Lily had her six month vaccines this week and has been unhappy about it. :) The little bugger is like her mommy in that she doesn't care for needles too much. There was all kinds of information that we had to read about the vaccines and what they do, what the possible side effects are, etc. Also, a warning that rejecting the vaccines could be dangerous. This is not the first time that the subject of vaccines has been raised in my community of moms and family members, but I decided to do a bit of research on my own now that I am a mom to a baby getting poked like crazy.
I believe that knowledge and reason are powerful tools.
What I discovered is that there are legal ways around getting your child vaccinated in many states, including "religious reasons". I learned that many parents are afraid that the vaccinations will lead to developmental delays and other conditions such as autism. I also learned that medical and scientific research refute these fears, especially over the past decade.
Make no mistake, if you've decided not to vaccinate your child, that's your business, but my daughter's life was at risk after her premature birth because of the potential for being exposed to anyone around her who had not been vaccinated. So, she spent her first two months home in a "bubble" away from other children.
There is also the issue of quarantine, which parents and children may find themselves in should an epidemic break out. When children are not vaccinated, they may be required to stay away from school, church, or any public place. Parents may also be required to take off from work in order to stay home.
Here's a starling statistic. The number of children getting immunized properly declined by more than 3 percent in 2009. The reason is largely 5 myths about vaccines that cause parents to worry and opt out.
Myth #1: Vaccines are not necessary: Measles and whooping cough are still very prevalent in today's society, so vaccines are still very necessary to ensure healthy children. Small pox has been eliminated in the U.S., but conditions such as whooping cough are very alive and dangerous. It is also important to note that diseases native to other countries could be brought back into the U.S. and introduced in society.
Myth #2: Too many shots at too young an age: Immunologists have studied the various challenges to the immune system that children face day-to-day. The result of the study was that children are able to medically respond to 100,000 vaccines simultaneously. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is best that children get vaccines for 14 different diseases within two years.
Myth #3: The MMR shot causes autism: In 1998 a team of researchers started mass panic after publishing an article about 12 children, of which 8 of their parents believed that they had behavioral issues due to the MMR shot. Immediately following the publication, vaccination rates dropped. In 2010 however, the editors of the publication OFFICIALLY retracted the article stating that it was false. Additional prestigious studies have also revealed that the rate of autism in children with and without vaccines is steady.
Myth #4: Vaccines aren't safe: Nothing in this world is truly safe and without potential side effect. For vaccines, the primary side effects include redness, pain, fever, and an unhappy baby. The instances of more serious side effects are rare. Let's look at the statistics. In 1998 and 1999 there were several instances where the rotavirus vaccine led to intussusception, which severely blocks the bowels. 100 children suffered from this side effect, and only 1 died. Now, the rotavirus itself kills anywhere from 20-100 children in the U.S. every single year, and causes 55,000-100,000 to be hospitalized for treatment. These numbers certainly seem to show the importance of getting this vaccine. 3 million children around the world die every year from rotavirus.
Myth #5: Vaccines don't work: In addition to the startling number of rotavirus deaths every year, there is another condition which many parents likely do not consider a threat, measles. Before the vaccine against measles was introduced in the U.S. 450 people died every year on average. After its introduction, that number dropped significantly, to lows such as in 2004, to only 37 cases (this does not mean that they died). However, in more recent years, due to the increase in children who are not being vaccinated by choice, the number has increased again to 130 in 2008. In Wales and England, lack of vaccinating has resulted in measles being considered an epidemic once again.
Now, for Lily, the biggest concern was whooping cough, because it is often fatal in young children and babies. Especially with her prematurity and length of time on oxygen, she was extremely at risk. In July of 2012, health officials and the CDC announced that the U.S. was suffering from a whooping cough epidemic. There were 18,000 cases, and as of one report, 9 babies had died. Officials were crying out for adults and children to get vaccinated in order to prevent such an epidemic or worse in the future. Lily was kept away from everyone who had not been vaccinated because they could pose a threat to her simply by not being vaccinated. Our team of doctors stressed the importance of having her vaccinated and protecting her from those who aren't, because of epidemic concerns such as the whooping cough.
I'm certainly not trying to impose my beliefs on anyone else, but I do believe that many people make the decision not to vaccinate their children on the basis of outdated research and misplaced fears. I hope that the information and resources in this blog help to shine a light on the more recent medical and scientific research regarding why it's a good idea to vaccinate.