By Dr. Adrienne Carmack, M.D.
The medical profession tells great tales of decades past when people died from, or were disabled by, diseases such as polio and smallpox, and how the invention of vaccines stopped these epidemics. I believed that vaccines didn’t cause any diseases or problems and that they definitely saved lives. I also believed that those who refused vaccines were the very reason these diseases still existed.
But when I entered the “natural” community by choosing a midwife and breastfeeding, I was exposed to medical theories that differed. During my childbirth classes at the midwifery center, I was surprised when the student teaching the class brought up the subject of vaccines. She suggested that not getting any vaccines was a reasonable choice.
I initially dismissed her words on vaccines, based on ideas I’d been taught to believe about them–until it came time for my own daughter to be vaccinated. About a week before she was due for her first shots, I couldn’t stop wondering whether there was some truth in what those speaking out about vaccination shared.
Because I was a mother now, everything had changed. I listened differently, and I couldn’t ignore the people who talked about how traumatic it was for a baby to get six or seven shots at one time. I wanted nothing more than to protect my little baby and keep her safe and happy. In the “routine” world that I had begun to question, I automatically made an appointment to take my baby to see a pediatrician at the recommended time. I began doing some hardcore research on vaccines, and I became obsessed with the information I was discovering. There was vivid evidence on both sides of the vaccine debate, and I was shocked by what I found.
I had assumed the CDC’s vast research had led to make recommendations that were in our best interests. I had assumed I could trust them. There are many vaccines recommended today, and many pediatricians require them of their patients. But after looking at the studies examining the efficacy and safety of these vaccines, I learned the evidence did not unequivocally support all recommended vaccines.
The CDC recommended routine vaccination for hepatitis B, a disease that is transmitted through body fluids. I had received hepatitis B vaccinations as a requirement for entry to medical school and was supposedly immune based on blood tests, and my daughter would not be nursing from any other mother, yet this vaccine was recommended despite the fact that she had absolutely no risk of getting hepatitis B during her infancy.
No longer could I pretend the CDC had our best interests in mind.
I’ve never been one for conspiracy theory, but the evidence that money was the big motivator here was undeniable, given the guidelines for nationwide vaccination in situations in which vaccination made no medical sense. The broad recommendations for vaccines that were not highly effective, incompletely studied before release, or completely irrelevant for a big section of the U.S. population, I concluded, were not appropriate for my family.
I ultimately chose to give my daughter those vaccines I felt were safe and were for diseases that truly had the potential to harm her.
When I saw my pediatrician, however, and tried to share with her the information I had learned and the logic behind the choices I’d made, she advised me that if I didn’t give my daughter every single recommended vaccine, she would no longer be our doctor.
To my astonishment, she refused to hold any sort of educated discussion with me regarding the science of vaccinations–even knowing that I was a well-researched physician. She had no interest or even ability to discuss the research with me, as she was just following CDC recommendations. She was not familiar with, nor did she care about, the research I had found. I wondered if she’d ever considered verifying the CDC’s recommendations by looking at the research herself. I wondered if she had been a mother herself if her stance may have been different. I felt certain that she, like too many doctors, was just blindly accepting the recommendations of major organizations without taking responsibility herself.
The above article is excerpted from Dr. Adrienne Carmack’s book, Reclaiming My Birth Rights: A Mother’s Wisdom Triumphs Over the Harmful Practices of Her Medical Profession. Reprinted with permission from the author.
Dr. Adrienne Carmack, M.D., is a board-certified urologist and mother of three, none of whom were circumcised and all of whom were born outside of the hospital and breastfed until age 2 or 3. She is the author of Reclaiming My Birth Rights: A Mother’s Wisdom Triumphs Over the Harmful Practices of Her Medical Profession and The Good Mommy’s Guide to Her Little Boy’s Penis. Like her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter.