For about a week after the vaccination, Jack's behaviour could only be described as severely unsettled and any semblance of routine and harmony went out the window. His whole upper thigh was red and swollen all that week. In the following weeks he developed consistent constipation and mild eczema on his back. By the time he had fully recovered both physically and psychologically, some 2 months later, it was time for the next DTP shot!
After the first dramatic episode, I was far more wary of the effects the vaccine might have on him so, in the waiting room just prior to the next injections, I gave Jack some paracetamol. I wasn't at all happy about having to do this, but felt that continuing his vaccinations was the "right" thing to do and that this was the lesser of two evils in prevention of his reactions to it. At the second session, when I reported Jack's previous reactions to the doctor he said he considered Jack's reaction, "to be within acceptable limits" and confirmed that paracetamol was the best manage-ment.
For the next 2 vaccinations, at 6 and 12 months old, the paracetamol before and after the shots kept things at a manageable level, although Jack still had reactions of severe swelling at the injection site and a mild fever for a few days.
At 18 months old, Jack had his final DTP shot and his reaction was the worst it had ever been, despite the pain killing preparations. Several hours after the shot he was feverish and his whole body was hypersensi-tive. He could not be left alone for even a few minutes. He cried incon-solably all that night, spending most of it lying on my chest as I tried to doze. Any movement from me caused him to cry, he was at times flaccid and at other times tensing and shaking. At this time I was also nursing his younger brother, 5 weeks old, so when George needed to breastfeed I had to gently roll Jack onto the bed next to me, and then resume my comforting of Jack after feeding George.
Following those experiences, I began a reassessment of vaccination and its side effects. I started thinking more deeply about what we put our children through in the name of potential risk and health insurance, and what alternatives there might be to the usual situation. I started reading the other side of the argument and developing my approach to natural immune system resistance. The outcome was that I delayed George's first shots, left longer between each shot and eventually never bothered completing the course. I have not had any of my 3 girls vaccinated at all.
Through more recent study, conversations with other parents, and my own family's experiences, I have come to the conclusion that the effects of vaccination both short and long term far outweigh the perceived risks and necessity for it if a child is kept healthy through other means. Over the last 14 years, although accidentally exposed to all the scheduled diseases through contact with other children in the community (the vaccinated or half-vaccinated ones!), 2 of my kids have contracted only chickenpox very mildly. The others have remained resistant to measles , mumps and rubella, all of which have been floating around the schools and playgroups they have attended.