Parents often reach out to us with questions on vaccination, particularly around how best to prepare for them. Our goal in this article is to arm you with strategies you can use to lower the risk of adverse effects to your child.
Please note: This article is not intended to offer a recommendation about whether to vaccinate or not. All statements made are based on existing scientific evidence as well as our experience practicing Functional Medicine.
Why do we need to prep our children for vaccinations?
Although it’s tempting to represent medicine as an exact science, the reality is anything but. Decisions about medical care, whether ‘standard of care’ or generally evidence-informed, are always about degrees of risk – is it a better decision to do intervention #1 or intervention #2 (and, by the way, ‘doing nothing’ can be an intervention choice).
When it comes to vaccinations, we are asked to choose between degrees of risk for our children – the risk of contracting a disease vs the risk of taking action to attempt to reduce the risk of said disease.
Vaccination programs can point to numerous historical successes such as the eradication of small pox and type 2 poliovirus, and significant decrease in others such as Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Overall, vaccination programs have significantly reduced the global burden of communicable diseases.
A point that isn’t often stated (because it weakens the argument for population-wide vaccination) is that there are potentially-conflicting goals of the group (i.e. public health) vs the individual: Public health goals for eradication of diseases require absolute adherence by everyone to the vaccination schedules they lay out, providing population-level benefits in the long run. However, some vulnerable individuals will experience adverse effects from vaccines, even as the population benefits. This is a fact acknowledged by the US Health Resources and Services Administration purely by the existence of its National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program which has paid out over $4bn in compensation for vaccine-related injury in its lifetime.
This compensation program goes some way to acknowledging a handful of potential risks. Yet it misses the potential for neurological and immune impacts that have been noted by some scientific researchers. Dr. Kelly Brogan a practicing psychiatrist in New York, has published a well-cited paper on the potential risks and risk factors of vaccines. Michael Stone MD, a deeply-respected Functional Medicine physician and teacher gives his view of the benefits and risks of vaccines here based on his decades of experience AND seeing the risks of either vaccinating or not vaccinating first hand.
Which child might be at risk for a vaccine adverse event?
Negative effects, while still relatively rare, may occur in individuals who have a different level of susceptibility. For whatever reason – genetic, environmental, nutritional, etc. – they are more vulnerable.
As big data genomics, epigenomics and metabolomics continue to advance, it is expected that we will get better at predicting who might be at risk for an adverse event by quantifying unique vulnerability levels. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet.
Some researchers have gathered together factors that might clue us in to an increased risk that would warrant a more cautious approach developed, ideally by both patient and clinician together. Here is an example:
Persons who might be at risk of developing vaccination-related autoimmune, inflammatory, or allergic conditions (adapted from Soriano et al, 2015 and Vadala et al., 2017)
- Those with prior post-vaccination autoimmune activity
- Those with a medical history of autoimmunity
- Those with a history of allergic reactions, and especially vaccination-related reactions
- Those with a family history of autoimmunity or allergy
- Asymptomatic carries of autoantibodies
- Genetic variations in the HLA gene family
Despite these helpful pointers, we still recommend all children receiving vaccines prep for them with the natural and safe recommendations below.
Formulating a vaccination plan
The decision about how and when to vaccinate should ideally be made with a trusted qualified provider who can assess the individual needs of each child. The first step is to determine a vaccination schedule that meets the child’s needs and reduces exposure to cumulative vaccine adjuvants such as aluminum.
We like Dr. Elizabeth Mumper’s (The Rimland Center for Health) vaccine schedule as an example of how to optimize the timing of vaccine administration. Dr. Fitzgerald’s balanced conversation on the topic with Dr. Hilary Andrews is also a wealth of information when it comes to vaccination planning.
How to prep your child for vaccinations
Having decided on your plan, here are our recommendations for supporting resilience during vaccination:
- Begin 3 weeks before and continue for 1 week after vaccine administration (choose a liquid or powder format, that can be mixed into food as needed):
For ages 5-12 months, per day:
- Vitamin D (800 IU)
- Vitamin A (1,500 IU)
- Omega 3 (500 mg/d EPA + DHA)
- Pediatric-specific probiotics (1/4-1/2 tsp)
For ages 1-5 years, per day:
- Vitamin D (1200 IU)
- Vitamin A (2,000 IU)
- Omega 3 (1000 mg/d EPA + DHA)
- Probiotics (1/2 tsp)
- For the ‘critical three days’ (the day before, the day of, and the day after vaccination), the following are safe for use in infants and children:
- Bath (temperature appropriate) containing:
- Chamomile, elder flowers and/or lemon balm: Steep 1 cup of the dried herbs in 8 cups of boiling water, covered for about 30 minutes. Strain and pour into a warm bath. Increase the amount to 2 cups of dried herbs from age 2-5, when using a full-size bath
- Dissolved Epsom salts
- Bath (temperature appropriate) containing:
- Optimize hydration: Good hydration is always important, and it especially assists with the mobilization of toxins, including vaccine adjuvants from the body.
