I’ve been sharing my son’s story on several platforms for several years now. For as many years as I’ve been sharing it, some people still haven’t heard what happened to Ronan. When I meet someone who is curious about his vaccine injury, I don’t mind retelling the story one more time. I do that in the hopes that what I impart is useful – be it a small piece of advice, a gentle warning, or if it becomes the start of a conversation that gets them thinking outside the box, I’ll keep sharing Ronan’s story.
One of the last times I shared the story, I added a few afterthoughts. I did that because I knew that other people, including an expectant mom that I asked to join in, were listening to the conversation. I didn’t want to scare the pants of any of the women but knew that if I wasn’t completely honest with them, they would walk away confused. Worse, they could walk away upset with me. Since the last thing I want to be is the source of someone’s anger, I carefully crafted my responses while also cited resources that supported the wisdom I wanted to impart.
I shared what I’d do if it was me – if I was pregnant again, if I was taking my brand new baby in for a “well-visit”, if I was told vaccines were necessary. After offering what I had to offer, I didn’t want to forget my thoughts. So, I sat down and typed them up and called them Things I’d Do Differently.
It isn’t a long list but could quite easily be expanded to include more details, lots of links, and plenty more topics. But for now, for today’s post, stemming from one of the latest convos I’ve had about Ronan that lead to talking about diseases that lead to talking about vaccines that lead to talking about pregnancy that lead to talking about pregnancy and vaccines, here are 10 things I’d do differently today.
What else would I do and what else could I tell a young mama-to-be to know to help her make a more informed choice? Here’s a start:
1 – Learn the immune system, its function, and how to support it.
2 – Learn about communicable diseases, how they’re spread, and how long the disease usually lasts. Also learn where the disease is typically caught (locally? regionally? overseas?) and how the disease run its course (rash? fever? vomiting?). Then, learn how to treat disease and know what, if any, long-term effects may result from it.
3 – Weigh the likelihood of coming in contact with the diseases.
4 – Learn which vaccines are on the current recommended vaccine schedules (pediatric and adult).
5 – Learn what a vaccine is and what it’s supposed to do.
6 – Look up each vaccine’s efficacy and safety record(s), if those exist.
7 – Look up what vaccine consumers are saying about each vaccine, specifically the ones that my provider is suggesting.
8 – Look up what a vaccine reaction can include (knowing that not all reactions are recorded and that not all who are recording those reactions are in agreement that it’s directly tied to a vaccine. They think that reactions may just have been a “coincidence”).
9 – Talk to my provider about the pros/cons of vaccinating and not vaccinating keeping in mind that the provider, the vaccine manufacturers, and our federal government, which oversees the vaccine program, cannot be held legally responsible for any adverse reactions should any problems arise.
All the while…
-Making sure to know my family’s medical history (Anyone have a vaccine reaction in the past, even a minor one? Any relatives have an autoimmune disease? Do I have an autoimmune disease that could cause vaccine complications?).
-Making sure to follow any updates on vaccine news (Remember when we were told that 2 doses of the HPV vaccine may be as effective as 3 doses?)
-Making sure to follow updates on vaccine development (Remember that big Ebola scare last year? Whatever came from that? How about this year’s scare - Zika? What’ll we be scared with next year?).
-Making sure to look for reports of any news associated with a vaccine (like this year’s report that oops, the FluMist vaccine “has performed quite poorly”, or the one that said this year’s flu shot was ineffective and yet was pushed so heavily and on all populations – including on pregnant women! The CDC says to get a flu shot, but I’m not sure how they can stand behind that suggestion. This flu vaccine package insert that states safety and effectiveness hasn’t been established in pregnant women nor in nursing mothers.
And finally, if it were me having to do this all over again, I’d…
10 – Take all that I’ve learned, asked, questioned and researched, and go with my mother’s intuition. I have it for a reason. If I find that I have one doubt, even if it’s the tiniest, seems so insignificant but keeps me up at night doubt, I must always go with my gut. Always.
I think you could take out vaccines in that list above and use any of the other “standard operating procedure” type of procedures young moms are asked to do (be induced, allow erythromycin cream on baby’s eyes, administering the vitamin K shot, etc.). Replace vaccines with those other procedures (Laura’s got some great ideas to consider) and get a head start on reading, thinking and deciding what mama-to-be wants. They could do that and should do that before they find themselves in a situation having to make choices about their health and about their baby’s health. Being able to make a choice is good, but being able to make an informed choice is even better.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.