a few days. The following Tuesday the cough became more productive and he had a coughing fit that lasted only a few seconds but his face turned red and he appeared to have coughed up mucous and then swallowed it. We went to the doctor the next day. He was swabbed for pertussis and the results came back positive the next evening. I was a mix of scared and confident. Sacred that my sons birth defect of a narrowed airway would make this a nightmare for him. Confident that he was strong and healthy and we would get through this.

Whooping cough is know for being the worst at night. We did have many hours accumulate of interrupted sleep. My son would wake up between 2-5 times at night and cough for under a minute each time, but was always able to fall right back to sleep. The nights were not as bad as when he would get croup and require breathing treatments. He never coughed until he threw up, and he never had the “whooping” or gasping for breath associated with this cough. For the first two weeks he coughed mostly at night and when he woke up in the morning. On the third week he stopped coughing at night and coughed mostly when he ate food or if he was running. He actually never stopped running around and playing the entire time he was sick.

Last week was our fourth week and my son went almost a whole day without coughing. I got a call from the public health nurse we had been working with since our positive diagnosis. She wanted to know how my son was doing for her official report. It went down on the record that he had a “mild” version of pertussis. As I write this it is a Monday and the beginning of week five. My son now can go a whole day without coughing. We made it through. I attribute it mostly to the fact that my kids are strong and healthy, eat well and sleep well. We also eliminated dairy from my sons diet this entire time. Vitamin D and C work wonders, as well as the homeopathic remedy for pertussis called Drosera. So if you or your child gets pertussis this season, hang in there. This too shall pass.

I mostly wanted to share our experience getting a common childhood disease. I actually would have never even brought my son in to the doctor if he hadn’t had an underlying condition. He was born with  grade 1 congenital stenosis, or narrowed airway, which causes him to have reoccurring croup. We always bring him to the doctor when he gets a cough to check his oxygen levels. If my daughter would have gotten this exact same cough I would have not brought her in. There was nothing alarming about it. My husband described it as a 3 on a scale of 1-10. I think many kids get this and make it through undiagnosed. The CDC estimates that only 1 out of 10 cases are ever diagnosed. So don’t be afraid. As with any illness, as long as your are healthy you can fight it off. Whooping cough is not as scary as it sounds. At least it wasn’t for us.

My husband and I never got sick from our son. I asked my mom if she remembered me having this as a kid and she said no. I looked up on the internet that you can have something called a titer test done to check to see your immunity levels from pertussis. I called my doctor and had her order me the lab test. She had never heard of a pertussis titer before either. I got my results five days later and it turned out I was immune to pertussis. My titer level was a number 23 out of 49. I must have gotten it as a child and my parents never even realized. I have never had the pertussis booster shot, nor will I ever need one. The particular titer test I took was for natural immunity, which can only happen when you get sick with the actual disease. There is another titer you can take to see if your body produced antibodies from the pertussis booster shot – but those are different antibodies. So now my entire family has natural immunity to pertussis. Natural lifetime immunity. If I have another baby and am able to nurse her – she will be protected for as long as I am nursing her. We will never have to worry about pertussis again.

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Our son got whooping cough…

Posted - 4 August, 2014
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The back story – or our son’s throat

A few days ago I took my son in to see his doctor for a routine check on his croupy cough. I say routine because he has gotten croup four times just this year, and about as many times during each of his three years of life. An amazing pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist named Seth Pransky discovered that our son has an elliptical cricoid. This basically means that his throat and trachea are slightly oblong instead of the standard circular column.

Interestingly, this is how a dog’s throat is shaped – which gives them their bark. In our sons case he comes down with a barking cough even with the most mild of colds. The circumference of an oval is far less than that of a circle. And when you are a tiny person with a tiny airway to begin with, this is actually a pretty big deal. When mucous or even dust try and pass through this smaller than usual passage, his body can’t help coughing – and it’s gnarly sounding. When we are in line at the grocery store or post office and he coughs, I often get looks from other moms like “how can you bring your kid out in public like that?”

Another down side of having a child who gets reoccurring croup is that one out of five times his throat swells up so bad he has stridor, or restricted airway, making him wheeze badly on the inhale and exhale. The wheezing can get so bad that he needs steroids on hand in order to breath. These stridor attacks are always at night, and involve an elaborate process of taking him outside into the cold night air and then into a steaming shower, while we wait the three hours it takes for the meds to kick in. Sometimes he is ok after one or to of these treatments. Sometimes I do this three or four times throughout the night. This method works so well actually that we have only had to resort to steroids three times.

When he comes down with something, I never know when I go to sleep at night if I am going to have to go through this. So when I took him to the doctor for his cough it was mostly to make sure we could get an updated dose of steroids based on his current weight. When the doc told me he wanted to swab him to rule out whooping cough, a part of me did agree because this cough did seem different. He had a small coughing fit the day before that seemed to almost be choking him and his face turned red, which I had never seen before. I probably wouldn’t have brought him in for a cough if he hadn’t had this underlying condition. After all it is normal for a child to get sick 10-15 times per year. And kids get coughs all the time.

