I am not a scientist.
I say that to get it out of the way and let you know up front what sort of blog is this is going to be. There are plenty of articles and blogs out there that provide ample research and reasoning in support of vaccinations. The comic I’ve excerpted to the left is a great primer and is fun to read to boot. It gives a basic rundown of the objections raised by the anti-vaccination crowd and answers them in the best format for communicating ideas man has yet created (yeah, that’s right). If you’re looking for something more detailed, this exhaustively hyperlinked blog has basically done all the work for you. The point of both the comic and blog is this: vaccinations are good and believing otherwise is not a good idea.
You want to debate the science? Go check out the above links. I’m gonna approach this topic the only way I know how: as a parent.
* * *
If you’ll allow me, I’d like to sum up the entire vaccinations issue with one sentence: You don’t mess with Disneyland.
Wait. Let me add periods for emphasis:
You. Don’t. Mess. With. Disney. Land.
It’s no wonder the internet exploded with rage when kids with measles started pouring out of Disneyland. What’s happened since is a collective freakout the likes of which we only see once in a young, blue pop star. Because you don’t mess with Disneyland. It’s the happiest place on Earth. You’re supposed to come back with a Mickey Mouse balloon, not a fatal disease.*
I think we’ve all been more or less content to go along with the existence of the anti-vaccination crowd and not bother with them too much for this long because, until now, they never stopped anyone from going on Space Mountain. Now, they have. Now, we’ve got our Hannibal Buress moment. There’s a new spotlight on the issue and it’s bright.
I hate even bringing this up. Not only do I have family on the other side of it, but I’m very much a “let people decide for themselves” kind of person. I respect a person’s right to conduct their family affairs and raise their kids how they want. I believe in choice. I believe in agency.
But I guess I don’t believe in my kids dying.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. “Dying?” Man, what a jump and a mighty gun that is. That kind of language is just inflammatory. I mean, there’s sick and there’s death. One doesn’t always–or even usually–follow the other and lots of kids have had measles through the years and not died from it. Tons of them just get brain damage or go deaf. Sheesh.
While that may be true, for my middle daughter Cami and for a lot of kids just like her, certain sicknesses–sicknesses like the ones (hopefully not still) in residence at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and preventable by vaccinations–are a likely death sentence.
So you can imagine my joy a couple months ago when she got a bad case of Whooping Cough that quickly developed into pneumonia. There was a time when we made a yearly visit to the hospital to get Cami the proper care for an annual battle with pneumonia. How fondly I remember holding her weak little hand while she did her best to breathe through her wheezing. Last month, it was with the greatest of nostalgia that I looked forward to (not) sleeping on the ER floor and subsisting on a diet of vending machine crackers while wondering if my daughter would live through the night.
Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. Being old pros at this, my wife and I got Cami in to her doctor within hours of the pneumonia symptoms showing up and righted that ship in time enough for her to not be admitted.
“But wait,” I don’t hear you saying. “That all started with Whooping Cough? Maybe I need to go back and read this blog again. Aren’t you advocating for vaccinations? How did Cami get Whooping Cough in the first place if she’s current on her vaccinations?”
Great question. Well done. How did Cami get Whooping Cough?
As a child with special needs, Cami has a lot of challenges in life. One of the challenges my wife and I have to pay special attention to is her weak immune system. Some people forget about kids like Cami when they say things like “Theoretically the only people who should be getting the measles are those who are not vaccinated.”** Even setting aside the issue of children who are not eligible for the MMR and other vaccinations due to cancer or age (but who are still very much susceptible to the measles, et al), and herd immunity and the accumulative wrongness of too many people making what they think is a purely “personal” decision at the same time, it is simply gross ignorance to assume that vaccines are 100% preventative. They’re not.
Cami was vaccinated against Whooping Cough and she still got it because she’s weak and it was around to get. That’s it. This disease that was on its way out is roaring its way back and mowing down kids like Cami in its path. We were fortunate in that the only bad things to come out of her bout with Whooping Cough were a short case of pneumonia and a persistent, violent cough that will probably be sticking around for another four or five months. I can even hear the cough waking her up in her bedroom right now as I’m typing this late at night.
