Tuesday, June 19, 2007

hooray for rfk (jr.)

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is someone people might actually listen to in this whole mercury-autism-vaccine debate, which is apparently in a federal "vaccine court" right now. Then again, I thought Al Gore might change people's minds about global warming, but if they didn't like him to begin with, they probably won't listen to him now. At any rate, Kennedy wrote this article for The Huffington Post. It starts like this:
The poisonous public attacks on Katie Wright this week--for revealing that her autistic son Christian (grandson of NBC Chair Bob Wright), has recovered significant function after chelation treatments to remove mercury -- surprised many observers unfamiliar with the acrimonious debate over the mercury-based vaccine preservative Thimerosal. But the patronizing attacks on the mothers of autistic children who have organized to oppose this brain-killing poison is one of the most persistent tactics employed by those defending Thimerosal against the barrage of scientific evidence linking it to the epidemic of pediatric neurological disorders, including autism. Mothers of autistics are routinely dismissed as irrational, hysterical, or as a newspaper editor told me last week, "desperate to find the reason for their children's illnesses," and therefore, overwrought and disconnected.
Good for him. I hope people are listening.

On a related note, Daniel had his nine-month well-baby visit a couple of weeks ago. We saw a new doctor who listened to me — actually listened — when I told her we are delaying some of Daniel's shots and want to forego some of the others, at least until much later. (Like chicken pox. I'd be happy if he could catch chicken pox on his own and develop a natural immunity, but if he's not immune by the time he enters adulthood, a case of chicken pox would be a lot more troublesome, so I'd want him to get the shot in his early teens if he doesn't bring the pox upon himself. :) And hepatitis B. Why on earth do they give that to babies, when it's mostly transmitted through sex and IV drug use? And that was one of the shots that used to be preserved with thimerisol.)

Whether or not the doctor agreed with me, what she said to me with complete openness was, "I don't want you to give him any shots if you're not comfortable doing it. It's not good for a doctor-patient relationship if you feel pressured into doing it." What a breath of fresh air compared to the previous doctor, who basically made me feel like a floundering fool — and very pressured.

I did get Daniel one shot at his nine-month visit: DTAP, the combined one for diptheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough). I'd been going back and forth all week about whether to do it now or later, but I decided to go ahead. It was his third DTAP shot, which the doctor said completes the primary series, so he should be covered through the scariest age for whooping cough. (Well, as much as he can be; that part of the vaccine doesn't have the highest success rate.) And tetanus? I know it's rare, but the thought of the actual disease scares me immensely. It sounds horrible. It didn't help that we were at a birthday party at a park a couple of weeks ago, and when I sat on the grass next to Daniel to eat my cake, I put my hand down next to a big, thick, rusty nail. Eesh. At any rate, if he splits his lip open again, at least I don't have to panic, and that emotional reassurance is good for something!

So, I left feeling good about the doctor, better about the clinic, and great about our decision to keep going on a selective and delayed vaccination schedule — and keep researching. And Daniel handled the shot really well, and he got plenty of cuddling from his mom and dad afterward.

Oh, and Daniel's vital stats: As of June 1, he measured 29 and a half inches (90th or 95th percentile) and weighed 18 pounds, 5 ounces (25th percentile). What a big boy! I love him so much.


Monkeymama said...

9 months already? Time flies! It's great that your doctor is so supportive.

In an old post you mentioned you were reading "What your doctor won't tell you about children's vaccinations." (Got to love the blog search...) Did you find it particularly useful? I wish we had a stronger plan for delaying vaccinations with Beck and we'll have a 2nd chance here with the next one.


Emilie said...

Sarah ... I did find that book helpful as an introduction to the whole subject, and the author (a pediatrician) suggests an alternate schedule in the back of the book.

Another book I really liked was "Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent's Guide" by Aviva Jill Romm. It has a lot of information about the diseases themselves, what causes them, who usually gets them, what usually happens when someone gets them, etc. I found it helpful to balance that information against the information about the vaccinations.

Also, there is a book put out by the Centers for Disease Control called "The Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine Preventable Diseases" (more commonly referred to as the "Pink Book," because it's bright pink). It goes into even more detail about the diseases and has AWESOME appendices about such things as the ingredients in vaccines, the frequency of diseases, etc.

I know this a long reply to your comment, so please write back to let me know you got it. Otherwise I'll e-mail you a copy. :)

elizabeth in mississppi said...

Got a question about chicken pox.. if you get the vaccine do you also prevent shingles? If you let Daniel get chicken pox on his own... (mine left me with scars) can you still get him vaccinated for shingles later? Can I (at the ripe old age of 35) get the vaccine if it prevents shingles? I do not want to go throught what my mom went through.

Emilie said...


Well, chicken pox and shingles are both caused by the same virus (called varicella, and the vaccine is actually called the varicella vaccine), so I would imagine the vaccine would prevent both. I don't know if you can get the vaccine at your age, but my guess is yes. A booster, at least.

Did your mom have the chicken pox when she was young? Did you? I know that getting chicken pox naturally results in lifetime immunity, but I don't know if that's immunity to all manifestations of the virus (including shingles) or just c.p.

One concern some people have is that the c.p. vaccine wears off over time, which could potentially lead to more adults (who were vaccinated as children but maybe didn't get the booster) getting chicken pox or shingles as adults, when it's more dangerous.

Emilie said...

OK ... I just looked up shingles in another book I have, and it says that after people recover from chicken pox, the virus doesn't go away. It can sit dormant for years and then erupt into shingles. (Maybe you know this already because of your mom.) Yikes - American have a one in five chance of getting shingles, and they can get it more than once.

"While in the past shingles has normally been seen in people over 50 years of age, since the varicella vaccine, there have been reports of shingles in children. Some would argue that the vaccine has been associated with this pattern of earlier onset." (Stephanie Cave, "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children's Vaccinations.")

It does look like individuals older than 12 can get the vaccine in two doses, taken four to eight weeks apart. However, she doesn't say whether getting the vaccine as an adult can prevent shingles. It's a good question.

Emilie said...

OK, sorry to keep adding new info that kind of negates the old, but I did some checking, and I think there is a shingles vaccine being marketed to the older set. Not positive, though.

I hope that helps a little! Talk to your doc. :)

Monkeymama said...

Thanks Em, I'll add those books to my reading list.

I also enjoyed your recent post on happiness. It's a good moral booster to read things like that.

RFKJr. said...