My Vaccination Decision
Vaccination is a hugely debated topic. It brings up high emotions in those both for and against vaccination, and it can be a minefield for new parents who want to find out a little more before making a the choice to vaccinate or not.
As a homeopath I passionately support the right of every parent to choose what is right for them, and I treat children from both vaccinating and non-vaccinating families in my practice daily.
I thought I would share how I made the descision for my children when they were babies, in the hope that it might give some insight into the factors to consider when making the choice for your own family.
When my first daughter was born, it took many weeks for me to recover from a very traumatic delivery. At six weeks, when the first vaccinations were due, I was still in a shocked daze. I duly plodded up to the doctors surgery and she had the first immunisations.
It was only as I made my way home that I suddenly thought, "I am not sure I wanted that to happen!". The exhaustion and trauma had muddled my mind so much that I had just followed the instuctions of the health visitor, without taking time to think it through.
I decided then that I needed to do some research and make a much more informed decision about any further vacinations.
I made a list of questions that looked something like this:
What are the illnesses we vaccinate against? Are they treatable/curable?
What complications might there be from the illnesses?
How likely is my child to come into contact with or catch each illness?
What are the vaccines? What do they contain?
How effective are they? How long ago were they introduced?
Are they still up to date and relevant?
What complications might arise from the vaccinations?
To start with I read as widely as I could. At the time, there was no internet to research (and get overwhelmed by), so books written by alternative medicine practioners were my main source of information, along with the NHS leaflets on vaccines.
The information I found was perhaps less emotive than the information widely available now. In general, the NHS information was very basic, telling me I must immunise my children against these diseases, but when I asked questions about possible side effects from vaccines and their effectiveness I was met with a wall of silence. No one would discuss the issue any further with me, and that in itself made me nervous.
On the other side of the argument, there was plenty of information in the books I read. There were clear explanations of what the illnesses were and how they were treated, and when to call in medical help. There was information about how the illnesses were transmitted and how likely or unlikely it was that my child would come into contact with them.
There was also information about the side effects of vaccines, how they were tested, what they contained, and why we might have questions about them.
I also realised that there has been a social shift with regard to children and illness. It used to be accepted that children get ill. They get bugs, coughs, colds, and occasionally one of the recognised childhood illnesses, and that is how their immune system becomes effective. That used to be the norm. But not any more!
Now, with the internet, there is an overwhelming amount of information available for parents to read and try to get to grips with.
In the end though, it comes down to a basic choice. I finally made a descision based on this question:
Which do I fear most? The potential complications of vaccinations? Or the potential complications of the illnesses?
I decided to take the option that I felt gave me more control. I felt confident that I could raise my children to have healthy immune systems that would cope with the usual childhood illnesses, and that I would be able to cope with looking after them if they got ill, and importantly, that I would understand when medical help might be needed. I was clear about the risks of the illnesses and how to reduce those risks, both by keeping their immune systems healthy, and by keeping them away from others if they got ill.
But ultimately I felt more able to cope emotionally with the illnesses and the associated (but small) risks they posed, than I did with the risks of vaccination side effects.
In the end, my eldest had no further vaccinations and my other 3 children had none at all.
Doing my research made me realise that this is an intensely personal decision. Each parent will have different experiences from their own childhood of illness and health and of the medical profession. Each parent will have a different level of confidence in coping with illness, as well as in their choices about parenting in general. So many factors feed into our decisions about how to care for our children. My intuition and experiences led me in one direction, but that will be different for every one.
Over the 20 years since I made my decision, I have learned much more about the topic, and I have trained as a homeopath and worked in this area for nearly a decade. But I still maintain that we are fortunate in this country to have the choice, and we must absolutely respect that what we choose may not suit someone else.
My contribution to this debate is to try to make it easier for new parents to have an open conversation about this emotive topic, offering free 1 hour consultations to discuss it and open up the conversation so that an informed choice can be made.
Whatever you decide, do take some time to consider your options.
Below are some links to some information sources that might be of interest:
http://www.informedparent.co.uk - For childhood vaccine information
http://arnica.org.uk - Support and information for parents on health issues
http://www.strive-uk.org/ - For Teens and University Students
http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinations/Pages/vaccination-schedule-age-checklist.aspx - NHS Vaccine Guidelines