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:
- 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)