updated 8/24/2008 12:34:06 PM ET 2008-08-24T16:34:06

From a mother who lost a child to meningitis, a vaccine-preventable disease, to a mom whose toddler stopped talking after receiving recommended immunizations, some very vocal readers told us about the personal experiences that informed their vaccine decisions, in response to an story on vaccine-wary parents .

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"As a mother of an autistic child, I've certainly had my concerns about inoculations," writes Evelyn Gonzalez, who's from Boston. "However, I'm even more concerned about parents sending children to public places and schools knowing how easily disease is spread, when they haven't been given their vaccines."

Keep reading for responses from more parents:

I did not chose to vaccinate my children. They are grown and have had very little illness their entire lives. I feel this is due to their not recieving injections of chemicals into their bodies. The few times they were sick we used natural rememdies with excellent results.I reached the decision not to vaccinate through careful research. I am very happy I did this.
— Dolores Lewis, Scottsdale, Ariz.

My beautiful 5-year-old daughter, Rachel, died from a vaccine-preventable disease on Christmas morning of 2003. She received all of her vaccinations required at the time. But the one for meningitis was not required; and still isn't required in the state of California for this age group. How could a parent survive such a loss if they didn't do everything possible to protect their child; especially if the disease is as common as chicken pox or the mumps? Please let these parents know that children are still dying of preventable childhood diseases and they CANNOT PROTECT THEMSELVES.
— Joi Schrette, San Jose, Calif.

I chose not to vaccinate my children after one child developed a severe reaction to the vaccination. Also, I believe we are inviting a destruction to our immune system by disallowing it to fight the natural childhood diseases that come along.
— Mark, Humansville, Mo.

My 3 year old has some of his shots but not all. As parents we decided to go slowly on vaccinating him as opposed to flooding his body full of unnatural agents. When we heard about the measles outbreak we did get him a measles shot. I don't have any second thought to our process with vaccines.
— Jessica, Beaverton, Ore.

I am a mother of 4 children ages 11, 7 and 5 year old twins. My 7 year old was a normally developing child who talked and interacted with other children. However, after receiving his 15 month vaccinations he stopped talking and became very withdrawn. That was 6 years ago and he has yet to regain his speech although we have spent thousands of dollars on speech, occupational, and ABA therapy. I have chosen not to complete the vaccinations for my twins because I don't want to risk having to go through what I have been through with my son all over again. Many of us who choose not to vaccinate are not totally opposed to vaccinations and the benefits they can provide, but rather we are just asking for a safer vaccination schedule and safer vaccines. I hope that one day it will be possible to protect our children from disease without the fear of a life long disability like Autism. I choose not to vaccinate my twins because if they got chicken pox, measles, or even pertussis it would not be nearly as devestating as Autism has been for our son or our family.
— Lori Elliott, Amboy, Ind.

My child has received all of the vaccinations. Her pediatrician was always careful not to give too many shots at once and she is very healthy. I'm old enough to remember life without vaccines for measles and chicken pox and I suffered the consequences of the diseases. Measles, both kinds, Red and German, ruined my eyesight. Chicken pox left me with permanent scars on my face and body. I was so sick with the Red Measles that I also came down with pneumonia and almost died at the age of seven. If the vaccines can keep the majority of our children safer and healthier, it is worth the risks. It just makes sense not to get all of the vaccines at once.
— Barbara, Dallas

I am a pediatrician and vaccinated my daughter at the earliest permissible moment. If there were verifiable more serious side effects I would never have taken a chance on my precious angel. Unfortunately bad things happen. Children develop autism, seizures, retardation and even cancer. These occur with and without vaccination at a predictable rate. There is ZERO verifiable scientific data linking vaccines and more serious permanent side effects. Parents naturally want answers when their own child is afflicted in any way,and since vaccines are given mostly to children they are blamed irrationally. Avoiding vaccines for nonsensical, conspiracy theorist reasons are putting all children at unnecessary risk and lead to VERIFIABLE life-threatening illnesses.
— Glen Ogden, M.D., Dallas

