First off, I'm no expert on vaccination, but the question of "to vaccinate or not to vaccinate" is a dilemma that I spent a great deal of time thinking about even before I was pregnant. I really question the motives of pharmaceutical companies, and it really bothers me when people believe that they *need* many different medications in order to stay healthy. I think it's important to remember that medication is for the sick, and so many illnesses are the result of poor lifestyle choices and often preventable. Becoming dependent on any medication (the absolute worst being psychotropics, opiates, or liver-destroying drugs like cholesterol meds) puts you at the mercy of pharmaceutical companies. I'm not opposed to using a certain medication as a stepping stone to achieving a healthier life, but to remain on legal drugs for your entire life...there's so much about that that doesn't sit well with me.
Vaccines are a more difficult issue to broach. In the modern world, we can thank vaccines for the eradication of many horrible illnesses. Potentially, when the herd immunity created via mass vaccination is messed with, it could lead to the resurgence of diseases like polio. This obviously wouldn't be a good thing. We've already seen instances of this occurring in pockets of the country where children are contracting pertussis (allegedly a result of parents who have chosen not to give their children the dtap vaccine), which is potentially fatal in infants.
All of this said, it's impossible to ignore the bad press that vaccines have received, particularly in regard to "causing autism." I saw a bit of this when I worked as a developmental therapist. I got to know several families who were affected by both high functioning and severe forms of autism, and their stories are very real. My first client's mother reported to me that her son was meeting all developmental milestones at the age of one. He received his standard bunch of one-year vaccinations. A day or two after receiving these shots, he experienced a series of seizures, and from there, her family's life has never been the same. Her son is special and loved tremendously, but what would he be like had he not received these vaccinations? We'll never know. I honestly can't even imagine what she and her husband have gone through in adjusting to something that no parent can ever be prepared to face. Many children have less severe reactions to vaccinations that may or may not be the cause of various developmental and/or behavioral disorders.
The majority of the children whose parents choose to follow the standard CDC vaccination schedule will have no obvious permanent ill effects, but what do you tell the exceptions? They want answers, and that's where this debate has originated. The CDC recommends five different vaccines at 12 months, and this doesn't include the flu shot that's pushed on the public every year. Between the ages of birth and 12 years, the CDC recommends 36 doses of vaccines with 27 of the doses being recommended before 18 months old (it should be stated that some of these doses are now offered in combined shots, like Pediarix). It's really no wonder that some children will have an adverse reaction to all of this being put into their tiny bodies, particularly when multiple innoculations are given at one time.
So, fast forward to me finally having my own child. The choice to *not* vaccinate at all wasn't really an option. First, there's no way that my husband would've gone for that. Second, I don't know if I could live with myself if my child contracted something like pertussis or bacterial meningitis. I'm a firm believer that breastmilk is liquid gold and does amazing, wonderful things for children, but I don't believe that breastmilk can battle every pathogen that a child may come in contact with in his/her daily life. I believe that the most responsible thing to do is to follow an altered vaccination schedule. Jane is "up to date" on all of her shots, but instead of receiving them in mass batches at 2 and 4 months, she's had 1-2 shots at a time each month. This gives me some peace of mind because given the information that I have, I believe that adverse reactions and results may come from the preservatives or quantities of innoculations given at one time when the standard vaccination schedule is followed. I do remain undecided on a few of the vaccinations on the schedule (like chicken pox) and opposed to others (like HPV), but I haven't had to cross those bridges, yet. In a nutshell, I'll do all that I can to preserve my child's good health as well as her potential brainpower.
My recommendation is to be informed in order to make responsible decisions that make sense to you and your family. I hate the politically correct "do what's right for your family," but I suppose that's really the only thing that can be said about this, anymore.