On Vaccinations, And Living In Community

February 8th, 2015 - filed under: The Farm » Family

Last year, to celebrate his 4th birthday, Damian and I took Waits to Disneyland for the first time. It was basically the best day ever, and we decided then and there that this would become an annual tradition for us. Kid birthdays at Disneyland!

Well, Waits is turning 5 next month, and I’m sure by now you know where I’m going with this. Because California is smack in the middle of a big (and growing) measles outbreak. And apparently, Disneyland is ground zero.

So the big question: Are we going to go to Disneyland this year for Waits’s birthday?

And the answer is yes, yes we are. Because all of us are vaccinated.

first vaccine

Waits and I in the exam room, before he got his very first vaccine. He was 4 1/2 months old. (And oh my goodness, do you remember those epically widespread, always-surprised baby eyebrows?! Good lawd those eyebrows melted my heart …)


So vaccines. This is something that I’ve been meaning to write about – and that people have been begging me to write about – for a very long time. The issue is mostly that I’m ridiculously busy, and writing a post like this takes a lot of precision, and care, and emotional energy. It has to be just right, because it’s such a charged topic.

And there’s a lot of topics like those, so many things I want and plan to write about some day. But my lack of time means that I’m often operating with numerous major blog posts just bubbling away in the back of my brain, turning over and percolating until one day, unexpectedly, they decide it’s time to come out.

And that’s what happened today, in the shower actually, when this post just began to boil over and spill out of my brain all at once. So much so that I had to leap from the shower and stand, literally dripping wet in the middle of my bathroom, as I scrawled this entire miniature manifesto on pieces of coral-colored scratch paper. By the time I was done scribbling, I was dry.

And I guess I’m ready to share my thoughts on vaccination, now.


I remember back when I was pregnant with Waits, and I began to think about vaccinations. And living in Portland – nestled comfortably in the warm attachment-parenting, natural living, eco-friendly, vegan embrace of Portland Oregon parenting circles – I was definitely exposed to a lot of wariness surrounding vaccination.

And you all know that I am a hippie at heart. Raised a hippie, always a hippie. But then, I also have this strange sort of inborn duality. Because after my mother died when I was 9, I was raised by both my father, and my godparents. And my father is an herbalist, acupuncturist, and practitioner of Chinese Medicine. But my godfather is an MD, and relatively western-medicine-oriented.

So I grew up exposed to the inner-workings of both sides, and I feel like it’s given me a uniquely broadened lens with which I approach the issues of health, wellness, and medicine.

Like on the one hand, I make my own Oil Of Oregano to use during cold and flu season. Because hippie. But then on the other hand, I’m also, ya know, an actual scientist – in graduate school studying and teaching biology.

A little of this . . . a little of that.

But I digress. That’s just my background, and meant to illustrate how and why I approach these sorts of issues. Which is:

Open minded, and intellectually honest.

And I feel like those two qualities are so often missing from the vaccination conversation, which tends to be drawn in black-and-white terms, steeped in hyperbole and barbed with ad hominem. It’s not pretty. It’s not smart. And it’s certainly not helpful.

So when it came time to educate myself on vaccines, I tried to avoid the more hand-wringing, shrill sorts of voices – on both sides. And actually, I avoided the majority of voices all together, because I wasn’t after opinions. I was after evidence.

My most valuable source was the most neutral and trusted book I could find: The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears.

This book is simple, straightforward, and methodical. Dr. Sears simply presents each of the vaccine-preventable diseases: what they do and how they’re transmitted, the possible complications and outcomes associated with each one, and the statistical probabilities that each of these things could happen to your child. Straight data.

He also very clearly covers each accompanying vaccine: how it’s made, what poisons it contains, how it’s administered (separate or grouped, live versus inactivated, and including specific brand names), the potential mild and severe side effects, and the statistical probabilities that any of those side affects would happen to your child. It is very frank, and very honest. Which was very much appreciated.

