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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

To Immunize or Not to Immunize?

Published September 29, 2008 4:35 PM by Robin Hocevar

In less than 2 weeks, I'm due to have my first baby. If anyone had asked my husband or me a year ago how to prepare for the big arrival, we would've said you buy a crib and maybe paint a room. Now, I'm amazed I made it through nearly 30 years without knowing about all the politics involved in baby care. BPA-free versus traditional bottles, co-sleeping controversies, breastfeeding versus bottle feeding. The list goes on and on.

Last night's "Baby Talk" class took an interesting turn when the topic of vaccinations came up. Apparently, Jenny McCarthy was the guest on Oprah that morning saying she thinks vaccinations may have contributed to her son's developing autism at age 2. While promoting her new book, Mother Warriors: A Nation of Parents Healing Autism Against All Odds, McCarthy said she's not anti-vaccination, but children should be tested to see if they can handle the vaccinations before they're administered. Her interview can be found on Oprah's Web site.

On the other hand, the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to be diligent about immunizing their children against illnesses to counteract the current rise in whooping cough and other infectious diseases.

What advice do you give tell parents about vaccinations? Is this more of a public health issue or a personal choice? Do you fear an outbreak of measles, chickenpox or polio?


I do truely feel the struggle that parents must make in having their children immunized.  Being a parent here as well, I too have wittnessed the 'blood curdling scream' of my now 17 year old son, but we all must be educated on the subject and given 'correct' information.

Yes thimerosol was once an ingredient in vaccines, but since its' removal from them, since 2001, the incidence of any direct correlation between autism and the vaccine would have shown up in decreasing incidence of autism.  Yet autism rates continue to climb.

Maybe it is the vaccination schedule?  Spreading out the number of vaccinations or 'combination' given at one time should be spread out.  Putting the responsibility back on us parents to make sure our children are protected should be our number one goal and finding out the right track is fundamentally important.

One thing that seems to be ignored in all this debate is:  If you choose to ignore the vaccination schedule and your child isn't properly immunized, please don't ask your public schools to make an exception for your child.  When you put your unprotected child in public schools, you put other child and yours' at risk.  Last winter, here in the Milwaukee area, we had an outbreak of measles.  This should never happen and society should not pay the price of continued ignorance.

Dan, ICU - RN October 27, 2008 6:28 PM
Milwaukee WI

I'm the mother of a 17 yr. old autistic son who was developing normally until 18 mo. and then regressed into an autistic state.  I think immunizations are a good idea, but think it would be wise to spread shots out over a longer period of time.  Check out for info about alternative schedules to consider.  Also, read up on the new info about vitamin D and a possible link between deficiencies and autism.  I'm grateful that there is so much more info now as compared to when we first dealt with the issue.  Good luck to you!

Lori P., R.N. October 21, 2008 11:36 AM

The thing to keep in mind about vaccines is the preservative thimerosal  which contains mercury.  Request thimerosol free

vaccines.   Then your child gets protection from the diseases without the questionable danger from thimerosol.  The preservative free vaccines cost a little more, but are worth the investment.  

TK, RN - Mrs. , Newborn October 18, 2008 4:10 PM
Mtn Home ID

I am very confused about this topic myself.  Reading the posts below the answer is not clear.  Very good points made on both sides.  m son is 11 months and I up until now have given him every vaccine.  I questioned my pediatrician however, when it came to the MMR and Pox vaccines that he should get at a year.  She explained to me that the author who originally came out with the article later came back and pulled his study.  She said "It's kinda like eating bread causes car accidents" if you look at all of the people in car accidents in the last week, most of them will have eaten bread a day or two before.  ie: children being diagnosed with autism at 2 or 3 most likely have had the vaccine around 18 mos.  She also said that children's language skills develop at such a rapid rate between the ages of 18 mo and 2 yrs, that if we wait until 2 before we do the MMR I would already know if he is developing normaly or not.  So thats my plan, wait till he is 2 and then we'll see.  They only have to have 2 of these MMR vaccines before the age of 5 (school age).  So as for right now no shots at 12 mo, except flu :(  %0d%0aI do understand the concern.  We only want the best for our children.  I have a friend that I went to school with whos son was diagnosed around age 3.  She has no pre-desposing factors other than the vaccines.  I really hope it's not that.  I know I have heard some pretty sad stories from other people claiming the vaccine is a fault.  We as parents just need to stay educated and monitor our developing little ones with a non-partial eye.  Very hard to do when you "know" there is nothing odd about your own child.  Just be safe and watchful and talk with experts.

