By far the best book on this phenomenon is The Panic Virus, by Seth Mnookin; I can highly recommend it. He tells of how when public-health officials try to work out which areas are at highest risk of fatal outbreaks, one thing they do is look at a map of Whole Food stores — it’s the crunchy-granola college-educated liberals who are by far the worst offenders when it comes to putting their own children and everybody else’s at risk.
— The Most Dangerous School in Los Altos
I’ll admit I’m guilty of this one. As a parent, I can testify to wanting to know every little thing that goes into my child. And yet at the same time, I understand that vaccination is not just about protecting my child. It’s about protecting everyone else’s children. Especially the children who have no one to look out for them.
I used to be more firmly part of the anti-vaccination crowd. As I tried to objectively weigh the pros and cons of vaccination, I couldn’t help but be fearful of not knowing how safe the overall system was. I don’t particularly trust big Pharma. And while I believe that most doctors only have the best interests at heart, most medical academic institutions are not free from their influence.
There were other stories, too, like the student who had sat in class listening to a professor drone on about the benefits of statins—only to find out later that his teacher had been paid by 10 drug companies, five of which made the cholesterol treatments he’d been advocating.
— Bitter Pills: Harvard Medical School and Big Pharma
Our family choice was to delay vaccines, which comes with it’s own risks. We opted to follow a schedule common to Europe, but even we have fallen behind in keeping up with the non-standard schedule. And yes, when our kids get sick, well… is it possible we worry more than parents of vaccinated children would? It’s hard to imagine anyone worrying less; sick kids are no joke.
I’m thinking about this topic this week because we have appointments to get our children vaccinated and I’m planning to get them (mostly) caught up in the future. Part of my switch in thinking was our children starting school. When we were homeschooling, their risk of exposure was quite limited, but in group settings, the risk goes up. The other part was the notoriously low herd immunity in our kids’ oh-so-crunchy school.
Ultimately, my decision was this: my family is lucky to be healthy; there is no reason for us not to be vaccinated to protect others that don’t have that luxury.
It’s a personal topic. It’s personal to your family and your own health needs. It’s also thought-provoking how such a personal decision can impact lives far from our own.
Ideally, this privilege [non-vaccination] should be reserved for those who medically cannot be vaccinated — people with immune disorders, for example, those who can’t afford medical care, and infants too young for vaccination. But lately, more and more of us have been claiming the benefit for ourselves. California is currently experiencing its worst whooping cough outbreak in decades. So far, 10 infants — all too young to receive a full complement of vaccine doses — have died. At 6,795 cases, it’s the worst whooping cough epidemic in more than 60 years.
— Why The Controversy? Vaccines Save Lives, NPR
On that note, here are some resources.
- How Vaccines Saved The World: a refresher course and look at what vaccines are, how they work, and several myths surrounding their use [io9]
- A startling map of vaccine-preventable outbreaks around the world.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on vaccinations; come chat with me on twitter/@vahnee!