Friday, June 13, 2008

Save the Ninja, save the world

Finn got his first vaccinations on Monday. He is now protected against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP) and the rotavirus. It was one shot and an oral vaccine, and he slept through the shot. I couldn't even watch, but he didn't move. He's a lot tougher than I am, apparently. That brings the list of those tougher than me up to three: girls, bunny rabbits and now 2-month old babies.

In the unlikely event that you haven't noticed, vaccines are a hot-button topic at the moment. Time magazine recently dedicated its cover to the debate over vaccine effectiveness and risk. In fact,
the two greatest thinkers of our time cannot agree on whether they are a medical miracle or a shortcut to autism and other unspecified childhood ailments. And if two pithy, and hilarious, advice columnists can't get this one straight, what help is there for the rest of us? (OK, one pithy & hilarious advice columnist, and one slutty former advice columnist.)

Normally, I'm the kind of guy that relies on others to do my thinking for me. It's why I watch TV. However, when it comes to parenting, there are far too many conflicting opinions out there for me to confidently base all of my decisions on soundbites from Entertainment Tonight. There are 50 different answers to any given question, each with a study or a survey detailing why its response is the only valid one. You begin to wonder if there are any right answers, or by extension, any wrong answers. It's like that philosophy class you took freshman year. You know, the one you signed up for because you figured it would be full of girls and you thought they would think you were totally cool for being into philosophy but then it turned out that the class was at 8 AM so you only ever attended the first one? Yeah, it's like that. Except the stakes are a lot higher, so the idea that there aren't any wrong answers seems a little far fetched.

A key argument in the pro-vaccine camp is that the shots benefit more than just the baby being immunized. They benefit society in general. Even if the chances of your baby actually contracting diphtheria are relatively small (and they are in the US), the argument is that if you don't get your baby vaccinated, you weaken the herd. If lots of people opt out of vaccination, the chances of the disease gaining a foothold and once again becoming a realistic risk to your child and society as a whole is greater. So it's not enough that you need to worry about your baby, you now need to also be guilt-tripped into protecting everyone else's babies too. Awesome.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends a schedule of 10 vaccines against 14 diseases with as many as 30+ shots between birth and age 6. According to their recommendations, a 2 month old baby should be receiving a total of 6 shots at their 8 week checkup. That's a lot of needles. Even if you think the ruckus being raised over vaccines is a little overblown, that's still a lot of crap to be putting in a little tiny baby's bloodstream in one sitting. We did our research and opted for a less shot-intensive, more drawn out schedule. We are still getting him vaccinated, we're just trying to be smart about what he's being vaccinated for and when it's going to happen.

He was great on Monday, but unfortunately the alternative schedule has us back in there next month for two more shots. And the month after that for another. I don't think we'll be so lucky during those visits. It'll probably only take one major shot-related meltdown to convince me that maybe we should be taking vaccine advice from Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn.

Until then, we're just going to continue doing our research and hoping that we're making the right decisions. Even if there are no "right" answers, we're going to try our hardest to keep away from those that just feel wrong.


If anyone is just dying to read up on vaccines, their ingredients, the diseases they are intended to prevent and the studies that have (or haven't) been done on their safety, allow me to recommend The Vaccine Book by Dr. Bob Sears. It's not beach reading, but it's informative and accessible. Neither Charlie Sheen nor Denise Richards appear anywhere in its pages. Of course, if they ever make it into a movie...

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