The Downish Side of Delaying or Opting Out of Vaccinations, Although I am Very Much Still on the Side of Healthy Caution

By Megan

It was one of those weekends that’ll leave you wandering around in your baggy pajama bottoms muttering to yourself by Sunday late-afternoon. One of those weekends that you look back on and think, yep, that was a “what-doesn’t-kill-you-makes-you-stronger” situation, is what that was.

And it was. And we’re still alive, so I’m assuming I’ll be feeling stronger in a day or two.

I’m going to ramble now, and if there’s any justice in the world those of you who can hang in there until the end might find a point or two. Or maybe not. No promises.

It all started Friday morning. Friday was Pumpkin Hayride Field Trip for Bean’s preschool, and Bean, Peabody and I’ve been looking forward to it since the little orange half-page flyer heralding its imminent arrival came home tucked in the backpack about a month ago. The flyer that said, at the bottom, innocently enough, “Rain or Shine.”

Funny how those words are just words, words you don’t even take notice of until you wake up the day of the event to 45 degrees and pouring rain. And then you double check that flier again and there they are:  Rain. Or Shine.

And you go, “FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFfffffffffffffffffffffffffffudge.”

We went anyway. I won’t tell the story here though. I’ll save that for another time. Just know that it didn’t shine. At all. Not even for a split second.

We came home and ate a hot lunch, the two kids and me, damp to our skin and cold and tired. I tucked Peabody into his bed for a short nap while Bean and I changed and got our things together so that the moment he woke up we could all go over to our neighbor’s house for an afternoon of fun. We thought he’d nap his customary 30 minute nap, but as we sat and waited, he slept, and slept and SLEPT. Two solid hours plus, and Bean was standing on HER HEAD with frustration and impatience by the time we finally heard a little moan from that boy’s room and I rushed upstairs to collect him, throw him in the car and catch the last hour and half of the neighborhood gathering.

Only we wouldn’t be so lucky. I reached in to pick Peabody up from his crib and instantly knew. Not going. The boy felt like a red-hot cinder and I immediately knew he was SICK. Very sick. Turned out he was 104.5 degrees worth of sick, so instead of rushing off to the neighbors’, we rushed off to the pediatrician’s office.


Now Bean is generally a good sport, but she was none too pleased to be denied her afternoon of Barbies and cookies and The Two Emmas and instead carted off to the doctor’s office to sit and sit and sit and be told to Be Still and Not Touch a million times while her brother screamed so hard his head came unscrewed and rolled under the exam table.

To determine, in the end, exactly nothing. The doctor didn’t know WHAT was wrong with him, but ordered a test for The Flu (gasp!) and sent us away with a prescription for Tamiflu.

Which, in suspension for children, is nowhere to be found, anywhere on this planet. Good luck. Sorry. Try again.

So Al set off in the dark, rainy night to drive to the MOON to get the Tamiflu. So now we have some.

But we don’t need it because the test came back negative and Peabody doesn’t have the flu.

Saturday morning Peabody was still bubbling away at 103.5 degrees, so we called the doctor as instructed and were immediately directed to go to the hospital. Seems the doctor had checked Peabody’s chart and reminded herself that I have my boy on a delayed vaccination schedule, and thus she “could rule virtually nothing out” and thus we’d need to have 3 solid hours worth of testing done on the poor, sick child to help figure out what was wrong.

So we spent the morning, until lunch time, at the hospital, with other sick people and their families, going from floor to floor and department to department, registering and collecting our restaurant-wait buzzers (hospitals have buzzers now?) and sitting with our two small, bored children waiting for those buzzers to go off so that we could shepherd those children into another tiny room where Peabody would get stuck, x-rayed, catheterized or otherwise tortured, and Bean would happily collect a handful of stickers for his trouble.

Once the tests were over, we drove back to the doctor’s office to hear (thankfully but not surprisingly) that all of the tests came back clean as a whistle and Peabody likely just had some sort of viral infection that would run its course and he’d be fine in a few days. I also endured a second lecture from the doctor and the beginning of a third from my husband about how delaying my child’s vaccinations had caused all of this unnecessary testing and worrying.

I think the point is coming. Do you feel a point coming?

