Nephews Not Vaccinated---should I Worry?

Updated on December 03, 2009
A.P. asks from Dublin, GA
12 answers

My brother-in law and his wife do not vaccinate their kids. I do vaccinate my two children. They are 5 and 6 weeks old. My daughter is the oldest out of 7 grandkids and my son is the youngest. They are the only ones who do not vaccine in the family. Just curious if this will affect our children in any way. Thank you!

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So What Happened?

I worry the most around my 6 week old son because he has only had ONE vaccine.

AND- I get the flu vaccine every year and I still choose not to get around people with the flu because I know I can still catch it. So no, I would not want my kids around them if they did have the mumps even though they've had their vaccines.

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answers from Atlanta on

I am 100% behind Amber on this one!!! The facts or data about younger children (particularly young babies)depending on older children and people in general being vaccinated lies in the fact that if a 7 or 8 year old kid is carrying the measles virus for example, and they haven't come down with it yet but will in a day or two -they can give the measles to the infant. The 7 year old will most likely be fine -although sick -but especially with western medicine, possible hospital care, etc., the older kid will be fine. EVEN with all of that, the infant is likely to suffer brain damage or even death if he/she gets the measles. The mumps are horribly painful and easily lead to sterilization in boys if they develop in the testes. Not to mention, because of such easy global travel and people who haven't been vaccinated against anything, sometimes the REAL nasties like polio pop up. So, yeah, I would be wary of non-vaccinated kids in close quarters with my 6 week old infant. I STILL haven't heard one decent, sensible argument for not vaccinating a child. NOT ONE!

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answers from Atlanta on

Sorry to see you've gotten some very incorrect information from the anti-vaccination crowd.

Your 6-week-old is most definitely not vaccinated against pertussis yet, which can be fatal in an infant this age, even if "recognized and treated".

Unfortunately, these anti-vaccine folks (1) benefit from our children being vaccinated and (2) put our incompletely vaccinated children at risk.

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answers from Atlanta on

A., you said it right. Even if your children get the vaccinations for a particular 'disease', they can still get it. Vaccinations does not ensure that you won't get the disease.

I have friends in the medical field and they don't vaccinate their children. I have friends who home birth, don't trust hospitals and doctors, but do vaccinate. Everyone has their reasons, etc.

Having said that, I don't vaccinate, but understand why some do and why some don't. (My two oldest were vaccinated as infants...had all their shots and then no more. My two youngest never had any.) As husband and I don't get the flu shot, never have and I've had the flu about 3 times in my lifetime (I'm only 40yo.). We used herbs and have gotten over whatever has come our way and quickly, I might add. We rarely get sick and have very strong immune systems.

I wouldn't let fear from an unvaccinated child keep you away. Vaccinations aren't for everyone, some people just can't have them. I was vaccinated as a child and my sister and I lived :P through many illnesses that we were vaccinated against....measles, mumps, etc.

No illness has to get bad to the point of hospitalization. If you recognize and know what to do, it's a piece of cake taking care of your children when they are sick, including yourself. Sadly, too many people don't do anything and let it go too far and then go to the doc and yes, it's worse than it actually had to be. I could give you many examples, endless examples of friends that have done this in the past. If you nip it in the bud early at the first's over before you know it. Now I get calls all the time, especially from church members for help with their sicknesses.

But with infants and as young as they are, you have to be careful about just plain and simple germs. I would be careful when they are young even around kids that are vaccinated.

Just my .02.

Mother of (5) 4 living children

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answers from Atlanta on

Hi A.,
Your children supposedly have the protection and thus you have no worry. Your brother and sister in law take the responsiblity of the risk (and the benefits) of no protection.

Another appropriate thought is that the chances of your nephews giving your children something that they would be vaccinated for is so slim it is ridiculous. Pertusis is the only possible risk for your 5 week old, one that is completely recognizable and treatable (it is a bacteria that is treatable with antibiotics if acquired).

Happy Thanksgiving, J.

