Category Archives: Health

Measles

This was never a vaccine I thought about giving DS as in my mind he is safer having had the disease, like I did.

Recent discussion has highlighted to me just how much is not known about the vaccine, the disease and the risks with both. What is interesting ,is that it is fairly easy to find information on the risks for the disease and a bit harder, but still possible, to find the information on just *who* is at risk for developing complications from the disease. From the medical literature available, the vaccine would appear to be almost completely risk free for the vast majority of the population. There is no information available, so no discussion is happening. Only musings and frustration by those who want the information (parents, and seemingly often mothers)

So, what I have learnt.

Poverty seems to be the leading factor in developing complications. This does not mean that just because you have access to clean water and fresh food you are safe. You could still be malnourished. And you could still be treated with fever reducing drugs and antibiotics, which it would seem do not do the patient any favours. And there are children who have immune systems that are weak, making them more at risk. In my understanding the three things that put you at risk for complications are:

  • the age at which you contract measles (under 2 and over 9 being the risky groups, with 5-9 years of age being the optimal age group)
  • the individual state of health and access to a variety of fresh, mineral rich foods. (not malnourished – lacking in essential minerals, fats, proteins, vitamins)
  • having a condition that results in a compromised immune system.

If you contract measles under the age of 2, breastfeeding decreases the risk of death. In Africa. So I do not know if this would be attributed to reducing the odds of being malnourished, or something else.

OK, so that is what I have learnt about the disease.

Now for the vaccine.

The measles vaccine has undergone some changes since it was first lisceneced for use in the USA in 1963. This was the  Edmonston B measles vaccine. This vaccine was very reactive, resulting in a high fever and a rash (sounds like measles). Vaccines that would use a virus that was even more attenuated (weakened) were developed around the world.

In 1965 a study was designed to test the further attentuated vaccine against the Edmonston B and a placebo (no mention of what this placebo was). The further attenuated virus still produced sufficient antibodies, but without such side effects (that had required immunoglobulin administration simultaneously with the vaccine). This vaccine was in use until 1975, in the US.

One of the further attenuated Edmonston vaccines, is the Shwartz strain, in use in the USA from 1965 – 1976. It is still widely used throughout the world.

Today the only measles vaccine liscened for use in the USA is the Moraten strain, lisenced in 1968.

I do not yet understand why other strains in use in other countries are not lisenced for use in the USA, but I am sure it would be interesting to find out.

Some other points for consideration when it comes to measles and the vaccine.

  • The vaccine does not produce life long immunity in the absense of the wild virus circulating in the population. Requiring boosters for adults (a population that is more at risk for complications)
  • Mothers who are relying on vaccine induced immunity do not have suffiient antibodies to pass through the placenta, leaving young infants more at risk, another population more at risk for serious complications.
  • The risks for the vaccine are unknown.
  • Recent reading in epidemiology brought to light an interesting idea. That the way a population receives immunity from a natural disease is essentially different from the way a population receives immunity from vaccination programmes – as in the pattern of exposure. And that populations that are exposed to a disease are better protected than a population exposed to a vaccine. Resulting in models that attempt to copy how a population would be exposed in nature and apply these principles in vaccination programmes.

To my thinking, the vaccination programme is a bit of groping in the dark and messing with peoples lives without knowing exactly what is happening. I for one would rather take my risk with the disease (as in have the disease) than with the vaccine. Too many unknowns for me.

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Hmmmmm

me loving my boy

me loving my boy

I have been busy with life. DS has been growing and growing and becoming the most gorgeous boy. I am falling deeper and deeper in love.

I also have been examining my experience as a mother. I have been thinking so much and reading so much and trying so hard to ‘know it all’ or at least as much as is humanly possible. And I think I need to balance that out.

DS had his first illness some weeks ago, in the middle of the latest crisis in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. He got croup and it was scary. (although here in Israel it is called Stridor as croup associates with Diptheria….) It was hard hearing his laboured breathing and heart breaking to see him in pain when he coughed. And frustrating that he was prescribed steroids as a matter of routine. And yet, I feel that DH and I managed very well considering. I was not opposed to steroids under all circumstances, but when I understood that the 2nd and 3rd nights are the toughest, I was concerned about giving a medication as strong as steroids if we did not need it –  and the presciption was given on day 3. To cut a long story short, DS didn’t get the steroids and he got better just fine. But the decision as parents, each with their own preferences, was hard. Very hard. I cannot speak for DH, but for myself I was not convinced that steroids would be this magic pill that would make DS better at no cost. I did not even know if they would make him better at a cost.   I did not know that his stridor was pronounced enough to warrant medication.Scouring theough BMJ and tyring to understand what the studies meant for my son in our circumstances…. tough. I think for me the most profound experience in this whole episode was that I knew the instance DH brought DS to me coughing. I knew what it was and I knew we needed to stay calm and calm DS to make it easier for him to breath. And it worked. And it was a relief to have a doctor confirm my suspicion (although I did not tell the doctor what I thought, I just described my sons symptoms and let him draw his own conclusions). That DH and I had the tools to meet DS’s needs and know when it was serious enough to warrant a trip to ER was greatly empowering for me.

The one mistake we did make was DH calling his father for medical advice and me calling our friend the chinese doctor for his medical advice. We both reached out to what was more failiar to us. But not within friends and family. We won’t do that again. We need to make our own decision without others in our lives being involved.

