So, with all the talk in the media about anti-vaxxers I had to weigh in.
There’s absolutely nothing more that a parent wants than to raise a physically, mentally, and emotionally strong child. I don’t think anyone doubts that. I believe the whole movement toward anti-vax was brought on by fear mongering, ignorance, and perhaps even complacency. The thing is, that what you avoid could be the one thing that your child needs the most. It’s a serious issue that can’t be ignored or dealt with in the manner of out of sight/out of mind.
The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) inoculations became standard around 1971. This was just after me and five of my brothers and sisters were laid up with mumps. In those days many parents saw it as an inevitable rite of passage through childhood but they also dreaded the possible side effects like infections and swelling of the brain just to name a few. I remember my mom talking about how having the six of us down with mumps was difficult to deal with because we were so sick. I can’t even imagine.
And then there’s measles which is not just a harmless childhood disease. It can kill. According to the BC Centre for Disease Control: One in 10 cases will have ear infections (causing deafness for some) or pneumonia; one in 1,000 will have measles encephalitis which could result in permanent brain damage; and one in 3,000 will die from respiratory and neurologic complications. It’s not something to mess around with—you don’t want your kid to be the “one”.
And let’s not forget about rubella—also know as German measles. It’s one that we don’t hear about very often but it can have tragic consequences for pregnant women in particular. While the symptoms can be mild for children, if a pregnant woman comes into contact with rubella in the first trimester it can cause fetal death or serious birth defects.
Rubella isn’t one that’s made a come back in the news yet, but it’s just a matter of time. Again, it’s preventable to a point where if the majority of people are immunized they can act as a protective barrier against the spread of infection. You see, the idea of getting rid of a disease is for the betterment and strength of a society as a whole. Those who can’t be vaccinated because of allergies, age, pregnancy, or severely compromised immune systems are surrounded by those who don’t bring in the disease because of immunization. Does that make sense? Simply put: it’s up to the rest of us to ensure our immunity so we don’t spread it to those few who can’t be immunized. The fewer people who go unvaccinated the safer, and stronger, the society is as a whole.
The recent measles outbreak serves as a reminder that our world is small and immediate. An otherwise healthy unvaccinated individual can travel to an area of the world where diseases are not under control, contract the disease, return home, and spread it around before any symptoms show. This needless re-introduction of measles, mumps, or rubella puts others at risk, costs money for the health care system, and is, for the most part, preventable.
While the government hasn’t taken the route of making vaccines mandatory for school, passports, or travel, with each outbreak the discussion comes up and the outcry becomes louder.
Caring for children, and yourself, doesn’t need to be a slippery slope if you do your homework properly. If your child were diagnosed with type-1 diabetes you’d allow for insulin therapy (I hope), or if your child had strep throat you’d allow treatment by antibiotics—that’s just common sense—right? The thing is that this type of reactionary medical treatment is immediate and visible, the preventative (like vaccines) is not. Don’t think it doesn’t matter because you can’t see it.
Go vaccinate your kids (and yourself if necessary). If you’re still in doubt, talk to your doctor, public health unit, or if you’re in British Columbia call HealthLinkBC (dial 811) where you can be put in touch with a health care provider to discuss it further.
Just a side note. Teens can opt into vaccinations without parents permission. If you’re a teen and would like to get vaccinated go talk to your family doctor or local health care provider.