There seems to be more and more controversy surrounding vaccinations these days. It's hard to know what the right thing to do is. I want to trust my pediatrician's recommendation when he suggests I vaccinate my son (who is currently 8 months old). However, my nephew had an extreme adverse reaction to the MMR vaccination at 13 months. He was a normal baby before, and within a week of the vaccination started having seizures and almost died. He is now 5 but now has a progressive degenerative brain disorder, seizes 10-20 times a day, and has the mental capacity of a 2-month-old.

How can I justify vaccinating my son when I have seen first-hand the terrible side-effects vaccinations can potentially cause.

(I ask this question not to be inflammatory or to spark a heated debate, but to get honest feedback and have a civil discussion)

asked 16 Sep '09, 18:37

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Michelle and Kevin
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edited 11 Dec '09, 17:43

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Since you're asking specifically about the MMR vaccine, I've found that Wikipedia has a really in-depth article about the MMR vaccine controversy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MMR_vaccine_controversy It's enlightening.

(19 Sep '09, 03:42) Scott ♦♦

NPR recently published an article pointing out the flaws in the MMR-Autism study.


(06 Jan '11, 17:23) mkcoehoorn

The question has been closed for the following reason "subjective and argumentative" by Scott 18 Sep '09, 16:25

12next »


How can I justify vaccinating my son when I have seen first-hand the terrible side-effects vaccinations can potentially cause.

By trusting statistics - which I understand can be hard to do.

Vast, vast numbers of children have the MMR. A very few of them will have adverse reactions like the one you described.

It's natural to take more note of the effects on your nephew than on children you don't know, but ask yourself how much weight you'd have placed on this one point of data if he hadn't been your nephew, but just one child you read about on the internet. It's the same amount of data with the same validity and relevance - but obviously your nephew is going to have more impact to your gut feelings. It's important (IMO) to try to put gut feelings aside and approach this logically. Yes, it can be very hard to do that - but it's in your child's best interest to do so.

Having said that, one thing to ask your doctor is whether your nephew's reaction could be relevant in terms of genetics: is it possible that he has a genetic trait making the reaction more likely? If so, can your children be tested for the same trait, given their close genetic relationship to your nephew?

As for the controversy around the MMR - I thought most of that had died down now, fortunately, at least around the Andrew Wakefield issue. Vaccination rates are still worryingly low in some places, but I believe they're gradually recovering.


answered 24 Sep '09, 07:09

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Jon Skeet
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edited 04 Dec '09, 22:14

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Scott ♦♦


This is the correct answer - the reality is that vaccinations are turning into a Not In My BackYard issue. People don't want the diseases, but they assume that as long as everyone around them gets vaccinated, then they are safe. Unfortunately even vaccinated people can carry and spread the disease without ever being ill before their immune system kicks in. Those that are not vaccinated stand a huge risk of getting a disease that is virtually unknown in our developed world. That risk is many times greater than the risk of complications arising from the vaccination itself. It's gambling.

(10 Dec '09, 04:25) Adam Davis

Go with the vaccinations, without a doubt. There is a lot of bad information being spread around out there by a very vocal minority about the risks of vaccinations. The truth is, the risks are very low, and there isn't any conclusive evidence that there is any connection between vaccinations and autism. Many of those against vaccinations point out that the first signs of autism occurred shortly after getting vaccinated. Well, it also turns out that this is just the time of life that signs of autism typically start showing up, vaccinations or not - correlation does not imply causation.

At the end of the day, the tiny risk involved with getting vaccinated is well worth it for the diseases & illnesses they are preventing.

Reference: Wired Article


answered 18 Sep '09, 15:38

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edited 15 Dec '09, 04:06

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Scott ♦♦

Wow, I think you did a great job with your answer. Very well written.