I'm the mother of six children ranging in age from 32 years to 16 years of age. Parenting is a hard job for many reasons, but mostly because every decision that we make for them will inpact their lives some how.Everyone of my children (4 boys and & 2 girls) have recieved all the required vaccinations and those that are recommended for college students.Protecting my children is very important to me and I feel that this is one way to keep them safe from the fate of so many children in the years before immunizations were developed. Just like any part of parenting you have to weigh the good against the bad. Do I let them get a drivers licence? Should they go out after the prom? What college is best? Every day is a decision with an inpact to it so when ever you make a decision to keep your children healthy , it's a good day.
— Joanne Anderson, Honesdale, Pa.

I have chosen not to vaccinate my daughter. My stepson has autism which could put my daughter at a greater risk for contracting it. Currently she has come down with Rubella (german measles) she had a high fever for 5 days, following a rash from head to toe. Was she sick? Yes, and miserable. However, would I choose two weeks of that over a lifetime of Autism. YES!!!! With the rate of Autism on the rise 1 in 150. And no known cause of it, why wouldn't a parent whose child is at a greater risk decide to not put those poison's into their child's body?
— Heather Dowd, Newberg, Ore.

My children did have some vaccines BUT after my soon to be 3yr old regressed after a series of vaccines last yr I have stopped vaccinating them as I truly believe that all the poison in those shots caused his autism. I also wonder why unvaccinated children can be blamed for vaccinated people being at risk! IF the vaccines are supposed to be safe and protet them then those who are vaccinated should have NO reason to fear the unvaccinated children!!!
Stephanie Stanley, Worcester, Mass.

Yes my children were, as have my grand children been. Parents today are not old enough to know someone who experienced terrible side effects from child hood dieases. I think the parents should be charged with neglect and their children not allowed into public schools or daycare centers, they should have to tell other parents that their child has not been vaccinated.
— Debra McKenna, Fort Wayne, Ind.

While I vaccinated my child with everything the government advises, my child still got whooping cough because so many parents don't (or won't) vaccinate their children. The diseases mutate and become stronger and healthy children who's parents have taken every precaution get extremely sick. My child was horribly sick for an entire summer and no matter how many times we went to the doctor they couldn't figure out what was causing her cough because doctor's don't think to look for illnesses that children have been vaccinated against. Only after my child had become better did we learn that there had been an outbreak of whooping cough in our area. Shame on the parents that think they are doing their children a favor by not immunizing them. Not only are you endangering your childs life you are endangering every person that your child comes in contact with!
— Karen C., Sacramento, Calif.

When my kids (and the young parents of today) started school it was a requirement to enroll in school, as far as I knew. But, I would've had my children vaccinated regardless. Parents of kindergarteners today never had to deal with childhood disease as a certainty. In the '50's & '60's, it was so certain kids would get measles, mumps and chicken pox, that parents would make all their kids sleep with the first one who contracted a disease, so to "get it over with". Young parents weren't around to see children in iron lungs, and leg braces, wobbling on crutches regularly. They have never had to almost lose their hearing or suffer such after-effect from mumps or measles. They have never had to worry that they might contract measles while pregnant (because they most likely have been vaccinated for measles). They have no idea of what can be the new reality if fewer and fewer children are vaccinated. Young parents of today have benefited from the availability of vaccines and the requirements that school districts and state health boards had previously made. I shudder to think that our society cannot seem to learn from history, and since every generation seems to know it all better than any previous, we are doomed to repeat our history as well.
— Lynn Davis, Topeka, Kan.

