Becoming a parent heralds a time of much learning for the new parents, especially if they haven’t had prior experience with children through other family members or close friends having kids. It can be overwhelming especially in the first few weeks until they get adjusted to the new realities and convince themselves that they can do a decent job of caring for this new person and take important decisions on their behalf.
Perhaps one of the most important decisions you’ll have to take is whether to vaccinate your child or not. I love to dig deep into pretty much any topic that I take fancy with, and so I armed myself with several books for new parents and enjoyed preparing for the arrival of my child and the changes happening in my wife throughout the pregnancy. But when it came to vaccinations, I fell down a very deep rabbit hole.
I decided to start investigating myself to try to come to an educated decision on the subject. I’m an equal opportunity skeptic. I’m skeptical about alternative medicine, pseudoscience, and quackery; but I apply the same standards of skepticism to conventional medicine.
As I typically do, the first step for me was to see what people I trust think about the topic. I have an informal list of people who I know or whose podcasts/books etc I consume regularly, and I trust their research methods and logic. Many of them have kids and they have done their own research on the topic. The result of this exercise was almost unanimous in favor of vaccines. Some were concerned but eventually decided that the risks of not vaccinating are too great, so this first round was concluded in favor of vaccines.
I’ll confess to never having thought twice about the topic and, having myself always taken the required vaccines, expected it to be something routine, but I soon found out that there’s a lot of controversy surrounding the topic. My wife showed me how much stuff is going on in her native Russia, with many parents and even some doctors taking to Instagram and other social media platforms to preach against vaccines. In Italy, there’s a lot of publicity given to the topic too due to the government seeming somewhat undecided about vaccines and politicians battling it out with scientists.
Of course, the biggest source of information pro and against vaccines comes from the USA. There have been many documentaries produced over the last few years promising to explain the situation with vaccines, and endless warmongering on forums, blogs and social media.
What all this means is that as a parent you’re suddenly bombarded by a ton of conflicting information from friends, online sources, books, doctors, etc all seemingly saying different things and all providing evidence for their cause. At this point, you have the choice of either blindly sticking to what the government lays out in your country’s vaccination schedule, or else start doing some research and most likely end up rapidly sliding down this dangerous rabbit hole.
Keep in mind that health systems vary widely from country to country. What I say about doctors and pediatricians in this post might not apply to your country or community, so I’d rather not go into discussions on that topic. If I write something here it means that I have experienced it multiple times, but I won’t go into a lot of details of which country or which hospital/doctor etc. it was. If you live in a place where what I mention is not a problem, then consider yourself lucky.
As new parents who are interested in this topic, you will meet a lot of misinformed people, mostly other parents but at times even people in the medical profession.
My guess is that many of them hold a set of correlated prior beliefs about the world. One in which evil pharmaceutical companies are actively poisoning children. Where scientific authorities are corrupt, ignorant or both. Where conspiracies to control the population are entirely plausible.
Most of the militant anti-vaxxers are not stupid, they have put in a lot of effort into their own research, but somehow let their biases and beliefs guide them to the wrong conclusions.
As part of my research, I watched a few documentaries (almost all of them are anti-vaccine in some way or another), here are my thoughts on each of them:
- The Truth About Vaccines – I had high hopes before watching this one, and I did learn quite a lot about vaccines. Unfortunately, the appearance of people like Andrew Wakefield and Joseph Mercola undermined the whole series. I did like some of the characters in the series, who came across as totally genuine, although they might be mistaken in their claims. The ones I liked most were Paul Thomas (author of The Vaccine-Friendly Plan), Jennifer Margulis and Suzanne Humphries.
- Bought – Big claims but it didn’t really convince me as it was quite obviously in the anti-vaccine camp.
- Trace Amounts – Make up your own mind after also reading this rebuttal of the claims in this documentary.
At this point, I should say that I think it’s ridiculous to be pro or against vaccines, as in a blanket statement. I think a healthy dose of concern and apprehension is valid when injecting anything into your body or that of your kids, but you should always start with a blank slate without any biases when doing such research. I see way too much emotion being brought to the table from both sides and I don’t think it helps at all.