Testing positive for pertussis

We had the test done on a Wednesday morning and were told to stay away from any infants under one until results came back. By the end of the day Thursday I got a call from our doctor. He simply said that Nolan was positive for pertussis (whooping cough) and that the whole family would need to be treated with antibiotics. That was it. He had other calls to make and I was actually shocked at how he delivered the news so nonchalantly. I asked how many of these cases he is seeing and he said, “Two a week.” That is not out of his whole practice either, which includes five doctors. That is two per week that he personally sees of his own patients.

Apparently California has officially declared an epidemic of pertussis, or whooping cough. There have been 800 cases reported across the state in the first two weeks of June alone. For every one case of pertussis, it is thought that there are ten more undocumented. As I write this there are 1,000 confirmed cases in my town of San Diego. There were only 120 cases reported this same time last year and only 431 total for the whole year in my area. In 2010 there was a similar outbreak, with a 2,000 percent increase of confirmed cases across the nation. I think that this is much more common than people realize, as 50% of the time you can have whooping cough without the whoop, making it appear no different than a regular cough.

And now on to the exciting parts. I am able to use humor now but the days following the diagnosis were definitely not funny. At all. I own my own home daycare business and had to notify five families that their kid(s) was exposed to whooping cough and needed to go on antibiotics. Making those phone calls was the longest hour of my life. Out of seven kids under age five, all were exposed, all but two were up to date on their vaccinations and only two came down with full blown pertussis. Out of the two that got sick, one was up to date on their vaccines and one was not. Interestingly, my son got sick but his sister did not.

If you are looking for a vaccine debate, you will not find it here. The fact remains that regardless of being vaccinated fully or not – people are still getting whooping cough. Most of these people are adults who don’t even realize they have an illness that could be potentially fatal to a one month old. When an adult gets pertussis their symptoms are the exact same as a mild cold, ending with a lingering annoying cough lasting for several weeks. When a newborn baby gets this, and 75% of them will get it from a family member, it can be catastrophic. This is simply because teeny tiny babies actually haven’t developed their cough reflex fully and can easily become too weak to cough. Their lungs fill with fluid and they basically drown.

The day after our diagnosis I got a call from a county public health nurse (eeek!) Apparently doctor’s offices are required to send such test results over to them. We spoke for over an hour and I was thoroughly informed, educated, investigated and enlightened on the process of curbing this highly infectious communicable disease. I even had to provide flight information for when my son and I traveled a couple of weeks ago, including row and seat numbers. They needed to know if Nolan sat next to anyone on the airplane and if he had a runny nose at the time. If you have ever seen the movie Contagion, with Gwyneth Paltrow – this is exactly what is was like. Interestingly the topic of vaccines never came up. Public health’s number one priority is finding out who was in direct contact with the infected, and getting those people on antibiotics. This is called the “quarantine method,” which along with good hygiene has eradicated much of the worlds worst diseases.

What about my son and the other child infected? They simply had a cough – luckily because they are kids and not tiny babies. It sucks because it has been going on for 12 days now. It is infrequent during the day and at night the kids wake up a couple times coughing, disturbing their sleep. Whooping cough starts out as a runny nose or mild cold, with a minor fever or no fever at all. Then a week or ten days later the cough sets in. It is worse at night and can last anywhere from 2-3 weeks to 2-3 months giving it the nickname “the hundred day cough.” You are highly contagious for 21 days – unless you go on antibiotics.  Then you can be around people and babies after just five days of treatment.

The question we all need to be asking ourselves is this: why are people getting sick despite being immunized?? Right now the CDC is working on it as well. Recently it has been discovered that the pertussis vaccine wears of mush faster than they had thought – even as early as a year later. What some also suspect is that the pertussis disease has evolved into a new strain. Diseases are smart and can figure out a way to get into us and make us sick. That’s their job after all. While the CDC works on what it is going to do about our epidemic, we all need to be very careful.

I predict that in the year to come I am going to hear about other people I know getting this. It sucks to be the first but my hope is that by reading this you will be on the alert. Slow down. Keep those new tiny babies in the bubble they deserve. The interesting thing is that in order to get this you really have to have a lot of direct exposure to someone coughing multiple times. If you have a newborn baby, don’t let anyone around who has a cold or cough. The other day I overheard some mom taking about another mom who had brought her son to a birthday party despite having a fever. If you do have to go out, keep any new babes in a carrier with a thin blanket over them.

We are all fortunate to live in a modern industrialized nation at a time when many of the worst childhood illness are a thing of the past. Sadly, this epidemic is slightly changing that. As I write this my family is on day four of a five day quarantine. We have had to put our lives on hold, and slow down for the sake of the community. I am extremely fortunate that we don’t have a newborn baby, and that we weren’t around anyone who did. This story could have ended very differently. However, now that my children have been exposed to the live virus, they will have immunity for the next 30 years. Luckily, we will never go through this or put ourselves or anyone at risk again. At least until the grandchildren arrive…

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