Angelia , OB/Nsy - RN, Hospital October 17, 2008 2:54 AM
Canton IL

Having taken care of children that wwere not immunized, Ihave seen children die of Hibm brain damage from from measles, babies born to mothers who did not have rubella vaccine and were deaf, or mentally retarded or dead. I have chickenpox severly devestate a child, and many with pertussis who could not catch their breath to name a few. Autism was described in th e1880's before vaccines and it has increased since thimerisol was taken out of vaccine. all of my children and grandchildren are immunized. Without vaccines, diseases will reappear and kill our children and some adults.

pat, infectious disease - rn, health department October 15, 2008 8:53 AM
columbus OH

The secret to a healthy child is proper rest, proper nutrition such as fresh fruits and vegetables, proper exercise, positive mental attitude and proper nerve supply which is accomplished by chiropractic adjustment.

The pharmaceutical industry makes billions of dollars by

scaring people into poisoning their children with drugs and vaccines. Do your research before doing anything to your child. This epidemic of autism has occured since there has been an increase in the use of all of these vaccines.  Children are more sick today since they have been subjected to all of this supposed "healthcare."

Angela October 13, 2008 1:18 PM
Parsippany NJ

I am a Mom of a 7 year old, "normal" child.  I went along with all of the injections that my son was given until we got to the MMR.  I questioned my physician at length, finally allowed him to be given the injection, and then worried myself sick. A friend's daughter's baby book tells the tale of MMR and autism.   You can look at the pictures and then tell exactly when the child developed the autism.  Her affect was different within 2 weeks.  Her Mom included the receipt for the MMR in the baby book along with the dated pictures of her daughter.  Me?? Never again!  I am against all of the injections that we pump into these babies and then wonder what we have done to them with the preservatives and other chemicals. Four injections at one time is 3 too many! Stand up for your children.  I wish that I had, and I know my friend wishes she had.

Elizabeth, ICU Nursing - Staff Nurse October 13, 2008 3:28 AM
South Bend IN

There has been numerous and recent research studies that conlcude vaccines do not cause autism.  However indivduals still continue to either doubt the research or are just plain ignoring it.  

My biggest fear is that there is going to be an epidemic of measles, etc  and other illnessess that vaccines protect our children from.  Its already around us.  There have been numerous reports of measles and whooping cough infecting those children who have not been immunized.

dena Goldberg, pediatrcs - nursing supervisor, private practice October 12, 2008 9:23 PM
union NJ

Healthcare providers like Jane should read "Changing the Course of Autism" by Dr. Bryan Jepson, or "Healing the New Childhood Epidemics" by Dr. Kenneth Bock. The vaccine/autism issue is medical, not emotional. These children have lab tests showing a variety of vaccine injuries; talk with doctors at Thoughtful House clinic in Texas, Rimland Center in Virginia, or DAN! doctors via the Autism Research Institute in California. Some children have vaccine-strain measles in lesions lining their gastrointestinal tracts; I know one of them; he needs antivirals, nutritional supplements, and careful monitoring. The American Academy of Pediatrics is a trade organization that protects its dues-paying members. Do your own independent research on vaccine safety issues. Postpone the Hepatitis B shot if your child does not have risk factors. Spread out vaccines and have them administered one by one to monitor effects. Read vaccine books by Dr. Bob Sears, Dr. Stephanie Cave, and articles by Dr. Donald Miller. Look at the HRSA NVICP statistics. Don't halt your thinking on this crucial issue just because one person or website offers convenient conclusions.

Nancy, mother October 12, 2008 5:05 PM
Minneapolis MN

And I forgot to mention, no family history of autism, no history of immune diseases, or any conceivable connection on either side of my children's family, mine or their fathers.

Laurel, Photographer October 12, 2008 4:06 PM
Lenexa KS

I have 6 children.  4 older (22yo-17yo) vaccinated autistic children, and 2 non-vaccinated (4yo, 2yo) normal/NT children.  

There is NO DOUBT in my mind or anyone in my family doubts that vaccines caused this. Silver fillings in my mouth during pregnancy and the canned tuna didn't help matters either.

My 17yo is severely autistic, non verbal, tantrums, screams, aggressive, self-abusive, seizures, sleeping issues.  This was done to him.

