When it comes to the vaccination debate, I don't usually "go there." I feel like we are all trying to inform ourselves make the best decisions for our families in a world full of misinformation brought to us by people more interested in power and money than the health of the general public.
That said, a friend posted this article which struck a chord with me.
There has been a lot of back and forth over the whole vaccine thing lately. It always catches my eye, and I've spent far more time than I probably should have reading the thoughts and opinions of everyone and their brother who cares to share. Maybe I just couldn't resist the urge to throw my two cents in. Welcome to my corner of the blogosphere.
My child is not "officially" allergic to immunizations. He just doesn't handle them well. As in, he stops breathing. So... yeah. We don't do that anymore.
My son after being vaccinated.
For this choice we've been called "idiots" and worse by the strongly pro-vaccine folks. We're viewed with suspicion by everyone from school administrators to ER doctors.
People say we are "blindly following the advice of celebrities," or, "trying to look hip." Not the case. We actually stopped immunizing on a doctor's advice after a year of dealing with very serious respiratory issues. Magically, when we stopped the shots, our child's life-threatening "asthma" went away. He hasn't had a single whistle in his chest in the 2 1/2 years since we stopped.
My son without any shots.
The article I'm referring to made a lot of claims. It said things like, "measles is just a rash," and, "only people in third world countries die from measles and it's because of the dehydration." It also made claims about the rates of autism, as it links to brain encephalitis and more.
I couldn't take those claims at surface value from some random internet guy so I did two things:
First I read an article entitled, "This Is What Measles Really Looks Like." Turns out it looks like a rash. A nasty rash for sure but, yeah. It's a rash, just like the first guy said.
The article also listed statistics and numbers. For instance, it explained that the measles vaccine has been around, basically eradicating measles, since 1963. So, during the big outbreak in the late 1980s/early 1990s they found that…
I thought it was entirely the fault of Jenny McCarthy and the idiot celebrity followers of the past 10 years that people are getting measles in 2015?
Okay, well, I don't have any further information on that so I'll just leave it be for now and move on.
When they collected numbers in the 1990s, (not sure why we're working with generation-old numbers) statistics showed that about 8% of measles patients got diarrhea which COULD lead to dehydration. 7% got ear infections which COULD lead to deafness.
Let's think about that: There are about 73 million children in America.
During the last BIG measles outbreak approximately 55,000 children got measles. I'm not great at math, so I could be wrong, but I'm calculating that as well under 1% of the kids in the nation.
Of that overwhelming number of children, 8 out of every 100 got diarrhea. 7 out of every 100 got an ear infection. That percentage did not die from dehydration or go deaf. They got diarrhea and/or ear infections.
My children and I have all had multiple bouts of diarrhea and ear infections over the years. It's not fun but, so far, we are neither dead nor deaf because, like the author of the original article said, we live in the "first world."
Do you know who doesn't live in the first world? The children in some of the saddest pictures in the article. Look closely at the captions.
While we're putting numbers in perspective, the recent, horrible, scary, big, overwhelming outbreak of measles involved about 45 people. This is approximately the same number of kids in my daughter's band class. So, out of all the people in America, your odds of being affected by this outbreak of measles are about the same as your odds of ending up playing trombone in a grange building in farmland, MI. Yes, I realize there are holes in the comparison. Just making a point about the numbers. This is not something that is raging like wildfire through the countryside.
I needed to see something written by a source generally considered credible. (For those who would argue, I beg of you: Let's save that can of worms for another day. I've already got my hip-waders on, here.) I went to the CDC website and looked up the risks of the MMR vaccine.
Do you know what they are?
They are pretty much the same as the risks from getting measles. In some cases, the numbers are slightly different but… really… if you're going on differences that slight… well… maybe you should bet this week's whole paycheck on the Powerball jackpot. There's a CHANCE you could win, you know.
As a little side note: While reading the CDC info I noticed that, among those who should NOT get the MMR shot, are anyone who has recently received any other vaccine. Yet, the vaccination schedule lists SEVEN other shots, many of them for multiple viruses, that they recommend getting at about the same age as the MMR. That's a bit confusing!
What does all this mean?
I can tell you what it means for me and my family.
It means that with or without shots it is very unlikely that the average healthy child would die from measles (or most of the other diseases that we immunize against).
Of course, like any good mom, I don't want my kids to suffer. I think anyone who takes even a moment to look at the world around us can see that vaccines have been, as a whole, a good thing. I don't know a single child in an iron lung, and I'm immensely glad for that. As the mother of a child who really can't get vaccinated, I am thankful that vaccines have lowered the chances of his exposure to serious disease.
I get it. I am not against all vaccinations.
BUT… when people say that those who choose not to vaccinate are being selfish or that they lack information, follow celebrities, or read de-bunked data… well, that's simply not true. In fact, most parents I know who choose not to vaccinate have done far more research than those who just blindly go along with the schedule. Those who don't vaccinate generally understand that vaccines do not provide life-long immunity, nor are they 100% effective or 100% safe. They know that some of these viruses are beginning to mutate and that there are legitimate, well-respected researchers who are expressing genuine concern about that issue. They understand that EVERY drug has side effects and we should always weigh the risk of the side effect against the benefit of the drug.
As for calling anyone an "idiot" (or worse): It is not okay in your child's classroom, and it's not okay in this discussion. For goodness sake! You want to present yourself as a well-informed, critically-thinking adult and the best you can come up with is name calling? Do better. BE better. There is no place for name calling in honest discussion, and there is no chance for growth and learning unless we are able to honestly discuss the facts.The facts:
Fact: Disease sucks. All disease. We all want all disease eradicated.
Fact: Modern medicine is helpful and science continues to improve. That's why doctors no longer bleed their patients to cure them of anemia and most of us are happy when EMTs show up with a truckload of fancy equipment if our hearts begin to fail.
Fact: Modern medicine does not have all the answers and continues to evolve. That's why my society urged my grandparents to eat trans-fats to lower their chance of heart disease, yet my doctor now gives different advice.
Fact: Screaming, shouting, angry, inflamed confrontation rarely (if ever) accomplishes anything positive.
Fact: The next time you meet someone who feels differently than you on a topic you are passionate about, it would be wise to listen to why they feel differently. Maybe it won't change your stance one teeny iota of a bit, but there's a good chance that your kindness and respect will help make the world a better place.
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