As I read through the book, I compiled my findings – essentially creating a “Cliffs Notes” version – in a Word doc which I then passed along to Damian. Once he had gone over it, and done a bit of his own research, we sat down to form a game plan.

To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate.


I remember when I was 22 years old, and taking my very first college-level Political Science course (and loving every single second of it). I remember very clearly the day that we learned about John Locke, and his concept of the “Social Contract”.

Locke believed that humans would intrinsically form communities in order to protect and abet one another, and that when they did, they sort of . . . “involuntarily volunteered” . . . to operate under a set of natural laws that would guide and govern them. Essentially, he argued that we do not exist solely as individuals, independent from the people around us. Instead, we are part of a larger social system, where our civil rights are granted to us when we resolve to respect and defend the civil rights of our fellow humans. It was basically an overly-complicated, “Age Of Enlightenment”-y version of “We’re all in this together, man.”

And it resonated deeply with me.

Because HIPPIE, right?! But seriously, when I learned about Locke and how his ideas had helped to animate the foundation of our country, had informed our very Declaration Of Independence, I was nothing short of inspired. Because these are my beliefs as well.

I am a godless heathen with no spiritualism to guide me. But I do believe in goodness. I believe in our humanity. And I believe in community.


And this is what Damian and I kept returning to, as we talked and talked and talked our way around the vaccine debate. And boy howdy, did we talk! For weeks, maybe months, and from every angle. We examined and uncovered, sifted and sleuthed. We adopted new perspectives just to try them on for size – to see how the words felt falling from our lips. We’d be hot one day, and cold another. It was hard and it was confusing.

But it helped.

And now I’m going to say something that might make me unpopular:

It seems to me that when it comes down to it, those who choose not to vaccinate their children are only able to exercise this privilege because the vast majority of people are providing herd immunity. Period. End of story. (And yes, I have read all the “Herd Immunity Is A Myth” literature out there, and I don’t buy it. Not for one. single second. Because I may be a hippie, but gosh, I’m also a scientist. And there’s just no question. Heard Immunity is real.)

That said, we do know that there are serious risks associated with vaccines, and I’m not talking about friggin’ autism here. I mean seizures, Guillain-Barre syndrome, intussusception (where the intestine ‘telescopes’ in on itself), nerve dysfunction, etc, are all noted on the vaccine inserts, which are written by the manufacturers themselves. This is not hysteria or conspiracy theory. This is coming straight from the pharmaceutical companies that make the vaccines.

So to be clear – getting a vaccine DOES carry a very real – albeit small – risk.

However. People who choose not to vaccinate are, in no uncertain terms, choosing to allow everyone around them to shoulder that risk, and banking on the herd immunity to protect them while they opt out of taking the same risk. And as a parent, I get that. It’s your job to minimize your own child’s risk in whatever way possible.

But then . . . I got to thinking. As a parent.

And I thought about the Social Contract, and what I wanted to teach my child about what it means to belong to a community of fellow humans. To belong to his humanity.

And I thought about how, as a parent, I’m not *just* responsible for protecting my child’s physical safety. No, I’m also responsible for molding him into the man that he will some day become, and thus the way that he will move through the world forevermore. And so I asked myself, what kind of man do I want to teach him to become?

Do I want to teach him, “Me! Me! Me, at the expense of those around me!”

Or do I want to teach him, I am in community. I am part of something that is bigger than myself, and I have a responsibility to respect and protect my fellow beings.”

And that, ultimately, is how I made my decision. I chose to walk my talk. I chose community.