Cami was vaccinated but some kid or kids around her were not, so she got Whooping Cough. My wife and I have now been shoved kicking and screaming into a whole new era of parenting: Cami’s pediatrician is advising us to keep her away from all children who have not been properly vaccinated.
If that sounds impossible to you then you’re sane.
In trying to deal with this new paradigm, we sent out an email to our extended family to ask for their assistance in keeping Cami safe. Here’s an excerpt:
We do not intend to offend with this email, but if you choose to not vaccinate that puts us in the position of also having to make a choice.
Obviously, the only sure way to keep Cami safe is to put her in a bubble and hide her from the world. That’s kind of ridiculous. However, if we know Cami is headed into a situation where adults or children are present who have not been vaccinated, then we will act on that knowledge, and when we don’t know and can’t know—at school and the grocery store for example—we will proceed just as we always have.
We admittedly don’t know what all of the far-reaching implications of this policy might be. We’re doing our best over here to deal with what’s been handed to us.
All we really know is that we’ve got to do what we can. This is our sacrifice to make, so if any of you will be attending a family function who might be a risk to Cami, we are not asking you to stay home. We will keep Cami home.
A calm, reasonable person wrote that email. We weren’t trying to berate anyone or force them to do anything other than what they felt best, we just wanted to protect Cami. That was our only motivation.
But I’ll be honest with you and admit I find it increasingly more difficult to keep a cool head on this issue. I respect everyone’s right to choose, but I find myself wondering if, on this matter, I really should. Where does your right to choose end and my child’s right to live begin?
I’m far from the only one wrestling with this. One father in Tiburon, CA has already made his mind up about it. He wants to take the choice away from the parents in his school district for the sake of his son with leukemia. Is he a good dad or a villain?
And what does it mean when the LDS (Mormon) Church (a religious organization that cites personal agency as one of the basic tenets of its faith) implores its members to get properly immunized and actively assists in efforts to immunize the world?
Not to be inflammatory (but, let’s face it, that’s totally what I’m about to do), but how much difference is there, really, between driving drunk and choosing to not vaccinate? In both instances you’re talking about a “personal” choice that could result in negative, life or death consequences for the individual or those around them… or not. It’s the “or not” part that empowers the inebriated the world over to climb into two ton vehicles and clumsily weaponize them on the open road (the alcohol helps, too). If you don’t vaccinate your kids, I can’t help but want to protect my child from your drunk driving.
See, my child is Disneyland. She got Whooping Cough and was fortunate enough to not get measles (so far), but she’s my Disneyland.
And you don’t mess with my Disneyland.
Bottom line: if you’re going around thinking everything is fine and all of this worry is for nothing because vaccines are evil and your kid is fine and can run and play just fine and your decision to not vaccinate only affects you and your child anyway, I’m sorry, but that’s simply not the case. There’s a lot of kids out there who are not as strong as all that. And there’s going to be more every day if you keep not vaccinating.
But, hey, congrats on having super healthy kids. I truly hope they stay that way.
*If I was a Disneyland cast member, I’d be ticked. Do you know how hard they work to keep that place clean and disease free? I swear if you drop a piece of trash there it disappears into another dimension or something before it hits the ground. You could eat pizza off those sidewalks. (But not the pizza in Tomorrowland. That stuff is gross. Sorry, Mickey.)
**Actual quote from a recent discussion on Facebook.
16 thoughts on “Congratulations on Your Super Healthy Kid”
Every parent goes through the day when the doctor sits them down and says it is vaccination time. You like at the risks and you shudder. It is a roll of the dice and worse…it is with your precious baby. Your Disneyland!
I always took it for granted that parents just thought beyond that. Thought of why our children are not in iron lungs and why Pakistan and a few other pockets of the world still have children dying today of Polio. Why infecting others…countless others…is just as important as your life and your child’s.
Thanks for this. I never factored in the children with compromised immune systems and yours is a powerful story as well.
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You’re right, there is a certain amount of risk with vaccinations and I’ve heard of terrible tragedies happening after kids are vaccinated, but, sadly and coldly, this is a numbers game. Far, far more deaths can be prevented by everyone vaccines than can be caused by them. As you say, we’ve got to “think beyond” the risks. When we do, the choice becomes clear.
