Sunday, August 23, 2009

Travel and Vaccinations...

With two years of possibly not having to work spread out in front of me, I am entertaining ideas of travel. This became a very real possibility this past weekend when a friend offered to show me India in November when he goes there for his sister's wedding.  I am excited about this prospect.  But it's raised a fear in me that I didn't realize I was going to have to confront.  Vaccinations.

If I'm going to experience world travel, there's a whole lot of shots I have to get. And it's not that I'm afraid of the needles.  It's my fear that vaccines could be somewhat damaging to my long-term health. Having got hit with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in my teens shortly after having a Polio vaccination, I have had a hard time shaking the idea that the two may have been connected, even though there is much scientific research to dispel any connection.  

I have done a fair amount of research on the vaccination issue and feel that while vaccinations are generally safe, there are risks involved.  So, I'm going to book myself an appointment with a travel doctor and learn all I can about the vaccinations I'd require to travel abroad, the benefits and the risks.  All said and done,  I am of the opinion that there are always risks involved in any choice and I can't keep myself back from fully experiencing my life just because of the potential risks.  

Sometimes though, I wish life and its choices weren't such a constant cost/benefit, not to mention, existential and soul-searching, analysis. No one said the examined life was easy.  

tall penguin


12 comments:

v said...

Oh no! I don't like this at all. Please consider the homeopathic alternative vaccines. A family I know just travelled to Africa for 6 months and none of them had any vaccines (except homepathically). The kids are also not vaccinated with the "North American standards." I'm sure their mom would be happy to talk you about their decision.

I also know a good naturopath who could meet with you and give you a more neutral view on both sides of this issue than you would get with a travel doctor. When someone is not providing the vaccines themselves (homeopathically or otherwise) they are more likely to give you balanced information.

Let me know.

Umlud said...

I've lived and traveled around the world most of my life. My vaccination list has filled several travel cards, ever since I was 3 months old.

You can always try and go without vaccinations, but you might be interested in talking to "Orac" over at the Respectful Insolence blog over at Science Blogs. He's a doctor who writes about these issues.

CyberLizard said...

I completely second what Umlud said. As far as your story about your polio vaccine, correlation does not equal causation. It's a common mistake with regard to vaccines since a lot of developmental issues tend to manifest around the same age that vaccines are given. With all the issues you've experienced with neurochemistry, it's not reasonable to point at one jab and say it caused a certain problem.

I would caution very strongly against any proposed homeopathic "alternatives". Diluting a substance in water until not a single molecule of the substance is left (and of course shaking it a lot) is not going to magically imbue the water with some mystical ability to ward off illness. We know what causes these diseases and how to combat them.

You've managed to shake off the yoke of one form of damaging magical thinking by leaving the JW's. I'd hate to see you replace it with another form of magical thinking that could have devastating effects on your physical health.

Umlud is on the money with his recommendation of Orac.

CyberLizard said...

I would love to travel like that. India, Africa, Asia; all are places I'd like to get to. As gorgeous as the UK is (the only non-US place I've traveled), it would be very beneficial to experience cultures further removed from my own western upbringing. I hope you get to make it over there, and we expect to have lots of reports!

tall penguin said...

I have much to say here. Some of it is going to piss off people I love. But it won't be the first time that has happened.

As a JW, I was heavily into alternative medicine (many are), both as a consumer and as a practitioner. Having had some distance from it all, my opinion is that my mind had more a part in my healing from the various labels I'd been given than any homeopathic remedy or alternative treatment. Which makes me think that placebo effect is a very powerful tool and perhaps that is what we should be studying more and more.

When I left the JW's, I put all my alt med views up for question. I had spent a lot of time and money over the years pursuing various "cures" for my conditions, not to mention being trained as a Brain Gym consultant (don't think I ever confessed that one here yet). I felt duped, just like I had as a JW. I love all the alternative practitioners I've worked with over the years. I believe they are sincere people, not attempting to hurt anyone. And it was their listening ear, more than anything, that I believe helped in my healing. To have an outside-the-JW-world person to talk to, was useful to me at the time. And for that I am grateful.

Now, I see most of alt med as a metaphoric look at the body. It's a story we tell ourselves, as many things are. (Humans are such good storytellers.) For example, I love looking at the chakra idea of the body. Do I believe that there are spinning wheels of energy hovering over my body? Nope. But I do find it an interesting metaphor that I can play with to adjust points in my own psyche that need attending to. And it is my feeling that some people need that metaphor, that placebo effect, to get through some trying medical issues. Just like some people need religion to function in the world. I am no longer in the conversion business. If someone decides that alt med is the way to go for them, I will not judge. I can inform with another opinion, but I'm done with judging. In the end, it's an individual choice.

I am fortunate that my conditions were not serious enough to land me in dire straits while I pursued alt med interventions. I am also pretty pleased with myself, because really, it was my mind that was doing the work all along. I'm a fan of the placebo effect. I think there's a place for it. It would just be more useful if we could use it consciously and not give our power away to magical thinking paradigms that could ultimately damage us.