Peabody and I had a rough night Saturday night and an equally rough morning Sunday, but as of this writing Sunday evening his fever is on its way down and he’s looking and feeling much more like himself. For which I am thankful, and by which, again, I am not surprised.

And I guess the point of all this, finally, except for the pumpkin field trip part of it, which I recognize in  hind-sight is really just a gratuitous addition meant to solicit empathy and may come back around at the end as some sort of punch-line, who knows, is this:

It’s taken me a lot of thought and research and deliberation to decide to delay Peabody’s vaccinations/immunizations. I haven’t made it lightly and the information that has lead me to this decision still supports my choices. Delaying a baby’s shots is not crazy, or irresponsible, or selfish. It is ONE of the responsible ways a parent can respond to the growing volume of research that shows current recommended immunizations and their (aggressive) schedules may pose risks to some children.

I’m thankful I’ve made the decisions I’ve made so far with Peabody. But the events of this weekend were eye-opening in a couple of ways. Here come my points. The choice to delay or even totally opt-out of vaccinations come with some serious side-effects of their own. For one, there’s, well, fear. And guilt. I WAS afraid, as we sat and waited on those results, that Peabody may have one of the very diseases the delayed injections were to have prevented, and can you imagine the guilt I’d have felt if he HAD had one of them?

And for two, there’s this constant need to justify and explain your decision to others, which takes on a whole new level of urgency and requires a HUGE amount of confidence when you have to do it over the feverish head of your sick baby. I’ve rarely felt so backed into a corner as I did when the doctor delivered her “you need to get this baby immunized so this doesn’t happen again” speech and my husband quietly agreed with her, there in the exam room, as Peabody and Bean looked on.

I’m so thankful Peabody is okay. I hated seeing him go through what he went through this weekend, the tests and the dragging around and the waiting. All of it. But I also know I’d hate to sit by as he was tested for autism or ADHD or any number of other serious issues and to wonder if that pain and fear and worry could have been avoided had I just delayed or denied some of the many vaccinations that are recommended for children.

I don’t know what will come of all this. I’m faced again with tough decisions and with the tasks of having to re-think my positions and come up with a strategy that will put my mind and everyone else’s at ease after all is said and done.

I guess my final point is that I really hadn’t thought through how I would feel, as a mother who’d decided to delay vaccinations, if my baby ever got sick. It did make me second-guess myself and wonder and worry. And because I’m sure you, as a parent, are always looking for some more hard soul-searching and second-guessing and worrying to add to your lot (hee hee), I thought I’d share mine with you.

You’re welcome! Hey, at least I didn’t make you go on the hayride with me, right?

Megan blogs at Fried Okra.

27 Responses to The Downish Side of Delaying or Opting Out of Vaccinations, Although I am Very Much Still on the Side of Healthy Caution
  1. ShellyM
    October 12, 2009 | 8:35 am

    I’m am unbelievably impressed with your courage to delay your child’s vaccinations. I have serious reservations about vaccinations myself, but certainly would not be brave enough to not get them for the very reasons that you stated and b/c the doctors scare you half to death, if you decide to not get the vaccinations! So, I can only imagine your very tough weekend, and am so sorry for you, but I’m still impressed that you have the bravery to do what a lot of us mommies just think about doing.

  2. Stephanie
    October 12, 2009 | 9:46 am

    Megan, I’ve been there- oh have I been there, and I believe very strongly about not vaccinating at all (we don’t vax our kids at all, ever.) No matter how sure I am that we are doing the right thing for our family, I’ve had those moments of guilt socking me in the stomach and making me question EVERYTHING all over again.


  3. Tina
    October 12, 2009 | 9:59 am

    I just went through the SAME thing with my 18 month old a few weeks ago. He had a 104.9 fever and I rushed him to the ER. The doc asked about his vaccinations and I told her that he was on a delayed schedule.

    The evil looks started and she was quite rude to me. I was able to show her exactly what shots he’s had.

    He ended up having a throat infection and my boy was on the mend after a few doses of antibiotic.

    I totally feel your pain.