So we vaccinate Waits. We delayed some of the vaccines, and we keep an alternative schedule, but we do vaccinate our son. There are undeniable risks associated with vaccines, and that’s why I prefer to space them out, and to save as many as we can for when he’s older (most of the risks, especially seizures, are higher in younger children). Anyway, he doesn’t need to be vaccinated for sexually transmitted diseases when he’s 4 years old. But the ones that affect him and the people around him – the highly contagious communicable diseases – well, he’s all caught up on those.*

And as I wrap this up, I’d like to emphasize that this is not meant to be a prescriptive post. I am not telling you what to do or think, and I’m certainly not talking in terms of law or public policy. I wrote this post because I wanted to share my thoughts on a very confusing topic. I wanted to express empathy for the parents who are scared and confused. I wanted to provide space to acknowledge that this issue isn’t as black and white as either side tries to paint it.

But it is important, and that’s why I decided (unexpectedly! in the shower!) to share my own process, and my ultimate decision.

And now, just one last thing before I go: please be nice. Please weigh in below in the comments. Please share your own thoughts and ideas. Please speak honestly and from the heart. You don’t have to agree with me or with each other, but please, please be nice. I have only ever deleted one or two comments in the entire 6-year history of this blog. So please, let’s keep it that way.

Alright my dears, now it’s your turn. Thoughts?

*Except flu. I don’t get the flu vaccine and neither does Waits. This post is about the standard series of childhood vaccinations, not the ever-changing annual flu vaccine. Just wanted to clarify that!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    OMG a white board in the shower is literally genius. Thank you (for everything) Carrie!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you so much Sarah. It’s so important to be able to connect with each other over our similarities, AND our differences. It’s how we all learn! Otherwise we exist in a hall of mirrors. And we all know that a hall of mirrors will eventually drive one mad!

    I appreciate you for sticking around despite potential differences. Thank you so much. ♥

  • Melissa

    Telling people that don’t vaccinate, that they’re relying on herd immunity is wrong. That is your opinion. Herd immunity is a crock! You seem to have your nose in the air. Telling a poster that you feel sorry for her, because she chooses not to listen to that garbage. Vaccines are filled with crap! You’re lucky your son wasn’t harmed from them.

  • Michelle Lyn Denault

    yes! Let’s be intellectually honest, let’s look at the CDC data alone. In 10 years zero deaths from the measles, yet over 100 from the measles vaccine!

  • Michelle Lyn Denault

    Hello, I am a doctoral student in public policy. The majority of my studies, are focused on our sense of also responsibility as public administrators. All of my professional jobs have been with tribal nonprofit, or tribal government…I could never take a job, unless it was helping out the community as I would find no reward in just having a job to line my pockets, and not helping people. I have a strong sense of community. In fact in the native culture, there is a very strong sense of community that I wish to pass on to my son. I’m just not sure what vaccines have to do with that. If indeed, we are being intellectually honest I think that statistics need to be looked into that scientifically show that heard immunity is not applicable when it comes to vaccines, only the disease itself. Being intellectually honest we also do have to look at the health conditions, our diets, medical standards etc. that keep us from having the same death rates as Third World countries. Being intellectually honest, there are also instances such as China in which there is a 99% vaccine rate, yet still measles outbreaks have occurred. Now I’m sure we can both throw out peer-reviewed, non-biased clinical research that is free from skewed data, but let’s not do that quite yet. Reason being, we may not be at an equal playing field either. As a postgraduate scholar you are taught the art of critical thinking, getting ready to become the expert yourself, to publish these papers yourself, so in turn you must learn to pick apart the studies and know which ones show credibility and which ones do not. There may be a published in peer-reviewed trial, and you may look at the data yourself versus the conclusions and come to your own conclusions that the data seems sound, yet if this trial was funded by that drug manufacturer there is a high chance of bias in the work. This is the very reason that the CDC themselves reports that those who choose not to vaccinate, i’m on those with higher education….once you learn to find valid from nonvalid research and you see what is out there, you can never go back. I certainly do not believe that you need a graduate degree, or you need to be a doctoral student to know sound from unsound research….however I do believe if we are going to throw out research and be intellectually honest with each other then we need to be at a level playing field knowing how to decipher and pick apart research. You don’t need to graduate degree, but most likely you need some experience in this field and some knowledge on how to properly do it. As an undergraduate from a good college, I know that I was not taught the skills yet they were not introduced until post grad school. I don’t know your background, you may be a Ph.D yourself or are trained as a scholar and critical thinking through other means, but I think when looking at independent research it’s worth noting. However lets just push all that aside for one moment and let’s use Center for disease control statistics only. I’m sure if you are for vaccines, then you take their research as pretty sound. Zero deaths from the measles in the last 10 years, and over 100 from the vaccine. Now you may say that the zero deaths are due to herd immunity however people still acquired the measles, they just did not die. And then you have to look at the countless millions that are being paid out by the vaccine injury prevention fund. I like that you would acknowledge the dangers, because some people on the vaccine camp blindly ignore them. However, I guess my advice is just look up the research on herd immunity with vaccinations as well. While it is your right to do and believe whatever you want, (I too, don’t feel the need to viciously attack those who choose to vaccine, like I commenly see to those of us who don’t), however you seemed to imply that those who do not vaccinate do not care about their community, and passing on these important teachings to our children. In your responses to many people, you talk about intellectual honesty but that seems a rather insulting term, seeing as you’re ignoring factual statistics while accusing others of being dishonest or perhaps i’m how ignorant to a ‘truth’ you have seemed to stumble upon. I like your original post though, I like that you wanted to include respect in the debate and I don’t know why people have to take a good old scholarly debate to personal levels. however when you turn around in your responses, after asking others to be nice in there responses, and accuse people of not being intellectually honest, then this seems a bit of an aggressive response, no?