Having experimented with both marijuana and countless prescription drugs, I am now very aware of what the mind is capable of. There's a whole universe up there between my ears and I can paint just about any picture I like of how the world is. Doesn't make it real. Doesn't make it true. Magical thinking is a nice place to visit but I no longer want to live there.

"Correlation does not equal causation."

Yes, I know this well. And I was not implying in my revelation of my fears that it does. My fear is irrational. I know this. I know that the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was a culmination of many factors at the time. Having fleshed out much of that period of my life here on the blog, that is obvious. My point in this post was to say that once again I'm having to confront a belief system that I've held that no longer works for me. Perhaps this wasn't clear and became a debate about vaccination vs. homeopathy. It's not.

Having said all of this, I appreciate everyone for chiming in with their views. I have and will continue to investigate and research this issue with utmost diligence before deciding how to proceed.

Umlud said...

Oh, one thing to keep in mind: if you decide to take doxycycline to prevent malaria (which I took daily when I went to India), the recommendation of taking it with "full glass of water" should be followed, since - on the first night - I only swallowed it down with a sip. It got lodged in my throat and made it a little hard to swallow for a couple of days after that.

However, compared to Lariam (a once-per-week pill), 'doxy' doesn't come with the possible side effects of paranoia, vivid dreams, and visual disturbances.

tall penguin said...

Thanks umlud. I'll keep that in mind. I'm seeing the travel doc on Friday. I'm excited.

v said...

Hey again. Please don't downplay the effect of a vaccine on your immune system. It DOES affect the immune system (the whole point I think?), and in females that often results in auto-immune responses. It is rational to see a relationship between your vaccine and your symptoms if you look at it on a cellular level.

Also, be careful not to confuse artificial immunity with the real thing. They are not the same and they do not have the same cellular response. I'm not going to go into details here but I can if you would like more info you know where to find me.

Perhaps we are not clear that the principles of homeopathy and vaccination are identical? Take a small amount of a "x", dilute it, and administer it to protect against "x". The entire of concept of vaccination originated from homeopathy. The difference is that modern vaccines contain many preservatives and chemical suspension agents that bypass our entire outer protective system and are injected directly into our bloodstream.

Recommendation: The Sanctity of Human Blood: Vaccination i$ NOT Immunization

CyberLizard said...

I know you're smart, Anya. I like your thoughts on magical thinking. I love visiting the fantasy world too. I hope I didn't come off as too condescending. This is just something that I feel is critical to the health of everyone and it makes me frustrated that something as clear-cut and backed up with empirical data as vaccines gets attacked by those who would rather live in fantasyland.

"Perhaps we are not clear that the principles of homeopathy and vaccination are identical? Take a small amount of a "x", dilute it, and administer it to protect against "x". The entire of concept of vaccination originated from homeopathy."

v, this is complete bullshit. Homeopaths version of dilution means that there is probably not even a single molecule of the original substance remaining. They are essentially administering water. And water isn't going to protect kids against the measles. There are light-years difference between the magic energy of water (that can't be measured, can't be reproduced, can't have any effect) that homeopaths believe and the clearly beneficial and easily measured, reproduced and scientifically-based principles of vaccination.

Sorry to rant, this is just a pet peeve of mine. These anti-vaxers need to go play with the birthers, 9/11 truthers and other conspiracy nuts and stop trying to kill our kids by reducing the herd immunity of vaccination below the threshold where it can protect the population.

Drives me nucking-futs.

v said...

CyberLizard: look up the word "principle" in the dictionary. Obviously you don't know the definition.

I am not interested in debating what I already know and understand with some random internet user. I am only interested in helping a good friend of mine.

Much love Anya... follow your heart.

Phaedron Rising said...

Umlud and CyberLizard have some solid things to say on the subject.

"V" could very well be smart in some areas, but on this topic, I'd take everything s/he says and leave it in the garbage where it belongs. She tells you to follow your heart; I'm saying to keep this decision above the neck.

I started responding with my full thoughts on this, but it got too long for a comment.

Here:
http://phaedronrising.blogspot.com/2009/09/jenny-mccarthy-is-idiot-really-hot.html

tall penguin said...

Hey Phaedron, I replied to your post over on your blog.

And this discussion is now officially closed. It was never about the safety of vaccinations. In usual tall penguin style, it was about me exploring out loud my mental struggle to shake long-held irrational beliefs. I do not believe that vaccines caused my health issues. What I was saying is that it's surprising to me that those associations still sit in my psyche in spite of my rational brain knowing otherwise.

Of course, there are the usual documented vaccine reactions that I will have to take into account, as anyone else would when considering any kind of medical intervention. As I said, I will see a travel doc, do my research and make the decisions I need to make in an informed way.