So we have a false dilemma: yes to everything or no to everything. Other possibilities:
- Yes to some vaccines, no to others
- No to multiple vaccines on one day, yes to the same vaccines spread out over time
- Yes to a vaccine for a particular disease, no to a different brand of the same vaccine with different ingredients
- Yes to a vaccine in one set of life circumstances and no in another
Obviously vaccines are good/vaccines are bad is a false dichotomy that any thinking person should be allergic to.
Since the question is a judgement on potential benefits vs harms, I would note that people are quite bad at making these kinds of judgements when the harm is both rare and severe (e.g. the sometimes over-restrictive limitations on fundamental freedoms in the name of “security”).
So what is the full list of potential harms, how likely are they, and what is the strength of the correlation?
It’s also worth asking “What are the benefits?” because not all diseases that are vaccinated against are deadly, in First-World countries.
There are some basic questions that one should be able to answer before considering one’s opinion definitive enough to give to another person:
- What are the ingredients of this vaccine?
- What are the known and suspected effects of each ingredient? At what ages?
- What is a relevant dose of this ingredient for it to have short-term or long-term effects?
- How is it processed and eliminated by the body? Is it known to accumulate? At what rate?
- What is the generally accepted safe dose for it, for which ages, for ingestion/intravenous drip/injection (these are not the same)?
And some questions on evidential standards:
- Of the full list of acute and cumulative known and suspected harms, which have been examined, in clinical trials or otherwise? On what timescales? And which have not?
- Has this particular vaccine been trialed as extensively as other vaccines or other types of drugs? What are the differences and how are they relevant?
- Which ingredients or vaccines that were previously regarded as safe have been discontinued over safety concerns? Does the behavior of the relevant official body inspire transparency and trust in their continued judgments on the same topic?
- Where vaccines are given together, has the combination been tested for harm? Over what timeframe?
- Since lack of evidence of harm does not equal evidence of lack of harm, where such a lack exists, is it because thorough research failed to find it, because the research was not thorough, or because it was not done?
- Where research has not been done or not been thorough, is there funding available, who provides it and what is their agenda?
- How does the vaccine schedule differ in different countries?
I’ve answered these questions, not enough to write a paper or even perhaps convince a skeptic on the internet, but enough to make my own decisions. In the process, I learned a lot about judgment, identity, fear and anger and how they’re connected.
One important thing that I find is not being discussed very much is that there are many potential psychological biases that influence practicing doctors and parents on this question, therefore I do not think you should rely only on your doctor’s advice or other parents’ advice. I am not saying that my conclusions are correct just because these biases are there, but when making your own analysis and decision you might want to have these biases in mind. (The biases are explained in detail in Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence”). Some of the biases that I have found affect the judgment of many people (doctors, nurses and parents etc) in this highly sensitive question are:
- Social proof bias. Almost everyone else is vaccinating, therefore, it must be ok. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t make it ok. You are neither right or wrong because the crowd agrees or disagrees with you, you are only right because your facts and your analysis are correct.
- Commitment and consistency bias. People who have already vaccinated their own children or doctors who have vaccinated a lot of children don’t want to change their minds and admit they might have been wrong in some cases. Many people might have stated strong opinions on this subject in front of other people and are therefore unlikely to change their minds in order to appear consistent in front of their friends, peers etc.
- Authority bias. Doctors, in general, are seen as authority figures which can cloud our judgment sometimes and prevent us from thinking independently. Medical companies might be seen as authority figures by doctors who get their information on vaccines from the health care industry. I would be careful with trusting the healthcare industry too much since. Many of the benefits that have been subscribed to the effectiveness of vaccines throughout history might have been the result of increased hygiene and a better supply of food. I don’t know how much but I do know that the health care industry probably won’t highlight those arguments when they are marketing/selling the effectiveness of vaccines. It’s also worth keeping in mind that pharmaceutical companies have failed us in the past, it’s not like they have a perfect rosy track record. Take for example the case of Vioxx, a painkiller that was taken off the market in 2004 because of safety problems and led to $5 billion in lawsuits.