  • Sarah Sylvester

    I just love post so much. Ultimately why I decided on vaccinating, to protect others. Thanks.

  • jill

    I do whatever keeps my mind at ease most…and for me, I feel better knowing my children are not vaccinated.

    I also know that I need to keep an open mind if we have lifestyle changes, a new baby, etc. My kids don’t go to daycare, don’t travel to all corners of the world where certain diseases are a real threat, don’t have health issues that would make chicken pox a much more severe situation, etc. I read the pro-vaccine things–CDC websites, Dr. Sears, looked at many statistics–and just wasn’t convinced that I’d sleep better at night knowing that my kids were heavily protected from contracting a few diseases.

    I am much more worried about them getting things like West Nile, or certain types of meningitis, which I have seen people near me get and have terrible complications. The government gets worked up about polio, which was not terribly fatal or debilitating in most people who contracted it, and which affects no one in the U.S. over the last few decades, but not the things that kill so many people in our country that are largely preventable–diseases and otherwise.

    I do not believe in putting something in my (or my family’s) bodies for the good of the herd. I also believe that there are some advantages to getting some of the vaccine-able diseases. I do a lot for the herd in many ways, like keeping the air clean by walking rather than taking the car (and I have little kids and winter weather). We (well, some of us) all do our things to help each other and the Earth; vaccination is not on my list.

    I don’t care what people do, as long as they are educated about their decisions and don’t belittle others for their choices. And I have to say, despite how negative it sounds, that while both sides have people who are not well-educated about their decisions, I think that there are far more vaccinated families who just do whatever the government or doctors scare them in to (like, say, my parents and siblings). It’s a shame our medical system and government cannot present both sides and encourage people to take charge of their lives and their families’.

  • http://angieeatspeace.com/ Angie

    I have never looked at this topic through a community perspective and really appreciate you putting it out there!

  • Sharon

    But in 1950, there were aprox 100 deaths from measles. The reason we have zero now is BECAUSE of the vaccine that “herd” gets every year. Doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong, vaccinate or not, but if everyone chooses not to vaccinate, the numbers of deaths and birth defects associated with pregnant women exposed to some of these diseases, will rise again. Either choice is a gamble with our children’s lives and health.

  • lysette

    Wow there’s a hurricane going on down below! I vaccinate my German Shepherd. That’s about all I can contribute to this. I trust your research and instincts Sayward, and appreciate the guts it took to host this conversation here.

