This is a series of guest posts by Dr. Mark McColl on vaccination issues. Please read my vaccine history and introduction of Dr. McColl before continuing. You can also read his previous posts on his vaccination choices for his kids, ethics and parental rights, and delaying vaccinations. These questions were all submitted by blog readers. Enjoy!
Is the current whooping cough outbreak related to parents choosing not to vaccinate?
Yes. For example, in 2011 in California, ten infants died after contracting whooping cough from their parents. There were probably more children who contracted the disease from their parents but in these ten cases it was documented that their parents were encouraged and counseled to receive the whooping cough vaccination for themselves prior to the infant’s birth. If their parents had chosen to vaccinate themselves it is very unlikely their children would have contracted the illness nor died from it. Imagine the pain of these mothers when they look back on their decision and wanting to choose differently?
Benjamin Franklin had a similar experience with small pox killing his son, Franky. He wrote “In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the small-pox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculuation [sic]. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it, my example showing that the regret may be the same either way and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.”
For children born very prematurely, is there wisdom in delaying some vaccinations to compensate for their adjusted age? Are vaccination risks greater for preemies?
For premature children the risk of remaining unprotected against preventable diseases is actually greater than for children born at term. They lack much of the natural immunity delivered in the last month of pregnancy. They certainly lack much of the nutrition given to them during that last month. Most vaccinations do however have a weight limit for which it has been adequately studied. In general, vaccinations are delayed until the child is at least 2 kilograms (4.4 lbs). Practically this only applies to the Hepatitis B vaccine and is the data from which we established the weight limit. There is no increased risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations in children born premature compared to full term children.
While most pediatric medications are dosed according to the child’s weight, vaccinations are not. In general the amount of material we need to present to the child’s immune system is so small that you can’t limit the dose any further. For instance, when a child acquires pertussis (whooping cough) there are over 3000 particles in the bacterial cell to which the body can and often does produce an immune reaction. In the vaccine for pertussis, only three proteins are necessary to adequately build protection against death from this disease. The concentrations of these three proteins are similarly small compared to the levels seen when infected or otherwise exposed naturally.
In some instances, adults need larger doses of these stimulating proteins in order for their immune system, which is admittedly slow and groggy, to appropriately react to it. The is even more true for the elderly who’s immune systems seem to be the sleepiest of all.
What children should NOT receive vaccinations?
Children with a clear medical contraindication to vaccination should not receive the vaccine. Children allergic to a component to a vaccine should not receive that vaccine but should receive all other vaccines. Thankfully, allergies to vaccine components are uncommon with current purification techniques. Children with a prior serious adverse reaction to a vaccine such as seizure should avoid that vaccine. These reactions are rare and typically occur in approximately 1 out of 100,000 to 1,000,000 vaccinations.
Why should a Christian family get their daughter vaccinated against HPV?
For the same reason she should wear her seatbelt. She is most likely to be harmed not when she chooses poorly but when someone else does.
When my daughter gets old enough her mother and I plan on her receiving the appropriate vaccination against Human Papillomavirus. We have already begun teaching her to be a wise, modest, and chaste young lady. We want her to love God with all her heart and mind and soul and strength. We teach her to do everything to the glory of God. So if she choses a perfect path through the minefield of adolescence and young adulthood and marries a similarly wise and pure young man, then the HPV vaccination would have been unnecessary. I will rejoice happily if that comes to pass.
However, I do not know how well my daughter will make her decisions and I do not know who that young man will be that will steal her heart. I can’t ensure he is receiving similar wise counsel and will make chaste choices about his sexual purity too. It is his decision that will cause her to be at risk of cervical cancer. My daughter may choose a perfectly pure path until her marriage and still die of cervical cancer. All because this boy didn’t make the same good decisions.
A seatbelt protects us against our own bad decisions but protects us against everyone else’s bad decisions too.