I have a 10 year daughter with autism. I do not believe that any of her problems are a result of vacinations. But when I had a son 3 1/2 years ago, it was a subject that kept me up at night almost all 9 months of my pregnancy. Could I risk it? I did extensive research on immunizations, talked to many doctors (both in the autism community, at our family doctor's office and with other local peds). Based on my research I decided to not vaccinate him as an infant or toddler. As my son began to display excelled development and his because his health has always been so good, I did began immunizations for him recently. I try to do as few combo shots as possible. I want to make sure he is healthy both before and after each individual shot and that if there were to be any side effects I can pinpoint it to a specific one and not have to guess which of the 3-6 diseases, preservatives and additives a combo shot could have in it caused the reaction. It has been hard to find doctor's offices & clinics that will help me with this but my son has been fine with the more frequent visits. By the time he is 5 he will still be fully up to date on his vaccines for kindergarten. I feel good about this route. I feel that I am being socially responsible and at the same time making MY OWN child's best interests priority.
— Calleen Kenney, Sandy, Utah

Both my boys were vaccinated, 12 & 10 years. My youngest is autistic. I do not believe that vaccinations caused it. I believe that it is more complicated than that. Both my boys are healthy, smart and beautiful kids. Not vaccinating is more a risk than vaccinating. The real risk is placing our people and country at risk of disease because we are debating this issue.
Dawn, Portland, Ore.

Vaccinating children is stupid and reprehensible. We have absolutely no way of knowing what goes into vaccines. As recently as ten years ago they contained mercury derivatives which could cause ppermanent harm to anyone taking them. I inquired upon a visit to the county health department and was shocked and horrified upon ten minutes of searching to see it openly admitted (albeit in the smallest fine print) that these rumors were correct. If the government doesn't mind putting mercury in your children who knows what else the CDC may consider an 'acceptable risk.'
— PFC Alan Cherry, Salem, Ore.

While my husband was against vaccinating our daughter, I was not. I asked him to do some research prior to making such an important decision. I also did some research and still felt it was the right way to go. My husband did agree to vaccinate, feeling the risk was much greater for our daughter not to be vaccinated and contract a disease that would cause more harm to her than the vaccination itself. It was a tough decision for him. We did however, decided to separate the MMR vaccination which seemed to be causing the most controversy.
— Lyn Dellolio, Point Pleasant, N.J.

We choose not to vaccinate our children. Childhood diseases are not getting better, they are just changing. Vaccinations may happen to lower the original diseases, but they have opened up a whole new world of childhood diseases. We choose to keep our children safe and clean. If they happen to get sick then we know the Doctors are very capable of helping them through their sickness. We are certain there are risks with vaccinations and we are not willing to put our children through that. It is wrong for a government or any other group of people to tell us what is best for our children. This is not neglect or abuse. We are sincerely interested in the health and well being of our children. We are not ignorant or illiterate. That is why we have done the research ourselves and have come to the decision to keep our children safe from the unknown effects of vaccines.
— Anonymous, Iowa

My son has not been vaccinated for several years. He had convulsions and quit breathing after every vaccination and now suffers minor learning diabilities. It scares me, because I certainly dont want to lose him to measles, or hepatitus... or the vaccine.
— Bonnie Kennedy, Show Low, Ariz.

I had all of my children (3) vaccinated and would do it again without hesitation. I never had a second thought. Selfishness and carelessness of a minority could cause an epidemic. We are fortunate enough to have access to these lifesaving vaccines. I can't imagine that people want to go back to a time where parents have to fear losing their children to these illnesses.
— Diana, Alexandria, Va.

I am not vaccinating my daughter. There is no proven risk to a vaccine but yet there is no definitive evidence stating there isn't either. And, why is there a vaccine injury fund in the US? And there are thousands of parents who say that their children changed after certain shots. Kids need to get sick in order to build an immune system. For us as parents to try and prevent all these illnesses that are part of growing up is ridiculous. Plus, a lot of these shots are only temporary which leaves openings for our children to get the illness as adults which in most cases is a much worse illness, like measles, mumps and chickenpox. The risk of any child getting polio or diptheria is almost non-existent in the US. I would rather take the risk of mumps and have a few weeks of a sick child, than to risk permanent damage to my childs brain from a vaccine. For all those parents who don't know what to do, ask your Dr for the list of risks and side effects associated with vaccines. They usually "forget" to give us that.
— TK, Michigan

My husband didn't want our son to get most immunizations, not because of the health scares, but because he's a strict vegetarian who won't use any animal parts even to save someone's life. The research I did showed that many companies still use animal fluids for vaccines, so I went along with the decision to preserve family harmony. Still, I had and have grave misgivings. We used a religious exemption to let her attend school. I'd love to find out about vaccines that don't kill animals.
— Anonymous

We did vaccinate our daughter after doing research and asking our Pediatrician about it. He put our fears to rest by explaining the problems of the preservative in the 90's and discussed the current research available. Let's remember-these diseases were present in the US as recently as a generation ago.
— Adam Hoglund, Portland, Ore.

