Friday, June 30, 2006


Maybe the best way to tackle this is to take one type of vaccination per post. This one ended up being pretty long. Yesterday, Heb B, today, DTaP.

What: DTaP: Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (whooping cough)
When: 2 mos, 4 mos, 6-18 mos, 15-18 mos, 4-6 years


I gathered from the information I read that diphtheria is very rare in developed countries like the U.S.

Babycenter/Center for Disease Control:

“Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that causes a thick gray coating at the back of the throat…that makes it hard to breathe and swallow, and can result in suffocation. Toxins produced by the bacteria may affect tissues and organs throughout the body, causing problems such as inflammation of the heart, which can lead to heart failure and paralysis. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 5 to 10 percent of those who contract diphtheria die from it, with death rates reaching as high as 20 percent among the elderly and very young children.”

“While the risk of getting diphtheria in the United States is low, the disease is only a plane ride away.”

Here’s something from this website:

“In its early stages, diphtheria can be mistaken for a bad sore throat. A low-grade fever and swollen neck glands are the other early symptoms.”
“The formation of [the thick gray or black] coating (or membrane) in the nose, throat, or airway makes a diphtheria infection different from other more common infections (such as strep throat) that cause sore throat.”

Someone infected with diphtheria may:
have difficulty breathing or swallowing
complain of double vision
have slurred speech
even show signs of going into shock (skin that's pale and cold, rapid heartbeat, sweating, and an anxious appearance)

“Up to 40% to 50% of those who don't get treated can die”

CDC says 5%-10% who get it die, and Kids Health says half of the people who get it and don’t get treated die. So let’s say CDC is talking about people who get treated. Considering contracting the disease is rare for people living in the U.S. who don’t travel to underdeveloped countries, and it has a high success of treatment rate, it doesn’t seem to me, that for my child, this would be an “extremely necessary” vaccination, if I’m looking at it from the point of view that vaccines in and of themselves are potentially dangerous. Even this article about a batch of DTaP being recalled because it was too weak to protect against diphtheria, states, “But because diphtheria is very rare in the United States and other developed countries, the risk to children who were given the vaccine is very low, FDA officials said.” Ok, so if you shouldn’t worry about a weak vaccine that won’t protect you from diphtheria because your risk is so low for getting diphtheria in the first place…then why get the vaccine at all?



“Tetanus is a bacterial infection that causes severe and painful muscle spasms, seizures, and paralysis. About 20 percent of reported cases end in death.”

“Before World War II, when the vaccine came into widespread use, about 600 cases of tetanus and 180 deaths were reported annually in the United States. Now there are about 70 cases per year and 15 deaths, most of them in elderly adults.”


“The first symptoms are likely to be headache, irritability, fever, chills, and muscular stiffness of the jaw and neck. As the poison increases and spreads, the body becomes rigid and locked in spasm with head drawn back, legs and feet extended, arms stiff, hands clenched and the jaw unable to open with difficulty in swallowing. The stomach muscles also become rigid and convulsions may occur.”

“Immediate hospitalization and the use of tetanus antitoxin and powerful tranquilizers and anti-spasmodic drugs are used to treat the disease. The symptoms last for several weeks. Complications of tetanus include pneumonia, bone fractures from violent muscle spasms and death.”

“Because either no studies or too few scientific studies had ever been conducted to investigate tetanus, DT or Td reactions, a determination could not be made as to whether DT, Td or tetanus vaccine can cause other serious health problems which are reported following tetanus, DT and Td vaccination including residual seizure disorders, demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system (transverse myelitis, optic neuritis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis), peripheral mononeuropathy, arthritis, and erythema multiforme (lesions of the skin or mucous membranes).”

It looks like NVIC doesn’t have any proof from studies of negative DTaP affects, but they have reports of the negative affects from parents. That’s pretty much what I came across when I was looking at diphtheria. They didn’t even have a diphtheria link at NVIC, so I was kind of surprised to find a tetanus one.

If I decided refrain from getting any more DTaP vaccines for the baby, of which he’s due to get three more, another at 6-18months, 15-18 months, and 4 to 6 years, I probably wouldn’t worry about tetanus much while he’s still a baby. Tetanus infections can occur from getting cut with an infected instrument, and even cleaning the wound properly may not prevent it. There’s no way to tell if what you’ve been cut with is carrying tetanus, although rusty old metal is probably the most likely culprit. I think it’s good to get kids tetanus shots, but I know they come in other ways than the DTaP. Plus, when the baby is just a baby, it’s unlikely he’s going to get wounded and infected. If I skipped the rest of the DTaPs, I would definitely get a tetanus shot for him once he’s older and more active.