    ‘Put out the fire, make it rain’ ;)

  • Momster

    I hate to say anything bad about my beloved Kentucky, but when it comes to medicine we are behind. Yes, we have some damn good hospitals but we also have some good ole boy doctors who should have retired eons ago. My boy is 10 now and healthy as a horse and smart and sensitive, everything I wanted him to be. But if I had listened to the doctors here he wouldn’t be around to constantly beg me for another dog and more iPad time lol. The hospital that saved him and I both filed complains and the good doctor got in serious shit for denying him an emergency airlift to a hospital that has one of the best pediatric intensive care units in the east, and also a little malpractice lawsuit ( not my me I didn’t want money I wanted his head but oh well) that got him bad enough press to shut his practice down.

  • Momster

    My heart breaks for these kids, we need more education available for parents, whatever choice they make they should be fully informed on both side of the issue. And thank you Sayward, it’s our primal instincts to save our young, risking it all.

  • Serenity

    Great intelligent post! I work in Pediatrics and this is a talk we have everyday! Most of the parents choose to vaccinate. There are very few refusers and in my experience the refusers are oftentimes foreign and follow alternate schedules. In the last 12 years, I only know of two instances of vaccine reactions, one of them my own and the other a 4 month old child in our practice. Fortunately the 4 month old fared better than me! This child reacted twice to a Dtap vaccine, and she had extreme pain at the injection site on administration followed with unconsolable crying. For myself, as a medical professional we are required to have multiple vaccines if titres find no immunity. I actually got the Mumps after receiving the required MMR vaccine. Believe me this was NOT a good experience! And I remain pro- vaccine! One more thing, getting back to the positive side of vaccines, all my 3 children have been fully vaccinated and have NEVER had Chicken pox! There you go! proof positive that vaccines work!

  • vegyogini

    Thank you SO much for this post! I’m not a parent, but maybe I will be at some point, and I do find this topic to be confusing. I have the hippie vs. science aspects to me, as well, and of course love community. We recently took my 2 1/2 year old niece, who has a chromosomal disorder that causes seizures, to Disneyland after the measles outbreak. And I was really nervous about it. My brother and I were vaccinated as children, our dad had measles as a child (and currently has stage 1 bladder cancer), my dad’s wife was neither vaccinated nor had the measles as a child, and although my niece had her first measles (MMR, I believe) vaccine, she isn’t old enough to have had the second yet. We’re all ok, but I was reluctant for us to go with the various risks we had in our group. Oh, and I am very much anti-flu shot, but that’s another topic for another day. :)

  • Olgui

    Good post! Thank you for your honesty! I totally agree with you! I have also vaccinated my daughter with the important ones and delayed just a few.
    Ps. I love your blog!!!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oh just to be clear, I think it should be the parents choice as well! At least, legally. I don’t believe in legally/governmentally forced vaccinations.

    Whether or not unvaccinated children should be allowed in public schools is a different issue (and one that I am, honestly, undecided on). But as far as a paren’t fundamental right to choose – I’m right there with ya.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Not at ALL surprised we came to the same conclusions. Muah! ♥

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    The vegan issue is a good comparison. Especially when it comes to the larger issues of mandatory vaccination. As in, man I really, really, REALLY want the whole world to – and believe the whole world *should* – be vegan. BUT I would not support legislatively-forced veganism. Same for vaccines, and for similar reasons. (I think? I think this analogy holds?)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I didn’t! I couldn’t Even. ;-D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aww, thank you Theresa, this comment was awesome and so wonderful to read! thank you!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Awww, thank you!!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I made up my own schedule. I hope you understand, but I just don’t feel comfortable sharing it – I feel like that would be too prescriptive and people might feel like i was saying that’s the schedule I endorse for everyone. But actually, I think that it really depends on your circumstances (breastfeeding? infant day care? etc) and where you live. For example I lived in Portland, so it felt really important to get Polio done early. I really worry that because of the incredibly low vaccination rate in Portland, there is going to be a Polio outbreak there. So yeah, that one felt important. Somewhere else, with a more standard 95% + vaccination rate, I’d probably have waited on Polio since it has, for all intents and purposes, been eradicated in this country.