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answers from Spartanburg on

I also prefer to vaccinate my son. Since your children are vaccinated you should not worry for them to get sick if they are around their cousins that are NOT vaccinated (if they carry the virus for which your children got vaccinated, that is). There are different opinions on vaccines but fact is that for a long time they helped avoid the spread and the strenghtening of common viruses that could have affected many more people and get much more violent. Many vaccines (like the one against the flu, for example) have been around for the longest time and have been tested with the highest accuracy.
Dr. Bruce Sabin (google him if you like, he has an incredible story) discovered the vaccine against the poliomielitis and made a difference for every child of the world. He vaccinated his own children before making it available for everybody else. There is a huge amount of research behind vaccines and though some people have always been somehow skeptic (I remember seeing on history channel an interview to this mother who chose NOT to vaccinate her children against polio because she was "unsure", putting her children at risk in a time when polio was spreading like crazy in the US)I personally believe that vaccines make a huge difference and many people in history wished they had them!

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answers from Macon on

I say go ahead and be with the family but have rules around the baby--no touching, always wash hands, etc. The way I see is that you come across people every day (in stores, restaurants, parks) that may or may not have been vaccinated and there's no way of you knowing. So, just be sure to have rules around the baby to prevent germ spreading. (I do vaccinate my child BTW.)

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answers from Seattle on

(Anne-Marie, are you kidding?) Little babies depend on older children getting vaccinated. They don't get all vaccines right away and aren't protected until they do get them, obviously.

Your nephews do increase the risk of your kids and other kids getting sick, of course. I'd probably take extra precautions around them.

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answers from Charleston on

If you breastfeed, you are doing more good for your son's immunity than any vaccine could ever do. Everything you and your son come in contact with, you're body produces antibodies through breastmilk.

And as far as negative attitudes towards non-vac'ers. Well, there are crazies in every group. But you also have to realize that the entire population is not even eligible for vaccination because of medical exemptions, so there will never be "herd immunity" across the board for all disease. Nor can you force people to vaccinate that have religious objection.

Your best option is to breastfeed and watch your son for signs of illness if you think he's been exposed. You also weight the risk of exposure every time you walk out the door. However, like a muscle, the immune system does need to be 'exercised'.

I often wonder if we'd even need a shingles vaccine if we didn't vaccinate everyone for chicken pox. Much like a booster shot, exposure keeps your immunity to CP up, and I wonder if that function helped to keep the virus from showing up as shingles in older adults. Adults no longer have that exposure of their kids having chicken pox and the rate of shingles has risen, ykwim?



answers from St. Cloud on

Hi A.,

Just curious, if you trust the vaccines to protect your child, why are you worried?

And, no, your nephews are not putting your kids at risk.

And NO Amber, I'm not kidding. I would like to know where your research comes from that states that babies depend on older children getting vaccinated.

A., don't let people make you fear. Your kids will be absolutely fine.



answers from Atlanta on

Hi A.,

I don't think you have anything to worry about. Even though vaccinated children are supposed to be protected against certain illnesses it's not a fail safe. I don't vaccinate my children and I have found that my kids never get sick because they have such strong immune systems. The ingredients in the vaccines (other than maybe the active ingredients) are usually synthetic chemicals that will break down the immune system and cause the body to be susceptible to what is going around. My kids babysit sick children when no one else will and they don't catch anything.

Hope I helped!




answers from Atlanta on

Why don't you call your pediatrician and ask?



answers from Augusta on

information regarding mixing vaccinated and unvaccinated children from science blog.

Last night was a late night at work, and I didn't have time to apply my usual annoyingly long-winded analysis to a study that I found interesting and had intended to look at today. It'll keep. In the meantime, there are always the brief "link-and-comment" (or in my case "link-and-snark") posts. Also, there was an article a couple of days ago that I have been meaning to bring up since I saw it but somehow allowed myself to get distracted. With the impending resurgence of measles and other previously controlled or even vanquished infectious diseases, courtesy of Jenny McCarthy, Generation Rescue, and their supporters and enablers, the issue described in this story is going to become more and more contentious:

Karey Williams never thought a parenting decision would come between her and a good friend. The two had known one another for a decade, supported each other through infertility treatment and had their first babies around the same time. But when she told the friend that she had stopped vaccinating her daughter at age 1, the relationship abruptly ended.