My child is 2 months old and I have 3 others all vaccinated, but my last son was fine until the mmr where things changed, he is now has autism, which I know was caused by the vaccination, so now my infant son will not get vaccinated until he is fully developed, so I will vaccinate him, but not all at once.
Cyndee Acosta, West Covina, Calif.

I stopped vaccinating my boys when my youngest was diagnosed with autism. At that point, my eyes were open to the dangers that parents are not told by their doctors. Now, after researching the topic, I've allowed my children to continue their vaccinations on a schedule that I feel better fits their immune systems. There's been such a rise in the number of vaccines our children receive (many times multiple vaccines are given at one time), and at an age where their immune systems are very immature. I'm not convinced that there isn't a subgroup of kids, like Hannah Poling, who's immune systems just can't handle these shots on the schedule that dr.s and pharmaceutical companies want.
— Sharon Drewry, Springboro, Ohio

I allowed my daughter's doctor to give my daughter the first vaccination. Later that day, my mom, a nurse, noticed that my daughter (6 weeks old) was having petit mal seizures. When I questioned the doctor, he said to continue with the next round of vaccinations, but to see a neurologist. We immediately went to the neurologist, who did a million tests, and found nothing to explain the seizures. We continued with the second vaccination and the seizures continued. We continued with appts with the neurologist, still nothing. I then decided to stop the vaccinations. It didn't take long before the seizures stopped. My daughter is now 5 1/2 years old and has no vaccinations, and no side affects of the seizures. I am forever thankful that my mother was able to see the signs and I did not cause severe damage by going against my gut and continuing the shots. My daughter is now entering kindergarten, and I was able to get a clearence from the NYC Board of Education. Please research before you start vaccinating your child.
— Alison, New York City

Our daughter, now 2, has NOT been vaccinated for ANYTHING. After doing MUCH research, my wife and I found that the risks associated with vaccines WAY outweigh the chance of her coming in contact and contracting something she hasn't been vaccinated for. Also, much of the recommended vaccines are for things that aren't likely to cause SERIOUS illness/death i.e. measles, chicken pox or hepatisis (which I highly doubt she'll come in contact with since she's only 2) etc. It's been our practice to help our daughter maintain a healthy immune system through diet, exercise, no medications what-so-ever (letting her body learn to fight off things itself)and regular visits to our family's chiropractor. And in doing such, she's the healthiest child we know having rarely been sick & never seriously ill in any way. We plan to continue our efforts to raise a child that is free from toxins & other immune compromising substances including vaccines.
— Deidra and Chrissy Pannell, Coppell, Texas

We have chosen not to vaccinate our 3 children. They are healthy, happy, intelligent kids. They have never been seriously ill. Incidentally, I contracted perussis 2 yrs ago even though I had been vaccinated, none of the kids contracted it. We are advocates of healthy living and see our chiropractor religously. The issue of thimerosol used as a preservative and the fact that a close relative had a severe reaction to a tetnus booster swayed our decision.
— John Thompson, Wilton, N.D.

Our third son received the DPT shot at 5 months of age and reacted to it. Very next day he had 14 seizures and today he is 46 and severely retarded. Drs. in Boston & Philadelphia both believe it was result of the shot. Older brothers had theirs with no problems, so naturally the youngest had his as it was required to attend school. Oh how we wished we had known what could happen!!!! Think about it before you have your children have those shots.
— Anonymous, Skowhegan, Maine

I absolutely vaccinated my son against diseases that I myself am safe from getting. How can you possibly look your child in the face and tell them "I'm protected from things that could kill me, but I won't let you do that."
— Alicia, Houston

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