(22 Sep '09, 05:20) Sabrina

The Wired article you mention is a good one... but seemingly a bit biased in its own way. Even more interesting are all the comments below the article... both pro and con. It would be interesting to read his book(s). At the end of the day I think we can all agree that vaccination in history has SAVED more people than it has ever harmed... but I still pause and do my own bit of research before injecting myself with a "new" vaccine. I'd personally feel safer getting a polio vaccination than an H1N1 vaccination right now.

(11 Dec '09, 06:15) KPW

You should all buy yourselves a copy of Bad Science by Ben Goldacre.

Many of the scare stories about vaccines are questionable. In general the media does not explain science clearly leaving lots of scared moms around.


Vaccines have changed the world for the better.


answered 17 Sep '09, 11:48

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edited 17 Sep '09, 11:58

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Tammy ♦♦

Please get your kids vaccinated.

  • When you get vaccinated, there is a small chance that you won't actually develop immunity to whatever the vaccine is for.

  • However, this is usually not a problem since if everyone gets the vaccine, then most people will actually be immune. The disease won't spread if there is one person who is not immune as it needs interpersonal contact from two people who are not immune to spread. Since most people are immune, this is very rare. Thus, the few people that do not develop immunity will not have a chance to get the disease and be safe anyway. (This is called the "herd immunity").

  • However, if more and more people are avoiding vaccines because they're scared of them, then there are more and more people who are not immune to the disease around. Thus, the herd immunity is reduced and EVERYONE is at a greater risk, even people who get the vaccines.

So: please do your part for everyone and let's stop the spread of disease. Get your kids vaccinated for theirs and everyone's sake!


answered 03 Dec '09, 03:54

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Mike Kale
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edited 10 Dec '09, 22:46

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Scott ♦♦

Hi Mike. I agree with what you're saying, but for the sake of staying true to our principles (http://moms4mom.com/back-it-up), can you provide a link for further reading on the first point, and perhaps a link to the Wikipedia article on Herd Immunity in the second point? Thanks!

(04 Dec '09, 22:11) Scott ♦♦

Thanks Scott, both are good points. I added the wikipedia link for the second one. The first one was based on a conversation I had with someone in medical school. I'm looking for a reference on the web to back it up but haven't found one yet. I'll update this again if I do.

(07 Dec '09, 04:19) Mike Kale

When I asked my daughter's pediatrician about this before the shot, she said that the whole scare about MMR vaccine was based on a highly flawed and long since discredited study somewhere (I think she said Canada) but now has a life of its own just like many myths that get perpetuated by the media or other ways.

I didn't independently try to verify what she said because I figured regardless, the benefits outweigh the risks, but anyway you might want to dig to see whether our pediatrician's information is useful.

I know some people try to hedge risk by spreading out shots - I don't know whether that's a scientifically valid approach or not.


answered 24 Sep '09, 18:01

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Simon 2
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It was the UK, not Canada. You can read about the study in question at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MMR_vaccine_controversy -- with links to actual references that can be checked, since you shouldn't necessarily believe everything you read on Wikipedia without corroboration.

(24 Sep '09, 18:07) dave0

I suggest you look through some of the medical literature available. Asking others for what is essentially subjective advice isn't a good idea.

From a medical study I found using Google:

The study is particularly notable for its size (based on nearly 700,000 children under 6 years). They report that the risk of febrile seizures is increased almost sixfold on the day of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) receipt and drops off to a negligible increase thereafter. For measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), the effect is not seen until the 2nd week after receipt of the vaccine, where the risk is increased nearly threefold. They are also able to provide estimates of how many additional febrile seizures will occur as a result of vaccination with DTP (6 to 9 in 100,000) and MMR (25 to 34 in 100,000).

So yes, there's some risk involved. Read the study and consider the risks involved versus the risk of contracting MMR later in life.


answered 16 Sep '09, 20:00

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+1 Jason. This is one of those topics that can get political, and we would be quick to jump on it and close the question or moderate it if need be. Thanks for the informative link and quote!

