Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Vaccination Nation

(The title is only because when it popped into my head, I internally snicked to myself and thought, 'Heh, like conjunction junction.' How easily amused am I?)

When I first had my daughter, I wasn't sure if I would vaccinate her. The anti-vax movement had been particularly vocal right before her first vaccines were set to be administered, and I spent countless days, during her naptimes, not doing the sensible thing and sleeping or doing the housework that I was oh-so-behind on, but studying vaccines. I called my father, hysterical, crying, freaking out, worried that, either way, I was dooming my kid to something awful happening. 

I couldn't, in all of my research, find any good, controlled evidence that vaccines did terrible things to kids. So, I sucked it up, and I let Rhiannon get those first shots. And I watched her like a hawk. She slept ten minutes later than normal - was that an adverse reaction? Yet as paranoid as I was, doomsday never happened. Rhi was fine...healthy, happy, growing, whip smart. I breathed a little easier. Then came the MMR vax, and I panicked once more. People I knew called this the autism shot, anti-vax sites, blogs, et cetera linked this shot, and especially the mercury in it, to autism. I was gripped with horrible fear. I researched, and things were so confusing. The link to autism seemed to not be factual, but anti-vax stuff was so emotional and seemed convincing, full of horror stories and anecdotes. I went into Rhi's doctor's appointment totally unsure what I would do. So I sat down with her doctor, and I blurted out all of my fears. He listened, and didn't condescend, which is part of why he's so amazing. He assured me that thimerosal had been removed from vaccines years ago, that it wasn't ever even in MMR, and that studies of it even showed that thimerosal didn't adversely effect anyone. It wasn't taken out because of proof, but because a "better safe than sorry" approach was  taken. He wemt on to explain that he had had a couple of patients with measles that had had very serious complications from it. He went on to say, "I only recommend for my patients what I would feel comfortable doing with m y own child. If Rhiannon was my daughter, I would give her this vaccine without a moment's worry." He also explained a little bit about herd immunity, and how important it was.

So she got the vaccine. I'd be lying if I said I didn't still worry. But the sky didn't fall. 

Many, many parents are opting out of vaccines for reasons that aren't based in fact. There's a lot, lot, lot of misconception out there. Luckily, since I had Rhi, people have made information much more easily accessible. I absolutely love the site (excuse the lack of link, I wrote this on my phone.) It's got a lot of information, presented very plainly, with lots of easily accessible citations, and a plethora of links
explaining things like herd immunity, why the vax schedule is the way it is, et cetera. And USA Today put out a great article yesterday about the effects of lowered herd immunity. Like I said, linking is damn near impossible from my phone, but if you Google the headline "Missed Vaccines Weaken Herd Immunity in Children" you will almost certainly find it. Anyone with vaccines concerns should look at those for a really realistic viewpoint.

I will absolutely vaccinate our newest daughter. Not only that, but those in the closest contact with her will get whooping cough boosters to ensure that we don't unwittingly bring home something detrimental to her. I don't have the hesitation I had with Rhi at all. Sure, I'll still watch carefully for reactions...nothing in life is 100% safe, after all. But there's a wealth of information showing that most vaccines fall firmly into the category of reasonable risk.


-Jenna- said...

I respect you SO much for researching this. Insteading of blindly following the typical procedure, you took the time to look it up. I've wondered about vaccinations for quite awhile, so this was helpful!

Star said...

Thanks! Vaccines are such an emotionally charged topic, and finding good information on them is super hard sometimes. Which sucks, because they really are one of the most important contributions to public health ever, aiding in the eradication of so many horrible diseases.

Sadly, the antivax movement has caused a reemergence of some of these diseases...several babies have died from whooping cough in the past few years, there have been pockets of measles and mumps in a few communities where herd immunity was low, and in other countries, people have seen cases of polio. Thank god that hasn't happened here, but, it's scary nonetheless.

The worst part is that anything linking vaccines to large, serious issues has been thoroughly debunked, but conspiracy theorists are still convinced that "Big Pharma" makes soooooo much money off vaccines that they push an unsafe product. I'm all about being skeptical of the motives of drug companies, and I do think we're an over-medicated country, but, seriously...vaccines are certainly not part of that. Also, without modern medicine, I would absolutely be dead already. So while I'm skeptical, I'm also very grateful that drugs exist. Instead of freaking out and assuming every advance or treatment is a bad one, I just make sure to ask questions, read information, and know as much as possible about what I put in my body. That should simply be common sense for everyone.