Vaccinations: Changing the Conversation

 Photo by itsmejust/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by itsmejust/iStock / Getty Images

When it comes to platforms, I have a few that I will stand on soapboxes and yell about. Most are women and children related because, well duh. We are most passionate about things that we have experienced. I tell Lucas’ Kawasaki Disease story all the time because it promotes awareness and can possibly save another child’s life. As moms that is our jobs, to protect our babies and to nurture them safely into adulthood. And as part of living in a community and society, it’s our responsibility as ADULTS to do everything in our power to protect these kids before they are strong enough to protect themselves. And since we are living in a society where we all use the same shopping carts at Target, fly the same airplanes, go to the same libraries and parks, it is ALL of our responsibility to stop the spread of infectious diseases.

When Lucas had KD at 9 months old, we were lucky that he responded to the IVIG treatment that they gave him and knocked out his KD. Since IVIG is a blood product and is made up of immunoglobulins, it affects how vaccines like the MMR work, meaning that Lucas could not receive his MMR vaccination until he was about 2 years old. When Lucas was 2 ½ we took him to Florida for a vacation, while we were there, he started running a fever and his neck swelled. We took him to the local ER and the diagnosis? MUMPS.

 Luckily it was a mild case…upon returning home and further talks with his pediatrician the thought was that the delayed vaccination may have left him susceptible to the disease, but thankfully because he was vaccinated, the case wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

So let’s look at the facts:

- My son couldn’t get vaccinated on time

- Even delaying the vaccination from the recommended schedule wasn’t enough to stop him from contracting the virus

- The herd mentality did not help us or stop this

- We traveled cross country on an airplane – from LAX to Miami International – and we probably passed the virus onto others, worldwide, unknowingly.

And I felt horrible about it.

Have you ever gotten someone else sick? Your spouse? College roommate? Co-Worker? Yes, you have. We all have. We go to work when we don’t feel 100% but have no reasonable reason to stay home. By lunch, we’ve been hit head on by the flu. Two days later, your colleague in the next cube over is sick. Getting others sick is the nature of society and will not change. But the thought that my child may have passes mumps onto another child, maybe one in a foreign country who doesn’t have access to vaccinations or proper medical care, really concerned me. And then I got angry, because I live in 6th largest city of the biggest super power nation in the world and we should be protected against things like this. Mumps? Really? 

Every case of measles in the United States costs an enormous amount of money to track and contain,” says Dr. Stephen Cochi, a senior immunization advisor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “More than 60 million visitors travel to the U.S. every year and therefore the chances of costly outbreaks in unvaccinated children and communities are high.
— Measles & Rubella Initiative Blog

Protect the Herd

I talk about my best friend Anne often because to me she is one of the bravest most selfless people I know. She works for NGOs and goes all over the world helping people that desperately need it. As I type this, she in Iraq, by the Syrian border helping refuges – by choice. She spent years in Africa helping… with what? Vaccinations and health education. When I asked Ann her opinion on the vaccination debate she was shocked that this is even a debate. “So many people in other countries are desperate to take anything so easy and effective to help them save their children,”  she told me. “People don’t have a choice to not take care of their community – especially when they have all the means available to them. To assume that other people’s health doesn’t matter, or that they are not affected by your decision, is just selfish.”

Ann spends her life protecting the herd. If the world was full of Ann’s, I wouldn't need to write this post. Choosing to not vaccinate your child because you don’t want to cause them discomfort, or you don’t think they really need to be pumped full of chemicals, or because an ex-playmate told you it gave her kid autism, is selfish. Working from the assumption that 9 out of 10 children can get vaccinated with little to no side effects, when 13% of parents in an area are opting out of vaccinating – that is selfish and, you are putting everyone at risk for your decision.

If we’re going to beat measles, we have to wipe it out early in these large, populous countries.
— -Dr. Robert Kezaala, head of measles activities at UNICEF.

As a side note, in July of 2013,  the Ministry of Health had reports of over 54,000 cases and almost 800 recorded deaths from measles in Africa.

 But, as always, there is the flip side..

 

The right to protect your own child

One of the main debates I hear from mother’s who have chosen not to vaccinate is that they are doing what I am saying – They have made a choice that they have deemed what is best for their children. And, I understand that… to a point.

I have a good friend, Marcy, whose child had a serious, physical, reaction to his vaccinations. Because of this, they opted not to continue to vaccinate their second child when they saw he had the same reaction after his initial vaccinations. This I get. I would never fault another mother for making a decision that protects her children.

“I believe in vaccinating and I am thrilled that advances in medical care have saved millions of lives through vaccination. When my first son was born, I read the research and still thought it was best to follow the advice of my Pediatrician and vaccinate on schedule. When he received his first shots in the hospital, he had a mild fever and vomited. His next round at 2 months of age came with a raging fever, vomiting, and 2 days of appetite loss. The Dr. assured me that this was normal and occurred in 10% of children. He was sensitive, but he would get over it and small price to pay for the protection of the vaccines. This continued with additional side effects including fever, vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, inability to sleep, and muscle paralysis. All "normal" and subsided in a few days. By the time he was three, we were at the end of our rope. He was sick ALL THE TIME. We eventually sought the advice of a nutritionist that tested him and determined that his system had been so ravaged by the 25 vaccines he had to date that his intestines were actually perforated and leaking into his body. We revamped his diet, began a regimen of natural supplements to heal his gut and stopped the vaccines and antibiotics. Miraculously, within 2 weeks, he stopped getting sick, stopped having fevers, began to sleep through the night and his symptoms of Autism* (diagnosed at 18months) began getting easier to manage. *For the record, I do not believe vaccinations caused my son's Autism. I do believe, however, that the illness and side effects from the vaccinations exacerbated his symptoms and affected his ability to cope with sensory input.

But  if every parent that chose not to vaccinate had Marcy’s story, I also wouldn’t be writing this post. 

Where Marcy and I may not agree is on the argument of the “heard effect.” Marcy argues that, “That would be nice, but I would never expect another parent to make a decision on their child's vaccines based on the special needs of my kid. I am responsible for that.”

While I understand, and totally give props for accepting her responsibility, I disagree with the statement.

 Marcy is part of my community, part of my system, and since we’ve been friends for almost 20 years now, she’s practically family. And it is my responsibility to help protect her and her family. If her house burned down and she needed a place to stay, I would let them stay in my little townhome. I would temporarily make my kids uncomfortable to help her and her family out. Because I can do something for her that she can’t do for herself.  

That’s community. That’s what we do for each other. We help and protect each other when needed, even if it temporarily makes our lives harder.

No kid should have measles. No kid should have a reaction to vaccinations.

No parent should have to worry about either of these.

 

Marcy’s main point is that there needs to be more research done for a diagnostic test to determine if a child’s system is strong enough to handle vaccinations. A way to tell if your kid is going to be that 10% that has an adverse reaction. And I wholeheartedly agree with her. I advocate for diagnostic tests for Kawasaki Disease so that no parent needs to sit there and wonder if their child has a life threatening illness, and I agree that we need to try to take the “what if” out of vaccinations.

So let’s change the conversation.

Let’s change the conversation from debate on pro-vaccinations or anti-vaccinations to what WE, as a society, can do to make sure vaccinations are safe for all they are given to. Let’s tackle the issue of making sure that everyone is able to safely vaccinate. Let’s demand a scientifically proven and tested system to work with kids that may not be able to get all the vaccinations at one time – if at all. Let’s hold us all accountable for our actions and our choices when it affects our society as a whole.

 If we change the conversation and work together to solve the issue at hand, then we can all relax and let vaccinations do what they are intended to do – keep us all safe.