Let’s dig a bit deeper…
First, some terminology:
The terms vaccination and immunization don’t mean quite the same thing.
Vaccination is the term used for getting a vaccine, that is, actually getting the injection or taking an oral vaccine dose.
Immunization refers to the process of both getting the vaccine and becoming immune to the disease following vaccination.
I think it’s now time to address some common questions that almost everyone who is doing research on the topic will come up with. The answers to these questions come from research I’ve done from resources that are in favor of vaccination; people who are against might dispute some of the claims below.
How does immunization work?
All forms of immunization work in the same way. When someone is injected with a vaccine, their body produces an immune response in the same way it would following exposure to a disease but without the person getting the disease.
If the person comes in contact with the disease in the future, the body is able to make an immune response fast enough to prevent the person developing the disease or developing a severe case of the disease.
What is in vaccines?
Some vaccines contain a very small dose of a live, but weakened form of a virus. Some vaccines contain a very small dose of killed bacteria or small parts of bacteria, and other vaccines contain a small dose of a modified toxin produced by bacteria.
Vaccines may also contain either a small amount of preservative or a small amount of an antibiotic to preserve the vaccine. Some vaccines may also contain a small amount of an aluminum salt which helps produce a better immune response. This is also referred to as an adjuvant.
I’ve read countless articles that say that vaccines are toxic. Are they toxic or not?
I don’t have the time nor interest to read a lot about vaccines. Could you explain in simple terms why they are useful and not dangerous?
Yes. Check out this cartoon that explains what you need to know.
Are kids getting too many vaccines? Why did we adults have less vaccines when we were young?
If Thimerosal is not harmful, why was it removed from vaccines? Why do governments refuse to admit it was toxic?
In the US, UK and Europe, thiomersal was removed from vaccines as a precaution. This was in line with the global goal of reducing environmental exposure to mercury from all sources. However, there was no evidence that thiomersal in vaccines caused harm. Thiomersal contains a compound called ethyl mercury, but concern about mercury in the environment has centred on a different compound called methyl mercury, which accumulates in the food chain and in the human body. More detailed information can be found on the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease website. A study from 2008 showed that the ethyl mercury in thiomersal does not appear to accumulate in the bodies of even very small babies. It is cleared from the blood in 30 days, and the evidence suggests that it is passed out in the baby’s stool (poo).
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA, previously EMEA) have both stated that there is no evidence of risk from thiomersal in vaccines. Read the WHO statement and the EMA statement . There is also detailed information about the safety of thiomersal on the US Food and Drug Administration’s pages .
A 2014 Australian study of over a million children found no evidence of a link between thiomersal in vaccines and autism development.
Do the vaccination schedules differ between one country and another?
Absolutely, countries have different schedules for vaccination, with the USA being one of the most aggressive.
Says the CDC:
In the USA, the CDC (Centers For Disease Control) recommends getting 29 doses of 9 vaccines for kids until the age of six. There are currently no federal mandate for vaccinations but each state in the US currently has laws requiring certain immunizations for children to be able to enter public school. The CDC feels the pros of vaccinations outweigh the cons by helping to prevent communicable diseases such as rubella, diphtheria, smallpox, polio, and whooping cough. Due to the shots provided, these diseases are now prevented by vaccination and millions of children’s lives are saved. Vaccines also cost less in time and money to obtain than infectious diseases cost in time off of work to care for a sick child, potential long-term disability care, and medical costs.
Do vaccines cause autism?
No. Even the Autism Speaks website which was previously well known in supporting this theory, states:
Each family has a unique experience with an autism diagnosis, and for some it corresponds with the timing of their child’s vaccinations. At the same time, scientists have conducted extensive research over the last two decades to determine whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research is clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics has compiled a comprehensive list of this research.
Interestingly, while there are several autism-related websites that are staunchly against vaccines, there are also several other websites and blogs on the topic whose authors (mostly parents of autistic children) are strongly in favor of vaccines and continue to search for an explanation for autism without pointing the finger at vaccines.
Why Does the FDA Warn About Mercury in Fish, but Not Mercury in Flu Shots?
