Sometimes I get asked if Castle’s autism was caused by his vaccines. In our particular case, the answer is a definite no. His primary issue, dyspraxia, was present on the day he was born. The child never could coordinate the muscles in his mouth enough to latch properly, and if bottles didn’t exist, he would have starved to death. (Incidentally, the same was true of me and my half-sister. We both have dyspraxic symptoms although no formal diagnosis. Of the two, I am clumsier and less coordinated.) It had probably been nearly 10 years since my last vaccine when Castle was born, so there’s no reason to believe some vaccine I had influenced his birth or my pregnancy. No, my child was always destined, most likely by his genes, to be a clumsy introvert who has trouble talking. Vaccines had nothing to do with that.
That does not mean that I think vaccines don’t cause autism. That’s an extremely contentious issue that I actually have no opinion on one way or the other. I realize that the original study that started the vaccines-cause-autism scare has been debunked, but there are plenty of stories and anecdotal evidence that leads me to believe that for some people, their systems do not react well to vaccines. For some that may be the toxins that are found in many vaccines. For others it may be the actual vaccine itself. I have no knowledge on the subject, and I have no idea if current studies are researching the correlation. I also realize that correlation does not equal causality. As this tongue in cheek article from Yeah. Good Times. reminds us, just because two things appear to be linked, it doesn’t mean one is causing the other.
What I do think is that vaccines, like many other things in a child’s life, are a calculated risk. Everyday, every parent takes a calculated risk with their child. I risk him dying in a car wreck when I strap him into his car seat. I risk him getting hit by a car when we walk places. I risk him choking to death when I hand him a piece of food. But the alternative would be never taking him out of the house and only feeding him soups and purees. I feel the benefits of not being house bound and eating solid foods out weigh the risks.
I feel every parent has to do the same with vaccines.
After all, there are some very definite benefits to vaccines: namely not dying from some terrible diseases that used to kill millions of people. I don’t want my kid to have to suffer through polio or measles. Castle’s had a typhoid vaccination because, yuck, who wants to get that?
On the other hand, there are risks associated with vaccines. Even if you are one of those that don’t believe that vaccines cause autism, there are still documented, proven risks. They can range from minor fevers to some major badness depending on the vaccine.
The result is that parents take a calculated risk either way. If you vaccinate, you risk a side effect or if you have a very bio-chemically sensitive kid, you may risk something more long term like autism. If you don’t vaccinate you risk , you risk your kid contracting one of those diseases. True, the chances might be low if you stay in first-world countries, but you still hear of outbreaks even in places like London, California and Texas. (I’m thinking of measles in this case.) And if enough people stop vaccinating, the diseases will come back. Unlike small pox, most of these haven’t died out in the natural world.
In the end, Castle’s dad and I chose to vaccinate. He’s had all his initial vaccines and has generally stayed on schedule. We’ve delayed his 4YO ones a bit due to his constant ear infections recently, but he will still get them. Since he hasn’t shown any bio-chemical issues with them in the past, we don’t think he’s going to worsen with his boosters. If anything, his system is cleaner now and should be able to better tolerate any toxins that the vaccines may bring. And because we travel a lot, he’ll get some non-traditional vaccines as well. I don’t even want to imagine what a bout of yellow fever looks like.
Still, just because we ultimately chose to vaccinate doesn’t mean that you should. In the end, I’m a firm believer in personal choice. There is no right or wrong answer to vaccines. There is what’s right and wrong for your particular family in your particular situation. Do your due diligence, read research (on both sides) that you trust, and choose what is right for you. Do not let someone make you feel guilty or doubt your choice.*
*So, one thing that needs to be mentioned is that state’s mandate vaccines. If you plan to put your child in any type of educational setting (public, private, daycare, etc), you will have to get your child vaccinated or sign a religious waiver. At this time, you cannot refuse due to medical reasons. (I’m not sure why. If you and your doctor think it’s unsafe to vaccinate your child, I don’t see why that wouldn’t be a valid reason for a waiver.)