    So yeah, there are a lot of variables to consider!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    That is similar to my situation! Waits was born in early 2010, so when I first started researching vaccines, the autism linked hadn’t even been debunked yet. It was hard to process through all that information as it was happening, and I’ll admit that I used to be afraid of vaccine-induced autism.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Amberle. It usually gets so ugly, but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by the comments on this thread! Even with all the sharing and people commenting who aren’t normal BA readers, the discussion has been remarkably civil. Nice to know that calm vaccine conversations ARE possible.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I know! Epic, right? They were just the absolute bestest. ♥

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I don’t really follow your logic here. Cholera was eradicated in America due to sanitation improvements around the turn of the century. Scarlet Fever (which I had in high school!) stopped being a problem with the discovery of penicillin. But measles stuck around killing people and wreaking havoc until the vaccine was released in 1964, at which point measles cases PLUMMETED. Same for polio, which was killing and paralyzing people long after sanitation and penicillin. The polio vaccine was released to the public in the late 50s and again, polio cases PLUMMETED.

    I agree that sanitation and nutrition are important, but I just don’t think those things can claim any responsibility for the reduction in vaccine-preventable diseases. The history just doesn’t line up.

    As for all the stuff you’re “tired of” – I agree with you! That kind of broad-painting doesn’t help anything, and certainly doesn’t contribute to a helpful, healing discourse. I hope you didn’t feel like I was saying any of those things! (other than “because SCIENCE without showing the science, which I did do, but only because I wanted to write a personal piece, not a link-filled science-y one)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    It’s not gone! I had it in high school! =D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    That’s a great question that I am completely unequipped to answer. But i can ask around with some of my microbio friends on campus! I’ll get back to you!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I’m sorry that you feel that way Melissa. I work to be humble and to keep my feet on the ground, and I’m sorry you feel “like my nose is in the air”.

    But fundamentally, there is a difference between fact and opinion. It’s like when creationists accuse evolutionary biologists of being snobby or rigid for not giving creationism a spot in the classroom. Because to them, their belief is the same as science. But . . . it’s just not.

    And it’s the same here. Herd immunity is real. Its okay if you choose not to believe in it, but it doesn’t make me a snob for insisting that truth is truth.

    I am however sorry if I offended you. Peace to you.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Just out of curiosity, are you politically conservative?

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    This is true, and a good point! In my neighborhood in Portland I used to find used needles shoved in bushes, and one time in my own front yard! Eek.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Suzy, I find your sarcasm incredibly off-putting. Are you actually interested in having a conversation with me, or are you just trying to play “caught ya!” (believe me, I’m a vegan, so I know that game well)

    For what it’s worth, when I was pregnant with Waits I had all my levels tested, and I found out I was no longer showing immunity for Rubella. I was scared shitless, because as you know, had an unvaccinated person contracted the disease and spread it to me, my unborn son would have been in very serious danger.

    Luckily that did not happen, and after he was born, I got my booster.

    So actually I do know my status. You should be nicer next time you make demands of a perfect stranger.

  • veronika

    I think that an important distinction here is the infectious agent: viruses vs bacteria.

    Cholera and scarlet fever are both bacterial, and have been controlled with sanitation and antibiotics. TDaP – all bacterial too.

    The trifecta covered by MMR vaccine is caused by viruses. Polio and flu are caused by viruses too. And, you know, freaking ebola.

    Sure, some bacterial diseases like TB are not easily treated, but in general terms we have ways to control diseases that are not yet antibiotic-resistant. That’s another topic that can become a discussion of its own: when we choose to vaccinate against bacterial infections, we are reducing our reliance on antibiotics, and thus reducing the possibility of developing antibiotic-resistant infections. We also protecting our micriobiota, etc. Small children with immature immune systems are susceptible to sepsis, which is good to avoid. But, if needed, we have antibiotics as a ready medication.

