"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Chicken Pox Vaccine: Let's Call a Spade a Spade

(Editing to add:  This blog post is my opinion and understanding of information gathered by myself, for myself, over the last 9 years.  Your health and your child's is your own to read up on, decide on, and make peace with.  Here is anexcellent article with more info on the history and statistics involved with chicken pox and shingles, before and after the intro of the vaccine(s):
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/11/02/chicken-pox-vaccine-creates-shingles-epidemic.aspx )

How long can you write a blog on natural living and children and avoid the vaccine issue?  As long as you want, I guess! 

In my opinion, the issue of vaccination is not cut and dry by any means.  That's why my favorite vaccine to discuss with folks who get up in arms when anyone questions vaccine at all, is the chicken pox vaccine.  (And btw, this information is not esoteric, repressed, or secret in any way.  There are a number of places you can look it up.  One of my favorite, balanced books on vaccines is What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About(TM) Children's Vaccinations . It is on sale right now for $6- a serious bargain- and I can't recommend it highly enough.)

Let's start with what the chicken pox vaccine does for your child.  Does it prevent your child from getting the pox?  Many parents think it does.

It doesn't.

The vaccine, simply put, decreases the amount of time your child is contagious during the chicken pox.

Really?  Yup. 

(Editing to add: This info is based on the old recommendation of a single dose- now children get 2 doses which supposedly "fixes" this problem and gives better- but never 100%- immunity.  It is up to you to read the info from various- aleays conflicting- sources and make decisions based on your knowledge!!!)

Interestingly, your child will receive this vaccination AFTER the extreme 'danger zone' for chicken pox is past.  Why?  Because your infant's immune system is too immature to handle the vaccine before. 

Why then, does your child receive the chicken pox vaccine?

Well, Merck went to the federal government and said, hey, did you know that the economy loses about 5 billion dollars a year due to parental time off for chicken pox?  If we develop this vaccine, parents in 2 parent working homes or single parent homes will only need to take off 1/2 to 1 days versus 4-5 days of work for each incidence of chicken pox. 

And our government said "COOL! Go ahead!"  and now your child receives the vaccine, even if you stay at home and the time-off-work thing wouldn't affect you at all. 

THEREFORE, in the case of the chicken pox vaccine, if one parent stays at home already, the chicken pox vaccine carries 100% risk (medications always carry some risk) because as designed, the vaccine benefits you 0%.

So, let's see here.  A vaccine was developed to save us all money?  Hmm.  (How much of that 5 billion saved is funneled directly into the pockets of pharmeceutical giants like Merck?)  I thought vaccines were developed to safeguard the health of our children and the population at large?  Well, many were, but not all. 

(Obviously, the posters on the doctor's office wall aren't advertising the history of each vaccine!  You have to dig, but just a little, to find some of this info out.)

This is how I personally like to get informed about different vaccinations:

The first question is WHY was this vaccine developed?  You might find that question especially pertinent to any vaccine developed in the last 10-15 years, (ahem), and very especially in cases of vaccines like HepB, Hib, HPV, and HepA.  (You really might want to ask yourself if vaccinating against sexually-transmitted diseases is appropriate for newborns as opposed to, say, 20 year olds.  Then you might want to ask yourself if you find it appropriate to vaccinate against sexually-transmitted diseases if you are opposed to handing out condoms on college campuses and such... see the connection?  It's part of the same mindset.)

The second question is, when is the vaccine administered as opposed to when is the danger zone for the disease?  In the case of chicken pox, your child is already mature enough to handle the disease (assuming you are a loving, responsible, and reasonably-informed parent with competent healthcare) by the time the vaccine is generally administered.  Is there a more appropriate time to vaccinate against this disease?

The third is a more difficult to answer question, because many health care providers don't know or won't want to tell you- if I delay this vaccination, will the whole series be required?  Is there a more appropriate time to vaccinate against this disease, when my child is older and a single dose will be as effective as a 3 or 4 dose series now?  (Remember, most vaccines are the same dosage whether your child weighs 12 or 50 lbs, so vaccinating 3 times on an infant is exponentially more foreign material in his system than 1 dose at age 3 or 4!)  For instance, my John Paul recently nearly severed his big toe when a very dirty bench fell over on it.  I wanted a single-strain tetanus vaccine, but it couldn't be gotten in time.  So I agreed to the DTaP.  I asked both the ER nurse and doctor several times about the need for boosters and both very clearly explained that boosters were unnecessary.  I asked why infants receive several doses of the shot, then?  (The doctor thought the shot wasn't absolutely necessary, but the nurse kept emphasizing it was hospital policy.)  No one was willing to answer me on that!

The fourth is what does this disease do, how common is it, and what risks will it incur for my child if he or she contracts it naturally?  Is there any documentation of factors that increase natural resistance or better ability to withstand the disease?  (I'm forgetting where this came from, forgive me, but in the case of polio, it was noticed that many people had the virus but no symptoms.  Their common factor seemed to be a diet especially low in sugar.)  Your children or child may have particular issues that make it sensible to vaccinate against certain diseases.

