A couple docs forwarded to me this article Vaccines 101: Too Much Too Soon?, so I’ll keep it going. Plenty of great info.
Most articles including the one above focus on the risks and benefits to the kids. However, I haven’t seen much on the psychological effects on parents. It seems like another angle worth considering. As a relatively new parent I get it a fair bit more now.
In the period leading up to vaccines for Max, we wracked our brains over the list of vaccines, and whether to go with standard guidelines, or to delay a few, or skip some entirely. Ultimately we went with the full lot. We felt horrible with each shot as Max ruptured our ear drums. But he recovered surprisingly fast as well.
Now that we’re on the other side of many of the shots, our fear of somehow actually causing illness has dropped considerably. Plus it’s nice not feeling shunned amongst my pediatrician friends, or having to tell people we’re doing a “delayed vaccination schedule.” It’s also nice that we won’t spend our remaining years wondering whether Max will contract chicken pox or measles as an adult.
The way I see it, there are four psychological boxes for parents to consider:
- Choose to vaccinate and kids turn out healthy
Some guilt with the needle sticks and some anxiety about future risks. But for the large majority, no problems at all and life goes on.
1.a. Choose to vaccinate, but “delayed schedule”
Same as above, but tons of time spent reading, pondering, debating.
- Choose to vaccinate, and kids develop unrelated, or maybe related medical problems
Live feeling guilty that the vaccine could have been the problem. Probable anger.
Maybe spend years ranting against vaccines, though certain proof for cause/effect unlikely to be found. (That said, I would have lost my mind in the early days of small pox live vaccination if my kid actually contracted it and died.)
- Choose not to vaccinate and kids seem ok
Face social pressures from friends, schools, etc. Maybe have to lie periodically to go on group outings with other kids. More importantly, still face a lifetime of worry because any fever, cold, or flu could also be epiglotitis, meningitis, opisthotonus… all drastically less available to folks who were vaccinated.
- Choose not to vaccinate and kids later develop related, or unrelated medical problems, whether infectious or otherwise.
Sadness. Possibly long lasting guilt.
Vanessa and I, like every parent, want the best for our kid of course. But the decision in our case was also fairly selfish. We chose to vaccinate and hope we’ve landed in box 1.
I have updated this post to reflect some advances in the IT world which will help kids and parents overcome the fear of the vaccines. A company has developed software to help injections using virtual reality. Have a look.