    I think there are fewer options for antiviral drugs, and you’ll find that most routine viral infections are not treated – they are managed (by hydration, pain killers and fever reducers). Viruses tend to mutate more rapidly (many have error-prone polymerases, which mutate the genetic material upon replication – one of the reasons HIV is so hard to treat). Google tells me that there’s currently no prescription med to treat measles, only an experimental drug not approved by FDA and things to manage symptoms. And complications of measles complications include bacterial infections, btw. So, you know, pick your poison(s).

    In some ways it comes down to what you want to subject the patient to: a preventative measure, or treatment. The latter could be straight-forward or could expand if there are complications.

    Sorry for the super long-winded answer.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    No it’s awesome! And a great answer. But I think the OP (Melissa) was trying to argue that measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases declined along with diseases like cholera and scarlet fever, simply because of improvements in sanitation and nutrition, as opposed to because of vaccines. And that’s what I was disputing.

  • veronika

    Yes, thanks, you are right. I think I was mostly focused on some of the issues you raised in your response. Thanks for distilling :)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    No problem! Your post was really interesting and an issue I hadn’t thought about before – in terms of viruses versus bacteria and how each of those relate to this issue.

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  • juana

    you know… i m a tad bit disappointed by this post. you usually do such a thorough job of backign your opinions up w science, and all you re sayign is herd immunity is a thing and i believe in community. am i missing somthing? yeah, herd immunity works. it also works the other way around. it also makes us much more immune to antibiotics bc as a collective we ve become immune to it and we need to crazy up dosages. and it also makes certain strains of certain viruses stronger (which are more dangerous and there is no vaccines for) because everyone is vaccinated against the less deadly, less common strain.
    i m missing the science on vaccines on this post
    also… not to be a total meany… but how can you be vegan if you vaccinate? you are putting embryonic animal matter right in your blood stream, are you not?

  • veronika

    I guess this makes me wonder, when people research vaccines, do they also research the treatments for the diseases in question? We all know that there are plenty of potential side effects to any drug we take. And if there is no available Plan B, what goes into the cost-benefit analysis for not vaccinating? Does the prospect of months in a hospital enter the calculation? (that story by Momster just tore me apart – thank you for sharing!).

    Like I already mentioned, there is treatment for some viral infections (shingles, and some chronic or recurrent infections like herpes, hepatitis and HIV – although mostly not to kill off the virus completely, just to keep it dormant or at manageable levels), but many viral infections are not actually treated (such as the case the measles, mumps, rubella, HPV, most flu strains… the list is long). The patient is told to get lots of fluids and take some Tylenol (but not too much! It’ll kill you before the vaccines will!), and to wait out the storm.

    In a way, it seems that not vaccinating for things that cannot actually be treated is sort of like conducting “survival of the fittest” research – you don’t know if the person will be susceptible to a given infection in the first place, and you have little control over progression of the infection and its complications, when all you can do is manage symptoms like dehydration and fever. In this case, it seems like a double whammy or a serious gamble. Plus, the long incubation periods that many viruses have (ebola is up to 21 days, measles is 7-18 days, HPV and HIV – who knows?? you might not notice symptoms for months or years!) give these lots of time to infect more people.

    So much to think about.

  • veronika

    Ok, I have to get this out of the way first, because it is an incredibly common mistake: viral infections are not treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics is a class of anti-bacterial agents. Bacteria and viruses are very different things. Viruses are treated with antiviral drugs.

    “…herd immunity works. it also works the other way around. it also makes us much more immune to antibiotics bc as a collective we ve become immune to it and we need to crazy up dosages. and it also makes certain strains of certain viruses stronger (which are more dangerous and there is no vaccines for) because everyone is vaccinated against the less deadly, less common strain.”

