Saturday, January 11, 2014

A bit on vaccinations

Vaccinations. To get them, or not to get them? That seems to be the question. When I had my daughter, I knew I wanted her vaccinated. I did a lot of reading about vaccines. About alternate schedules, regular schedules, alternate-regular schedules (ok, that last one,  I just made that up). I read about parents who a pro-vaccination; I read about parents who are anti-vaccination. I read statistics. I read side-effects. I decided my daughter would be getting her shots. 

There are many people who blast vaccinating children. They say washing hands is enough. Eating fruits and veggies will combat sickness. They say the side-effects of the vaccines are worse than getting sick. 

They say a lot of things.

This is what I know: I know I never want to experiences the pain of watching my child suffer through a needless illness that could be potentially fatal. I know I don't want to subject a newborn, who hasn't been vaccinated, to an illness that would almost definitely be fatal. I don't want my child to become a statistic of a disease. I also know there is a very small, very tiny chance that my children could experience side-effects from the vaccine they receive. And sometimes they do. They run low grade fevers, they lay around the house, they get a little bit red at the injection site. I know that there could be worse side-effects; however, for me, the benefit of the vaccine outweighs the risk. 

Recently, the flu has been in the news; this year it is hitting hard again. I already got my flu shot, as did Tom. Both of our kids are over 6 months, so they got their shots, too. I know the coverage of the shot is about 60%, but that is 60% more coverage than I would have without it. Also, it lessens the effects of the flu if you get it. Apparently, the age that is getting the flu the most this season is my age group. Why? Probably because people my age tend to think they won't get sick. They are strong, healthy, and can fight it off on their own. When they do get sick, they don't take care of themselves as they should, and get worse. My cousin, Greg, who is a paramedic, wrote this on his status the other day:

"So I just walked out of an icu that had 4 young adults intubated due to the flu. You think a flu shot is expensive? Try multiple days in an icu. You think you'll get sick? You won't need a tube down your throat from the vaccine."

Maybe I am crazy, but I would rather a little shot than a hospital stay.

A few misconceptions about the shot: it won't cause autism, it won't give you the flu (the virus is a dead virus, if you get sick after getting it, it is likely because you contracted the flu before getting the vaccine), and you can get a mercury free shot if you are pregnant. I did get the flu shot during both pregnancies-- I did not want to risk contracting the flu and potentially harming the baby. The shot also gives some coverage to the baby after birth, so Jack, who was born in peak flu season, had a little coverage from my shot.

So, yes, be sure to wash your hands. Eat well. Exercise. Get sleep. But, please, also consider getting vaccinated, not only against the flu, but against other diseases as well. Do it for yourself, do it for your kids, just do it.

(Also, watch the Christmas episode of Call the Midwife. It takes place in 1959 London, at the time of a polio epidemic. One of the boys contracts polio. It is powerfully moving, and makes me glad that there is a vaccine.)

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