I have a round scar on my upper left arm. It’s about the size of a dime, but it was the size of a quarter when I got it back in first grade. Although it’s faded over the years, I’ll have it when I die, like most people my age. It’s a smallpox vaccination and back in the fifties, all kids got one by the time they started school or shortly thereafter from the school nurse.
No one asked us if we wanted one, because our parents and teachers knew that we didn’t want smallpox, which was still a threat even in the US. We also got polio shots, which hurt like heck. I remember thinking at the time though, that the shot was better than being in a wheelchair like my friend, Gerry or in an iron lung like my great aunt.
Polio was a scourge that scared the bejesus out of us and out of our parents. It closed public pools, theaters and even schools. There was no cure, only supportive care while doctors and parents hoped and prayed that their child or family member would recover enough to breathe on their own.
Maybe that’s why I’m not completely against immunizations for kids, like many of my Green friends are. I believe in using alternative medicine whenever possible, but I also think it’s silly to shun all allopathic medicine. After all, even the Greenest Mama doesn’t chisel her messages into stone or write them and mail them. She uses a computer because it’s faster and more effective and just makes a lot more sense.
That’s the way I feel about immunizations – with several qualifications. If I had it all to do over, I wouldn’t have allowed my kids to be immunized with more than one vaccine at a time, and I would have been very selective about the immunizations they got.
There are some immunizations whose risks outweigh their benefit – the Gardasil shot comes to mind. No way will my kids be getting that. Instead they’ll get good solid information about how to prevent cervical cancer and the importance of regular checkups for that and other cancers.
Other immunizations, like diptheria and TB make sense in a society where we’re all exposed to many more people from other countries, where these diseases are more prevalent. We live in a very rural area, yet we’re only 25 miles from an international airport where passengers spend a couple hours at local restaurants and stores between flights.
Rubella or German Measles immunizations make sense because your child’s case of Rubella can affect your friend’s unborn baby. My cousin is deaf because her mother babysat the little girl next door, who had German Measles, before it was evident that she had it.
In the end, we all have to make our own decisions about whether and how many immunizations we want our children to have. Most states, while they have mandatory immunization laws, make exceptions for religious or philosophical beliefs that disagree with immunizing.
If you’re trying to decide, there are several web sites that provide good information. One is Dr. Ryland’s KidsWellness site. It’s where I go not only for information, but for supportive alternative medicines for my kids and myself. I’ve found that immunizations are much less stressful if my kids are prepared physically with immune system support.
Like most controversial subjects, whether or not to immunize your child is a decision that can have far-reaching consequences. It’s not something that should be decided on the basis of what someone on a popular talk show says or even what your Green friends say. It’s a very individual decision that has to be made based on scientific evidence, common sense and your own sense of what’s best for your child.