You have your brand new baby tucked safely in your arms. You are nervous but choosing to trust your pediatrician’s advice. As you enter the doctor’s office, you gingerly place your two month old in the hands of the nurse. You hope that the vaccines they have recommended (seven total) will prevent your precious child from suffering dreaded diseases from which other family members have suffered or died.
After the tense appointment is over, you comfort your baby and return home. You are hopeful there will be no adverse side effects, but then you notice something is wrong. Suddenly, your brand new, perfectly healthy two month old has a very high fever and is swelling. You call the doctor’s office, and they ask you to bring the child back in.
By the time you reach the doctor’s office, hives are covering your baby and the fever has gone up. The doctors run some tests and discover that your baby is having a very rare reaction to the vaccines.
The reason? Your child is one of the very few people in the world whose body is naturally immune to most diseases that require vaccines. Thankfully, the baby survives. The doctor recommends no further vaccines unless prior testing for antibodies is done.
It’s not a hypothetical situation: Natural immunity happens.
The scenario above may seem overly dramatic or even impossible to some, but the situation described is not a hypothetical at all. In fact, this is a true story. When my younger sister was a baby, she and my mother had this experience. My younger sister almost died because her body naturally produces antibodies to most of the diseases vaccines are intended to prevent. That means she does not require most vaccines because if she were to take them, they would cause her to become very sick or even die.
When my sister entered school, my mother presented doctor’s notes to prove she could not take vaccines. Those tests remained valid in her file until she entered college. When she was enrolling in college, the registrar required her to have new blood tests done to prove that she was still naturally immune. Her doctor told her that if she were to take the vaccine of a disease in which she already carries the antibodies, it would make her very sick or it could cause death. For that reason, my sister has never been vaccinated.
Why We Vaccinate
I suppose you could assume my family would be anti-vaccination, but we are not. We are pro-vaccination. However, we believe in caution. As terrifying as my sister’s story sounds to new moms, my family has great reason to support vaccinations.
Back in the 1950s, polio was a serious illness that paralyzed and killed children. I have an aunt who suffered from polio in the 50s, and to this day she walks with a limp as a result. Polio is a dangerous disease that our children should not have to worry about because vaccines have all but eradicated it.
Also, in the 1960s, tuberculosis was a killer lung disease that caused its victims to die a slow, painful death. Sadly, that is how we lost one of my great grandfathers. Today, very few people have TB because of vaccines.
Therefore, we believe the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks. Had my aunt and great grandfather been vaccinated, they would not have suffered as they did. For us, vaccination is a balancing act between the risks involved and the benefits not only to society but also to the individual.
How We Handle the Risks Involved in Vaccination
As a result of my sister’s situation, we always request tests for antibodies to be run prior to the vaccination of our children; if they are not present, vaccination is a must.
So far, all 11 of my parents’ grandchildren have required vaccinations. Thus proving the rarity of my sister’s situation and the importance of vaccinations.
If you are fearful of vaccines, you should talk to your pediatrician and express your concerns. There are many options they can offer you to make vaccinations safer and less stressful for you and your child. As part of a family who has seen both sides of this issue firsthand, we feel that it’s worth it to take the extra time to make sure your child is safe with or without vaccines.