One big criticism of non- or selective-vaccination is that the more people who do not vaccinate, the more some diseases now rare will reoccur.  However, there have always been large pockets of the population who have never vaccinated.  Think some Christian sects like the Amish (apparently many sources claim the Amish vaccinate so I will stick with the 2 groups of whom I have more first-hand knowledge), traditional Mennonite,  and Christian Scientists.  (These sects do not NOT vaccinate because they are Christian sects, but because they have beliefs as groups that make them less likely to choose an artificial drug over a natural alternative.)  These groups often live en masse, in their own communities, but with lots of co-mingling with outside populations.  Do these communities have higher incidences of the diseases we usually vaccinate against?  Do you know the answer to that question?  If you don't vaccinate, or you feel threatened by those who don't, then you SHOULD know the answer to that question!

I could probably write more on this topic, volumes and volumes more, but I hear little people stirring upstairs.

Happy reading-up and have a great day!

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." 
~World Health Organization, 1948

"The... patient should be made to understand that he or she must take charge of his own life.  Don't take your body to the doctor as if he were a repair shop." 
~Quentin Regestein


  1. I'm new to your blog and found it via your diaperswappers post. Do you delay/selective vaccinate? Do you believe that the majority of Amish don't vaccinate, and why would they not do so because they are a "Christian sect"? Have you seen this article?

    Also, what's your take on this?

    Can you link to a study showing that the varicella vax does nothing but shorten the amount of time one has chicken pox? This is news to me and I'd like to read the scientific data on this.

  2. Thanks Jen! Maybe I should just stick with Christian Scientist and Mennonite, as those communities are more familiar to me and I know, based on my own personal experience and contact with these groups, that many do not vax. I'm definitely not an Amish expert. My understanding is that some Christian sects opt not to vaccinate because they don't want foreign drugs in the body, which is part of their religious beliefs. Many traditional Mennonites use NFP not because they think artificial contraception is morally wrong, but just because it is artificial, by the same line of belief.

    The chicken pox info was MOSTLY taken from the book "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Childhood Vaccinations" which I linked to on Amazon in my post. It is a great place to start. Also, I know the vax doesn't prevent the pox because several of my cousins had them (all were vax'd) when my son was a baby, too young to even get the vax, but a very dangerous time to be exposed to the pox. My aunt, who is a nurse, confirmed to me at that time that the vax lessens the severity of the pox, as well as the amount of time one is contagious, but does not exactly function as a total "preventer." That is my understanding, but please note I am not a health care professional, just a mom gathering info. Also, that was before the booster was recommended. Now children get 2 doses, which supposedly increases the immunity "though no vaccine is 100% effective" as the ackage inserts on most vaccines will tell you :).

    As to that article, well, an anti-vax individual could write a nearly identical article from the opposite side of the fence, accusing the pro-vax community of ignoring the data about the dangers of reactions and the unethical tactics of the Big Business pharmeceutical companies who create and market these drugs, and lobby to make them a legal 'must' for school kids, or what about the numbers of settlements the government has paid out to proven victims of vaccination injuries might mean to a family considering whether to immunize or not.

    And frankly I don't care if a medicine is effective. If my kid doesn't need it, I don't want it in his or her system. Period.

    Some kids with specific health issues might benefit greatly from certain vaccines. But by the blanket requirement that all children be vaccinated for all the host of deiseases... well, I'm not ok with that, not for my kids.

    I had a personal conversation with an internationally 'famous' pediatrician, whom I don't feel comfortable naming without his permission, and he said in their practice, families who nurse exclusively for 6 months, with extended bf for around 2 years or more, who NEVER use daycare (even at the gym while mom works out), and who have demonstrated commitment to an excellent diet and healthy lifestyle, they do not fight those families if they choose not to vaccinate. But they are a pro-vax practice and strongly push vax's at everyone else, albeit on a delayed schedule, using only single-disease vax's, one per visit.

    I don't really feel comfortable putting my health care choices out in cyberspace. All I'll say is we talk with MANY doctors and gather MANY professional opinions when we decide on each vaccine, for each child. And yes, we have used vaccines for our progeny before. I am not rabidly anti-vax! Not at all. But it is a weighty issue and parents have every right to have ALL the info they need to make informed decisions, not to be pushed around my scare tactics from the medical community, imo.

    Also, while children do die of chicken pox, I feel that an attentive caregiver with know-how, time, and love can nurse a child through many of the diseases we immunize for. And while that seems irresponsible and risky to so many folks, all I can say is, it should be the parents who decide which set of risks they feel comfortable with for their children (sudden widespread outbreaks of polio aside!!!).

  3. Also, Jen,

    I just read the Amish article you linked to, and one of my first reactions was that I bet the families who said at least 1 of their children had received at least one vaccine were families who had used a tetanus shot following a puncture wound. Many folks who don't routinely vaccinate WILL use the tetanus shot, even if it must be used in combo with other vaccines, in the case of a seious wound. That thought alone skews the conclusions of that article to me.

    If that makes any sense?


  4. Argh- sorry for all the typos- I am ready for a nap! I'll blame it on preggo brain!

  5. Thanks for that information about vaccination of chicken pox. I really agree that chicken pox vaccine is not an assurance not to get it.

    Stefan Hall from FastChickenPoxCure