There’s been several stories in the news the last couple of days about the public being exposed to preventable diseases like the measles in grocery stores or on public transit. The pockets of “isolated” outbreaks of disease we routinely vaccinate for are becoming less and less isolated and more and more frequent.
This enrages me.
Look, I know that parents need a lot less judging in this world but this is one subject where there isn’t a gray area. There is right and there is wrong. The science proves it. The research shows it. Childhood mortality rates prove it. It’s not an opinion. It’s a FACT. And the fact is that vaccinating children saves lives and not vaccinating them doesn’t.
Have you ever looked up what polio is like? Or measles? Or diphtheria? Or pertussis? They’re horrible illnesses that killed hundreds of thousands before the advent of vaccines. Children and adults alike suffered through horrible, nasty, debilitating sickness that often left them with life long effects. And that was if they were lucky. If they weren’t, they died terrible, ugly deaths. Why do you think scientists and researchers spent so much time looking for a way to prevent them? For funsies? No, because too many parents had to bury too many babies.
These diseases are not gone from the world – far from it. We’ve simply managed in this country to control the contagion long enough that most parents have never personally witnessed what it was like before we could vaccinate against these diseases. That is a TRIUMPH of public health, by the way. But because of this, too many parents are focused on the vaccines themselves and whether they cause autism or are dangerous to kids or contain terrible ingredients. People seem to have completely lost focus on the fact that the risks of vaccinations are INFINITESIMAL compared to the risk of contracting and suffering or dying from these illnesses.
I know, I know – herd immunity will save us! WRONG. Herd immunity only works if the population is vaccinated at a rate of AT LEAST 80%. For some diseases it’s higher still. That means the vast majority of children need to be vaccinated and continue to keep their vaccines up to date if we want to protect people with herd immunity.
And who are we trying to protect? People with frail immune systems, like the elderly. People who are immunocompromised in some way, like cancer patients, and can’t get vaccines as a result. Newborn babies who are too young to be vaccinated. Premature babies who have to wait even longer to be immunized. These are the people we are trying to protect with herd immunity. Not little Suzy down the block whose parents are just CERTAIN that she’ll get autism if they don’t refuse vaccination.
So, why do I vaccinate my kids? I vaccinate them because I love them and want to protect them from all the bad things in this world it is in my power to protect them from. Vaccinating them in one of the easier ways of doing that. I want them to live full, healthy lives free of disability that results from contracting polio or some other horrible illness. I also vaccinate them because, frankly, I’m not an asshole. I care about my community and I care that my children don’t somehow carry disease to my neighbor’s new baby or the cancer patient we encounter at the store. I care that I do my part to maintain public health.
I do it because it’s right and because not doing it is wrong.
So, folks, vaccinate your children. Keep their vaccines up to date. Keep yours up to date as well. Don’t be a dick.
P.S. – How to vaccines cause autism? This is how.