I’ve got colds and flus on my mind. My daughter brought home her first ever “caught it at preschool” cold and promptly gave it to our 16-month-old son. The sound of his phlegmy coughs woke me up this morning and I immediately started mind-Googling the symptoms of whooping cough. Then I remembered he’s vaccinated against that one. What a relief! All hail the miraculous vaccine!
I know, I know, it’s not that simple, right? The greatness of the vaccine, that is. I was pregnant with our daughter right around the time that Jenny McCarthy was on Oprah warning us to trust our mommy instinct and declaring that her son developed autism soon after receiving the MMR vaccine. Declaring, in fact, that the vaccine caused her son’s autism.
My husband and I did not take these claims lightly and were appropriately freaked out. We did the requisite internet research and spoke with our midwife and future pediatrician. All three sources seemed to support vaccinations as a seriously important part of our child’s overall health. We decided to get the prescribed immunizations on a slightly modified schedule (the Dr. Sears one), but I still had a panic attack in the doctor’s office when our tiny, defenseless infant, whose little body had only known breast milk and amniotic fluid, was about to be injected with a mystery cocktail of chemicals and disease. It gives me the shivers even now.
But I’ll tell you what gives me the super shivers – the thought of my children becoming sick with a truly preventable illness, especially one that had been basically eradicated until just a few years ago. But of course, the fear that spread early in the last decade was far more powerful than the science behind vaccines (after all, what’s more powerful than fear?). We now have not-so-coincidental outbreaks of measles and pertussis and a whole new crop of unvaccinated children. And to be honest, I don’t want my kids playing with them.
I understand that since my kids are vaccinated, I shouldn’t really be concerned about them being exposed to such maladies, but there’s a bigger issue that I just can’t get past. It’s an issue I have with you, parent of the unvaccinated, not actually with your child. It’s a feeling that you’re not doing your part here; not holding up your end of the bargain. Vaccine efficacy depends, in part, on “herd immunity,” and by choosing not to inoculate your child, you are failing the herd. I hold you responsible for the unnecessary illness of babies who were too young to yet be vaccinated. I definitely blame you for your own child’s sickness – and I just have to remind you that it was preventable.
And now I’ll go and risk negating just about everything I’ve said so far by disclosing that I don’t like the flu vaccine. I don’t get one (except in 2009, when I was pregnant and the CDC told me that swine flu was practically targeting pregnant women), and I’ve never gotten the shot for my children. They were both theoretically protected by the vaccine I received while pregnant and still breastfeeding, but last winter we all went vaccine-less
I say this not to paint myself as a worthless hypocrite, but to offer proof that I’m not simply a “do as you’re told by the government” non-thinking type. Maybe if you know that I don’t get a flu shot every year, you’ll let my words in when I say you should opt in on the MMR vaccine. It’s a long shot, but I have to try. The health of the herd is at stake.