PERTUSSIS (whooping cough)

NVIC has a whole lot of information about this. I’m going to link the page here, because there’s more than I can really sum up, like specifically which children would be more at risk to the detriments of this vaccine, links from the pertussis part of DTaP to SIDS, etc. It goes into detail about what has happened to some babies after getting this vaccine-seizures, high pitched screaming, etc., basically, things to look out for if your child gets this vaccine. None of these things happened to my son. What I gather from this information, is that the pertussis part of the shot may be the most dangerous, and you can get the diphtheria tetanus part without the pertussis part, and for certain children, this is recommended.

Also, there is a difference between DTP and DTaP vaccines. It’s not clear to me from what I’ve read which one doctors routinely give. I want to say we go the DTaP, but I don’t know for sure. I’m going to call the doctor and find out. The difference between the two is that little ‘a.’ It stands for “acellular petussis,” which is only part of the petussis bacteria. In the DTP shot, you get the whole pertussis bacteria. The DTaP is supposed to be safer, as in, fewer adverse reactions like the seizures and high pitched screaming mentioned above.

It’s kind of scary that the government recognized that the whole pertussis bacteria was dangerous so they made a new vaccine using only part of it, but they haven’t recalled the DTP shot in favor of the DTaP. Babycenter acknowledges about the DTP/DTaP, “It's always a good idea to tell your child's doctor if your child has ever had a moderate or serious reaction to any vaccine, or if she or anyone else in the immediate family has ever had a seizure (although having a family history of seizures doesn't mean your child shouldn't receive the vaccine). Your doctor can decide whether this information is relevant. If your child is moderately to severely ill at the time the vaccine is scheduled she should probably wait until she recovers before getting the shot. That way, if she does have any side effects, she'll be better able to tolerate them.” So side effects are commonly acknowledged with respect to this vaccination. If I had known there was a possibility this vaccine would give my baby a seizure, I’m not sure I would have done it. I’m not sure if I want to get the rest of these shots for him or not. Since he hasn’t had any reactions yet, are his chances of having reactions with the remaining shots low? Sometimes I’m getting more questions than answers here, people. But about the disease itself:


“Pertussis, better known as whooping cough, is one of the most contagious diseases known to humans. It's a bacterial infection that causes persistent coughing spells so severe that it's hard for children to eat, drink, or breathe. It can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death.”

”Before the vaccine was introduced in the 1940s, about 200,000 children came down with the disease every year and about 9,000 died. About 5,000 to 7,000 cases of pertussis. are still reported in the United States annually, and the disease remains a serious health problem among children in other parts of the world.”


“Thick mucous builds up in the lungs and clogs air passages, triggering violent coughing spells. It can be quite serious, especially for young infants with tiny air passages. The fatality rate is highest in infants under six months of age. The effects of toxins in the B. pertussis bacteria can produce high fever, convulsions, brain damage and death. Permanent damage can include continuing seizure conditions, mental retardation, learning disabilities, and chronic illness.”

“In its early stages, pertussis is indistinguishable from the many colds common in children. However, after one or two weeks, the illness gets progressively worse. Thick mucous builds up in the lungs, triggering severe coughing spells as children try to clear their clogged up airways. Children can cough so long and hard that they literally cannot ‘catch their breath;’. Their faces turn blue when they are unable to get fresh oxygen into their system. As the coughing spell ends, children gasp for their next breath with a characteristic crowing sound, or whoop. These coughing spells can occur up to 40 times a day and can last two to three months.”

“There is no medicine to cure whooping cough but antibiotics are often used to reduce the spread of the disease to others as well as treat secondary infections.”

“Today between 2,000 and 10,000 cases of whooping cough are reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) annually. However, there actually may be 40,000 to 100,000 cases each year because the CDC estimates that the disease is underreported in America by as much as 20 times.”

“In 1934, more than 265,000 cases of pertussis were reported in the U.S. with nearly 8,000 deaths. Whooping cough in the underdeveloped Third World countries is still the killer it once was throughout the world in the early part of this century. However, in modern countries, such as Europe and the U.S., today whooping cough is a much more manageable disease that causes death or injury less frequently. This is due to improved sanitation, nutrition, and medical care; the use of antibiotics to control secondary infections[may of the deaths from pertussis are from the secondary infections the disease causes, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, the article mentioned earlier]; the employment of modern resuscitation methods to start a baby breathing again after choking; and rehydration techniques to counter the loss of body fluids from high fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.”

So far, I can't conclude that this was an unnecessary vaccination. It sounds like pertussis is a pretty bad disease, but it also sounds like the pertussis vaccine can be pretty bad. However, my baby never had any negative reactions to any vaccines. I'm going to look into this some more, and if I find anything that makes a big difference either way, I'll post it. For now, I'm going to conclude that it was a necessary vaccine, mostly because I have asthma and I would hate to see my baby in respiratory distress.

Unnecessary vaccines my baby has received: 1
Necessary vaccines my baby has received: 1


Post a Comment

<< Home