How to take decisions on vaccination? Have read a bit on its politics… but is there anything such as an immunization that “must be given?”
– new mom from Palampur
One immunization that must be given is mother’s milk.
As Jack Newman writes in “How Breastmilk Protects Newborns,” breastmilk “supplies infants with far more than nutrition. It protects them against infection until they can protect themselves.” In mother’s milk, “the collection of antibodies transmitted to an infant is highly targeted against pathogens in that child’s immediate surroundings. The mother synthesizes antibodies when she ingests, inhales or otherwise comes in contact with a disease-causing agent.” This means these antibodies are custom-made by the mother who comes in contact with the same disease-causing agents as her baby does.
Regarding specific vaccines such as Polio, DTaP, et al, when, how often to take them, if at all, is a serious decision. Indian Medical Association recommends this schedule. American Medical Association schedules are listed here. Centers for Disease Control lists schedules as well as information sheets on each vaccine.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as sources listed below, are useful for those who are prepared to study each vaccine and form an individual schedule of vaccines, rather than accept without question whatever is offered whenever it is offered. It may seem daunting to develop your own schedule of vaccines but you don’t have to do it alone. You can discuss the vaccine schedule with your doctor.
While those who question vaccines are often stereotyped as being superstitious or anti-science, a growing number of doctors recognize the sound medical and scientific reasons behind the questions. You may find a local doctor who supports or at least respects his or her patient’s decision to delay, separate, or opt out of selected vaccines. In fact, Dr. Jay Gordon says, “A doc who won’t hold these discussions [about vaccines] is too busy and you may need to move on to another.” I was pleasantly surprised when I talked with my daughter’s pediatrician in Chembur and she acknowledged that some vaccines are given too often and too early. When I appreciated her patience with my questions, she told me that she had never discussed this with any other parent. So, I guess there is always a first time, and we as patients can help raise expectations for rational use of medicines as well as right to informed consent.
In addition to the sites listed above, some works that have helped me develop a perspective of health, immunity, the role of disease and of vaccines are:
Aviva Jill Romm, Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide: How to Make Safe, Sensible Decisions about the Risks, Benefits, and Alternatives.
Robert Mendelsohn, How To Raise a Healthy Child In Spite of Your Doctor.