There is no vaccine for fear, and it’s contagious
[photopress:soup_1.jpg,thumb,pp_image]Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the SOUP! event for The Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition (CCIC). SOUP! as you may have guessed is an acronym. It stands for Shots Offer Unrivaled Protection. But, there really was real soup involved, too. Ten top restaurants in the Denver area provided samples of their best soup recipes, and we all had the opportunity to vote for the most creative and best tasting. This event was equal parts tasting tasty soups, networking with people in the healthcare field and honoring the work and dedication that has gone into protecting Colorado’s children from vaccine-preventable diseases.
What struck me about the event was the genuine care and concern these scientists, doctors and healthcare professionals had for children and this cause. The stories were heart-felt, and the statistics presented were astonishing. When they translated all of the numbers into the cost of healthcare that has been spent on preventable diseases, it was mind-boggling.
Vaccines are always a touchy subject in parenting communities. Often times, we’re led to believe that if we “question” vaccines, we’re dabbling in something we don’t understand. Or, if we “don’t question” vaccines, we’re doing our children a disservice by just going with the flow.
I had an eye-opening conversation with someone at the event that evening that really proved how tricky this issue can be when you’re dealing with friends. A woman at the event didn’t know how to warn her friend about these things without damaging a friendship. As a professional in this field, she knows that certain communities are “ripe for an outbreak” and the thought of her friend’s child being exposed to these diseases has her conscience tied in knots. This woman’s friend had chosen to vaccinate, but is doing so on a very delayed schedule, which could put her child at risk for being exposed, should an outbreak occur.
She doesn’t want to harm her friendship but doesn’t think she can forgive herself if something happens to her friend’s child. What an awkward situation!
My advice to her was to give her friend the information and then trust that her friend would make the right decision for her family, regardless of what that ends up being. Without a crystal ball, it’s hard to know what will happen, and all you can do is what you feel is right, given the information you have.
That being said, it’s sobering to realize that “The Children’s Hospital in Denver has documented that over half of the vaccine-preventable disease cases in Colorado occur in children less than two years of age.” It’s no wonder this woman was concerned.
Every situation is complex, but the simple fact remains: Vaccines are one of the most effective tools in preventing diseases. They are a miracle of scientific advancement.
Because we feel like we are so far removed from the deadly and disfiguring effects of polio or measles or other horrifying diseases, we can see why some question the purpose of vaccines in “this day and age.” Why do we need them? Those things don’t exist anymore, right? Those are things that effect developing countries and not us, right?
But, that’s the thing. It’s because of vaccines that we can breathe easier. The diseases still exist, and, whether we like it or not, we belong to a global nation. The smaller our world becomes, the chances of being exposed to these diseases gets greater and greater.
I am so thankful that I don’t know anyone personally who has died from or has been horribly disabled by polio or measles or any of the other vaccine-preventable diseases. But, my parents do. And, to my grandparents, it was “just the way things were.” What a horrifying reality that must have been, and what a miracle vaccines were to them!
Today, we can look around and say, “See? I don’t see it, so the threat must be over.” But is it? There are communities here in Colorado that have dealt with outbreaks. Granted, they weren’t as severe as things were in the past, but if you’re not immune, the effect could be devastating.
In reality, we’re just a generation away from the outbreaks of the past. If we stop the vaccines, what happens to the generation after ours? Again, my crystal ball isn’t working, so I don’t know.
Now, as with anything, vaccines aren’t for everyone. Those who have a compromised immune system cannot have vaccines. Young babies fall into this category, as do the elderly or those who are recipients of an organ donation or people with other immune-deficiency issues. People with predispositions to certain conditions or those with certain types of allergies need to be aware of those specific risks, as well. And, there are those who choose to avoid vaccines for philosophical reasons.
This is where “everyone else being vaccinated” becomes even more crucial. What am I talking about? It’s called “herd immunities” and here is the best way I can think to describe it:
Imagine, if you will, that we’re all sitting in a circle of chairs. In the middle of this circle of chairs are the people who have compromised immune systems, or for whatever reason are not vaccinated. Our circle of chairs is protecting them.
Now let’s pretend that only those of us with up-to-date vaccines are allowed to sit in a chair on the outside of the circle. Those who have no immunities, fold up their chairs, set them off to the side and join those in the middle.
The more people who step away from the protective layer, the smaller the barrier becomes for those in the middle.
So, if you are someone who has a compromised immune system, or if you don’t have immunity to the diseases that are floating around out there, you need to surround yourself with those who can protect you.
This really hit home to me when my little girl was a baby, and I realized that she was in the middle of that circle. Until she was vaccinated and had her immunities built up, her health was at the mercy of those standing in the circle around her.
I had done my research and knew that I wanted to get my daughter vaccinated, but I, too, had questions. You see, my situation is a little more complex. Back in the 1970s when I received my shots, I had a violent reaction to them. I can only imagine how distraught this made my parents. They rushed me to the hospital, and they knew right away that it was a reaction to the shots. They relied on the medical professionals’ advice, and given my situation, they opted to give me half-doses of each shot from that point forward.
My reaction, as violent as it was, paled in comparison to the threat of the diseases.
We, too, are so fortunate to have found a pediatrician that we trust implicitly. We ask his advice and follow it. Given my history, I was concerned about the amount of shots Claire was going to be getting at one time, and I asked him about it. He relieved my fears and explained that the shots from the 70s were so incredibly different than the shots of today, that the odds of Claire having a reaction like mine were very slim. In his opinion, such extensive research has gone into the shots, that he felt they were safe. He said the shots of today are designed to be given together, and a child will have the same reaction to one that they would have to all, so why prolong the actual shot-giving process?
His advice was to reduce her risk of exposure, follow the schedule, get them over with and get on with the rest of our lives. If you’re going to do it, do it. So, that’s what we did, and Claire handled the shots beautifully.
In fact, in quite the comical turn of events, she now likes getting shots, which proves there may actually be something wrong with her.
So, what’s the right answer? What do we do?
Well, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t even play one on TV, so my advice is to find an expert you trust. If you have questions about whether or not to vaccinate your child, talk to your pediatrician.
Check out third party sources. The CCIC website is a good place to start. This organization was founded in response to the fact that Colorado used to be dead last in the nation for childhood vaccinations. Because of their work, so many deaths have been prevented, but there is still a lot of work to be done. They aren’t funded by the pharmaceutical companies; they don’t have any black helicopters circling above, and they truly have the best interest of children at heart.
Don’t be afraid to look at the statistics of where we are and how far we’ve come. We hear bits and pieces from various media sources, and without the whole story, it’s hard to know what to believe or how to proceed. The misinformation builds, and that creates fear. Fear is contagious, and there is no vaccine for that.
So, what do you think? Let’s respectfully discuss it in the comments! What are your views on vaccinations? What are your experiences? Is my daughter the only one who begs to go get a poke in the arm?