Thursday, July 31, 2008
Shot Through the Heart
I felt ambivalent about Penny's 2-month check up. Although I was excited to talk to my doctor about Penny's progress, she was supposed to have her first round of shots, and I was dreading my role as accomplice in inflicting pain on her, however brief and beneficial. To make matters worse, I was still in the process of sifting through all of the rumors surrounding immunizations and their possible link to autism.
I try not to get hysterical about stuff. I like evidence-based research. I tend not to believe in conspiracy theories. So I decided to do my own research. I started with the CDC. I learned that thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury, is no longer used as a preservative in pediatric vaccinations. (I'm not sure why someone thought that would be a good idea in the first place). The CDC also states that there is no scientific evidence connecting the MMR vaccination to autism. But what about the risk of getting so many shots at once? The CDC also has a response to this concern.
In June, I saw the cover of Time while standing in line at the grocery store. My friends also told me about a story they heard on NPR. The doctor in the interview states that the 9 year-old child involved in the court case actually had a pre-existing mitochondrial condition which is a genetic condition that would have been present at birth. However, the child DID have a high fever as a result of all of her "catch-up" vaccinations, which the doctor says 1) she personally would have spread out instead of administering all at once, and 2) that fevers should be respected due to their potential to wreak neurological havoc.
Penny's check up went well. At 9 weeks of age, she weighed 11 lbs 3 oz and was 23 and 3/4 inches long. That put her within the 90th %tile for height and the 50th %tile for weight, which is actually the opposite of what it was when she was born. Then came the hard part. I had a long discussion with my doctor about the shots. She told me that some parents choose to have the vaccinations spread out and that it would be ok if I wanted to do that, but she wasn't aware of any advantages to doing this.
I put an incredible amount of trust in my doctor, so ultimately I decided to go for it. I did it because I work with medically fragile children and I don't want Penny to contract rotovirus or meningitis because of my job. I did it because I think it was the socially responsible thing to do. I did it because I want scientific evidence, not paranoia, to rule my decision-making process.
Not that it made things any easier. My heart was racing while the nurse prepared the needles containing the vaccine cocktails. Penny had 2 shots in one leg and one shot in the other. Is there anything worse than subjecting your child to pain?
Penny cried, but not as much as I thought she would. She calmed down right away, which was a huge relief. That afternoon, I watched for signs of fever, but she seemed fine. Except that she was VERY CRABBY when she woke up from her nap. She went from zero to Superpissed in 10 seconds and it frightened me. She was too mad to eat and carried on for about 10 minutes. I thought, "Oh, god! What have I done? Have the shots turned her into the Incredible Hulk?"
Eventually, she calmed down and ate, and I had to tell myself that if I'd had needles jammed into my legs, I'd be pretty crabby too.