My kids all wear amber necklaces. That’s a secret mama code — the sign for “my mom is a crunchy granola hippie.” We do all the things those necklaces indicate. I’m still nursing my almost 3-year-old, and I nursed my other two sons until they were 3 and 4 years old. Hell, I’ve nursed other people’s babies. We buy organic food as much as possible. We keep a family bed, a massive affair of a queen with a side-carred twin. I believe in the gut-healing properties of Kombucha. If judged by coconut oil consumption alone, we’re in the top 1% of crunchy granola hippies.
I’m a hippie. And my kids are fully up-to-date on their vaccinations. And they always will be.
There’s a stereotype that crunchy people whose kids wear amber can’t possibly vaccinate their children. Hippies are generally scared of chemicals, although “chemical” can mean anything from water to hydrochloric acid. We have a knee-jerk reaction to try to avoid as many chemicals as possible, because, despite its meaning, “chemical” carries the stigma of manmade additives. And unfortunately, many hippies tend to mistrust the modern medical establishment for its hand-in-hand ties to Big Pharma, its discrediting of alternative medicine, and its patriarchal, doctor-knows-best model of health care.
But you can be as hippie as they come and still believe in the seeming magic of Jonas Salk and the way a tiny shot of antigens can protect us from the foulest and most dangerous of diseases. We used to be what I call “Dr. Sears vaccine-doubting.” We thought there were too many too soon, and we wanted to space them out. We believed what Sears says, that “by only giving two vaccines at a time (instead of as many as six),” we decrease “the chance of chemical overload from grouping so many vaccines chemicals all together at once. This allows a baby’s body to better detoxify the chemicals one or two at a time.”
Let’s break this sucker down. We thought that we vaccinate too much, too soon, which causes vaccine adjuvants to build up in the human body — possibly more than a baby can safely handle, possibly causing damage, particularly to the neurological system. When you space out vaccines, you can let the body deal with these dangerous, dangerous chemicals one at a time.
Man-made additives are bad, man. Except those man-made chemicals we add to vaccines? They’re safe.
Take aluminum: In large quantities, it can be a neurotoxin. As aluminum salts, one of two things allowed as an adjuvant in the United States, it’s safe. In fact, your baby gets less aluminum from a vaccine as he does from a liter of infant formula or even breast milk.
Formaldehyde, used to inactivate viruses and detoxify bacterial toxins, is another scary-sounding additive in vaccines, except the residual amount left from manufacturing is far less than the amount found in the newborn’s own body — 50 to 70 times less. Once you do your research into the amounts of chemicals in vaccines, they start to get much less scary and much more necessary.
And the popular idea that kids get too much, too soon, and far more than we got at their age? Bunk. Children actually receive fewer antigens now than they did in 1980. Their number has fallen from about 3,041 to around 153. Their immune system is less overwhelmed than before. So we hippies can’t harken back to the good old days (another one of our tendencies) when it comes to vaccines. Modern is better.
Once we did that research from reliable, peer-reviewed sources — not from alternative health gurus like Dr. Mercola — we realized that vaccines are safe. Yes, I know that some people get vaccine-injured. I suspect the numbers are higher than the government reports, but less than alternative health practitioners claim. But still, better vaccinations than the diseases they prevent.
Consider the alternative. I’ve been invited to a pox party. I declined. That’s because, according to immunize.org, before the vaccine, though varicella is usually a mild disease in healthy children, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people every year developed complications from it, about 11,000 people required hospitalization, and 100 people died.
The CDC notes complications of chicken pox to include bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissue, pneumonia, infection or inflammation of the brain, bleeding problems, sepsis, and dehydration. I’m not risking that in my kids. As the CDC says, the shot is safer than the disease. So my kids got jabbed. It wasn’t pleasant. But it was better than encephalitis. Or, you know, death.
You can want all the natural things for your kids and still vaccinate. You can populate your house with wooden Waldorf rainbows, brew your own kombucha, snarf your own sauerkraut, and still believe in the necessity, both personal and civic, of vaccinations. I’m a hippie. I did the research. And I believe in vaccinations.