"She said, 'Well then, your child can't come into my house,'" recalls Williams, 47, who lives in the Chicago area.

That's not the only time Williams has encountered conflict because of the decision she made for her daughter, now 7. "I've had people voice their opposition to me, that I'm ruining the herd immunity ... that my child would put their child at risk," she says.

The people voicing those sentiments are exactly right. Parents like Karey Williams are contributing to exactly that, and it is good to see that many parents actually understand this:

Jennifer Collado, 37, of Glen Rock, N.J., says members of her son's toddler play group were "stunned" when one mother mentioned that her child wasn't vaccinated. The group didn't kick them out though, and shortly after they moved out of state. But the group felt that information should have been mentioned upfront. "Someone pointed out to her that it was her choice to do that but that she was putting everyone's kids in jeopardy by not having her kids vaccinated," Collado says.


Many parents who choose not to vaccinate will argue that it is no one else's business but their own, that they're not hurting anyone. Poppycock. (I had intended to use another word, but I'm trying to clean up my language after a few recent lapses.) By their decision not to vaccinate, antivaccinationists make their child a potential nidus of infection for their community, something they either cannot understand or refuse to understand:

This is the part I'll never understand...if the parents who vaccinate their children have such confidence in the vaccines themselves, then an unvaccinated child could never harm their protected child. Which one is it? Do they believe that vaccines work with all kids 100% of the time or don't they?

Here's the simple answer: Vaccines are not 100% effective. Nothing in medicine is. They may be 99% effective, 95% effective, 90% effective, or even less. By medical standards, any intervention that's over 90% effective is a pretty darned good intervention, and most vaccines are at least pretty darned good, especially given how rare serious reactions are. But they are not 100% effective, and it is almost as foolish for parents who vaccinate their children to believe that vaccines will be 100% effective in protecting their children as it is for antivaccinationists to believe that vaccines do more harm than good. At the very least, it's naive. Also, there are children who for health reasons cannot be vaccinated and who thus rely on herd immunity. The larger the population of unvaccinated children, the weaker the herd immunity, and if the percentage of vaccinated children falls below a certain point herd immunity basically collapses. Indeed, one of the parents in the article doesn't seem to understand that:

Angela Corry, 33, of Shirley, N.Y., has faith that vaccinations are going to protect both of her girls, no matter who they encounter.

"I have no problem welcoming unvaccinated children into a play group, and I have no problem with them attending school," she says. "Simply put, my children are vaccinated, the risk is minimal. I may not agree with [other] parents' choices, but there's no reason to hold that against the child."

Actually, I would argue that it is the parent of the unvaccinated child who is responsible for any ostracism that child suffers due to their decision not to vaccinate. It is not incumbent on parents of vaccinated children to bend over backwards to accommodate non-vaccinators. Also, if herd immunity collapses, the risk will no longer be minimal, and, make no mistake about it, the antivaccine movement is a dagger aimed at the heart of herd immunity.

One thing that I find heartening this article is that the social norm is still to vaccinate and that most parents still support vaccination even in light of the contininuous antivaccine propaganda pumped out by Jenny McCarthy and her fellow travellers. Antivaccinationists may be tolerated in the abstract, but when the rubber hits the road and it's one's own children potentially at risk due to them suddenly that tolerance is severely strained:

But parents who don't know who's vaccinated and who isn't have their own concerns, highlighted by the measles outbreak in San Diego earlier this year that resulted when an unvaccinated 7-year-old boy traveling to Switzerland contracted measles. The virus spread to 11 other unvaccinated children at both his school and his pediatrician's office -- including a few babies who were too young to receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

When news of the outbreak hit, Dr. Ari Brown says her office in Austin, Texas, received a spate of questions from worried mothers wondering if there were any nonvaccinating families in her practice, which there aren't. "Parents were outraged," she says.

