Lately, there have been a flood of Facebook posts about vaccinating children against common childhood illnesses. This is in the wake of a measles outbreak in the United States that has been traced back to Disneyland. I have been trying to find the right words for this post, and as I started it days ago, that has clearly been a challenge. Some of my FB friends recommended things like, "vaccines: just do it" or "get your &%#* kids vaccinated". While those certainly sum up my sentiments, I was looking for something a little more...eloquent.
Vaccinating my children seemed like the easiest parenting decision I had (and will have) to make. Protect my kids from potentially deadly, and now preventable, diseases? Uh, duh. Sign me up. I mean, I already do things like put my kids in appropriately installed car seats, which protects them in the case of an accident. An accident that may or may not happen. I would never just put my kid in the car and go. I take precautions for their safety. I also do things like look both ways when I cross the street. Just in case there is a car coming. I put locks on the oven, on drawers, and on the cabinet with dangerous chemicals in it. Just in case the kids get curious and explore potentially dangerous areas. I do all of these things in case my kids do things that could lead to an injury. I look at vaccines no differently. These are shots that prevent a potential disease. While these disease may not always be deadly, they certainly can be. I also know that there is a possibility of an extreme side-effect with the vaccine, but there are also potential side-effects for antibiotics that my kids take when they are sick. I still give them the medicine, though, because the risk outweighs the danger of the infection spreading.
I think, however, the biggest problem I have with the latest vaccine tug-of-war is the rhetoric used (on both sides). One argument I have heard is the, "well, I had __________ when I was a kid, and I am fine." Ok, so you were fine, but a child who is immuno-compromised probably won't be fine. A child who is too young to get a vaccine, say a newborn, probably won't be fine. And, if you don't vaccinate your child, and your child passes along the illness to one of these children, things might not be fine for them. And, you never know, even if you got whatever fill-in-the-bank childhood illness, your child (even your healthy child) might not be fine. That chance of a really serious problem with the illness, however small, concerns me enough to get my kids vaccinated.
Next up: big pharma is just trying to get rich. They lie. They just want to make us think we need these medicines. Ok, I can't even write about this because the argument is so dumb. Go talk to child suffering from polio in India because he or she cannot afford vaccines that we can easily get in the United States. I am sure that child would have liked to received a vaccine to save him from paralysis.
I have also heard that these disease just died out on their own over time. Oh my goodness. No. Vaccines made the diseases go away. Please wake up people. They have eliminated common childhood diseases. The disease didn't just die out.
The last argument I have heard lately is, "well America is a country that values freedom, so this is just an extension of freedom (to choose whether or not to vaccinate children). Ok, well, if we are going to be truly free then, perhaps, we can stop telling women what to do with their reproductive organs. Maybe we can stop condemning people for their sexual orientation. If we truly value freedom, then shouldn't this idea of choice be extending to all, for all situations. This argument just completely snowballs out of control. (By the way, if someone truly values a "right to life" then I would hope they would advocate for vaccinating because, by not vaccinating, you might be taking away another person's right to life by passing on an illness that could kill them.)
Oh, and, I can't believe I almost forgot this one. Dear everyone...vaccines DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM. The people who put that article out have since rescinded it.
This generation of parents grew up without diseases because our parents vaccinated us. We don't know what measles are like, or polio, or mumps. Our parents did know what those diseases were like, so they got us vaccinated. They didn't want us to experience the disease that they experienced (or friend experienced or family members experienced). Our generation has become complacent. Too many of us have said, "oh, well, it won't happen to me or my child." This argument is also completely fallacious.
At the end of the day, I can't tell anyone how to parent or what is best for their child. Most, if not all, of my friends vaccinate their children, and the public school system where I live requires vaccinations. Vaccines, to me, just make sense. So maybe, in the end, "just do it" is sufficient enough.