Friday, January 11, 2013

Explaining the Chicken Pox Vaccine

Vaccines accounted for more than their fair share of my worrying during Augustine's first year of life, but over time I have become less fearful about the whole thing for a couple of reasons. 
First of all, I did a lot of reading and research to get me to a place where I am comfortable with the decisions make for my babies.  A doctor's advice is wonderful, but I didn't feel comfortable giving blind consent for something I know little about.  Reading, along with our pediatrician's experience, has helped me make informed decisions.
Secondly, I realized I had a lot more freedom in this area than conventional sources make it seem {for Augustine's first round of shots, I thought I had to get them all on schedule, spaced exactly as the AAP suggested or they wouldn't work and my child would end up in the hospital with pertussis by four months}.  Getting all the recommended vaccines at all the recommended times is only one way to do it, but it is also ok to space them out and/or opt out of some--really, it is
Finally, I learned how important it is to have a doctor who is informed, respects my choices as a parent, and who offers the vaccine brands I want my children to receive.  With some vaccines {i.e. polio}, the brand of the vaccine determines whether or not the vaccine contains aborted fetal cell lines--which to me, is a big deal. 
Both my old OB and our first pediatrician looked at me like I had three heads when I mentioned aborted fetal cell lines in vaccines.  As it turns out, that pediatrician also carried the brands which used aborted fetal cell lines, so after Augustine's 2 month shots we switched pediatricians.  I researched ahead of time to make sure the aborted fetal cell lines would not be an issue with our new doctor.  He was very accommodating to our revised vaccine schedule and never made me feel like a bad mom for deviating from the norm. 
But, I am pleased to say, our new doctor is even more informed and understanding than our last.  In fact, when I told him that Augustine would not be receiving the Chicken Pox vaccine because it was derived from cells of an aborted baby, there is no alternative, and chicken pox isn't as serious as some of the other diseases we vaccinate against, he didn't bat an eye.  In fact, he said the use of aborted fetal cell lines was a common objection he heard from parents {it is Colorado, after all} and that the government is actually trying to create an alternative using chickens...but, so far, they haven't been successful. 
He went on to say that the chicken pox vaccine was created primarily for economic, rather than for health, reasons.  He explained that during the rebuilding of Japan, both parents were needed to work and if a child came down with the pox, a parent could count on being home with the sick child for about ten days.  And then if it was passed onto a sibling, it could be another ten days.  From an economical standpoint, that was not appealing to Japan at that time so they created a vaccine against it--America jumped on the bandwagon, too. 
Hearing this from my doctor really validated my decision not to use this vaccination.  Yes, I realize getting the chicken pox is no fun, I will be confined indoors for 10+ days with my sick children if they do get it, and it is way worse as an adult {how many times have I heard that?!}.  But I am prepared for all of that.  My doctor said he never sees cases of it anymore, but if I did hear about someone getting it, I should just take the kids over and expose them so they will gain immunity. 
Anyway, I just thought I would share that information about how the chicken pox vaccine came to be, as I feel there is a lot of misinformation and fear tactics employed in the whole vaccine debate.  And just for the record, I think vaccines, when used in moderation, are very beneficial to our society, and I do vaccinate my children...just at my pace and with a few exceptions here and there.       
I would like to close with a poem that my Mom wrote as a young girl, just because I like thinking about my Mom and because it's pretty darn cute:
My Chicken Pox Poem
There are pox on my top
There are pox on my toes
There are chicken pox from my head to my toes
My mother say, "Don't scratch them"
My sister says, "Go right ahead--so you will be dead"
I say, "It's fine with me--don't dread"
Chicken pox are gross, and they bother you the most.
When they sneak up on you at nite or in the bright of day
Then look at them and say, "Why don't you go AWAY??"
By Patricia McCormick
*Thanks to my great Aunt Meme for passing on the little piece of paper that my Mom had  typed out her poem on years and years ago.