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I don’t have kids myself, and I will be honest, I didn’t get the N1H1 vaccine when it was released and my workplace offered it to us for free if we wanted to. I am not going to be one of those anti-vaccers out there to say that I chose not to take it on basis that it could harm me more than it could help me, but I will say that when that vaccine came out, I was a skeptic. Not at the vaccines effectiveness, but more about the rising numbers of stories the media served up about how this vaccine was still not fully tested and tried and how a noticeable percentage of people where showing side-effects like narcolepsy. My sister and my mother did however take it with no ill results, and that should have been reason enough for me too, but I didn’t take that vaccine. Another note on that is that a friend of mine supposedly got the flu himself, and while he wasn’t in the high-risk group, he still could have been seriously ill. Luckily for him, he hardly had any symptoms, and while we won’t know for sure if it was the flu or not, the strongest symptom he had of it was feeling less energetic than he usually would feel and mild nausea and headache.
So where am I going with this? Well, it is as much of an acknowledgement on my part as it is a vote of support for everyone who is pro-vaccines. I made a bad choice in not taking the vaccine. I work as a bus driver so I am exposed every day to potentially sick people. I was never sick but that is more luck and good hygiene than anything else. I have taken the measles shot, and the polio, and the tuberculosis among many others. I have no kids, but I have two awesome nieces whom I want to keep safe. They are my (hopefully) future kids playmates as much as they will be my disneyland and I want to keep them safe.
While you may believe in the personal freedom of choice on this matter, this is where we differ though. For me there is no choice. If we have the option and we can get the vaccine, then it is our duty to get it. Not for ourselves, but for everyone else, like your kid. While you are going out of your way to not influence anyone else, it should be the other way around. We should go out of our way to make sure those anti-vaccers by court of law are forced to take the vaccine if they can. If there is no argument not to take it then they have no excuse. All those autism rumors that have been going about about vaccines have been countered and killed completely time and time again. Your right as a parent is to protect your child in any way possible. If not getting a vaccine is comparable to a drunk driving (and I believe that is a very valid comparison) then you have the civic duty to either take the drunk persons car keys away or if you can’t, make sure to flatten every tire, steal the battery and do whatever needs being done to stop them from killing an innocent.
This is a great post and I am glad you wrote it! I am a bit over the vaccination discussion as I feel in this case it is not about ‘my decision vs your decision’ but rather about ‘the risk of one child getting seriously ill vs the other child not having to face a needle’. Iwonder how people would react on a possibility to vaccinate against Ebola before travelling into a risky area… I bet most of the people against vaccination would take the shot anyway… When I first was facing the do you want to vaccinate your child question I was having second thoughts too. I remembered asking the doc why we should as we all clearly had survived all those things. And she started explaining to me what measels can do to kids with a bad immune system or kids in a third world country where they don’t have the tools or the money to properly treat them. And it opened my eyes big time!
In your Ebola example you speak to a certain irrationality that I think is inherent in the arguments put forth by the anti-vaxxers. I think, for a lot of them, it’s an emotional and perhaps even rebellious decision. Given more extreme, obvious circumstances, would they choose differently? I agree with you, I think a lot of them would.
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Reblogged this on A Momma's View and commented:
We always vaccinated our kids and will keep doing it. And to be honest, I really struggle with people who do not vaccinate. For me in this case it is not a “your decision vs my decision” thing as this “your decision” affects other kids to a point where it gets dangerous.
When we were first confronted with the decision about vaccinating or not I asked our doctor why it is so super important. I remember saying that after all, we have been through it all and have survived. I remember using the word ‘survived’. She looked at me and told me that our kids will probably be totally fine if not vaccinated but that they would be a risk to kids with immune systems that are not up to scratch. She also mentioned how many kids in third world countries pass away from deceases we handle pretty well. Just because they don’t have the money and/or the tools to deal with it. For me that made the difference.
Yes, I take a risk when vaccinating my children. But it is really small. So far we were lucky and our kids reacted well on the vaccines. Our doc opened my eyes to the bigger picture and I kept them open.
