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Anne Wilson Schaff


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Ocean View Verandah


Tuesday, 9 July 2002

I've been trying to find information on the new pertussis vaccine on the net tonight, with not much luck.

Liam hasn't received any vaccinations yet, and to be honest we really haven't decided yet which, if any, he will receive. The standard schedule is for him to have DTPa (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) at 2, 4, and 6 months (and then more later on I think), along with polio and Hib (Haemophilus Influenzae type B). Then MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) at something like 12 months and it gets repeated later too. Oh and of course there's Hep B in there too.

The most controversial vaccines in terms of possible side effects are DTP and MMR. They've been linked to autism, brain damage and death, by some research. We've pretty much decided against MMR (although not necessarily against measles separately if that's still possible), hepatitis B and polio, and probably for Hib. But DTP is trickier. For one thing, pertussis (whooping cough) is a nasty disease. For another, the pertussis vaccine that most of the controversial research has been done on is the old, whole cell vaccine.

In DTPa the pertussis vaccine does not use the whole cell (a for acellular), which in theory should produce fewer side effects. But, so far I haven't found anything confirming that theory. All the research into the more serious side effects seems to be about the old vaccine, and the info from the pro-vaccine people only says the less serious side effects, like localised pain at the site of vaccination, should be milder with the new vaccine.

It's been a frustrating process trying to research the pros and cons of vaccines, because from what I have found so far everyone is either rabidly for or rabidly against. And very often they simply flat out contradict each other. I did see a reasonably balanced documentary on the MMR vaccine, but basically it left me as undecided as before. I guess the fact is that we simply do not have enough information yet to be able to say one way or the other what is best. Hence the controversy. Not that that stops people of course! We just have to realise that there are risks either way. That's fine in theory of course, but in practice I would really like a fool proof way of protecting my little boy.