Sometimes, I feel like a first-time mom instead of a third-timer. Although in most aspects I’ve learned to relax, there are some things that I find myself getting more worked up about now than seven years ago.
One of those things is the subject of vaccination. Seven years ago, it never crossed my mind to worry about bringing my baby out despite her young age. I thought precautions about her being too young to go out were for overprotective mothers, and it was good for her to be exposed to build up her immune system naturally.
At one point, I even began to entertain thoughts of not opting for the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine for my daughter due to the misinformation that had come out on its supposed side effects. I brought this up with Romeo Nuguid, my daughter’s pediatrician.
Now normally, Nuguid is very easygoing and will put up with any of my “emergencies,” but this was clearly a subject he was not willing to tolerate. The first thing he did was debunk “the most damaging medical hoax in the last hundred years.”
In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published a paper in the UK about a study of 12 children with autism spectrum disorders. In his study published in The Lancet, he connected the onset of the disorder with the administration of the vaccine.
Conflict of interest
However, it soon came to light that Wakefield was paid by groups that had filed cases against vaccine companies, and there was an obvious conflict of interest in his report. A closer look at his study revealed that Wakefield had manipulated data and misreported results in order to give the appearance of a connection between the vaccine and autism.
Soon after, 10 out of his 12 co-authors withdrew their support and the editors of The Lancet eventually followed suit and fully retracted the paper. Since then, leading health organizations, such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and The UK Health Center, have come to the conclusion that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Moreover, the MMR vaccine continues to prevent and protect against diseases and their “burden of death and complications.”
Sadly, almost 20 years later, the effect of Wakefield’s work is still being felt, with numerous parents opting not to have their children vaccinated in the wake of the erroneous study. Because of this, today, with my third child, I have become that overprotective mother who worries about what my six-month-old baby, with his immature immune system and still incomplete (but on schedule) vaccines, can contract.
Never mind the common cold and minor cough. But what about measles or pertussis (whooping cough) or any of the other deadly diseases? Up until recently, I thought most of the diseases being immunized against had already been completely eradicated, and that vaccines were really just a precautionary action.
But last year’s measles outbreak proved that no disease is ever truly fully eradicated. The most we can do is keep it at bay but, given the chance, it will come back.
Nowadays, vaccination has become a contentious subject among many passionate advocates from both sides of the fence. The most common stand is that forcing parents to vaccinate goes against their right to decide for their children.
I would be the first person to fight for defending a parent’s right to decide for his or her own child—IF nobody else would be affected. Unfortunately, one parent’s action can affect so many other families, so that to insist on his or her right seems to border on selfishness.
Your child is not the only child in the public park, school or even a doctor’s clinic. If an unvaccinated child contracts a contagious disease, everyone around him is at risk as well.
No perfect immune system
The next argument after is, of course, why worry if your child is vaccinated? For the simple reason that there is no perfect immune system, because there will always be external factors, unless you choose to make your child live in a bubble. There is no such thing as perfect immunity, not to mention the fact that we are only speaking of healthy children who can actually be vaccinated.
What about people who are vulnerable to disease, such as those who suffer from leukemia or autoimmune system illnesses? Or perhaps the children whose families cannot afford to get the necessary childcare in the first years of life? And then there are babies who are too young for certain vaccines, and still making their way from week to week.
Imagine bringing your baby to the doctor’s clinic for your monthly shot, and being seated next to a child with a seemingly ordinary runny nose. Many viral diseases, including measles, initially present themselves as nonspecific symptoms, such as cough and colds.
It is only when they start to have rashes that we realize it is something else. Unfortunately, by that time, the children he came into contact with during his contagious period may have already gotten infected as well. And because viral diseases can’t be stopped, the patient is at the mercy of the virus and its complications.
In this day and age, this does not make sense at all. Why does it have to get to this stage, when a simple shot could have prevented it all from the beginning?
There is also the argument on the presence of thiomersal, a preservative used in many vaccines in the past. There is currently no accepted scientific evidence that thiomersal in vaccines has any adverse effects, but following the precautionary principle, “which assumes there is no harm in exercising caution even if it later turns out to be unwarranted,” vaccine-makers immediately phased out the compound.
Some parents don’t completely reject the idea of vaccines. They simply opt to have them at a later period in order to avoid “overloading” the child’s immune system. However, with the advancement of science and technology, vaccines now have far less immunological components than their counterparts 20 years ago. Add to this the fact that studies have once again dismissed any links between “overloading” the immune system and autism.
There really is no reason not to get your child vaccinated. But do make sure that your child’s vaccine is administered by a real doctor, and that the vaccine is from a reputable company whose products have been duly tested and approved.
If you choose not to have your child vaccinated, be responsible and inform your pediatrician and child’s school about your decision and the child’s vaccination status. Be diligent; in case of an outbreak, monitor your child.
Please don’t just think of your family. Think of others as well.