Sunday, April 13, 2014

To Vax or Not to Vax

I've avoided this topic purposely because the simple fact is, people who are anti vaccination will remain that way and people who are pro vaccination will remain that way too.

But after having been in an immune deficient state and reading news stories about measles outbreaks I feel the need to comment.

I'm not a doctor so I'm not going to argue the merits of one study over another. I'm going to look at simply what I know.

Does the measles vaccine cause autism? I don't know,  again, I'm no doctor.  But here's my question. If the vaccine did cause autism wouldn't there be a hell of a lot more autistic people out there? I've got three kids...plus me, plus my husband, plus, well all the people in my immediate and extended family. Of those countless people who have been vaccinated....one cousin has a son who's autistic. Not an overwhelming number in support of the vaccination causing autism argument.

Smallpox was declared eradicated by the World Health Organization in 1979. Why? Because of vaccinations. That's great news right?! So amazing that in fact the only people who have to be vaccinated for it now are people who work in places like the CDC where they still hold the virus. Imagine if people ALL people were to be vaccinated against measles we could eradicate that too and then there'd be no need to vaccinate for it anymore.

I recently read an argument against vaccination asking what people did before vaccines - they were fine then. It's precisely that kind of stupid argument that makes me shake my head.

The answer to that question is simple. People got sick. Many died. Ask someone who had polio if they would have rather had a vaccine or the wheelchair they're in now because they can't walk.
The life expectancy of the average human has increased dramatically due to vaccines.

At one time the risks of the disease far outweighed the risks of the vaccine. Yes, I'm agreeing there are risks with any vaccine. Any responsible doctor will tell you that. But that was when the vaccines were new and the diseases ran rampant. Now that most people get vaccinated the chances of catching said diseases has decreased with makes it appears as though the risks associated with the vaccine are  more than that if the disease itself.

But therein lies the rub. If we all stop vaccinating to avoid the possible side effects the disease itself will make a stunning comeback (as it's attempting to do now) and boom - we're back to square one.

Let's talk about those who can't be vaccinated, those with immune deficiencies or other health issues that make it dangerous for them to be vaccinated or even the babies who are still too young. It's the herd immunity vaccination provides that protects them. And it's irresponsible of us to not protect not only them....but our own children.

And that brings me to the real issue at hand.

Google some images of people with measles or mumps. Looks like hell doesn't it? Why, I ask, would any parent want to take the chance that their child would suffer through that?

I don't buy into the argument that it's not a largely fatal illness and so we should just let our kids get it. Why? Why would you want your child to suffer?

When your child gets a fever do you give him Tylenol? When your child has a stomach bug do you give them some Gravol? Sure you do, because you don't want your child to suffer. How is this different? Sure, chicken pox is not really what anyone would consider a deadly disease but does that mean you want your child to suffer through 2 weeks of endless itching? Hells no.

We've all seen those posts on Facebook saying if you grew up the 60's and 70's and survived despite that fact that our mother's smoked and drank while pregnant, our houses had lead paint and asbestos, we rode in the car with no seatbelts (remember the station wagons with the seat the faced backward?) we didn't wear helmets, ate white bread and our medications didn't have childproof lids.

I'm glad I lived through all of that but I'm even more glad that my children don't have to. I'm glad that we, as intelligent beings, have progressed, learned the dangers of some of those things and made the necessary changes to ensure our health and longevity. Because in essence all the above is saying is that if it was good enough for me it's good enough for my kids.

Well not me. Just because it was good enough for me doesn't means shit. I want better for my kids and when they become parents I hope they want better for their kids than what they have now. It's not a slight against my parents that I want more for my kids that I had or me as a parent if my kids want more for theirs. It's evidence of progress.

In 2000 when it was time for Emily to get her first MMR I said to my doctor, "I've heard things in the news about how the MMR can cause autism." His response was succinct. "That's a load of crap." He made it clear that the choice was 100% ours but in his expert medical opinion there was no good reason to NOT give Emily her MMR. And so we did, with all the confidence in the world that he knew what was best.

When the chicken pox vaccine became available I asked again. "Is this necessary?"  His answer. "You had chicken pox as a child with no lasting effects. But is it a chance you want to take with your kids? At the very least, they won't have to endure the itching."

When it was time for Emily to get the HPV vaccine I asked him again, "I've read some scary things about side effects."  His answer, "You've just battled cancer. If there was a vaccine you could have had to prevent it, would you have taken it?" That's all I needed to hear. Hell yes, if giving her a shot will prevent that particular cancer then that is one less thing we need to worry about. Shoot her up doc.

And with every vaccine we've given our children I've asked my doctor - a person who has proven to me over the past 25 years as his patient that he has my best interests at heart - did your children get this vaccine? If the answer was yes then so did mine. If it's good enough for his kids, it's damn sure good enough for mine.

I doubt anyone's opinions on vaccinating have been swayed by me. That's okay. To each his own. I chose to vaccinate because, at the bare minimum, I didn't want to have to suffer through a sick child. Mundane illnesses like the common cold and the flu are enough for me to deal with thanks.

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