  4. Jinxy
    October 12, 2009 | 10:11 am

    We aren’t vaccinating our daughter at all, she’s almost 10 months old now. So far she hasn’t even had an ear infection or anything else. Our doctor isn’t 100% on board with us but respects our decision. My husband is just as adamant about not vaccinating our daughter as I am, I don’t know what I would do if he wasn’t behind me on this.

    Good luck and I’m glad your son is better. Scary.

  5. Ashley
    October 12, 2009 | 10:27 am

    I have to say I’ve experienced the same fear. However, I’ve looked more closely at our reasons for NOT vaccinating and they just make more sense.

    My toddler has had 2 or 3 episodes of a VERY high fever. Like the one you mention here. I was scared and did second guess our position. We however did not take him anywhere because we’ve also read a lot about fevers, etc and felt that his body was just fighting something. {Have you read Dr. Mendelsohn? How to raise a healthy child in spite of your doctor? It’s good} And because there were no other symptoms we just waited it out. We didn’t even give him tylenol to break the fever, because there’s a reason it’s there, it’s fighting something.
    Anyway, when my son was 11 months old he DID get the mumps. And I felt guilty because we hadn’t vax for it but then I read that they usually don’t get that one until they’re 12 or 18 months old. And you know what? It wasn’t bad. He just had a rash. And now he’s naturally immune to it.
    So I think of it this way. Are the things they vaccinate for life threatening or just uncomfortable for the most part? I mean, there are some risks but to us the benefit of not vaccinating out weighs the risks by a long stretch.

  6. Lora Lynn
    October 12, 2009 | 10:53 am

    I sort of feel like I’m sneaking through life, trying not to get noticed for the decisions I make about my own child’s health. My pediatrician is very understanding, but she recently closed her practice and joined another and now I have all kinds of misgivings about how I’m going to be treated by the new staff. And I’m afraid of my kids getting sick, because then the explanations and the reports start… But I’m more convinced than ever that I’ve made the right choice for my kids. Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel fun, but I find that the knowledge of “I’m doing what I think is best” far outweighs all the other stuff.

    Hang in there, Mama.

  7. Jessica
    October 12, 2009 | 10:56 am

    I am so glad to read this. We didnt do a delayed schedule with our son. We were talked out of it and pressured. We will delay with our next child. I have stopped doing all the vaccines at once at his well checkups. We started that when he was 3. I would say that all those test seem much even for someone that hasn’t had all their shots.

  8. Kelly
    October 12, 2009 | 10:59 am

    This is really thought-provoking, Megan.

    We made the decision to vaccinate, after much research and discussion, for many of the reasons you mention at the end. How could I face myself if something happened that I could have prevented? Plus, with Corey’s background of growing up in the Third World, he’s very aware of those childhood diseases that are nonexistent in our world today; he felt strongly that our kids should take advantage of the medicine he didn’t have when he was young.

    But it’s a difficult call. I felt the pressure you must have felt this weekend, when the doctor was questioning you. Scary stuff.

  9. Melissa
    October 12, 2009 | 11:42 am

    Gosh, I’m glad Peabody is okay, and on his way back to his rambunctious and non-napping, self. :o)
    It’s really unfortunate that in today’s society of “be your own advocate” for EVERYTHING…the doctors are still giving people such a hard time about making INFORMED decisions about delaying vaccinations. I think it’s more about covering their own backsides and less about supporting intelligent decisions made by intelligent parents.
    Maybe, just maybe, by the time our kids are parents, their decisions will be respected. :o)
    Hope you guys have a great week!

  10. thordora
    October 12, 2009 | 12:14 pm

    All I can think about is how lucky that there wasn’t something communicable and dangerous that your son had-adding that on top of the normal sick child fears-I can only imagine. We accidentally delayed the shots of my youngest, and spent any time she got sick terrified, well aware of the people in our area who don’t vaccinate, and what she could have picked up from them.

    Mumps CAN be bad Ashley-maybe not for your child, but what if you passed that on to another with a suppressed immune system, or as has happened in my area, large groups of people catch measles and start the cycle running, endangering others. If someone else dies, is that “not that bad?”

    My father remembers polio, he remembers babies and children dying of preventable disease. We vaccinate-by the same token, if delayed, we were reminded, not condencended too. We’ve been lucky our doctors usually want whats best for the kid-harassing the parent doesn’t usually work.

