Vaccines

Brent on his piece on vaccines:

An interesting link on Daring Fireball today has me thinking about vaccines.

I’m still living with the effects of the chicken pox I had in third grade.

As a parent this is a complicated issue. I’ll get back to that.

It was the in thing when I was just a wee lad to expose your kids to Chicken Pox when the neighborhood kids etc. got it, because it was usually a fairly benign thing, and it was thought to better get it over with now, and then they’ll be done with it. As Brent points out, that’s not always the case.

For better or worse in my case, it never worked anyway. I never caught them and neither did my brother or sister.

Cut to the end of my first year in college. I go to visit a friend for the weekend, and we in turn go to eat lunch at his brother’s apartment. After we get there, there’s whispering between the brothers, and my friend turns to me saying “You’ve had the chicken pox haven’t you?” Um, no. Too late now it would seem. And of course, I caught a case from that tiny little baby (where you couldn’t even really see the pox they were so tiny, and the case so weak (seemingly).

Unlike Brent, I did not get a horrible case. Oh yeah, I looked like hell, but it wasn’t that itchy, and the fever etc was really far worse than the pox in my case. The timing was bad, as I had a must not miss senior recital to play on Wednesday (The itching and breakout started Friday night), and the senior in question was panicking at the rehearsals I was missing, but other than that… I felt pretty good by Monday morning, and while I had some makeup on and felt weak I actually played in that recital. Thankfully that was before the time of the ubiquitous digital camera.

Unfortunately, my sister caught it from me, and her case was far, far, worse. She had pox in ears and throat etc. and was incredibly uncomfortable. I still feel bad about that, though there was nothing I could do. My brother never did catch them, and years later got the vaccine either when his kids got them or the vaccine I forget which.

Fortunately for all concerned, the worst of it is a pox mark reminder here or there. I’ve been marked worse from playing gigs in bars overall.

As a parent there’s a bunch of issues. One is the “are vaccines really the right approach for all diseases.” For example in the case of influenza which changes so rapidly is there any clear scientific proof that the shot you get actually helps you not get sick? With a thankfully strong immune system, I’ve had the flu once in my life (not that it was any fun). So despite my doctor “insisting” that I get a flu shot is it having any effect? And if it isn’t, is it worth the risk?

The same thinking applies to all the stuff that Noah gets. And further there are the issues surrounding Thiomersal(commonly known in the United States as thimerosal) which is almost 50% Mercury and is used in the multi-dose versions of all (almost all?) vaccines. And even if you think any tie to Autism is bunk, should it be risked? Fortunately, it is not contained in most regular childhood single dose vaccines, but you still need to check. And in the end, is it worth the risk? Thimerosal is known to be very toxic by inhalation, ingestion, and in contact with skin with a danger of cumulative effects. And I should have some portion of this injected into my baby? Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Don’t bother talking to me about micrograms…

Noah has had all his “shots” and we are careful to make sure that they are free of toxins etc as much as possible, and I consider it for myself and Lisa every time the Doc pushes a flu shot or some such. But every shot bring s a sleepless night or two. And how much Mercury has accumulated in my system between the shots and the tuna and who knows what else (Solder fumes anyone?) What’s the tipping point that turns me into the Mad Hatter?

This is not easy stuff, and I understand the concerns of both sides, but it is clear that the functioning of living organisms is not well understood by the medical community. No blame here, just a fact from my perspective. Sure they know a lot compared to 100 years ago, but do they really understand? C’mon. And with that being the case, it is hard to take their arguments seriously except from a statistical basis. If you treat people as numbers it works. But if you think of them as people, the “greater good” arguments get harder to listen to as I get older.

I don’t know what the right thing is for everyone, or anyone. But I think that everyone needs to consider issues like this and not blindly follow anyone else’s advice. That I can advocate with a clear conscience.