Disclaimer: I am not a scientist or health professional - these are just the ramblings of a soon-to-be-parent. I plan to follow the recommended vaccination schedule for my children.
So this weekend I was visiting with a family member and the topic of vaccines came up. This family member, a fairly new mom herself, said that she tried to read a link I posted on facebook regarding vaccinations but it wouldn't open for her and asked me what it was about. I explained that the links were about the common concerns that many parents, who choose not to vaccinate, have about vaccines and the science that addresses these concerns directly. The links are as follows for anyone who is interested:
A short video on "Dangerous" Vaccine Ingredients
A blog post: Skepticblog: The Long Awaited CDC Trial on Thimerosal and Autism
We spoke bit about the contents of the above video and she shared an anecdote about a friend of hers whose six-month old baby had had a seizure after his vaccination. Having recently reading a blog about a doctor who witnessed a baby seizure right before giving a vaccine, I knew that it was possible that the vaccine may not have caused the seizure. The doctor in the blog post could understand how convincing it would look to a parent that the vaccine caused the seizure had the needle been given just 5 minutes sooner. So I asked my friend what the doctor said about the seizure - apparently the doctor said that seizures happen about 1 in 30,000 children.
Now I have to admit that this piece of information was new to me - and it seemed high - high enough that surely someone in the medical field would be studying it and explaining it (scientists are, do a google scholar search on the topic, the results are interesting). For the first time in about two years, since I started looking into vaccine safety claims, I actually questioned whether or not I would vaccinate my child. It just didn't make sense to me that the government and public health authorities would continue to recommend something that caused seizures in small children so I did a little digging and thought I would share my journey.
The first thing I did was do a little digging to find out if the information in this anecedotal tale was reliable. It turns out that in Alberta, the vaccines recieved at six months are DTaP-IPV-Hib to protect against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Hib and tetanus (for more info see: http://www.health.alberta.ca/health-info/imm-dtap-ipv-hib.html). It also turns out that one of the reported uncommon side effects for 1 in 15,000 children is seizures (yikes, that sounds scary). But then I discovered that seizures are actually quite common in babies and have numerous causes but are most likely not connected to vaccines (see: http://pediatrics.jwatch.org/cgi/content/full/2010/825/1 and http://www.ehow.com/about_5147016_causes-seizures-infants.html).
Febrile seizures (seizures caused by fevers) occur in 1 in 30 children over the age of six months. Fever is a common side effect of vaccines and I think it is safe to say that most seizures associated with a recent vaccine is probably caused by fever. When I read how common febrile seizures are in the general population of infants and children (1 in 30), and that there are no long-term, harmful consequences for febrile seizures, all of a sudden a 1 in 15,000 chance of a seizure from vaccines didn't seem as scary.
Resources I've Found Helpful as a lay-person trying to understand vaccine safety.
Alberta's Immunization Program
Public Health Agency of Canada
Vaccine Section of the Science-Based Parenting Blog
Vaccines and Autism: A Deadly Manufactroversy
And if you are not a reader - I thought these two podcasts were excellent!
Parenting Beyond Belief Podcast Episode 8: Vaccines
Parenting Beyond Belief Podcast Episode 9: Vaccines (Part 2)