Operation: Risk Management– Five Things to Consider Before Vaccinating

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When you have a child with Autism, one of the first questions on everyone’s mind is, “Are vaccinations the culprit?” Before I answer that… a few disclaimers: The following is by no means medically exhaustive. I am not a DIY expert on the subject, nor am I an anti-vaccine extremist. This is simply a slice of our journey.

When Salem was born, I was paralyzed by the polarization surrounding the subject of vaccines. I had read enough to know that there were risks on both sides, but I wouldn’t let a needle-packing nurse near him until I had made up my mind in good conscience which risks we were willing to take. I opted out of the Vitamin K and the Hep A shot that they give most children before they even leave the hospital. I figured he wasn’t going to be sharing any drug needles before his two-week check up, so we could at least wait until then. Two weeks came and went. Nine months later, we had not given him a single vaccine until finally, I asked myself the question:

“If my child contracted anything that could have been prevented, would I be able to live with myself?

When we arrived for his nine month check up, his pediatrician said that unless we vaccinated Salem, he could file a “medical negligence” claim against us. He enforced a “catch up” schedule and said that there were no a la carte options. In other words, we couldn’t opt out of the chicken pox or the drug-needle sharing vaccine. It was all or nothing or risk being labeled “medically negligent”. So, we prayed.

And then we pricked him.

syringe

Ours isn’t the Autism story of, “one day he was here and the next he was gone” after the Ped administered the DTaP. Salem’s developmental delays appeared over time. Do I think that the vaccines caused Salem’s Autism? No. I think there is a buffet of genetic and environmental factors at play here, but when it comes to the influence of immunizations, I agree with one of Salem’s doctors:

If a child possesses a spark of neurobehavioral vulnerability {ie. a genetic propensity to a developmental disorder like Autism}, vaccinations are like gasoline. They exacerbate the situation.

Hindsight 20/20– would I still have chosen to vaccinate Salem? That depends. More importantly, I would sift my decision through a risk management filter that I like to call, “The Five D’s”. {Alliteration makes me happy… go with me on this.}

1. Diet— Does breastfeeding eliminate any and all risk of contracting an infectious disease? Certainly not. Does it reduce the likelihood? Yes. What deserves even further consideration is the presence of food allergies and/or intolerances. There are loads of test options to determine if your child should avoid certain foods, but here’s a test that’s absolutely free and void of controversy. Ready? Walk over to your pantry and open the door. Choose a box of oft-purchased cereal or crackers and read the ingredients. Can you pronounce them? Are your shelves lined with product ingredient lists that say, “Enriched flour”, “high fructose corn syrup”, and “Red 40”? You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that white flour, white sugar, sodium, dyes, and preservatives are crappy for you much less for your child’s developing brain. In addition, carefully researched and selected whole food supplements are important to consider as well.

2. Degree of Exposure— Does your infant/toddler attend day care or pre-school? Are you a stay-at-home mom that lines the grocery cart with a quilted coozie and keeps anti-bacterial wash on your key ring at all times? Do you live in a heavily polluted, urban city? Does your child have regular contact with someone who frequently travels internationally? The degree of exposure varies for each child and will most likely change over time. Harmful exposure is unavoidable, but we moms are faced with making a judgement call based on our respective environments and the level of protection we need to provide for our kiddos.

3. Development— This is tricky one. Barring any glaring disabilities that appear before or shortly after birth, most babies achieve specific milestones within the same general time frame. Rolling over, crawling, walking, talking… etc. A child can pull off these feats without a hitch and yet still possess a neurobehavioral disability. Salem’s developmental clues were primarily speech and sensory-related. How was I supposed to know that I had been pouring gasoline on Salem’s development since he was 9 months old when the evidence of a disorder would not appear until age 3? Which leads me to the fourth “D”…

4. Delay— Part of Operation: Risk Management for the Beasley children is to delay vaccinations until the blood-brain barrier closes {around age 5}. If all was sparkles and bubbles in our house and there was no sign of any genetic vulnerabilities, I would still insist on holding off on vaccinating until…

A. my child was no longer nursing.
or
B. my child was enrolled in daycare or pre-school.

After that, I would insist on single doses, spaced out within the maximum time allowed during which I would WATCH FOR SIGNS OF DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS AND AVERSE REACTIONS LIKE A HAWK.

5. Doctor— This is all fine and good, but the first four “D’s” ultimately hinge on whether or not you have a pediatrician that is willing to work with you. Does your doctor educate you or intimidate you? Do you get the sense that your child is just another little patient, or is his pediatrician willing to customize his diet and his immunization schedule, or suggest alternative options? For instance, have you ever heard of an Antibody Titer Test? Neither had I. This is a blood test to determine whether your child has sufficient antibodies and is therefore immune to a disease that is on the standard vaccination schedule. You mean my kid might not need all those boosters? No kidding. In my limited experience, these docs are hard to find, but they do exist.

doctors-heart

So, what if you are like me and you’ve moved from Operation: Risk Management to Operation: Damage Control? We have a diagnosis, so now what?

1. Date Around– Find a pediatrician that is willing to customize an approach to fit your child’s unique needs.

{oh man, here she goes with the D’s again. Yup.}

2. Delay any further vaccinations.

3. Detox– This involves a complicated series of tests to determine your child’s level of exposure to heavy metals from… you guessed it… vaccines that results in dietary changes and a liver support protocol and yada… yada… #itmakesmyheadhurttoobutwelcometomyworld.

Okay, so that’s more like 8 “D’s”. But you get the idea. I believe vaccines save lives. And yet, I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all vaccination plan that optimally benefits every child. The question, “Should I vaccinate my child?” is an important one that should be weighed carefully, approached holistically, and answered with the help of medical professionals who are willing to customize a plan that fits your child’s evolving needs. Above all, remember that as a parent, you have options. We won’t choose right every time, or even a lot of the time, but until our children are old enough to choose for themselves, {or until the government tells us otherwise} it is our job to choose what we think is best for them. So pray, plan, and proceed with confidence, and I promise… no more alliteration…

… for now.

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