(16 Sep '09, 22:40) Tammy ♦♦

I thought I would respond to the specific mention of febrile seizures in the above posts. By definition a febrile seizure occurs because someone (usually a young child) has a high fever. The relationship to vaccinations is that some children develop a fever after certain vaccines. According to the following fact sheet they occur is approximately 1/25 children, are usually outgrown, and the majority are harmless. Meaning that the child usually recovers completely with no evidence of lasting effects.


(18 Sep '09, 00:46) Tammy ♦♦

Not only that, but every time your child receives a vaccination you should also receive a fact sheet that explains when you should contact the doctor given various side effects and signs of a reaction, and almost always fever is listed as one that you should immediately call the doctor for after a vaccination. As long as the fever is controlled, the side effects of fever (such as seizures) may also be limited.

(10 Dec '09, 04:29) Adam Davis

A recent issue of Wired Magazine had a very good article exploring the Anti-Vaccination lobbies in the US and UK.


answered 01 Dec '09, 19:45

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edited 04 Dec '09, 12:41

I'll start by saying, "Definitely vaccinate!"

That out of the way, I've heard more anecdotal tales of children having bad reactions to vaccines than I feel like studies suggest there should be. The one that stands out most is a case in the small rural county where I live where a girl started showing symptoms of autism at a young age immediately after receiving a vaccine. That could, of course, be coincidental, since that's about when Autism symptoms normally manifest anyway. What sets this one apart is that after several years the family paid out of pocket for an expensive procedure to remove mercury from their by-then 12-year-old daughter's body that insurance wouldn't cover because they said there was statistically no way a vaccine could be involved. The treatment resulted in immediate improvements and an almost-complete recovery in the girl.

It's cases like this, where acting as though the problem is really caused by a vaccine yields a treatment that actually works, that lead me to believe there may be something to this. Add to that the fact that drug companies have the discretion to only publish results from trials that show favorable results. Any link between a vaccine and autism would generally have to come from an independent, government-funded study.

And yet I still say you should vaccinate. Why? I can't cite anything because it's been a while, but when we were first investigating the issue for our own children I remember three things that stood out:

  1. The statistics show that disease they prevent and the chance to catch it is generally still worse than the possible side-effects. The odds of a vaccine causing autism are much, much lower than the odds your child would catch or propogate a possibly deadly disease without the vaccine.
  2. The problem is not with the vaccines, but with the preservatives (namely mercury), and even then it's only when you get too many at one time.
  3. The Mercury-based thimerosal perservative is being phased out, and shouldn't be present at all in the vaccines used for children.

So, always always get the vaccination. But if the doctor wants to administer 3 in the same day, you may want to accept just one of them and politely ask for a short delay on the other two. Come back next week, next month, or even the next checkup and get the others then.


answered 11 Dec '09, 04:04

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Joel Coehoorn
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edited 11 Dec '09, 04:41

This is the way I feel too. It's definitely important to vaccinate...and yet. It seems that the vaccine schedule has exploded compared to two or three decades ago. And some vaccines seem questionable to me, like Hep B (is it really a major problem in the US?), or HPV (who'd even heard of cervical cancer before they started touting...and legislating...a vaccine for it?). You may disagree with either example, but the point is that there should be room to affirm the benefits of vaccination in general while questioning whether particular vaccines are really worthwhile.

(02 Aug '10, 23:23) Kyralessa

My wife is a pediatrician and we know of no other pediatricians (at least in this area) who have not vaccinated their own children... Take that for whatever its worth.


answered 11 Dec '09, 15:04

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Personally, I felt bad having my son get some vaccinations. He's 18 months old now, so he's had a few.

I felt that he shouldn't because of some of these horror stories. But at the end of the day, I felt that there was a bit of peer pressure and lots of examples of good stories (eg. kids not getting sick, etc). Also, the fear factor of 'no vacinaction means my son has a higher possibility of getting something, later on' scared me too.

Nothing scientific there, so sorry about that. But that was my personal dilema involved with this.


answered 17 Sep '09, 08:42

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Asked: 16 Sep '09, 18:37

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Last updated: 01 Aug '10, 02:56