  11. Jeni
    October 12, 2009 | 1:01 pm

    It seems like every step we take as parents is an opportunity for second-guessing and facing the judgment of others, from conception onward. I think we should remember that our job is the toughest one on the planet, and that each parent is also doing that same tough job. Parenting doesn’t look the same for everybody. It’s our individual responsibility to inform ourselves and think and pray and make the best decisions we can for our own situations.

    We follow a traditional vaccination schedule for our kids, but we have several friends that delay or opt-out for various reasons. I would never think of judging someone for their own informed, loving decisions regarding the health of their child.

  12. Kellyn
    October 12, 2009 | 1:36 pm

    I am so glad that Peabody is on the mend, and that it was nothing major.

    We vaccinate, but I am all for the people that choose not too. It is a choice that everyone makes on their own.

    With that said, there was an outbreak of Mumps in my daughters school last year, and so many kids got it. Thankfully no one was seriously ill, or having after affects because of it. My only fear is of my daughter getting something from a child that was not vaccinated. Even thought you are vaccinated you can still get the illness, just not as bad (or so mild it is never noticed)

    But, Boo’ best friend is not vaccinated, never has been. Her mother let me know once our children became close, and I have never thought anything of it. They have that right, and I love this little girl like she was my own.

    I am proud of you for standing by your choice, even if you do end up changing your mind. You researched what was best for you, and that is very noble.

  13. Jenny 867-5309
    October 12, 2009 | 2:36 pm

    I’m floored when Mom’s have a choice in vaccinations. If you have your baby in a Missouri hospital (at least it was this way 9 yrs ago) you don’t get to take your child home until they are vaccinated. Period.

  14. Jackie
    October 12, 2009 | 4:59 pm

    The God complex is still alive and well among doctors it would appear. Children get sick whether vaccinated or not, and NO PARENT deserves a lecture about vaccinations from a doctor when they take a sick child in to see him/her.

  15. Nancy
    October 12, 2009 | 8:05 pm

    I grew up in a family with a strong belief in making the decision to vaccinate for anything was a big NO!!! Children get sick just because they are kids. Good for you in sticking to your decision, and so glad peabody is on the mend.

  16. Anna K.
    October 12, 2009 | 9:09 pm

    Every trip to the doc’s with our boys turns into a blame session, guilt trip, or “you’re just a mom, what do you know” episode. When did it become acceptable for doctors to treat moms (parents) that way?

  17. Shiree
    October 12, 2009 | 11:23 pm

    We, too, have chosen to delay vaccinations and like Jackie said kids get sick vaccinated or not. Although I know my pediatrician would like me to choose vaccinations he has been supportive of our decision and great to answer all questions. Glad ya’ll are feeling better. Look forward to hearing about the hay ride.

  18. canadacole
    October 13, 2009 | 9:15 am

    I’m so glad you shared this! I come from a full doctors are second to God upbringing. We received our vaccinations on a traditional schedule, and when we had bad reactions we got twice as many needles at half doses. It was never, ever questioned. And then I married into a family that is very firmly against modern medicine and thinks vaccinations are evil.

    What to do?

    After EXHAUSTIVE and eye-opening research, our children are on a delayed schedule. It was the compromise that saved our marriage and allows us both to sleep at night. I only wish more “professionals” in the community would understand that and behave more professionally towards us. I am so relieved by your post that there are other parents who go through the same things though. Sometimes you start to feel like the only one.

    And I’m very glad that Peabody is fine.

  19. candace
    October 13, 2009 | 11:02 am

    I am glad your child is on the mend. While I might not agree with parents who decide to vaccinate, it is their choice. We made the decision to full-vaccinate after research and talkin with our ped. We full trust her and I guess I am lucky that I found a dr that I trust. My mom has a auto-immune disease that she cant be vaccinated for anything so she depends on other people to be vaxed. I am self-less I guess because I think about people like her that if she gets a disease like mumps,etc she could literally die because her immune system cant fight off things such as the flu,etc. Right now the swine flu has all praying it stays away from her. Some of these diseases yes are dormant but for how long? We had 6 children die recently from the mumps in our area because they got the mumps, were not vaxed, and died from it. You never know how something will effect a person , whether they are healthy or not.

