This isn't the post I woke up thinking I would write. I thought I would write about the changing seasons and enjoying end of summer/beginning of autumn with my family. I was planning to wax poetic about my daughter crunching through leaves and our last of summer cookout with corn on the cob and s'mores and the pleasure of open windows and no air-conditioning.
Instead I woke up and read this article from a friend's Facebook link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jj-keith/vaccines_b_3829948.html. So this morning I am writing about vaccination too, because I agree with what this writer said. Those of us (the majority) who are vaccinating our children do need to speak up and let other parents know that this is the safest, sanest thing to do as a parent. It's the best thing for your child, because the disease that vaccination prevents are potentially fatal: measles, influenza, polio, hepatitis B, diptheria, tetanus, h. flu which is a bacteria that causes meningitis can and do kill people, and children are more vulnerable. The idea that your child will be protected because other parents vaccinate (herd immunity) isn't working so well anymore, because so many people are making a choice not to have their children vaccinated, so don't count on that to protect your kids. When vaccinations rates drop then more people get sick with these diseases, which increases the chance that an unvaccinated child will be exposed. It also increases the risk of exposure to our neighbors who are cancer patients, organ transplant patients, and babies still receiving their initial vaccinations who are in even more danger if they are exposed to these diseases. This is a big deal to me, because I work in a hospital. These very ill people aren't an abstract concept - they are real people that I have met and cared for. They don't deserve to be put at risk.
Vaccinations are much, much safer than the alternative of getting the diseases in question. Most vaccines have side effects (like any medicine) but typically these are fever and soreness and will get better after a few days. The most severe potential side effect is an allergic reaction to the vaccine, which occurs less than one in 100,000 times someone is vaccinated. There is no link between vaccination and autism. The doctor who wrote the report that initially proposed that link falsified his data, intentionally, for the purpose of his own financial gain. Autism is a terrible disorder which needs more research so that we can better understand both the cause and the treatment. The symptoms do tend to become more obvious around the age of one, which is when most children receive the MMR vaccine, but this is a correlation, not a causation. The symptoms of autism become more obvious around age one because it is around the age of one that children should be learning to speak and speech delay is a major symptom of autism. It's also because around age one children learn to walk, which means they can get around independently AND reach/carry/pull objects at the same time. The potential for behavioral problems dramatically increases because now a child is more capable of enacting behavior. But you can see symptoms of autism earlier than age one; the symptoms are just more subtle, like refusal of eye contact or lack of engagement with other people.
My daughter is vaccinated, and she's educated about vaccines. She understands that she gets shots which hurt "just a few seconds" in order to protect her from germs that could make her sick. I will make sure she gets all the vaccines she needs, for as long as I can control that decision. Because there is so much I can't protect her from in this world, but this is something I can do. I can take advantage of the incredible gift of science to keep her from getting some of the disease that take children away from their parents.
At the end of this week my husband, daughter and I will engage in another of our autumn rituals. This one isn't as fun as crunching leaves or cookouts, but it's much more important for our health. We'll go get our flu shots together, so that we can be protected for another season. I hope to see you at the doctor's office.