Saturday, February 6, 2010

Germ Warfare

Raphaela and I just returned from a weekend away, our second since she was born. For the most part, we both enjoyed ourselves and Raphaela received almost constant attention; so much so that I had to explain to my friend's children that putting a four month old baby on the floor with toys, to play by herself, does not constitute neglect.

Today, for Shabbat lunch, my friend invited over a woman who takes single parenthood to a whole new level: her husband left her and her nine children, and she is raising them essentially on her own. For this meal, she only brought her three year old son, and spent much of the meal describing in all its gory detail the various illnesses to which members of her family have been exposed in the last month. This glorious list includes bacterial meningitis ("It was my daughter's desk-mate at school! Isn't that wonderful?") and chicken pox. ("I can't remember if my children had chicken pox, or if they got the vaccine. Isn't that amusing?")

Not amusing at all, especially when she announced that if anyone at the table had not yet experienced chicken pox - ie my four month old baby and my friend's youngest son - they had been officially warned.

I immediately insisted that because I am actively breast feeding, Raphaela should be covered by my immunity history, which thank G-d includes my own serious case of chicken pox at the age of four. The other adults at the table immediately tut-tutted, and politely criticized me for not having vaccinated my own baby against all conceivable diseases, as Israel is apparently a Third World Country.

I hope I kept my cool at the table and in front of the company, but inside I was seething, and my only First Time Mother Instinct was to get myself and my child away from this table and away from these people. My new pet peeve since giving birth is inconsiderate parents who think that they can justify their irresponsible and thoughtless behaviour by "giving the baby's immunity a workout."

If your kid is sick, or has lice, please don't share. And stop making fun of the new mother, when she is in the room.

I chose to wait until six months and/or the end of breast feeding to vaccinate Raphaela, and I don't appreciate being told that "it's no big deal if she has to stay home for a week with the chicken pox." Will this woman take care of my baby when I have to work? Does she have some sort of telepathy to explain to a four month old why she is itchy and in pain?


Commenter Abbi said...

Sorry, but your friends or acquaintances, whoever they are, are right. Get the vaccinations at the right time. It's especially important in Israel (and especially in J-m with such a large charedi and Arab population who are lax about vaxing). Your daughter is not "covered" by your immune history (breastmilk is wonderful, but it's NOT a replacement for vaccines. Here's an article from a well respected breastfeeding site:

She's sketchy about the 6-8 months, but really, because Israel is just crawling with bugs, it's just not a good idea to get her off schedule. This lunch is a perfect example. You just don't know who you'll end up behind at the supermarket or shabbat lunch. Why leave her unprotected? Please get her up to date.

koshergourmetmart said...

i agree that you should get your kids vaccinated at the appropriate times. there is something called herd immunity - from wikipedia "unprotected individuals.[1] Herd immunity theory proposes that, in diseases passed from person to person, it is more difficult to maintain a chain of infection when large numbers of a population are immune. The higher the proportion of individuals who are immune, the lower the likelihood that a susceptible person will come into contact with an infected individual.[2]

Vaccination acts as a sort of firebreak or firewall in the spread of the disease, slowing or preventing further transmission of the disease to others.[3] Unvaccinated individuals are indirectly protected by vaccinated individuals, as the latter will not contract and transmit the disease between infected and susceptible individuals.[2] Hence, a public health policy of herd immunity may be used to reduce spread of an illness and provide a level of protection to a vulnerable, unvaccinated subgroup...Complications arise when widespread vaccination is not possible or when vaccines are rejected by a part of the population. As of 2009[update], herd immunity is compromised in some areas for some vaccine-preventable diseases, including pertussis and measles and mumps, in part because of parental refusal of vaccination.[5][6][7]

Herd immunity only applies to diseases that are contagious. Herd immunity should not be confused with contact immunity, a related concept wherein a vaccinated individual can 'pass on' the vaccine to another individual through contact."

However, since abbi pointed out many people in israel are lax, you are better off getting her immunized.

koshergourmetmart said...

also see here

As newborn immunity is only temporary, it is important to begin childhood immunisations when your baby is two months old. This applies to babies who are either premature or full-term.

The first immunisation, given when your baby is two months old, includes whooping cough and Hib (haemophilus influenza type b) because immunity to these diseases decreases the fastest. Passive immunity to measles, mumps and rubella usually lasts for about a year, which is why the MMR jab is given just after your baby's first birthday.

Doc said...

The vaccine issue is actually complicated, if you look at the medical statistics (starting in the 1800's!), many of the diseases were in a natural downturn until the vaccine came along. There is also an interesting study from China and from the Amish Country, which shows that autism is much lower in communities that do not vaccinate (Amish) or in those that vaccinate after one year (China).
I had planned on waiting between six months and one year before I started with the series, and still plan on breaking up the shots, so that Raphaela is not getting five serious diseases in one shot, literally. There is also the possibility of doing a titre test, to see what antibodies she already has in her system via passive exposure.
Check out the site:

koshergourmetmart said...

the autism link to vaccines has been discredited

The esteemed medical journal The Lancet -- which had published Dr. Andrew Wakefield's controversial study in 1998 -- announced, "We fully retract this paper from the published record," as its editor called the research "fatally flawed."

Read more:

also, diseases like chicken pox, and mups are on the rise b/c kids are not getting vaccinated. Your daughter will not get all the shots at one time.

You are being a little overprotective-in some case overprotectiveness does more harm than good. She may cry at the shots but the good that will come from being vaccinated will be more than worth it.

koshergourmetmart said...

also, the antibodies she has from breast milk will go away after a while.

koshergourmetmart said...

"With outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases on the rise due to some worried parents choosing not to vaccinate their children, Dr. Offit said, "Parents should realize that a choice not to get a vaccine is not a risk-free choice. It's just a choice to take a different, and far more serious, risk."

mother in israel said...

For the record, your baby is not immune to chicken pox or any infectious disease because you are breastfeeding. She may get a more mild case, though, and recover faster. The problem with getting it under six months is that you can get it again.