Let me preface this opinion with this: I do not consider myself an “anti-vaxxer.” But I do fall into the camp of “vaccine skeptical.”**
Because as humans we have a long history of inventing things that cause problems that we don’t know about until long after-the-fact. Take arsenic in wallpaper, for instance.
Also, there is just good ol’ plain human error, in general. I often marvel at all the inventions and engineering we put our trust in not to kill us on a daily basis, when mere humans were the creators of said potentially deadly instruments. Planes. Bridges. Glass windows in tall buildings. We are relying on perfection. How often to humans succeed at being perfect?
When I had SC1, I was a tad vaccine skeptical, because I had heard about the potential (now presumably debunked) theories linking vaccines and autism. (Econ-Mom: I think you have written about this, or we have talked about, all the pressure on parents (moms) to be perfect – we want the best for our children. And so many well-educated moms out there want to know and understand everything before trusting anyone else with their precious children’s lives. Feel free to comment below on this.)
Unfortunately, there are not enough hours in a day to read up on all the scientific literature to fully understand all the data and statistics on vaccines. Not to mention the fact that I’m a lawyer, not a scientist. I put my faith in the fact that I was vaccinated as a child and turned out okay. I also knew I had to vaccinate my kids if I wanted to send them to public school. And I couldn’t find enough credible information at the time that led me to believe that vaccinating my child would be harmful.
I did, however, read up on all the vaccines SC1 presumably needed to decide which ones sounded truly necessary to me. There were a couple that just seemed silly, like the Hep A vaccine. I read up on what Hep A was, and you mainly get it from sex and drug use. So, why would my infant need that? Yes, I understand it is for preventing Hep A later in life. She can also make decisions that prevent her from getting Hep A.
I also am not a fan of the flu vaccine. I’ve read the statistics that tell me I’m foolish – that from a statistical standpoint you are more likely to die from the flu than the vaccine itself. You’re more likely to die in a car than a plane, too, but that doesn’t stop me from being fearful of airplane rides. Public health campaigns and pressure to the contrary, I’d rather take my chances with the the flu (most flus, anyway; I’d make an exception for particularly virulent, deadly ones, like the 1918 flu) than the vaccine. This is because: 1) my parents know someone who died from the flu vaccine; 2) my daughter got the flu and was hospitalized after the flu vaccine; and 3) I’ve had enough flus in my life and survived them.
Also, the flu vaccine has egg protein in it (or is stored/made with egg protein, or something), which SC1 was allergic to when she was little. So, we intentionally avoided that one for a while because of that.
Last but not least, similar to the Hep A vaccine (which, by the way, my child was vaccinated with at the hospital where she was born WITHOUT MY CONSENT) I’m not a fan of Gardasil, because I also don’t see the immediate need for it, and I know its safety has been questioned.
That brings me to today. I have a few “anti-vaxxer” and/or “vaccine skeptical” voices in my peer and family circle that cause me to at least pause and ask questions and reflect. I’m nervous about this vaccine because of the speed with which it has been created. There will be no available long-term studies assuring us of its safety. I’m also nervous about it because of my immuno-sensitive child with 7+ severe food allergies.
I also have a brother calling the mRNA vaccine a “gene-editing” vaccine, shouting from the rooftops that he’d never take a vaccine created by the United States, but he’d be okay taking one produced in Costa Rica.
I had to start digging so I could understand why my reasonably sane and intelligent brother sounds crazy. I had to read up on mRNA vaccines and what they do. As soon as I read that they create proteins that go into your bloodstream for your body to figure out how to attack them, I had to pause.
Suddenly I found myself asking: “Wait. Why have I never thought about/asked about the possible connection between vaccines and food allergies?!”
I have previously speculated that GMOs were to blame for the rise of food allergies in our society. As woo-woo as that may sound, it is based on the fact that GMOs genetically modify food proteins. And the introduction of them in our foodchain coincides with the rise of food allergies, too.
Here’s what got me thinking/wondering/pondering/speculating about the link between vaccines and food allergies — admittedly, all the following information is purely anecdotal:
First, there was an incredibly larger food allergy community in Illinois where we used to live than in the southwest where we live now. When I had SC1, I was the first of all my peers, at the age of 29, to have a baby. When we moved from the city to the suburbs when I was 31, I knew no one. I found a Meet-Up group nearby to get to know some fellow moms and have a playgroup to attend once or twice a week.
Every single one of the children in the playgroup had food allergies. And there were about eight to ten of us.
What are the odds of this? That was a totally random selection of people. We did not know each other prior to meeting up. You would have thought it was an allergy support group. Also, many of our kids shared all the same and multiple allergies.
