Normally this organic mom steers clear of the vaccine debate. We skirted it in The Complete Organic Pregnancy on purpose - parents need to discuss the issues (real and less real) with their doctors and trusted advisers, and to make educated decisions that are right for their families. That's what I do. But what's right for me might not be right for you.
I cannot tell you how many emails I've gotten in the past few weeks asking me what to do about the H1N1 vaccine, and I don't feel like I can ignore them all. These are from pregnant moms, parents, and even concerned grandparents from all walks of life. These are people who have never given their kids shots, people who have delayed vaccinations and never done flu shots, people who do give shots for deadly diseases but tend to think of flu shots as unnecessary. It's a real conundrum. And it's made that much worse by the media hype and misinformation. There's even a pediatrician in my neighborhood telling parents there's something in the H1N1 shot that has been linked to Gulf War Syndrome, and that we therefore don't know what might show up years down the line. The parent spreading that story didn't bother to ask what it was, or to see the studies her doctor was referring to, but was busily repeating it others, scaring/horrifying them. After a little independent research, I gather the doctor was referring to squalene, which isn't, as of this moment, allowed in vaccines in the United States and so isn't even an issue here.
I wish I could tell you I knew what to do. But I don't. We're as confused as any household. My current pediatrician is all for it. And my own doctor - who doesn't yet have it for adults - initially advised that we "not be first." Now that we're not first, he says the side effects have been mild so far and the potential for benefit is big.
I did an informal poll of friends and colleagues to see who was vaccinating and who wasn't and was interested to find that most were not doing the H1N1 shot. These were mainly people who did vaccinate their children against everything else, some of them on a delayed schedule, most on the regular schedule. Some of these parents were doing the regular flu shot and were ok with it, but not the H1N1, and others just never did any flu shots. Several were ok with the idea of the H1N1 shot but were uncomfortable with giving their children the required four shots - two for H1N1 and two for regular flu - this season.
Many cited that In New York, where I live, there was a spike of cases that seems to have died off, leaving parents to feel safer. But according to The New York Times, even if it seems as though it has peaked, more waves of it are likely on the way.
Here are a few links that have been helpful to me as I'm seeking advice.
* The NRDC's Dr. Gina Soloman's take.
* And several takes, via HealthyChild.org.
All of this reminds me why I minimize exposure to questionable chemicals and substances across the board on a daily basis - in everything from fish to vegetables to water to cosmetics to food storage containers to furniture to paint and more. Then, if and when I choose to willingly put something in my body I'm not entirely sure about, and that certainly doesn't fall under USDA organic standards (that was an attempt at a joke), it somehow feels like less of a big deal in the scheme of things. But that's me.
Take the time to talk to your doctors and do the reading/research needed to make the decision that is right for you and your family.
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