Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Rethinking The Rotavirus Vaccine February 3, 2009

Like many moms, I’m rather wary and suspicious of the seemingly endless vaccines offered to my children. While I would never want to put my children in jeopardy of an avoidable and potentially damaging illness, I’m just plain gunshy (needleshy) thanks to the alarming number reports of the CDC accepting rewards for reporting their pharmaceutical test findings in a certain light—one that benefits the drug companies. To put it simply, it’s an internal battle: Would I rather risk an incidence of measles from NOT getting the vaccine, or Autism if I DO get the vaccine?

All conspiracies aside, the Autism Society of America explains, “Research indicates that other factors besides the genetic component are contributing to the rise in increasing occurrences of Autism, such as environmental toxins (e.g., heavy metals such as mercury), which are more prevalent in our current environment than in the past.” Personally, the onslaught of multiple vaccines from birth onward (is my baby really at risk of Hep B at 2 weeks of age?!) seem like a heavy cocktail of “environmental toxins.” To date, we have taken the tried-and-true path with our kids, allowing only the old-school vaccines that have been in use for decades: DTaP, poliovirus, pneumoccocal and varicella. 

RotaTeq is a relatively new kid on the vaccine block (manufactured by Merck and FDA licensed February 2006). We opted not to receive it because I was nursing and my infant spent little time sharing toys outside of the house with other infants, making him low-risk. Today, Noah is now almost 21 months, and enjoys many social outings with his older brother in settings where multiple preschoolers play with the same toys. Off and on, since before Christmas, both boys have struggled with the stomach flu (aka: rotavirus, the leading cause of severe acute gastroenteritis among children worldwide.) While we have all been healthy for about 3 weeks now, our social circle has diminshed greatly because everyone from infants to middle schoolers to parents are at home wrestling the same symptoms.

Here’s the big problem with rotavirus—once you get it, you don’t build an immunity to it like, say, a common cold. If you pass it to a family member, they can pass it right back to you. The next issue? We can’t turn back time. The first dose of RotaTeq vaccine (a liquid given by mouth, rather than by a shot) should be given between 6-12 weeks old and two additional doses are given at 4-10 week intervals. Children should get all three doses before 32 weeks old. There is no “catch-up” for older children. Our window of opportunity is closed.

Still, even though I shudder at the thought of another bout with endless watery stools, vomit, crying, and the inevitable mountain of laundry from soiled jammies, bedlinens and towels, if I were able to turn back the clock, would I agree to RotaTeq?

The vaccine does not contain thimerosal or any other preservative, so that rules out one aspect of the Autism threat. RotaTeq claims to be “different” than the vaccine RotaShield, which was removed from the market in 1999 after it was found to be associated with a rare type of bowel obstruction called intussusception. However, in the first year of RotaTeq’s debut, there were 28 reports of infants getting intussusception after being vaccinated with RotaTeq with about half of the cases occurring within 21 days of vaccination and 16 of the infants requiring surgery. (The other children were treated without surgery, using enemas.) So, how is RotaTeq different?

Knowing what I know today, I’d probably turn it down. The most important thing to remember with any diarrhea is to keep your child hydrated (using electrolyte beverages and water–NOT juice.) The illness does pass, and in the meantime, put aside everything in favor of  hugs, books, cuddles in blankies and quiet time. Clean all toys and clothes shared between family members, and wash everyone’s hands obsessively.

The time period from initial infection to symptoms for rotavirus disease is around two days. Symptoms of the disease include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea. Abdominal pain may also occur, and infected children may have profuse watery diarrhea up to several times per day.
  • Symptoms generally persist for three to nine days.
  • Potential for severe dehydration in infants and children. Maintain regular hydration. (courtesy MedicineNet.com)
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6 Responses to “Rethinking The Rotavirus Vaccine”

  1. 56 Says:

    Health Advice Website…

  2. Beverly Says:

    Actually there was a study just released which concluded that there is no connection between autism and mercury in vaccinations. You can read about it here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28854955/

    I did a Rotavirus vaccination overview on my website (http://mommyvomitpants.blogspot.com/2008/10/about-vaccinations-rotavirus.html) which links to several studies on the Rotavirus vaccination as well as the FDA Patent information on the newest form of the vaccination.

    I am firmly in the pro-vaccination column, especially as more and more evidence against a link between vaccination and autism surfaces, but I think that everyone should do what they think is right for their families.

  3. rjlacko Says:

    Hi Beverly,
    I appreciate your feedback and the link to your piece! Always good to hear from you. You know, my ped sent me an article last year about how there is no connection between mercury and autism, and then roughly a week later I read a reliable report about how the CDC (and other government agencies, such as the FDA) have approved or falsely reported their findings in exchange for either monetary rewards, or the individuals involved later accepted high-paying positions with the manufacturer of the drug they just had a hand in approving. At any rate, I really regret being so suspicious so I won’t belabor it. My point is that I’m uncomfortable with how many shots are given together, injected when the child’s body is so little and development is so rapid. Also, I think it’s misleading to suggest that RotaTeq doesn’t cause intussusception, when there are enough reports that, in fact, it can.
    I agree wholeheartedly with you that each person should thoughtfully consider what is right for their family. As I said, when Noah was a candidate for RotaTeq, he was low-risk. Not everyone shares a similar situation, or my many suspicions!

  4. Beverly Says:

    I would love to read the report on the CDC et all if you have a link!

    I don’t think you should regret your suspicions at all!! And I am sure you already know that the vaccine schedule is not set in stone and shots can be spaced out to the comfort level of the parents in most cases. At least that’s what my pediatrician told me!

  5. rjlacko Says:

    Your ped is right! Thankfully, we parents can pick and choose which vaccines we’ll accept and stagger them/customize the schedule with our doctor’s cooperation. Yay!
    I’m elbows deep in plans for Joseph’s 4th birthday party, but if I come across that link, I’ll be sure to send it to you. Just this morning, I read this: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article5683671.ece
    It’s an article about how Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine, misreported results in his research! Perhaps in time we will learn that the only causes of autism are predisposition/genetics and environmental factors.

  6. […] MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield Fixed Data on Autism February 13, 2009 Filed under: Lacko Family Chronicles, health, motherhood — rjlacko @ 1:13 pm Tags: family, baby, mercury, toddler, parenting, preschooler, vaccine, Andrew Wakefield, Sunday Times, Autism, Autism Society of America, Brian Deer, MMR As many of you know, I am very cautious about how many and what types of vaccines my children receive. I’ve talked about it several times, most recently here. […]


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