In 1999, concerns were raised in the United States of America about exposure to mercury in vaccines. This was based on the realization that the cumulative amount of mercury in the infant immunization schedule potentially exceeded the recommended threshold set by the United States government for methyl mercury. However, thiomersal, the preservative in some vaccines, contains ethyl mercury not methyl mercury. The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) first assessed this issue at a special meeting in August 2000. The Committee review has been ongoing since then.
Expert consultation and data presented to the GACVS indicate that the pharmacokinetic profile of ethyl mercury is substantially different from that of methyl mercury. The half-life of ethyl mercury is short (less than one week) compared to methyl mercury (1.5 months) making exposure to ethyl mercury in blood comparatively brief. Further, ethyl mercury is actively excreted via the gut unlike methyl mercury that accumulates in the body.
How long do immunizations take to work?
In general, the normal immune response takes approximately 2 weeks to work. This means protection from an infection will not occur immediately after immunization. Most immunizations need to be given several times to build long-lasting protection.
A child who has been given only one or two doses of diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis vaccine (DTPa) is only partially protected against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough), and may become sick if exposed to these diseases. However, some of the new vaccines, such as the meningococcal C vaccine, provide long-lasting immunity after only one dose.
How long do immunizations last?
The protective effect of immunizations is not always lifelong. Some, like tetanus vaccine, can last up to 30 years, after which time a booster dose may be given. Some immunizations, such as whooping cough vaccine, give protection for about 5 years after a full course. Influenza immunization is needed annually due to frequent changes to the type of flu virus in the community.
I’m considering using an alternative vaccine schedule, is there any evidence of their effectiveness?
Look, I know there are many cases of vaccine injuries, tell me more about those cases and how they are diagnosed.
What is the appropriate anatomic site and needle length for intramuscular and subcutaneous vaccine injection?
Appropriate site and needle length depends on age and body mass. Most injected vaccines are administered by the intramuscular route.
For neonates (first 28 days of life) and preterm infants the anterolateral thigh should be used. A ⅝-inch needle usually is adequate to penetrate the thigh muscle if the skin is stretched flat between the thumb and forefinger and the needle is inserted at a 90-degree angle to the skin.
The anterolateral thigh is preferred for infants younger than age 12 months. For the majority of infants a 1-inch, 22- to 25-gauge needle is sufficient.
For toddlers age 12 months through 2 years the anterolateral thigh muscle is preferred. The needle should be at least 1 inch long. The deltoid muscle can be used if the muscle mass is adequate.
For children age 3 through 19 years, the deltoid muscle is preferred. The anterolateral thigh also can be used. Needle size for deltoid muscle injections can range from 22 to 25 gauge and from ⅝ to 1 inch depending on the technique used. •
For adults age 19 years and older, the deltoid muscle is preferred for routine intramuscular vaccinations. The anterolateral thigh also can be used. For men and women who weigh less than 130 pounds (less than 60 kg), a ⅝-inch needle is sufficient to ensure intramuscular injection in the deltoid muscle if the injection is made at a 90-degree angle and the tissue is not bunched. For men and women who weigh 130–152 pounds (60–70 kg), a 1-inch needle is sufficient. For women who weigh 152–200 pounds (70–90 kg) and men who weigh 152–260 pounds (70–118 kg), a 1- to 1½-inch needle is recommended. For women who weigh more than 200 pounds (more than 90 kg) or men who weigh more than 260 pounds (more than 118 kg), a 1½-inch needle is recommended. Subcutaneous injections are administered at a 45-degree angle, usually into the thigh for infants younger than age 12 months and in the upper-outer triceps area of people age 12 months and older. Subcutaneous injections may be administered into the upper-outer triceps area of an infant if necessary. A ⅝-inch, 23- to 25-gauge needle should be used for all ages.
Why are some vaccinations given subcutaneously (SC) while others must be given intramuscularly (IM)?
In general, vaccines containing adjuvants (a component that enhances the antigenic response) are administered IM to avoid irritation, induration, skin discoloration, inflammation, and granuloma formation if injected into subcutaneous tissue. This includes most of the inactivated vaccines, with a few exceptions (such as IPV and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccines, which may be given either SC or IM). Vaccine efficacy may also be reduced if not given by the recommended route.