What caused this? It had to be some environmental factor. A bad batch of vaccine, perhaps?
Second, here are some links to articles about the history of the polio vaccine and the possible link between the polio vaccine and lymphoma. My uncle and my mother-in-law both had lymphoma and were in the same age group. Could it have been caused by a bad batch of polio vaccine?
I also recently watched “Dallas Buyers Club” which reminded me of the pitfalls of producing vaccines too quickly – in a public health crisis – with the interests of Big Pharma taking precedence over the actual health of the infected population.
I also recently read this. Humans have been guinea pigs before in the name of research and scientific advancement. If it’s been done before, it can be done again.
So, yea, I’m skeptical. Does that mean I will not under any circumstances take the COVID-19 vaccine and allow my children to take it? No. But, I don’t want to be the first in line to take it. And I definitely want to know how the food allergy community is handling the vaccine first, too.
Before I come to my unscientifically-based speculation about vaccines, let me add this: All this information and anecdotes do not make me skeptical of the efficacy or importance of vaccines, in general. But it raises red flags in my mind about possibility of harm from particular batches of vaccines. We have to trust that all vaccines are not only safe and effective, but each batch is manufactured safely and properly. And when people are rushing, as we are now, they make mistakes.
I think it’s understandable that the food allergy community would be especially on high alert when asked to place blind trust the manufacturing practices and processes of anything you put inside your body. It’s why there are labels that say “May Contain….” Because manufacturing is not always perfect. Because there are no guarantees of safety. Especially not in the current pandemic crisis.
Because all this information has generated questions for me, it caused me to google the other morning: “any link between food allergies and vaccines.”
And check out what I read! Maybe this theory isn’t so crazy after all.
Take away what you will from all of this. However, I plan on ordering all of SC1’s medical records to see which vaccines she had received before the age of 10 months, which was around the time we learned of her half-a-dozen or so allergies. I’m just….curious.
Note: I wrote this blog post on 12/8/2020. On 12/9/2020, an article came out by the AP that people with a history of severe allergic reactions should not get the COVID-19 vaccine.
**Shout-out to my fellow “vaccine skeptical” cousin who gave me this term.
Econ-Mom: I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this post, and I do agree that humans often learn way after the fact that something is dangerous (lead paint, etc.) so it’s pure hubris to think that we know everything.
I also felt overwhelmed by the amount of vaccines that were offered to my newborn baby (Tuffy) when he was born in 2011. I think I had an MMR and maybe(?) a DTAP as a kid and that’s about it? So yes, the hepatitis, rotovirus, etc, felt like a lot! I did want my child to be safe, and I’m generally very pro-science, but I decided to put my child on a delayed vaccine schedule. This meant I ended up skipping the rotovirus vaccine. I later put Tuffy into daycare and he developed the WORST diarrhea — without going into too much detail, I’ll just say it was horrible and I got to the point where I took him to urgent care, because I was so worried. Was it rotovirus? I’ll never know. (Sarcastic shoutout to HMOs for never testing anyone for anything.) But when I had Peanut I was like “give him all the vaccines!!” (Even Hep A. I saw a dirty needle on the beach once….You just never know.)
Funnily enough, my story is almost the exact inverse of the one you told about your parents knowing someone who died from a flu vaccine. Humans are SO wired to rely on anecdotal evidence versus statistics. I find myself doing it, and I’m almost a statistician.
All that being said, I totally think it’s fair if people want to wait a bit on a brand new vaccine (especially with conditions such as allergies, as the AP news is even pointing out now!) I personally would take it ASAP, because the disruption to my family’s life has been immense, so it’s just a cost-benefit calculation for me. The cost of staying at home is HUGE, so I’m willing to try a vaccine whose short-term risk has been shown to be much smaller than the short-term risk of covid.
Last thing – I do want to say that I have not seen any compelling evidence that vaccines cause autism. Due to putting Tuffy on a delayed vaccine schedule, I can say with 100% certainty that he exhibited traits of autism before ever receiving a single vaccine. Unfortunately, there is a form of autism that doesn’t show up until 18 months – 2(ish) and begins with the child regressing, losing language, etc. That often happens to roughly coincide with the timing of some vaccines. Seeing a child regress is terrifying and heartbreaking, and I give all the empathy and grace in the world to those folks who go through it. However, I don’t believe that correlation is causal. (BTW, I once had a dad tell me his son regressed due to eating play-doh. Maybe there’s something to this? For some reason it hasn’t gotten as much traction as the vaccine theory.)