Vaccines 101

I’ve posted before about my views on vaccines but I’ve never started at the beginning. I had various reasons why vaccines felt wrong to me before I started my research. But, where do you start if you’ve never even thought of questioning vaccines? This is my guide for learning about your choices with special thanks to Emmeline II over at


The first thing I want everyone to know, whether you choose to vaccinate or not, is that it is a choice! Since we have an opt-out instead of an opt-in system the default is vaccination and providers can sometimes wrongly make you feel that vaccines are mandatory. Also, school districts actually refer to them as mandatory vaccinations leading parents to believe they are completely compulsory. Most of the time this isn’t malicious sometimes even the schools aren’t aware of the law. So here goes: Vaccinations are NOT compulsory. This is a free country and you can not be forced to inject anything into yourself or your child. In all 50 states you can legally waive the requirement for vaccination. There are 3 types of exemptions:

  1. medical – for children who can not receive a vaccine for health reasons. For example, the flu vax is made with eggs so those allergic to eggs can not receive it. The Hep B vax is made with yeast.
  2. religious – vaccination is against your religious beliefs (each state has a different level of “proof” for this).
  3. philosophical – vaccination is against your sincerely held beliefs.

You can find the laws for you state here.

Now What?

Ok, so you know you don’t have to vaccinate but should you?  This is the harder question to answer and each person needs to make the decision for themselves.  Instead of making a blanket decision to vax or not think of each vaccine in turn and answer these questions (from Emmeline II):

1. Name of the disease
2. Description of the disease
3. Length of time from initial infection to end of all symptoms
4. Infectious period (how long are you contagious?)
5. Normal symptoms of the disease
6. Known serious consequences of the disease
7. Proportion of persons infected developing serious consequences
8. Transmission route of the disease
9. Prevalence of the disease
10. Treatments of the disease and efficacy of those treatments
11. Relevant research about the disease
12. Name of the vaccine
13. Company that makes the vaccine
14. Contents of the vaccine
14A. The significance of whether or not the vaccine is live
15. History of development of the vaccine
16. Known side-effects of the vaccine and rate of incidence of those side-effects
17. Possible side-effects not yet acknowledged by the vaccine maker
18. Relevant research into the vaccine
19. How effective is the vaccine at preventing the disease?
20.What is the vaccine meant to do? (Many vaccines are not meant to prevent infection or transmission).
21.Number of cases reported each year.
22.Number of deaths reported each year from the vaccine and natural disease.

Wow!  So where can you find this information?  Here are some sources to help you out:

Inside Vaccines – A great source for disease by disease research and numbers.  Considered anti-vax in bias.

Vaccines-The Risks, the Benefits, the Choices  By Sherri J. Tenpenny.  Considered anti-vax in bias.

Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report – this is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weekly report of disease prevalence.  You can download the current and back issues and you can search for a specific topic.  (note, the CDC’s website has what we call in the industry a “craptacular” search function so here’s a tip:  use Google!  You can enter your search terms and then restrict your search with  Try it:  chicken pox ).  This is considered pro-vax in bias.

The CDC Pink Book – This is the CDC’s book of Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine Preventable Diseases.  A great source for information on disease statistics.  This is considered pro-vax in bias.

Vaccine Package Inserts – Don’t take any other sites’ word for it.  Read the package insert to see what is in the vaccine and what side effects have been found.  The vaccine manufacturers tend to be more inclusive with their side effects due to threat of law suits.

National Vaccine Information Center – A great resource for vaccine facts and advocacy.  Considered anti-vax in bias.  Also, check out their 8 questions to ask:

  1. Is my child sick right now?
  2. Has my child had a bad reaction to a vaccination before?
  3. Does my child have a personal or family history of:
  4. vaccine reactions convulsions or neurological disorders severe allergies immune system disorders

  5. Do I know if my child is at high risk of reacting?
  6. Do I know how to identify a vaccine reaction?
  7. Do I know how to report a vaccine reaction?
  8. Do I know the vaccine manufacturer’s name and lot number?
  9. Do I know I have a choice?

Here are two other videos I found to be very helpful.  The first is a speech and the second is a documentary.  I strongly recommend the second if you want to introduce someone to the topic but think they will glaze over at a scientific slant.  These are considered anti-vax in bias.:

Are Vaccines Safe? by Mary Tocco
Vaccine Nation a documentary by Gary Null