"From the vaccinating parent perspective, it's a little infuriating because you don't know who these kids are," says Brown, a vaccine proponent and co-author of the book "Baby 411."

Yes, it is, hence the question being asked of parents whose children are going to play with other children. Naturally, antivaccinationists are outraged:

"Do I think it's inappropriate to put a mark on people and kick them out from being able to participate in society, yeah I think it's inappropriate -- it's inappropriate and it's dangerous," says Barbara Loe Fisher, cofounder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center, a group in Vienna, Va., that describes itself as "America's Vaccine Safety Watchdog" and opposes forced vaccinations.

Fisher, "Libertarian" that she is who so forcefully opposes "forced" vaccination or anything that "tells her what to do about her child's health" seems to think that she should be able to make her decision not to vaccinate and face zero consequences, that she shouldn't face societal displeasure at her decision. In other words, for all her piously hypocritical appeals to "freedom," she clearly thinks her rights trump everyone else's. But what about parents who do the right thing by having their children vaccinated and do not want to put their children at risk from children whose parents are less responsible? This has nothing to do with government telling Fisher what to do and everything with shared values of society, where a parent wants to know if she's putting her child at risk by letting that child play with another child. As part of assessing that risk it's perfectly reasonable to want to know the vaccination status of the playmate. True, that doesn't eliminate the risk of being exposed to disease thanks to the unvaccinated in various public areas, but children playing together often involve close contact with the typical spitty and snotty hands that children in their lack of concern for hygeine often have, a far more effective means of transmitting the various infectious diseases that we vaccinate against than any random encounter with a stranger in a public place.

Now don't get me wrong. I understand that health information is private and that no parent is required to reveal her child's vaccination status to another parent. However, the flip side of that is that it is not wrong for a parent to ask about the vaccination status of potential playmates for her child. With that in mind, I'll make three points.

First, society is always a balance between competing interests of personal freedom and the good of society as a whole. In the U.S. we tend to value individual freedom over society, which has for many issues (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc.) served us very well indeed, although arguably not as well in others. Unfortunately, all too often advocates for "personal freedom" forget or don't care that the corollary of this balance is that one person's rights do not allow him or her to infringe on the rights of another. It's that whole "balance" thing, admittedly a cause of contention since the republic was founded. Given that schools and day care centers, with their large concentration of children in relatively small spaces, represent perfect incubators for children to pass viruses and bacteria between each other, it makes scientific, medical, public health, and legal sense to require full vaccination according to the currently recommended schedule before a child is permitted to enter school or day care, with the only exceptions being children who for medical reasons cannot be safely vaccinated. Indeed, the push for "religious" and "philosophical" exemptions undermines that protection and is intentionally being exploited by antivaccinationists to get their children into school to endanger the other children there.

Second, a parent has every right to ask about the vaccination status of potential playmates for her child. Parents of said potential playmate, whether they vaccinate or not, have every right to refuse to answer. However, the parent asking also has the right to judge for themselves whether they will accept that answer. Personally, I would not accept a refusal to answer and recommend to pro-vaccination parents out there that they refuse to accept a nonanswer as well.

Finally, and most importantly, what this conflict shows is that antivaccinationists seem to think they have some God-given right to inflict their pseudoscience on society as a whole. They don't want to vaccinate their child because of fears of autism or various other "complications" of vaccines based on fearmongering, pseudoscience, or religion? Fine, but there will be consequences, and I don't care if they don't like those consequences. Their choice based on fear is endangering the rest of society by making the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases more likely. If a parent makes the choice not to vaccinate, that parent should not whine when parents of vaccinated children decide that they do not want to risk their children's health by letting them play with unvaccinated children.

After all, if antivaccinationists claim have the right not to vaccinate, they should not be disturbed if the parents of vaccinated children also claim the right to take action to protect their child from the risks introduced into society by antivaccinationists "exercising their rights."

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