Is everyone protected from disease by immunization?
Even when all the doses of a vaccine have been given, not everyone is protected against the disease. Measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, polio, hepatitis B and Hib vaccines protect more than 95% of children who have completed the course. One dose of meningococcal C vaccine at 12 months protects over 90% of children.
Three doses of whooping cough vaccine protect about 85% of children who have been immunized, and will reduce the severity of the disease in the other 15%, if they do catch whooping cough. Booster doses are needed because immunity decreases over time.
Why is aluminum used in vaccines, when we are told that we should avoid aluminum-containing products such as deodorants (due to links to cancer)? Isn’t it harmful?
Why are European countries (and shortly the USA) replacing the 5-in-1 vaccine with a 6-in-1 version containing the HepB vaccine too?
Read this. If you’re concerned about it and think that it would be safer to give your child the 5-in-1 vaccine instead, read this first. Infanrix Hexa was authorised for use in the EU in 2000, you can read more about that here. If you’re concerned about the supposed SIDS scandal related to this vaccine read this.
Are unvaccinated kids healthier than the rest?
Why do doctors recommend that pregnant women not consume fish due to mercury concerns, but then recommend the flu shot which does contain mercury?
Why are there so many vaccines? Can I spread them out so my child doesn’t get so many at once?
Parents often ask about spreading out immunizations so the child doesn’t get as many at once, but there is no medical or safety advantage to this. It is safe to give many immunizations on the same day. The disadvantage of spreading them out is more visits for shots.
Most physicians, nurses and medical assistants will tell you that they’d rather upset a baby one time with several shots given quickly rather than multiple times with one shot per visit.
I hear a lot of talk about herd immunity and why it’s important that everyone is vaccinated. How can the non-vaccinated spread diseases they don’t even have?
Does infanrix hexa contains as much aluminum as would contain 4 vaccines if we take them separately (DTaP, Hib, hipatotis B, IPV) or does it contain less, since now the vaccine is combined?
This vaccine is a multi-vaccine that is designed to protect children against the following diseases:
- Hepatitis B
- Acellular Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Haemophilius influenzae type b
Now, if a person were to get separate vaccinations instead of the combined, here’s what it would look like:
- H-B-VAX II (Hep-B) – 250 mcg
- Tripedia (DTaP) – 170 mcg
- Hiberix (HiB) – 0 mcg
- IPOL (IPV) – 0 mcg
Total aluminium content: 420 mcg.
So, just by splitting out the vaccine into the individual forms has reduced the aluminium content by almost half. Now, this will obviously not be a favourite with the child who’ll have to have four shots instead of one (or the parents who have to console), but we’re looking only at the numbers. Note: it’s still well above the daily limit for a child under 6 months of age, but it’s closer to acceptable.
Which are the known adverse reactions and risks from vaccines?
Is it true that some people die or get seriously injured by vaccines?
Unfortunately, while there is a low probability, it still happens. This is not a reason not to vaccinate your children.
See this quote from a parent:
As an epidemiologist, I believe the data that is presented in this meta-analysis. However, as a parent of three children, I have some understanding of the fears associated with reactions and effects of vaccines. My first two children have had febrile seizures after routine vaccinations, one of them a serious event. These events did not stop me from vaccinating my third child, however, I did take some proactive measures to reduce the risk of similar adverse effects. I vaccinated my child in the morning so that we were aware if any early adverse reaction during the day and I also gave my child a dose of paracetamol 30 min before the vaccination was given to reduce any fever that might develop after the injection. As a parent, I know my children better than anyone and I equate their seizures to the effects of the vaccination by increasing their body temperature. For parents who do notice a significant change in their child’s cognitive function and behavior after a vaccination I encourage you to report these events immediately to your family physician and to the ‘Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System’.
Why would a newborn need a HepB vaccine if the parents don’t have the disease?
As long as the mother and father have tested clear for hepatitis B, and the baby doesn’t need blood transfusions, then it really isn’t necessary until later in life.
How can a baby contract Hepatitis B?
