Vaccines aren’t for everyone. In recent years, many parents have decided to create their own vaccine schedule for their children and some don’t vaccinate at all. Vaccine cons aren’t entirely made up. There’s no such thing as a vaccine that is 100% effective or safe and all vaccines pose a side effect risk of some sort. In fact, since the first Vaccine Injury Compensation claims were made in 1989, the U.S. Court system has compensated 2,921 vaccine injury or death claims. Before you make a decision either way – to vaccinate or not vaccinate your child, you do need to research the facts about vaccine safety and risks. You should also research the diseases vaccines prevent, and decide for yourself if the diseases are less scary or more scary than vaccines. To get started read: Weighing the Safety of Baby Vaccines. Then keep reading this post to see some plausible reasons as to why you might want to avoid vaccines.

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Why Not Get Vaccinated?

There are many different medically sound reasons as to why you might not want to vaccinate your child. It’s best to discuss vaccines with your child’s pediatrician because reasons not to get vaccinated vary wildly.

  • You want to avoid all side effects related to vaccines: The CDC notes that often mild problems with vaccines occur. For example, for those who get vaccinated with the DTaP vaccine, 1 in 4 experience fever, redness or swelling and soreness, 1 in 3 children will be more fussy than normal, 1 in 10 will experience poor appetite and 1 in 50 kids experience vomiting. As for more serious problems related to DTaP, 1 in 14,000 children experience seizure and 1 in 16,000 experience a high fever. Less than 1 out of a million parents report long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness or permanent brain damage for their child who has been vaccinated with DTaP. Other vaccines have their own side effects, which are generally as infrequently reported as the ones above, but side effects are reported for all vaccines.
  • You have a known allergic reaction: If your child has experienced a major side effect before, due to a vaccine, or if your child is deathly allergic to a component of the vaccine, the CDC advises that you talk to your doctor before considering the vaccine or don’t get the vaccine at all.
  • You’re pregnant or breastfeeding: Many vaccines are not safe during pregnancy and some aren’t if you’re breastfeeding. Before getting a vaccine while pregnant or nursing, carefully weigh the pros and cons of doing so.
  • You’re sick – even only mildly sick: If your child is already ill with a cold or flu or other illness, a vaccine might make the illness worse. In some cases, people with certain illnesses such as asthma or immune diseases shouldn’t be vaccinated either.
  • You’re the wrong age: Some vaccines aren’t meant for children under certain ages. Some vaccines may also be inappropriate if you’re elderly.

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Other Reasons Parents Don’t Vaccinate

Beyond medical concerns, there are other reasons parents don’t vaccinate. The main reasons include the following.

Religious or other personal beliefs: Beliefs are one reason why some parents don’t vaccinate. Some parents really and truly have convictions that mandate no vaccines while other parents may be using the religion slant as a vaccine loophole.

Natural immunity is best: Some parents believe natural immunity to diseases is better than vaccine immunity.  You commonly hear this argument during chicken pox vaccine debates. While it’s true that getting an infection naturally usually provides better immunity than a vaccine, you’re counting on that disease being mild enough to not hurt your child very much, and face it, you can’t control diseases. A child who gets the chicken pox vaccine is very unlikely to have a dangerous side effect; only 2.2 serious side effects have been reported to the CDC for every 100,000 chicken pox vaccine doses given. On the flip side, a child who gets the actual disease of chicken pox is at a higher risk of developing pneumonia, long term scars and many other complications up to death. Before the chicken pox vaccine was around 100 to 150 people died each year due to chicken pox, which is a lot more risky that that 2.2 chance of vaccine side effects. The Mayo Clinic points out other dangers of natural immunity, such as, “A natural polio infection could cause permanent paralysis. A natural mumps infection could lead to deafness. A natural Hib infection could result in permanent brain damage.

Vaccines cause autism: Peer reviewed medical research has yet to prove what exactly causes autism. There are theories, but no conclusions yet. Faulty research tried to show that vaccines may cause autism, but this research has since been debunked. Legally there’s no standing for vaccines causing autism either. The reason that this belief has preveiled may be because often autism appears at about the same time that children typically receive certain vaccines. Coincidence is not the same as medical proof though.

We’re cleaner and more disease-free now: As a society we know more about health and hygiene now than in the past. Some people assume only dirt and unsanitary conditions cause disease, so now that we soap up often, we’re not at as much of a risk. But, while some diseases are more common in unsanitary conditions, other diseases aren’t as picky. Perfectly tidy, well-cared for children contract deadly diseases every year. Also, we do have less diseases in the United States now, however, most research shows it’s because of vaccines. Research also shows that when parents start to back away from vaccines, diseases such as whooping cough come back.

From theories that vaccines cause diseases to toxins in vaccines to not wanting to cause children pain to assuming that diseases aren’t that dangerous to a general distrust of the medical community; there are tons of other reasons why parents shy away from vaccines.

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So Should You Vaccinate or Not?

We can’t tell you if you should or shouldn’t vaccinate because your kids aren’t our kids. Even though vaccines are pushed as the norm in the United States, you can still choose not to vaccinate your child. It’s a difficult decision for many.  The best thing you can do is read actual medical research about vaccine risks and benefits along with disease risks, until you research enough to come to a conclusion. Pay attention to who wrote the study you’re reading. Some vaccine studies may be funded by pharmaceutical companies. Likewise, some anti-vaccine research is entirely written by people who are passionate about their anti-vaccination stance, but have no background in medicine or science. Both sides can be a bit shady and both sides will try to pressure you into a decision. This isn’t a decision you should leave up to your neighbor, friend, some zealot on the Internet or even a doctor. You need to research as much as possible and be as open to both sides of the research as you can. As you learn more, one side will probably click for you and vaccines will seem like a good plan, a semi-okay plan or a bad plan. In the end, you should own your vaccine decision because your choice can affect your child for a lifetime.

+ Weighing Vaccine Benefits

Lead image by Flickr User Andres Rueda