My first ever blog post was inspired by a heated social media debate over vaccinations. Or more accurately, a bunch of inaccurate blog posts being thrown back and forth substituting for scientific data or argument. I shared a little of my position on vaccinations when I wrote that post, but over the last 10 months, I’ve wanted more and more to do a followup that focused on my opinion and reasoning. Now seemed like a great time to do that.
I am pro-vaccination. I received every vaccination that was scheduled to be administered as a child, and opted for additional vaccinations as an adult. I did not live in a college dormitory so at the time I was not required to be vaccinated against meningitis, but I was. After graduating college, and working as a plasmapheresis center, I opted to revaccinate against Hepatitis B instead of having a titer drawn for my levels. I have received a flu shot every year for quite a few years now. Before D1 was born, my husband received the DTaP, and I received it the day I was discharged from the hospital. Recently, it was brought to my attention that receiving another DTaP vaccination could produce a response in my unborn infant, therefore protecting her until she can receive her own DTaP vaccination at 6 months; so I opted for another DTaP, and of course a flu shot, at my 28 week prenatal visit.
D1 and D2 have been given all vaccinations on time, starting with a HepB vaccination at birth (and vitamin K, but that is not optional, it is not a vaccine- don’t even get me started on that one). In the interest of full disclosure I will say that D1 did not receive a flu vaccine his first flu season; my reasoning was that all parties around him were vaccinated and he was not often around people who were not vaccinated. Since I work from home, he was not around other children who may have had flu symptoms. In hindsight, I regret this decision and feel very lucky that we escaped nearly his first year with no illness. Nearly, because at 11 1/2 months, he was diagnosed with his first case of strep throat.
Did I have concerns about vaccinating my children? Of course I did! But I did my research, I asked my pediatrician, and I advocated for my children’s healthcare to be in their best interest. So let me tell you about those concerns..
The primary concern for me was the pain for my children. Having been vaccinated myself, I know that not only can the shots be painful, but the achiness after a shot can be fairly uncomfortable as well, and that a mild fever after vaccination can be expected. After speaking with my children’s doctors, we determined the correct dosage of anti-inflammatory medications and used them as needed after a vaccination dosage. However, this response is not a bad thing! This achiness and fever is the body’s response to being vaccinated, and it’s a great thing, because it means their tiny little bodies are producing antibodies- the very things that will prevent them (or reduce their reaction to) the disease if they are exposed to it.
I was concerned about the side effects of any given vaccine. I educated myself on what those are (thank you to the CDC website and the wonderful handouts our pediatrician provided with each vaccination) and knew what to watch for. I also was very aware of the rarity of a severe reaction.
Those were my concerns. As an educated adult in America, I can’t quite imagine that there are any other concerns that a parent might have about vaccination. But moving on..
Since we live in a developed country where many illnesses have never been a part of the lives of today’s parents, I believe this has actually skewed our view on vaccination. Many parents have never seen or experienced a severe case of chicken pox, let alone known a mother who had a child born with severe defects because she contracted measles during a pregnancy, or had a relative who was disabled from a childhood infection with polio. Many parents are ignorant to the fact that yes, it could indeed, be their child who dies of pertussis (whooping cough).
I don’t believe it’s anyone’s right to opt out of vaccinating themselves or their child and here’s why.. This is not a personal decision that only affects you and your child. The decision not to vaccinate effects the mailman, whose child is immunocompromised. It affects the pregnant grocery store clerk who doesn’t know her immunity to measles has dropped in the years since she was vaccinated. It affects the elderly person at the table next to you at a restaurant who is on medication that lowers their immunity and ability to fight off infection. And quite frankly, it affects me- the mother who will have a child who cannot be vaccinated against many illness, but can certainly contract them before, 6 months and up until one year.
No one, and I mean no one, has the right to put my children at risk because of their own selfishness. The only exception, for me, to a fully vaccinated child, would be one who is immunocompromised, or who has a parent who had a severe (and by severe I do not mean redness or a rash) reaction to a vaccination or vaccination component, therefore putting that child at risk of the same reaction. I would think, I would truly hope, that if a child falls into one of those two categories, that their parents would be on the same side of this (what should never even be an) argument as me. Because, quite frankly, the only way for those children to be protected is for everyone else around them to be vaccinated.