Information about vaccines for the environmentally conscious parent

There has been quite a bit of debate in popular media about childhood vaccines. However, the science is unequivocal: Childhood vaccines, administered according to the CDC-recommended schedule, are safe and effective. Yet concerns persist from parents who are like me, concerned about avoiding unnecessary chemical exposures in their kids and who seek natural approaches to personal health choices.

Because I am a pediatrician, mother and self-described “greenie,” I think it is important that I add my voice to this topic, especially for my fellow environmentally conscious parents who may have questions or concerns about vaccines.

Concerns about staying on schedule

The concern I hear most often is that the illnesses we are immunizing against today represent undue stress on the immune system and may also stress a child with the pain of multiple immunizations at once. With this in mind, some parents request extended or personalized immunization schedules for their children.

However, parents need to know that today’s modern vaccines expose the immune system to fewer antigens (the things that actually provoke the immune response) compared to older vaccines. This means that today’s vaccines are actually challenging our children’s immune systems with fewer antigens than in previous generations.

Furthermore, I would argue that it could be more traumatic to have one shot every month for a prolonged period than to get it over with as quickly as possible. In my practice, the nurses who give vaccines are incredibly efficient. Moments after getting her shots, my daughter is all smiles when the nurse hands her a Dora sticker. Most important, the CDC-recommended schedule of immunizations allows kids to be immunized against these illnesses at the earliest possible time, providing optimal protection to children and communities.

Protect your family and the community

Vaccines not only protect ourselves and our children, they protect our community. Living green is about protecting the natural environment and caring about the well-being of future generations. Vaccines align exactly with this sentiment because the immunity of the “herd” protects the most vulnerable among us.

Just like recycling, saving energy or shopping at a farmers market, vaccinating our kids creates a safer and healthier environment for our whole society. It is no exaggeration to state that vaccines are one of humankind’s greatest public health victories. They have resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives saved.

Visit Rainbow.org to read more Advice from Dr. Mom columns.

Aparna Bole

APARNA BOLE, MD
Manager of Sustainability, University Hospitals Pediatrician, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and mom of two young girls

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