Laurel, Photographer October 12, 2008 4:01 PM
Lenexa KS

Jenny McCarthy has done a huge diservice to millions of parents and children in her continued belief that the vaccine 'caused' her son's autism.

"July 1999 The Public Health Service Agencies, American Academy of Pediatrics and vaccine manufacturers agreed that thimerosal should be reduced or eliminated in vaccines as a precautionary measure." Since 2001 it is NOT a preservative in routinely recommended childhood vaccines. This is from the CDC. Jenny's child was born 2 years later!!!

Thimerosol was used as a preservative against bacterial/fungal growth in multi-dose vaccines. It was ETHYL NOT METHYL mercury which is in thimerosol. Check various chemical web sites for the truth. Methyl is in fact toxic but it is not what was in the vaccines.

Shame on Oprah for not having her teams of researchers do the homework before promoting misinformation.

The Boomers among us have seen the horrifying devastation of the diseases for which we now have the ability to prevent. I saw a 19 year old Down's Syndrome male come to my outpatient walk in unit with disseminated chickenpox: completely covered in lesions, fever to 104, and his lungs looking as though he had been shot with a pellet gun. The bilateral lung fields had holes in all fields. Horrifying.

As with all medical treatment, weigh the risk/benefits and don't be swayed by emotional responses but cold, hard facts. Much of the timing is based on infant immune responses and maternal antibody protections. Please be wise...research credible sources... read Jenny's book: she actually notes some symptoms possibly indicitive of autism which her son was having before ever having his vaccine.

Jane, Public Health - RN, Health Clinic October 9, 2008 4:01 PM
US Virgin Islands AE

My godson was an exceptionally developing child who had a great vocabulary and was very socially  interactive until he received his 18month immunizations. Following 2 days of temperatures over 103, and a couple of days of screaming without much downtime, he became a shell of his former self. He is now almost 10 and does not talk, refuses to make eye contact  and was diagnosed at age 3 as moderate/severe autism. When I review the concerns of parents with the vaccines, I have to agree that they are not safe for every child--in my godson's case his mother has a stron family hx of immune system diseases(his mom has RA, his aunt had acromegaly). He is one of those children that if a screening tool had been  availble and utilized, he would have had an alternative immunization schedule and I believe a totally different outcome.


lyn johnson, high risk OB - Med Mgt Analyst October 6, 2008 12:37 PM
Virginia Beach VA

When my daughter was born (18 years ago) I was horrified by all the vaccinations that was to be given to her within the first year of life. I "chose" not to have her vaccinated until she was one. Yes she did have check ups but I refused the shots. At one point her pediatrician had basically threatened me by stating "by not giving her the shots, this is bordering on CHILD ABUSE" Being a nurse, my response was "SIDS usually occur within the first year of life, if you can tell me all these shots that are to be given does not have anything to do with SIDS...then give her the injections" At this point the MD stood back looked at me and stated you may just have a point. Even now that I have a 4 year old, I don't run to the MD for every little sniffle. Use your mothers instinct and go with your heart.

Marine Brien October 1, 2008 12:00 PM
Millville NJ

I think we need to be more sensible about vaccinating our children.  I realize the importance of many, but feel there is an over reliance on some.  Talk to your pediatrician about the benefits of spacing the injections out more versus doing a bunch at one time.   In Japan, the immunizations are spread out more.  Ask what the injections are for, why they need them at a particular age, and if it is possible to post-pone them.  Why does a newborn need three shots in one visit?  (My daughter learned the art of the blood curdling scream at the Pediatrician's office!)

Jenny McCarthy also appeared On Good Morning America.  One group stated that spreading out the injections would decrease compliance.  By whom?  I ask. I think she has some valid points that need to be investigated.  We, as parents, need to have the conversation with our pediatricians.

My child's pediatrician is very open to discussion.  She can not tell me what to do, but educates me so I can make my own choices.  For example, when the chicken pox vaccine came out, I postponed it until it became mandatory.  My children do not have health issues and therefore could tolerate chicken pox.  Also, I do not use child care thereby decreasing my need to not have a child sick for 2 weeks.

We can be diligent as the AAP recommends, but we can also make educated choices based on our own circumstances.

Oh, and enjoy!  Motherhood is one of life's greatest challenges with rewards that last a lifetime.

Lorettajo Kapinos, Emergency - RN, Baystate Medical Center September 30, 2008 9:41 AM
Springfield MA

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