    I don’t think that herd immunity (interference with disease propagation through human population due to mass vaccination – it rhymes!) in itself makes us… not immune to antibiotics (that’s incorrect) – makes the antibiotics ineffective against killing bacteria. Bacteria mostly acquire antibiotic resistance via horizontal gene transfer, and guess what? It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It occurs when cells divide and proliferate.

    When a particular population is allowed to keep dividing, and especially when a pathogen such as a bacterium is allowed to move from one host to another, the probability of acquiring mutations rises sharply. If the disease spreads, and if bacterial population multiplies, the sheer probability of new mutations increases. The more hosts the pathogen sees, the more selective pressure it experiences, and this also causes an increase in diversity, which for bacterial pathogens would mean survival mechanisms such as antibiotic resistance.

    Hope this makes sense.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Bless you. My goodness, bless you! <3

  • veronika

    Science-y enough? :)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Juana, I’m sorry you were disappointed by this post. I left the science out for a few reasons:

    One, I was not writing this post to educate readers on why THEY should vax. I was writing it to share my process and thoughts that led ME to vaxing. I am not a doctor or a vaccine specialist. It’s not my place to tell people what to do here. I am a writer – it’s my job to share my insides. ;-)

    Two, I wanted this post to be personal and to focus on community, which is a perspective that I don’t often hear in this vaccine debate. If I filled this essay with scientific jargon, links, references – if I “made a case” for vaccines – then it would be just like all the other pro- or anti-vaccine articles on the Internet. There are SO MANY of those already. That’s not what I was trying to do.

    As for the vegan aspect, vaccines are vegan. They are vegan because there is no alternative choice.

    When Donald Watson coined and defined the word vegan, he included the passage “as far as is possible and practical”, and that’s something that so many vegans forget.

    If there were two kinds of vaccines – one that contained animal products and one that didn’t – then there would be a vegan vaccine and a non-vegan vaccine. But there aren’t. We have no choice.

    Just like ALL computers contain animal products, and ALL car tires contain animal products, and any number of other common tools that we all use all the time, and nobody would ever say that I’m “unvegan” for using my computer, would they? Of course not.

    It’s the same with vaccines. Until we have an alternative, there’s just no “possible” way to avoid them. And that doesn’t make us any less vegan.

    Hope that helps answer your question!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    You are SO good at explaining this kind of science in clear, uncomplicated terms. I appreciate it very much!

  • Anne

    New reader… loved the post! Just saw something on the news about a baby less than a year old who went to Disneyland with his family and contracted measles. He was very seriously sick, seems like he is mostly recovered now. I think that is your point about herd immunity, he was too young for the vaccine and the poor baby was put at risk! I agree about living in community and protecting others. I also heard that if you are unvaccinated and are exposed to measles, you can have an up to 90% chance of contracting the disease. Thanks for being a voice of reason and compassion.

  • http://runningmybuttoff.blogspot.com/ Julie @ Running My Butt Off

    AAaah! I love this post!!! Thank you for writing this. I especially love your point about what you want to teach your son- me me me or community? Just so well said.

  • juana

    well… the community aspect still seems to go both ways for me. yes, herd immunity. also, herd weakening of the overall resistance to antibiotics and the strengthening of other strains of certain, more dangerous, viruses that are not covered by vaccines and actually affect younger children more than the ones there are vaccines for. herd immunity has its plus side and it s down side. everyone benefits and everyone suffers from it.
    as for the vegan aspect… ok, intelllectualized. sure. vegan on paper.

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  • Lesley

    I couldn’t agree with this post more. I really enjoyed reading it very much

  • Melissa

    Except that measles plummeted before the vaccine was introduced.
    Here is a link with a graph
    Note that the source is US vital statistics.

    Sanitation and nutrition were factors in the decrease of more diseases than just cholera. It sure seems like sanitation and nutrition only get credit when there isn’t a vaccine.