Monday, October 18, 2021

What is a ‘booster shot’? And when should you stop vaccinating your child?


Here’s a question for our next podcast, Question of the Week. It’s the question a lot of mothers and fathers of vaccinated children have been asking:

What is a “booster shot,” anyway? Is it different from a “tiff,” which is another name for a vaccine the child received before the booster? Or does it just sound different, like “boo-err”?

In case you missed it, last month, my colleague Lena D. Sun broke news of the latest vaccine scandal: by beginning to include organic baby formulas and soy formulas, some manufacturers are offering organic versions of the now-generic vaccines they have been selling for years.

They are deceptively called products that are “in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements for manufactured foods and set by the FDA for infant formulas.” In other words, it’s organic only if you’re doing it yourself, and it really isn’t. (If you have a child, be the first to read about it in Lena’s story.)

My mother was a pediatrician, and I grew up knowing how baffling it could be for families with kids with any sort of illness — flu, whooping cough, strep throat — to wonder whether they should keep the child in the hospital, stay in bed, or take him to the doctor. The doctor would then open up his office and we’d look around the room at the full racks of organic baby formulas and other items — a Magic Bullet (does anyone else have one of those?!) — and say, “Oh, isn’t that a J&J Infant ‘Ironman’ formula? Oh, isn’t that a Moderna [Pharmaceuticals] drug?” We’d look at the shelf and say to one another: “How do we keep the truth from leaking out?” Nowadays there are other kids who get sick all the time and are constantly shaking with rage. Do we have a health system capable of keeping the truth from leaking out?

We discussed our questions with a panel of Times reporters — Peter Bart and Dana Goodyear, and Linda Chavez — on the new episode of The Lineup. I started my life as a science writer on a Mount St. Tammany newspaper, and I had the first vaccine in my lungs when I was 7. When I tell you I know someone who says “my uncle died of meningitis because of the measles vaccine,” you can bet they’re not talking about my uncle and all he’s done for my career.

I want to know how to talk to the parents whose only option is vaccinating their children. We’ll start with Hannah Dreier’s on this: She wrote an excellent column on Moderna’s new spray that strengthens the immune system and is supposed to prevent allergies. When Moderna says their product is “effective against all types of influenza and complies with FDA regulatory requirements,” we can let the company know if that sounds like an airbrushing job.

How do you encourage the people who make organic baby formula to keep it that way? One of our reporters, Amy Chozick, has more information. They can tell you how to replace the “modern” stuff that they have in their cabinets with homemade versions. It’s easier than you think, and much healthier!

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