Vaccines: HMN meeting

Talk about a hot topic! Vaccines inevitably come up in my childbirth classes and people are often overwhelmed by all the information and misinformation out there on the web.

On January 3, 2012, the Sarasota chapter of the Holistic Moms Network that I help lead hosted a meeting titled Vaccines: A Balanced Perspective where we featured two special guest speakers who were each given approximately 5 minutes to answer each of 6 questions and then we opened it up to the floor for questions. We had approximately 45 people (plus babies) in attendance so plenty of questions and the meeting lasted from 7pm to 9:30pm.

But first, what is the Holistic Moms Network?

The purpose of the Holistic Moms Network is to generate awareness, education and support for holistic parenting and to provide a nurturing, open-minded and respectful community for parents who share these ideals. We share the belief that each individual is responsible for her own health and has the right and obligation to make informed decisions about her own well-being and the health and well-being of her family. We encourage moms to trust their instincts, to parent from the heart and to use their innate sense of what is best for their children. We welcome all individuals in an environment that does not judge or criticize.

We meet on the first Tuesday of every month at the Whole Foods LifeStyle Center in downtown Sarasota. Meetings start at 7pm and usually run until 8:30 or 9pm. We welcome guest speakers on a variety of topics from conscious parenting to nutrition, health to finances, green living to education. We sometimes have movie nights, cooking demos, roundtable discussions and more. We’d love for you to join us at our meetings and see what we’re all about!

All information provided at our meetings is intended for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional and individualized medical care. Please note that the opinions offered by our speakers are not necessarily shared by the Holistic Moms Network. We offer information on a variety of topics so that you can make informed choices based on a variety of opinions and perspectives.

If you’d like to learn more about the Sarasota chapter, ‘like’ our Facebook page to find out about upcoming meetings or to find a chapter in your area, visit

Our speakers for the vaccine meeting:

Dr. Stephen Lee is currently the Chief of Chiropractic Services at MacDill Air Force Base. He has been featured on newschannel 8 as well as ABC 7 and the Herald Tribune. He is certified in the Webster technique for babies in breech presentation, is a Member of the ICPA (International Chiropractic Pediatric Association) and is a member of Backpack Safety America. His prior private practice focused on families, children and pregnancy. Dr Lee is the father of 5 daughters.

Dr. Xavier Sevilla is a pediatrician at Whole Child Pediatrics. He has won several national awards including the “2003 Quality of Care Award” from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Xavier Sevilla is fully bilingual in English and Spanish and has appeared extensively on the local TV channels talking about children’s health related issues. He serves as the Vice President of the Florida Pediatric Society. He has two children with his wife, Maria, who is an elementary school teacher.

The Questions

As I mentioned, the meeting had two parts: first, we had six common question sets or vaccine discussion topics that I asked and that each speaker had approximately 5 minutes to answer. I’m sure everyone realizes that these are all impossible to answer in just 5 minutes, but we just wanted to get the conversation started. Then we moved on to part 2: opening it to the floor for questions.

With thanks to the amazing ladies at Maternally Yours, we were able to get the video recording of the earlier portion of the evening. See the four links interspersed below:

Q1. Herd Immunity
One of the common arguments on both sides of the vaccine issue has to do with herd immunity, with some arguing that unvaccinated children put the general population at risk, and others arguing that vaccines are not 100% effective and may cause as much damage to some as the diseases they are supposed to protect against. Can you please shed some light on the concept of herd immunity for us?

Question #1 is asked at 8:06 (before that we have introductions.)

Q2. Immune System
Some consider vaccination to be an assault on the immune system of a baby, whereas others consider it an essential step for optimal health and protection. How does the immune system of a baby work in the first year of life, how is that affected by factors such as his/her environment or diet, and how do vaccines affect the immune system?

Q3. Follow the Money
In vaccine discussions, just as in politics and many other areas of debate, one often hears the phrase “follow the money!” But is that really an issue in the vaccine debate? Do pediatricians really have quotas or get kickbacks, can insurance companies really dictate patient care, and do pharmaceutical companies really hold out on issuing new and better and safer vaccines until they’ve exhausted the current supply?

Q4. Trustworthy Studies?
Thanks to google, it seems that there are studies, reports and trials to support virtually any position on vaccines, either claiming they’re completely safe or that they’re a catastrophe waiting to happen or even a conspiracy to manipulate the population in some way. And of course we’ve all heard the controversy with Dr Andrew Wakefield’s MMR-autism studies and then the news about the doctor who debunked his study being indicted on fraud and embezzlement charges. So who can we trust? What should we as parents look for in the research to determine whether or not a study is objective and genuine? Are there unbiased trustworthy resources?

Q5. Alternative Schedules
Some parents feel comfortable following the CDC guidelines for complete vaccinations whereas others are more comfortable using a delayed or alternative schedule, such as selective vaccination or even none at all. Are certain vaccines more important or more effective than others? What should parents take into account when deciding whether or not to vaccinate their child against certain diseases?

Q6. Side Effects & Alternatives
It seems to some that the reported potential side effects of vaccines can be as painful or damaging as the disease itself. Have you ever seen any vaccine side effects in your patients? What should a parent look for and to whom should they report any reactions? Are there alternative therapies, such as homeopathic vaccines, that offer effective protection against or effective treatment of childhood diseases?

Open floor questions followed and included questions on vaccines and travel, speech delays, chronic disease, natural immunity, finding pediatricians and more.

Again, with thanks to the wonderful women of Maternally Yours, we were also able to get the audio recording of the latter portion of the evening. Here is the unedited recording of the last hour and fifteen minutes of the talk, which includes part of the open floor questions:

Click here to listen to rest of the Vaccine Meeting.

This was a popular meeting and we’ll do it again next year. What questions about vaccines would you like the speakers to answer?

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