So, DS is doing just fine. He has started to feed himself far more foods and is still gaining weight at quite a pace. He has also started to feed himself my nipple which is so cute – he now associates food with putting it in his mouth 🙂 He also loves to torment our cat – his shrieks of delight a sure sign that he has found kitty curled up somewhere cosy. To kitties credit, he never bites or scratches – which is more than I ever hoped for.

I think I am learning to trust myself as a mother. To trust my responses and my instincts and to find out ‘why’ later. I cannot always have all the information at my fingertips. As long as it is not a life and death situation – I can always take the route of less intervention/pressure and change my approach should the situation require it.

And to finish. Today I expressed my hope that my DS will grow up to be a strong and independant person. My dreams that he will be the clearest and most honest expression of himself

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Preventative Medicine

This has been on my mind somewhat and I am hoping to make a bit of sense now as I think things through.

I am very much at the beginning of my path into understanding how to create and protect the health of my family, with a lot of focus on DS. So far I have had a very strong sense that vaccinations are not the simple preventative medicine that they are presented as being. The more I look into it, the more I am learning that it is definitely not as simple as getting the vaccine and now I can rest assured my child will be free of disease and essentially healthy. There are a myriad of issues surrounding this complex issue.

While I have so far chosen not to vaccinate DS, I have not decided that I will never vaccinate him. I am looking into this carefully and have asked my DH to give me time as I try and unravel what role I want vaccination to play in our lives. It is such a personal decision.

Largely what got me thinking again about all of this was offering information to a friend who was trying to decide whether to offer her 1 month old the HepB vaccination after having declined at the birth. I ended up giving her information I had read about and she based her decision on my information. I do not feel comfortable with that. I fact checked myself and found my information to be true, but not up to date and the up to date information to have many problems with it’s validity. Anyway, the moral of the story is that each family has to choose for themselves. While I am sad that so many babies are being vaccinated without a second thought – it really is none of my business.

Back to vaccinations and the issues that I am trying to get my head around.

My attention was caught when I found out that there have never been any double blind placebo controlled studies done on the safety of vaccinations. No one actually knows what the long term affects are and from what I am understanding, trials are measuring one vaccine against the other – not against a placebo. Now, there are very good reasons for this. It is not ethical to give a child a placebo instead of a vaccine and possibly risk that child contracting a preventable disease for the sake a science. So, the scientists have their hands tied so to speak. Except that there is a growing population who choose not to vaccinate or to partially vaccinate or to delay vaccinating. But then it is not double blind….. It’s a bit of a mess. However, I am concerned enough to not rush into vaccinating my DS with a list of extra materials found in the vaccines such as aluminum, mercury, formaldehyde, bovine serum, gelatin, etc etc the list is quite scary. Of course the question arises as to what is a safe dose of these materials. Can it be determined what is a safe dose of aluminum for a newborn (who I understand metabolize aluminum differently from adults and older children – although I am still looking into this)? for a 2, 4 and 6 month old?

Anyway, the safety of vaccines is something that is by no means established – as far as I have found so far.

Another issue that I have been looking into is the efficacy of the vaccines. No vaccine has 100% efficacy. But some are more effective than others. And not all vaccines contribute to herd immunity for the disease they are vaccinating against.

Another issue is the diseases themselves. Are they the killer diseases that we are told they are? Perhaps the doctor who saw DS days after he was born and the other doctor who saw him 2 months after he was born really do beleive that my DS was sure to die without the vaccines. This is what they told me in very clear and scary terms. I have to assume this is what they beleive if this is what they told me so passionately. From the very little that I have managed to read, I am not convinced that the diseases that are vaccinated against are all the death sentence that they are made out to be. Nasty and sometimes very dangerous. But not a death threat or necessarily the threat of permanent disability that I was led to beleive. And something that I am only starting to look into… but what are the circumstances around children developing complications with childhood diseases? I cannot beleive that it is a matter of purely luck as to whether one child develops a serious complication and the other does not…. as yet I do not have any answers that fully satisfy my curiosity – for now I breastfeed DS, keep to an organic diet most of the time, use environmentally safe cleaning products, avoid white flour and processed sugar. These guidelines seem to cover my bases and the more I read, the more these guidelines are justified.

A case in point. Almost 6 months ago I had a meeting with the Developmental doctor who asked me if I was giving DS his vit D and iron – to which I honestly replied no. I was then told that I have to give iron as if DS becomes anemic, it has a long term irreversable  impact on his overall development. Scary, right? What kind of an awful mother would I be to wish to permanently impair my child by not doing what the doctor told me to do?

Anyway, I read a bit and found out that babies at risk for anemia in the first year are premature babies, babies under 3kg birth weight and formula fed babies (from what I can remember). DS does not fall into any of those catergories. I read some more and I found out that supplementing iron actually impairs the absorbtion of the iron in the breastmilk, and makes iron available to bugs in the intestines – while breast milk chelates the iron in such a way that it is only bio available to the infant and not to any bugs. Brillaint!

Back to the good doctor. She obviously had no clue what she as talking about, and yet for the last 6 months I have been fearful that perhaps DS is anemic and I caused it if he is. Well, he is not. His Hb is 11.9 and he is doing just fine without any of the precribed iron supplements. Her preventative medicine was not what my DS needed in our circumstnaces.

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