- Breastfeed: Breastfeeding, where possible, is not only calming to an infant (potentially stemming stress-worsened immune dysregulation) but confers many nutrients and compounds that improve general resilience. It is important for Mom to stay generally nutrient replete, take care of gut health and minimize toxin exposure too.
- Don’t administer vaccinations when the child is sick or is around people who are sick. Nor when the child is exposed to high-stress events. If you’re working with a Functional Medicine pediatrician, they would also be able to check that there is no underlying inflammation going on (e.g. high CRP, quinolinate) that could potentially worsen an adverse effect.
- Administer vaccines on a Friday to minimize exposure to infections at daycare immediately after.
- Avoid cigarette exposure and minimize exposure to other toxins in general – choose ‘clean’ baby, personal and home care products. The EWG is a great source of information here.
- Don’t forget your child’s diet! Keep it ‘clean’ (i.e. mostly organic) and nutrient dense. Avoid pro-inflammatory junk foods and sugary foods.
Additional Recommendations for Breastfeeding Moms:
The following nutrients for Mom, whether as supplements or through diet, may also support resilience in baby:
- N-acetyl cysteine
- Vitamin C
If you’re not currently breastfeeding, you can speak with your Functional Medicine provider about the possible short-term inclusion of those nutrients, administered directly to baby, that are not already covered above.
These recommendations are of course no guarantee of outcome. However, they are what we use in clinic and for our own families. Share your own stories and thoughts below!
Thank you so much for sharing this. Truly, can’t say express how thankful I am to have these resources clearly laid out in one trustworthy source.
I wish you had mentioned vitamin C for the child’s vaccine preparation: https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/10/30/prevention-vaccine-reactions.
Thanks, Elizabeth! Vitamin C is a superb addition. DrKF
Thank you for this valuable information!
I’d love to know recommendations for teenagers.
Also, I disagree with the suggestion to have vax on Fridays because if there is a reaction, the doctor office will be closed!
The reason for the Friday recommendation is that your child won’t be exposed to any sick kids in school immediately after getting vaxed. If this ISNT an issue for you, or you want to do the vaccines mid-week, that’s fine. DrKF
This is great information! Vaccines are administered well beyond age 5 though, would this same plan work for a teen or young adult?
Yes. This plan is suitable for any age- but do consult with your local Fx Clinician for individualization DrKF
Thank you for writing this!! There is such an anti-vaccine campaign going on but people forget there are consequences to not getting vaccinated also. I had measles as an adult and as a result a kidney disease followed by Hashimotto’s… which I believe stemmed from the infection getting and staying in my kidneys. Someone else I know went deaf after measles…. It’s reassuring as I’ve always questioned my choice to vaccinate my children as where I live is a highly anti-vaccine part of the country. Thank you!
Many people get auto-immune from vaccines as well.
There have been several studies indicating that vitamin A supplementation with vaccines actually can affect the potency of the vaccine. It apparently improves the effectiveness of the measles vaccine in boys. However, it appears to INCREASE MORTALITY when combined with DPT, especially in girls. I suggest that you review these articles and amend your recommendations, as soon as possible.
Thank you for contributing to the discussion. The studies we have that show negative outcome from vitamin A supplementation (specifically for the DPT vaccine) are from trials carried out in Africa where extremely high doses of 100,000-200,000 IU were used (up to 100 times what we’re recommending above). Dosing is very important – what we’re recommending is a much lower, ‘everyday’ dose that can be routinely found in multivitamin supplements.
Can you take NAC while breastfeeding?
Hello, although NAC is a naturally occurring substance in the body, there’s not sufficient data to establish safety in breastfeeding. The recommendation is to avoid.
What are your thoughts on giving a chelation substance (EDTA or DMSA, for example), even in an IV (understanding the possible administration difficulty with a child) to the child around the time of a vaccination? Considering aluminum is one of the biggest concerns in a vaccine in terms of developing autoimmunity and an inflammatory response, would it make sense to chelate either before or after in an attempt to minimize the effects of any metals in the vaccines? I’m particularly thinking of kids who may be defined as more susceptible in the first place. And this would be an adjunct to other preventative measures, including the ones you mention (thanks for those also!).
Joya, thanks for reaching out. I wouldn’t recommend chelation for this purpose. But we can think about additional nutrients to support aluminum detox. DrKF
Thank you for such a great article. I am currently pregnant and due in 2 weeks and this vaccination issue has been driving me crazy. I can’t find any pediatrics that would work on an alternative schedule and my husband is not on board with the alternative vaccine schedule either, unfortunately.
I really want to make sure I am doing everything else to make sure I can build up my child’s immunity against the side effects of vaccines.
I would really appreciate your guidance on what would be the best protocol to follow for the first set of vaccines that are given at the end of 2 months & 4 months? What supplement dosing should I take and can I give any supplementation to the 2-month-old baby? If yes which ones?
Looking forward to your response.
reach out to Rhonda at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a brief consultation with one of our nutritionists who can address appropriate supplement protocols for you and baby. DrKF
Thank you so much Dr. Fitzgerald. I did set up an appointment with Lara.