Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Word About Vaccines

I have been thinking a lot about vaccines lately and the choice we have to make as parents about whether or not to get our kids vaccinated.

I respect the right each parent has to make the choice to vaccinate or not vaccinate their kids.

Why have been thinking so much about vaccines?

Due to a recent measles outbreak in our neighborhood and the confirmation that my family was directly exposed to a person infected with the measles....

From April 9 until April 25, my family is quarantined.

For the next two weeks, my children are not allowed to leave our house or yard. That means no church, no shopping, no playdates - nothing that may expose others to the measles.

Just to clarify, we are not sure whether or not we have the measles. All we know for sure is that we have been exposed. The danger is that my little 11 month old girl has not be vaccinated because she is too young. My son, due to his age, has only received one dose of the vaccination. He is not at high risk, but is still at more risk than if he had had both doses of the vaccine.
My husband and I are strong believers in the importance of vaccines. Vaccines have done a lot to make our communities healthier. I do not (normally) have to worry about my kids getting highly infectious diseases such as smallpox, measles, diptheria, polio, mumps or rubella because vaccines have all but eradicated them in the United States.

Vaccines have risks. Yes, I acknowledge that there are always risks associated with vaccines, but those risks are small with extreme negative reactions being very rare. So, yes, vaccines have risks.

The risks associated with vaccine-preventable diseases are higher and can be more dangerous!

Risks included paralysis, damage to internal organs, meningitis, and death.
I am hearing arguments from people saying that those risks are small. I admit, today the risks of getting many of the vaccine-preventable diseases are small. But, that is because most of the population is vaccinated! The risk of getting these diseases (for a list of diseases go here) will grow the more people choose to not get vaccines.

As I said earlier, I respect the right of every parent to choose for their family whether or not to get vaccines.

I just urge anyone considering not getting vaccinated to study and really think about the possible consequences of such a decision.

For an example I will use the current measles outbreak in our area to illustrate such possible consequences.

1. Your child could get sick from a vaccine-preventable disease. Some may argue that our immune systems are able to handle the disease on its own. True with some of the diseases, but not with all.

2. You could expose others to the disease. In our situation, each confirmed case of the measles has occured in school age children. This is the age that is the least affected by the measles. My exposed children are 11 months and 2 years old. They fall in the area of the most at risk of complications. Would you want to be responsible if you started an outbreak that hospitalized others?

3. You could inconvenience hundreds of others. Teachers and students at four schools in our area have had to provide proof of immunizations before they were allowed to return to work. Not to mention those families and individuals who are quarantined.

4. You could be asked to not attend work, school or community functions. Even if you do not sick during an outbreak, you could be asked to not return to work or school until the outbreak has passed. Student who attend the contaminated schools and have not had their vaccines are not allowed to return to school for three weeks until the time of possible exposure has passed.

5. Each time an outbreak occurs hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax-payer money goes to containing the disease. The statistic given in our local news is that the last outbreak of the measles ended up costing the state $600,000 before the outbreak was contained.

Those are just some of the possible consequences that can occur when the choice is made to not get vaccinated.

A note about autism: There is NO evidence linking autism to vaccines. For more information read this article.

My husband and I, as stated earlier, are pro-vaccine. As a nurse and special education teacher we have had independent reasons to study the issues. We both feel that the miminal risks associated with vaccines are far outweighed by the benefits to an individual and to society as a whole.

Please, please, please, if you are considering not having your child vaccinated, do your research. Weigh the benefits and risks that can occur to you and people around you because of your choice.


*A note: Right now I have really strong feelings about this issue. Perhaps being stuck in a house for six days with two kids without having the option of leaving (not to mention all while being in early pregnancy) has made me a little more emotional than I would normally be. My family has no hard feelings towards the family that exposed us to the measles. We are good friends with them and will continue our friendship with them. It is just unfortunate that we are under the current circumstances. This too will pass and our little family will have a great story. I just don't wish anyone else to have to go through the same thing. (Being quarantined is not as much fun as it sounds.)


Megan said...

Lisa, I hear you! Every time the local news talks about the outbreak in your area I cringe and hope for the best for those that have been exposed. I agree, every family should make the decision best for them, but I hope they study it out like you urge people to do.

Rebecca said...

I actually was at the park today and was talking to one of my friends about vaccinations today. I am very pro-vaccination but do not judge those who choose not to. While at the park I was surprised to find out that with one of my friend's kids (he is now 3) chose not to start vaccinating until he was 2 and is spacing them out a lot further than the recommendations. Her 5 and 1 year old she vaccinated on schedule but she told me that she just didn't feel right about it with her second child. She did tons of research and just prayed and prayed and felt very strongly that for whatever reason she needed to wait before starting vaccinations with him.

The hard thing with doing research on vaccinations is that you can find almost equal amounts of pros and cons on either side. I always knew I would vaccinate but still did my research and I hated how I'd find one study would show that vaxing is what's best and isn't unsafe at all and another one would show that non-vaxing is safer, etc., etc., etc.!

What I'm getting at is that research is helpful, but can also be very confusing. If anyone is on the fence about vaccinating your child my advice would be to do your research and be very prayerful about it...and then you will know what the right decision is for your child. :)

Britta said...

If you have a pediatrition you trust, I'd go to them with your concerns. I'd venture to say that most will tell you to vacinate on the reccomended schedule but they'll be able to point you in the direction of the resources they use to make those decisions. That way you aren't wading through internet junk to get to the 'real' stuff, not the anicdotal evidence.

I love what Rebecca said about the friend who prayed about it with each child. Just because you make the decision once doesn't mean you have to stick with it for every child. The Lord knows our children better than we do! Allow him to guide your decisions.