Thanks for reblogging! Very cool of you.
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This is even more difficult as there are studies that indicate vaccinations themselves can cause death. I once knew a gal who was completely convinced vaccinations caused her child’s death and she actively lobbied to end them. Studies can be skewed in so many ways, it’s hard to know which information is being presented in an unbiased manner and which is not. Add to that many folks from other countries entering the U.S. who have not been vaccinated – I’d keep my child in a plastic bubble if her immune system was compromised. If family/friends were offended, oh well…
Studies can be skewed, that’s true, but I think the evidence in favor of vaccinations goes way beyond studies. We’re having real outbreaks and they are timing up perfectly in an increase in the number of parents in the US choosing not to vaccinate their kids.
I understand where you are coming from. My daughter had a reaction to the whopping cough vaccine in her first year, and couldn’t get it after that. Then whopping cough started coming back and I had a child who couldn’t get the vaccination. Last year when she was in 8th grade the doctor decided she could get the vaccination and not have a reaction, so she got it, and I was so relieved. I hope your friends and family are respectful and understand what you are going through.
Thank you for addressing one of my main frustrations with the discussion on this topic. The conversation is not just about whether or not vaccines prevent illness, at what cost, etc. It does not stop there! It is also about the vaccines preventing people from becoming CARRIERS of an illness. I know some people who recently became grandparents. They IMMEDIATELY got vaccinated for shingles, so that their new, unvaccinated grandbaby wouldn’t be inadvertently be exposed to Chicken Pox through them (you can catch the Chicken Pox from Shingles). If you can receive vaccines and choose not to, you are making a choice to potentially become a carrier of diseases and expose others to them. You’re giving an open invitation for measles, mumps, ruebella, menengitis, whooping cough, etc. to follow you around everywhere you go, even if YOU never contract the illness or symptoms. It’s just rude, I say. RUDE.
Oh how well you put this. The vaccination debate is not so hot now in the UK but as a health professional I come across pregnant women and parents who are reluctant to vaccinate both themselves and their children every day. Like you I was always in the “its your choice, its your body\ child”. Camp until my husband became immunocompromised and I realised the implications for society at large. Every unvaccinated child puts children like your Cami, YOUR sisters children who might get leukaemia, YOUR husband who might get heart disease, YOUR mum who might get breast cancer, YOUR grandmas with bone marrow disorders and YOUR dad having chemotherapy, YOUR pregnant wife who is more suceptable to flu, children and adults living with HIV and many more people who’s immune systems are lowered.
So for me its a no brainer. Unless you as prepared to keep yourself and your child in a bubble to protect society, you get yourself and your child vaccinated…….that is the choice.
Thank you, thank you.
My oldest had seizures on his second day of life. And no it was not due to a HepB vaccine, because this was in the late 1980s. That was when the bit about DTP vaccines was being questioned in the UK and the documentary “DPT: Vaccination Roulette” came out.
So my son only got the DT vaccine, just as our county started to have a pertussis epidemic. Fun times. Especially since he ended up in the hospital multiple times due to croup.
I made it a point to ask if the children he came into contact with were vaccinated. I only had one person smugly tell us her doctor said her kids don’t need them. So no more contact, and it was no great loss.
Oh, and here is the really cool thing about having a special needs child before the age of the internets: no support system. I had joined a mom/baby/toddler group for those who had a second child after the little one was born. But a few months in I got a call from one of them to stop talking about all of the medical appoints and therapy stuff I had to deal with because my oldest could not speak. Again, more fun times.
I wish there were options surrounding vaccinations. My new granddaughter is about to begin the rounds..Her parents chose to keep her unvaccinated for a while, simply because she is SO tiny. She is just too small to have to deal with the live vaccines they suggest at 3 months. The decision to wait was hard. For them, the measles vaccine won’t be available til she is 1. They work hard to keep her exposure to others minimal..both for the babies sake and other childrens sakes. We all just wish there were more options as to when to vaccinate – so it suits the child, not the clinic..I applaud your protection for your daughter. I would do the same. Just please know its not always ‘all or nothing’. With some of us its a balancing game waiting for the strength..
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