As her 4-month-old son struggled to breathe because of pertussis (also known as whooping cough), Rebecca Harreman filmed her baby's coughing fit and posted it to Facebook. No, Harreman isn't sadistic or even Internet fame hungry. She's just a self-proclaimed tired mom who is sick of watching her baby as he sleeps every night for fear he will stop breathing every time he coughs.
Harreman explains that she posted the disturbing video for one simple reason: Every parent needs to watch it, especially those who choose to not vaccinate their kids. She says, "I don't care whether you want to try and prove to me that vaccinations and herd immunities don't work. I don't care that vaccinations have side effects, because every person in this world reacts differently to all types of food, products and medicines. I could not care less, even if it is ever proven one day that they don't work. You know why? Because at least at the end of the day, I tried to do something to prevent this."
Harreman's post is so powerful because she nails the anti-vaxx argument perfectly. If you spend any time in parenting circles or at play group, then you know by now that choosing to not vaccinate has become a new parenting trend within the past decade — and to call it a highly dangerous trend would be putting it mildly.
Some of the biggest vaccine myths have been blown out of the water, like the idea that vaccines cause autism, spurred on by actress Jenny McCarthy, and yet as many as 1 in 10 parents in the U.S. doesn't vaccinate, opting to delay or skip vaccines for their children altogether. Vaccine exemptions are all over the board throughout the country, meaning that some states have higher compliance rates than others. Because of its notoriously high vaccine exemption rates, California recently passed a new exemption law that makes it the third state, behind Mississippi and West Virginia, to no longer allow vaccine exemptions based on religious or philosophical beliefs. And thank God for that.
If you're looking for a method to the madness — a reason so many parents continue to risk public health just so they don't have to immunize their kids — click on any Internet parenting forum, and you'll find the answer you're looking for. The most popular anti-vaccine argument among parents far and wide is, "If vaccines work, then it shouldn't matter if I don't vaccinate my kid."
But as Harreman's video proves, it does matter and will continue to matter when parents choose to not vaccinate their kids and send them out into the great, big world. Just like drunk driving affects everyone on the road, an unvaccinated child affects everyone they encounter, especially weaker populations like the elderly, the immunocompromised and infants who have not been vaccinated yet.
Harreman says she was lucky in her son's case, because he'd had his first vaccine already, so what we are seeing in this video of a baby literally fighting for his life is actually a best-case scenario because of vaccines. The CDC confirms that whooping cough is highly contagious and especially dangerous to babies. Roughly half of the infants with whooping cough under age 1 will end up in the hospital, and some will die of the disease.
A few years ago we saw the grave repercussions of parents' failure to vaccinate. In 2012, we experienced the worst whooping cough epidemic our country has seen in 70 years, with a 1,300 percent increase in a preventable illness because parents in Washington state refused to vaccinate. This year, a Canadian mother of seven famously jumped from the anti-vaxx ship, denouncing her immunization-averse beliefs, after all her children got whooping cough. And even after measles was virtually eradicated in 2000, it came back with a vengeance in 2014 — because parents didn't vaccinate.
It's easy to debate vaccines until we are blue in the face (or until another child dies from a vaccine-preventable illness), but take a moment to really watch this video and see what this mother is talking about. Choosing to not vaccinate affects real people and their children. We often say "it takes a village," but now is the time when we need to mean it. Babies have started getting sick from these antiquated diseases again because people have stopped participating, compromising our collective herd immunity designed to keep everybody safe.
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