August is National Immunization Awareness Month. As a parent preparing to send 2 kids back to school, I know this is a month when we all pull out our children’s vaccine records to evaluate their vaccine needs.
I have watched and listened to the many differing opinions on vaccines and the implications they have for our children’s health. My journey in medicine began with pediatrics, so I am well aware of the importance of vaccines and the incredible history and success of vaccination programs in reducing infant and child mortality.
Yet as my journey continues, I have had to listen to patient after patient describe a change or a shifting in their children once vaccines were administered. I experienced this as a parent. I will never forget the day that my son received a combination vaccine. Within 24 hrs., his mild reflux became severe, his weight gain over the next few months slowed and we continue to play catch up, trying to analyze our next steps. My son, however, is not autistic. He is brilliant, hilarious, and an absolute charmer.
My patients and my own children have forced me to rethink this vaccine controversy. As I look at the data, the schedules, the patterns of other countries, I realize that none of us have it right and parents have a right to be confused. Creating a vaccine plan for children should be thoughtful and respectful. Here are some vaccine tips that may help other parents and physicians as they navigate this very controversial issue.
Vaccines are not bad or the cause of autism. This hyperbole is unnecessary and inaccurate. Vaccines prevent communicable diseases that organizations like the CDC or AAP believe are the greatest risk for our children.
Vaccines, like food dyes, preservatives and other environmental chemicals, have to be broken down and detoxified. We all detoxify through 4 main organs; the liver, kidney, skin, and colon. These organs, given the modern day environmental toxic load, are often under assault, and not as efficient as they may have been in generations past.
Children (and adults) that have defective systems of detoxification, have trouble with vaccines. They have trouble with both the number of vaccines and the combination of vaccines at a given visit due to the higher preservative load. Vaccines can be tolerated by these children but in smaller amounts, just as a child may be able to tolerate small amounts of an allergic food but react to larger loads.
Pattern of detoxification are often inherited and within families. A recent study traced defects in methylation, a common detoxification pathway, to parents of many autistic children. (J Autism Dev Disord 08) Other defective systems of detoxification include inadequate sulfation, mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress. Malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies also play a role.
Red flags for parents that may justify an alternative schedule include:
Feeding difficulties and disorders: reflux, colic, difficulty stooling
Family history: parent age, use of IVF, and other siblings with neurodevelopmental disorders
Growth and/or weight delay: children below the 5% in weight and height may not be good candidates for the current vaccine schedule.
The current policy in many pediatric practices is to force parents to comply with the current vaccine schedule or be discharged from the practice. Again, this all or nothing policy works against everyone and alienates many patients from their physicians, leaving children without physician care.
As our information on vaccines continues to evolve, we must all be open to the possibilities and respect a parent’s right to choose. More concerted research on detoxification in children would help physicians make these decisions and educate their patients effectively. The polarization of this debate does not ultimately serve the intended beneficiaries; our children.