Disclaimer: This is a personal opinion piece. I am not a doctor. This article is not intended to be medical advice.
Before we had our son in 2010, I never dreamed I would be a mom who wouldn't vaccinate her kid "on schedule" - let alone one who would advocate that others should consider doing the same. Before he came, though, we did some research on the individual vaccines recommended by the CDC and after meeting with our pediatrician, came up with a personalized vaccine schedule for our son.
The schedule included the pertussis vaccine known as DTaP - designed to prevent whooping cough (among other things).
At the time, this seemed like a no-brainer. Working through the Eight Questions to Ask Before Vaccinating Your Child, we decided that even though there was aluminum in the vaccine (170-850 mcg depending on the brand), the worst whooping cough outbreak in the last decade was making its way up and down the west coast of the United States - where we live. Whooping Cough can be deadly to infants, this was offered as a way to prevent it, it seemed like an easy decision.
We made the decision to go ahead with the pertussis vaccine in mid 2010 - at the start of the outbreak. Now, almost 4 years into the whooping cough epidemic, we have some more information that simply wasn't available four years ago. This information changes everything. Specifically: the pertussis vaccine isn't terribly effective and may actually be the CAUSE of the outbreak.
Vaccinated vs. Unvaccinated Kids
Right now, in 2014, the United States has the most highly vaccinated populace against pertussis that we have ever known. And yet, people are catching pertussis in record numbers. In fact, in a study done by doctors in California to retroactively evaluate the pertussis outbreak in California, it was found that 92% of patients confirmed to have pertussis were at least partially vaccinated against the disease - only 8% of patients were unvaccinated.(source)
The researchers themselves even expressed surprise to find there was no significant difference in attack rates between fully vaccinated, under vaccinated and unvaccinated children and that overall vaccine effectiveness was determined to be only 24% - 41% in kids under age 12, depending on age. (source)
Based on the info above, the vaccine is clearly not working to prevent children from catching pertussis. Another theory that is commonly promoted is that in addition to vaccinating your kids, pregnant women and caretakers of children (parents, grandparents, etc) should be vaccinated to provide a protective cocoon around children - particularly those too young to be vaccinated. The theory is that as long as the caregivers do not catch and then give pertussis to these babies that their risk of contracting it is low. This is also turning out to be an inaccurate theory.
A study published in 2013 tested the efficacy of the vaccine by vaccinating infant baboons at 2, 4 and 6 months of age (on par with human vaccination schedule) and then exposed them to pertussis at age 7 months when their immunity should have been at its peak to see how well the vaccine prevented them from getting sick. While the vaccinated baboons did not develop severe pertussis symptoms following exposure, the animals still tested positive for having contracted pertussis AND readily transmitted pertussis to unvaccinated contacts.(source)
This is terribly concerning and even more dangerous than allowing caretakers to contract pertussis on their own! If an adult is exhibiting symptoms of disease - most of them will intentionally isolate themselves from children and others until their symptoms subside to avoid passing whatever they have around. If a vaccinated adult catches pertussis but has no symptoms, they will not know to avoid others - because they will no way to know if they have the disease. As such, they will continue to interact with children and others, thereby freely sharing the disease with both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons.
This is so concerning that I have specifically asked my parents to NOT get the pertussis vaccine in preparation for the birth of our new little one. I urge you to consider doing the same.
What about pregnant moms?
I am of the strong opinion that pregnant moms especially should avoid the DTaP and Tdap vaccines at all costs. Here is a short synopsis of why:
- The DTaP and Tdap vaccines contain between 170-850 mcg of aluminum. Even if your doctor administers a brand with the lowest dose of aluminum possible, this much aluminum is toxic for a developing fetus who does not have the capacity to filter this out of their body and it can damage them.
- Current evidence shows that at best, the vaccine will only prevent you from having symptoms of pertussis - if you really have pertussis but do not have symptoms, you will more easily transmit it to your child.
I also found this video from board certified pediatrician, Paul Thomas MD to be helpful in explaining why pertussis vaccines during pregnancy are a bad idea:
Please note that Dr. Paul even talks about the cocoon theory discussed above. While I have not discussed the cocoon theory with him since the study regarding baboons has come out, please note that this video was made before the study above was conducted.
So what does all this mean for me and my family?
- While our son is up to date on his pertussis vaccines (he is currently 3 years old), we will not be administering any boosters for pertussis.
- As a pregnant mom, I am refusing the DTaP vaccine (although, my personal OB hasn't even offered it to me, many OBs will administer this vaccine as a matter of routine)
- I am asking caretakers of my children to please consider not getting the DTaP or Tdap vaccines.
For further reading, please also see:
- Eight Questions to Ask Before Vaccinating Your Child
- Mounting Evidence Shows Many Vaccines are Ineffective and Contribute to Rise of Outbreaks Caused by Mutated Viruses
- Whooping cough vaccine may not halt spread of illness
- Whopping Cough: The Reality Behind the Myth
Carissa used to think that people who didn't vaccinate their kids or who ate organic food were elitist hippies. After the birth of her son in 2010, she and her husband used their research backgrounds to learn more about ways in improve and maintain health in children and as a result chose to selectively vaccinate their son, moved to an organic whole foods diet and stopped using plastic in their kitchen. To learn more about some of the changes they made on their journey toward better health, check out her posts on health & beauty.