- at birth from their infected mother
- by blood exposure to minor breaks in the skin or mucous membranes
- by sharing personal items used by an infected person (eg. toothbrush or razor)
- from food that was chewed (for a baby) by an infected person
- by being bitten by an infected person
Since there is a lot of worldwide immigration and it is not always possible to rely on the parents’ test results, and given the risks of the disease, it has been considered safer to offer it to all newborns. Conclusion: It’s a good standard practice, but not necessary for everyone. As a parent, you can delay the vaccine till later in life; most people who delay it eventually take it in teenage years since they typically become sexually active around that time.
Further Notes on the Research I’ve Done
If you try researching the topic, you might come across the Vaccine Safety Commission. They clearly have an agenda and are very one-sided. They also only mention 50 unpublished papers, even though these are published works that can be found on PubMed and other websites. The AAP may have chosen not to include them, however, this is most likely based on something else, such as the study being evaluated as low quality or not meeting their criteria. Also, the AAP is only one society, many others like the CDC or European Commission may have looked at them.
Here are some studies that I found particularly interesting:
Be aware that many research papers that have been cited in favor or against vaccines have later been retracted, further complicating parents’ research. You can do your own digging through the database of detracted research papers.
My Criticisms of the Vaccination (and Medical) System
I don’t think it’s right that we have a situation where many pediatricians have little knowledge of the ingredients in the vaccines that they are administering. This is a fault of the educational and health system but I also think that they should do their own research anyway and know their stuff better.
I also think that most doctors should explain why each vaccine is needed and what it contains to interested parents. Gone are the days when people were expected to blindly trust doctors, however, it’s still rare to find doctors that give you the time to ask questions and engage in a dialogue with their patients. Most are content with filling up their days with 15-minute slots that are worth X amount of euros/dollars each and that’s what they care about more than the patient.
I’ve also seen some excessive demonization of those who appear in documentaries deemed as anti-vaccination propaganda. While some activists clearly have little scientific knowledge, others do express legitimate concerns. Unfortunately, the fact that everyone is labeled purely pro or anti-vaccinations makes it very hard to find the truth.
With regards to what is loosely termed alternative medicine, while there is definitely a lot of fakery and rubbish in this space, it is also true that there are some excellent doctors who are not considered part of the mainstream but do excellent work. Patients many times end up at these doctors when mainstream medicine fails to give them any solution.
I have personal experience of this myself. A few years back I had a sudden onset of a very rare condition that was really debilitating in my daily life. I tried going to several expert doctors but they all said I’m fine and that there is nothing they can do to help. Some of them also insinuated that it was just in my head and I was inventing the issues.
I had done a lot of research on the topic and went armed with research papers and all the best material on the subject, but even though it was the first such case they were encountering, they did not even look at the academic information I was trying to show them. It all boils down to lack of time and greed for money. They did not want to spend time looking into my condition because they weren’t familiar with it, and they could make easier money with other patients who had more familiar diagnoses.
In the end, I had no other option but to try alternative practices to try to heal myself. Luckily, I managed to fix my issue in a few years’ time, and although I can’t say what specifically worked to heal it, I can certainly say that I found little compassion and solutions in mainstream medicine.
In alternative medicine, I at least found honest doctors who showed some empathy and tried to understand what I was going through and help based on their own expertise. I’m recounting this to help you understand that it is never a black and white situation. We can’t say that mainstream “Western” medicine is all full of greed and bad pharma, but we also can’t say that all alternative medicine practices are useless either.
The same goes for vaccines. While I think that vaccines are by and large a good thing, there are still some valid concerns that need to be addressed intelligently by parents who ultimately have to take the final decision and shoulder the responsibility of the consequences.
It is obvious to me that public policy and promotion by health officials is geared towards the average parent who might not be so knowledgeable about health and vaccines. For example, in the case of HepB, they prefer vaccinating everyone when they are babies since they don’t have to worry later on in life.
If they wouldn’t do that, they would be relying on parents educating their children in their teens and making sure they get the HepB vaccination before they engage in sexual activity. There would be a serious drop-off in vaccination rates compared to vaccinating when they are babies. People forget to do it, don’t have time, or don’t get the education on the topic, resulting in not getting the vaccination.
