Vaccines save lives and prevent dozens of diseases, but they've somehow become a controversial subject in many parenting circles. Some still incorrectly link vaccines to autism, and others believe the shots contain harmful ingredients, despite evidence to the contrary. Vaccines have long been touted as a personal choice, but one mom's viral video of her baby suffering from whooping cough proves that vaccination is about way more than just protecting your own children.
Sydney mom Sandra Tee is living a parents' worst nightmare. Her 5-week-old daughter, Heidi, is in the hospital with whooping cough. In a video on Facebook, Tee shared one of several episodes in which little Heidi has choked silently from her illness and stopped breathing. In it, her husband struggles to place an oxygen mask over the tiny baby's nose and mouth as she gasps and turns purple.
The video is difficult to watch, but Tee said she shared it to make more parents aware that this silent choking phenomenon is a common symptom of whooping cough in young babies. As Tee wrote in the caption on her Facebook post, "Whooping cough is not always a loud obvious cough. The scary symptom for babies is when they don't cough but silently choke and turn blue/purple from lack of oxygen. If we weren't in hospital and sitting watching our baby 24/7 the outcome would be fatal."
The other important message behind Tee's video is that vaccinations are about way more than just keeping our own children healthy. Tee's daughter contracted her illness because she was too young to be vaccinated. Infants rely on herd immunity — a general form of immunity that's provided by a high percentage of the community being vaccinated — but when the rate of vaccination drops, so too does the protection offered to the most vulnerable members of our society.
Infants, people who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons, the small percentage of the population for whom vaccines don't provide full immunity and the immunocompromised all rely on the rest of us to get vaccinated if we're healthy and able. It's easy to say vaccination is a personal choice when we're only thinking of our own health or of what's best for our own kids. But as Tee's video shows, one parent's decision to opt out of vaccination can have dire consequences for other kids and families. Unfortunately, there is no way to make vaccination only about one person or one family. Vaccines protect all of us. That's how they work.
For many of us, things like whooping cough, the mumps or measles were practically unheard of throughout our childhoods. Now, it seems like there are small outbreaks and random resurgences happening in various places all over the country. There's no reason a 5-week-old in 2016 should be fighting for her life against a preventable disease, and Tee's video is proof of just how much this fight against vaccines is putting all children at risk.
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