Pretty much every parent in my practice asks about immunizations at some point. What do I think about vaccinations? Am I pro or con? Do vaccines cause autism? Do I vaccinate my kids?
Generally, I love talking about my kids. And I love talking about my parenting ideals and giving suggestions based on my experience. But when it comes to my personal choices about immunization, I try to hold my tongue. (And my patients know how hard this is for me!)
Immunization isn’t just a parenting issue, it’s also a medical issue. When a child receives a vaccine, a foreign substance is introduced into his or her body by way of an injection, a nasal spray or oral drops. Because of the potential risk of harm, immunization requires informed consent by the parent or legal guardian. Informed consent means that the patient is told the reason the procedure or treatment is recommended, any alternatives, and the possible risks or side effects and the patient gives permission.
Under my Oregon license, I am legally able to administer vaccines (if I practiced in Oregon). I am trained in proper administration as well as the potential benefits and risks. If I were giving vaccines I would be obligated to receive informed consent from patients and/or parents.
While I currently am not involved in the "consent" part of immunization, I consider it my duty to help my patients be informed. My dearest wish is that every parent be as fully educated as they can be before deciding whether or not to immunize their child. If a child later suffers because of a vaccine side effect, or catches a vaccine-preventable illness, I want parents to feel like they made the best decision they could at the time, rather than say, "If I had only known."
This means, first, that I let parents know that they have a choice. Under Colorado law, parents can refuse to immunize their child for three reasons: medical, religious or philosophical. Schools may require an exemption form and may send a child home during an outbreak, but they can not force a parent to immunize their child.
Second, I let them know that the CDC immunization schedule is a simply a recommendation designed to immunize as many children as possible as fully as possible. Parents can choose to delay vaccines, space them out, or choose which vaccines to get and which to refuse. Vaccines can also be given singly (with certain exceptions).
Third, I encourage parents to read a lot of information for themselves. There are several books that I recommend, with varying points of view to allow parents to decide for themselves. (See my book list at the end of this post.)
Fourth, I tell parents that I will support them in whatever decision they feel is right for their child. Whether they choose to immunize or not, we talk about other ways to stay healthy, including breastfeeding, good nutrition, hygiene, homeopathy, herbal medicines and more. If they do vaccinate, we discuss ways to minimize or alleviate side effects and support immune health.
So I almost never spill the beans about what my husband and I have decided for our kids. I don’t want someone to base their decision on mine because, while I may have a lot of knowledge, our beliefs may be very different. Rather than give advice about what choice to make, the best I can do is to help parents make an educated decision for themselves.
Here is my recommended reading list:
- The Vaccine Guide, by Randall Neustaedter, OMD
- Vaccinations – A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide, By Aviva Jill Romm
- Childhood Vaccinations – Answers To Your Questions, by Katia Bailetti, ND
- The Vaccine Book – Making the Right Decision For Your Child, by Robert Sears, MD
- What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations, by Stephanie Cave, MD
- Saying No To Vaccines – A Resource Guide For All Ages, by Sherri Tenpenny, DO