This type of thinking by authorities can be seen in other areas of healthcare. For example, in many countries in public hospitals and primary care centers, children running even the slightest fevers are immediately given paracetamol or other fever-reducing drugs, when they could have easily been cared for by their parents using natural methods until the fever runs its course.
Another thing to think about is the gratuitous use of paracetamol and ibuprofen for every little ache and pain. I have experience of extended use and prescription of these two drugs in Malta and Spain, and while there are cases where they are genuinely helpful, I don’t think it’s great that whenever we have a niggle like a light headache we pop two panadols and be done with it. Why don’t we think what the underlying cause of the headache is and deal with that first? Here in Spain paracetamol and ibuprofen are freely suggested to pregnant women too, although there are studies that should make us think twice (no 100% conclusions yet and it will be hard to prove) and take a more cautious approach.
Another interesting way of thinking about vaccines is to consider vaccines that have been administered for 30 years plus. We have had ample time to see the effects of these vaccines, so if there would have been any serious side effects they would have become public knowledge by now. People who are concerned about such side effects sometimes use this metric to decide whether to administer each vaccine or not to their children.
This has been the most difficult topic for me to research and feel confident about my conclusions among all the things I’ve delved into over the years. It can be really hard to find the truth, especially since when one is not a scientist nor has a medical background. However, I’m very happy to finally have a position that I am reasonably confident about and I can go down a route without feeling bad or guilty about not having chosen the alternative.
A book that has helped me a lot in dealing with such tricky subjects where it is impossible to gather all the information and take a decision is Thinking in Bets. The book makes a distinction between decision-making in a game like chess, where all the information is available to the players, and it’s purely down to the skill level of each player, and poker, where your skill and experience are useful, but there’s a big element of chance as well.
At the end of the day, you are taking bets and thinking in terms of probabilities rather than definite outcomes. In the case of vaccines, the logic to use would be to think of the probabilities of your child contracting a disease versus its side effects, and the consequences of each, and based on that decide whether to give your child the vaccine or not. This will be different for every child, since some children might be allergic to certain vaccine ingredients or have other conditions that make taking vaccines a dangerous proposition for them. Having said that, for the majority of the population and the majority of vaccinations available, the probabilities should work out in favor of taking vaccines.
After months of serious research, personally talking to 20+ trusted doctors, researchers and many other parents, my conclusion is very clear. Based on the severity of the illnesses we are vaccinating children against, it would be absolutely irresponsible for me as a parent to deny vaccines to my child. I will, therefore, be sticking to the Spanish vaccination schedule for my first baby, and I would recommend the same to other parents. The benefits far outweigh the side effects and remote risks that vaccines have.
To conclude, I found this video quite good. It’s comedy but also delivers on the facts:
Blogs and websites in favor:
- Skeptical Raptor Vaccine Search Engine
- Vaxopedia – Anti-Vaccine Points Refused a thousand times
- Vaccines Work Blog
- History of Vaccines
- Rational Wiki’s entry on 200 Evidence-Based Reasons NOT To Vaccinate
- Vaccine Knowledge Project
- Devex.com – Embrace the Facts not the Myths about Vaccinations
- James Randi on Vaccines
- Harpocrates Speakes
- WHO – Vaccine Safety
- AAP American Academy of Pediatrics
- WHO – Vaccine Immunology
- Naturopathic Dotors for Vaccines
- Designing tomorrow’s vaccines
- Process of Vaccine Development
- All Vaccinations given in Spain and a description of each
- How Vaccines are Made
- Bad Science Debunked
- Voices for Vaccines
- The Skeptical OB
- Podcast episode
Blogs and websites against:
Other Health Resources
These are not about vaccines exclusively, but have articles about vaccines and related topics.
- Naturopathic Diaries
- The Logic of Science
- The Scientific Parent
- SCI-HUB – Free access to medical papers
If you have any other resources that you think I should check out please let me know in the comments section. I am hoping that we can avoid emotion-charged comments and be constructive about the topic.