  20. Elaine
    October 13, 2009 | 3:16 pm

    Just an unnecessary aside, since I seem to be good at that lately. A. had a high fever around age 1-ish and just last year when the dentist was checking her molars, he says, “Did she ever have a really high fever when she was little?” Yes. Why yes, she did. Seems that can interfere w/ the development of the enamel on the teeth. So she has this one sad yellow-ish molar in the back that she had to have filled last year, and she has to go back and have it doctored on on Monday. And she’ll eventually have to have a crown there. Who knew? (And she was vaccinated). Signed, stewing over flu shots.

  21. edj
    October 13, 2009 | 5:27 pm

    We did normal vaccination schedule and our kids still had scary mysterious fevers. Guilt is an inevitable part of mothering. Hang in there! Hope no one else in the family gets it.

  22. Jenn
    October 15, 2009 | 8:07 pm

    I don’t think delaying vaccinations is irresponsible at all. Especially with the risks and the hard fact that some people STILL get the diseases even after they have been vaccinated.
    I wish that I had stuck to my instincts and refused the varicella vaccination for my kids. Boo had a horrible reaction to it and scared us half to death! xoxo

  23. Kim
    October 16, 2009 | 10:11 pm

    I started hearing about the potential dangerous side effects when my firstborn was about a year old and decided to hold off on additional vaccinations. And my second born didn’t get them from the get-go. And in my opinion the research in the intervening years (my kids are in their 20s now) only supports the decision to delay. Actually waited until we were going overseas to a third world country when they were *ahem* in their teens before finishing the vaccination regime. And I’m not a bit sorry. Homeschooling meant we didn’t have to meet the prior-to-starting-school requirements.

    Almost 30 years ago the general practitioner in my tiny hometown quit giving vaccines after one little guy died in his office after receiving a routine vaccination. Just simply stopped breathing. I realize that’s extreme but nobody knows who will react how (and that doctor had been having doubts about some of the vaccines anyway). He directed parents who wanted vaccinations to the public clinic or a different doctor.

  24. cari b
    October 17, 2009 | 2:57 pm

    One thing you might consider: you have a robustly healthy child who can throw off an illness. However, the world is filled with less healthy children who cannot survive an infectious disease. If your child is non symptomatic but infectious and exposes a fragile child you could be responsible for that child’s death. Most of us do not live isolated lives and our decisions can have catastrophic consequences for others. Do not envy you your situation and you have my prayers.

  25. Julie
    October 19, 2009 | 12:11 pm

    I have not done research like I should. I’ve heard about links between vaccinations and autism. I know a wonderful mother who did vaccinate her normal, healthy first born child and soon after that he started showing signs of autism. The autism is a part of him now. For now, until the Lord heals him…. She decided not to vaccinate their second child.

    My two children are up to date on their vaccinations and they never had any problem. I never had a second thought about getting them vaccinated unless they were sick and I put the shots off till they were, in my opinion, healthy.

    I don’t know what I think about it. But I guess I need to do my own research and pray about it and make a decision. It might seem like I’ve made my decision since both my kids are up to date – but this is because I’ve just gone along with their pediatrition’s opinion. I’ve trusted her since their birth and believe she’s done her job researching these claims. It is my job to do my own research though.

    I’m so sorry you went through all that and I really feel for you. My thoughts are that you, Megan, know what is best for your children. You alone know them better than anyone and your desire is to do what is best for them. I wish I could wag my finger at those health care workers who gave you a lecture about your decision to delay his vaccinations. Surely they knew you were going through such a hard time with him sick (regardless of the reason behind the sickness)??? Why does everyone feel the need to place blame on someone? I’m guilty of that too and I hate when I do it. My prayer is that the Lord will remove that trait from me.

    I love you and am so thankful that he is feeling better.

    Loved chatting with you the other day!! That was such a treat! You brightened my already hopped up afternoon. By the way, I’m MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better. Pain free, off the pills, and back in the driver’s seat!! Praise the Lord!!!

    xoxo Julie

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