The vaccine debate

By Published On: February 9th, 2015

I’ve casually followed this measles thing and the fall out it’s […]

I’ve casually followed this measles thing and the fall out it’s having on the great vaccine debate, but I’m looking at it a little more seriously now that I’ve learned local health officials are investigating six unconfirmed cases of measles right here in my town. One of them is a student at an elementary school, where “immune-compromised” students have been told to stay home until further notice. Yikes.
Our local media are going nuts, of course, sharing percentages of unvaccinated students by school–ours is on the high end–and hosting special “ask the doctor” segments. I’m torn, to be honest, between understanding and annoyance and a little ripple of anger. I know a lot of intelligent, educated people whose children are part of those unvaccinated statistics. And it’s not because they’re afraid it will lead to autism. These are rational people doing what they think is best for their kids. But here’s the thing–we’re doing exactly the same thing by choosing to vaccinate our kids, with the added bonus that it’s benefiting their kids as well. But now here we are with a 6-month old baby who is too young for that immunization, and suddenly she’s actually at risk for a raging infectious disease that was nearly wiped out two decades ago.IMG_1720
Thirty-something years ago, I was one of those babies with an adverse reaction to an immunization. It freaked my parents out, and years later the mere fact that it happened was enough to make me balk at the idea of shots during our first son’s 2-month well baby visit. Prior to the appointment, my husband and I debated, discussed and waded through mountains of research and studies before coming to the conclusion that yes, the benefits of immunizations outweigh the risks associated with the vaccines themselves. But because I worked from home we weren’t going the daycare route and none of our friends had kids so our baby was never around anyone but adults (who, we hoped, could keep their germs to themselves), we decided it was safe to follow a delayed vaccination schedule. He received his 2-month shots at his 6-month visit and was all caught up well before preschool.
With baby number two, we planned on the same thing. But she caught her first cold at just 6 weeks old, and we compared our sad, snotty little baby to her older brother, who went his entire first year without a sniffle. Having a big brother around who loved to cover her in smooches and couldn’t keep his germy little hands away made us reconsider our stance on the smartest way we could protect her. So we decided to defer to the findings of all those peer-reviewed studies we had read and agreed to the recommended vaccination schedule. It was fine. She was fine. And that was our experience with baby number three and, so far, baby number four.
The vaccine debate raises interesting questions. But it’s a discussion I’d much prefer to listen to from the outside. Because those “immune compromised” kids that are most at risk? My baby is one of them.