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This week Montana Whole Health became the first naturopathic clinic in the state of Montana to join the Vaccines For Children program. It is a huge (and controversial) decision I made last year to begin stocking vaccines in my private practice.
Vaccines are probably the number one most-talked about subject in my practice. Parents have lots and lots of questions – as they should! There is a ton of misinformation about vaccines out there. In fact, there is a lot of misinformation coming from both sides of the vaccine “debate.”
The “debate” between pro-vax and anti-vax has spiraled into an escalating, heated dispute that increasingly uses fear and emotion to fuel each side. A doctor tells a story about a case of Haemophilus meningitis that ended in death. If only they vaccinated! A mother tells a story about a horrible neuropathy her daughter got after a vaccine. I never should have vaccinated! No one should be vaccinated!
Then, of course, we have the thousands of parents who have seen changes in their child’s behavior after a vaccination – which, of course, directly contradicts all the research we have about vaccines. Who do we believe?
As a physician and a mother, this is so incredibly frustrating.
It has become my personal goal to remove the fear from vaccine decisions. With each side playing to emotions, it can become so difficult to sift the truth from the fiction.
Believe me, I get it. Vaccines are not fun. The decision is not easy.
Last year I recorded the Vaccines Demystified class that I taught – it is now available as a webinar. It was amazing how much I learned in the preparation for this class. Hundreds and hundreds of journal articles and abstracts – some with similar data, others with conflicting data, others with completely absent data. The nice thing about preparing for this course, though, was that the trends became a little more clear. It also made the vaccine decisions based less on fear, and more probability.
What do I mean by probability? What is the actual chance your child has of getting a vaccine-preventable disease? (One like Measles, Pertussis, or invasive Haemophilus.) What is the actual chance your child has of getting an adverse reaction to the vaccine? We have data on all this! (Or at least we have some data on all of this.)
I’ve found that parents have a much easier time making this decision when presented with hard facts and figures. They also have a much easier time when we talk openly about all the issues of vaccines: Who manufactures them? Who profits from vaccines? What is in vaccines? Are additives harmful? Are adjuvants harmful? Is it ethical to not give my child a vaccine? Is it ethical to give my child a vaccine? Which vaccines give herd immunity? Which vaccines do not give herd immunity? Which vaccines are only appropriate when a child is very young? Which diseases does breastfeeding protect against? How much does breastfeeding provide protection? Are vaccines complicit with abortion? What about autism!?
These are a lot of questions.
I wish I had concrete answers to all of them – some ethical decisions parents must simply make for themselves. Some of those questions there really isn’t a lot of data on. Some of those questions we do have data on, though!
So – there’s my thoughts about vaccines. Vaccines themselves aren’t good or bad. They are just vaccines. They are just a tool that is used by public health.
I started providing vaccines here at Montana Whole Health because of so many parents telling me they had been feared or shamed into getting all the vaccines and then they regretted it. Or that they wanted to get their child vaccinated but they were afraid of getting all the vaccines at the same time. Or that they were forced to choose between all the vaccines and none, so they chose none. Or that they had felt “shunned” by their naturally-minded community for wanting to get vaccines at all.
Parents: I’m here for you. Whatever you choose, I’m here for you. Let’s talk about these things. Let’s clear the air. Let’s make these scary things a little less scary.
I work really hard to make the vaccine-talk and the vaccine administration as comfortable as possible. I have lots of tricks and tips for preparing a child’s immune system, for distracting kids and for making the shot as painless as possible. If you’re interested in getting your child’s vaccines through me, you can check out this page for more information: Vaccines at Montana Whole Health.
You can also check out my webinar Vaccines Demystified
Finally, for parents who are out of town, I offer vaccine counseling sessions for $45. They can be on the phone or via Skype if desired. Check out the big blue Schedule button.
By the way, if you choose to not vaccinate your child, I’m still happy to be your child’s doctor. I’m here to support you too.