To Vaccinate Or Not

syringeBy Abigail Perrin

I gave birth to my son at home and he was delivered into this world in my bedroom.  He did not receive the routine vaccinations that are given at birth in all hospitals. He simply was wrapped up as I was cleaned up and we were put to bed together. He was, and is, a happy healthy human being. He is not vaccinated. He is almost 3 years old and has never been sick other than a light common cold.

When I took him to the doctor for the first time they did not even bother to ask whether or not I wanted to vaccinate him and instead inquired as to when I wanted to schedule an appointment to do so. When I voiced my hesitancy given the most recent research about the effectiveness of vaccinations they scoffed in disbelief. The doctor took me aside and vehemently told me that I was making a foolish decision and assured me that he received no benefit financially by “pushing” vaccines. This immediate response sparked my concern even deeper as I did not accuse him of “pushing” anything but simply voiced my concern. Since then,  I have become an avid researcher, seeking any  and all information available to gain a more educated outlook for my son. The question as to whether to vaccinate or not to vaccinate has weighed heavily on my mind as a young mother.

One of the most common questions when it comes to vaccines is to what extent the vaccination will protect the child. There is no vaccine that has proven to be 100% effective at preventing a given disease. Essentially, you can still get sick even if you have been vaccinated. Your chances may be significantly lower, but you can still contract the disease that you are trying to avoid. While many diseases such as Polio have become close to extinct there are still certain diseases that are thriving. Pertussis or whooping cough is an example of a very real and frightening threat.According to an article in USA Today in 2010, “the USA suffered the largest whooping cough outbreak since 1955, with nearly 42,000 reported cases and 18 fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[1]

Pertussis is a well known killer of infants. If contracted at a young age the risk of fatality is high. However, the TDaP vaccine can not be administered until the child is at least 2 months of age. This leaves a frightening window for young mothers especially during a time of an outbreak.

The vaccine used to vaccinate against Pertusiss or whooping cough is a cocktail. If you choose to vaccinate against pertussis you must also imbibe three other vaccines. As with all vaccines, there are side effects, and with these side effects it is important to weigh the risk and the benefits.             Most recently the efficacy of vaccines has come to question and is finally gaining national attention.  Reuters Health published an article stating that “ giving adolescents and adults a booster shot of the whooping cough vaccine offers some protection against the infection-but not enough to prevent outbreaks, according to a new study.”[2]With this knowledge we are faced with a question as to whether the questionable benefits are worth the guaranteed risks.

So what are these risks? According to the CDC the common problems are fever, redness and swelling where shot was given, fussiness, tiredness, and vomiting. Parents are also at risk for their children to experience seizures, non-stop crying, and high fever. The most intense side effects being coma and permanent brain damage.[3]

Previously, individuals pro vaccines have accused those who refuse to vaccinate for being responsible for the fact that there has been an “upsurge in the rate of vaccine-preventable diseases, especially whooping cough.”[4] However, given this most recent research around the efficacy of the vaccine this approach will hopefully become a mute point. During the California outbreak of Pertussis in 2010, more than half the people affected were fully vaccinated.[5]Quite simply, the vaccine is not being proven to be very effective. These means that millions of children are being put at risk with the illusion that they will be protected.

I believe that the choice to vaccinate should be just that, a choice. Unfortunately, this choice, even given the proof of vaccines effectiveness, is at risk. Currently, your right to refuse vaccination for your child depends on the state that you live in. There are 17 states that allow a philosophical exemption and currently all 50 states allow a religious exemption.[6]  Suppose you are a devout catholic and you are anti vaccines? If you do not live in the 17 states that allow philosophical exemption you will be forced to lie to exercise you choice to protect your child from the very real risks of vaccinations.

On a recent visit to our family doctor he made a comment about how lucky we were that we were still able to see him given that our son was not vaccinated. He said that starting in 2012 they began a new policy that enables them to refuse to accept any new patients that are not vaccinated. I was shocked and in attempt to clarify asked,” You mean you would have refused me service if I would have brought my son in after 2012 and I chose not to vaccinate him?” He replied, “Yes.”  I asked again, “ Isn’t a vaccination a choice? If I refuse to take a certain medicine because I feel it is a risk to my health you can refuse me medical attention? He repeated, “Yes”.

It goes without saying that as a mother my son’s health is my first priority. I believe it is the time to become educated about the benefits and risks of vaccines and once one feels that they have received adequate information they will be able to make a choice without legal ramifications. A choice that is rooted in education and not in fear. This is the time to stand up for your rights to make educated decisions for your child’s health so that they can live a happy and healthy life without taking unnecessary risks.

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2 Responses to “To Vaccinate Or Not”

  1. I think that before the decision is made to vaccinate or to not vaccinate, the parents should do research on the effects of vaccinations not only on their child but also, on others as well. We live in a very close environment and society with others, and we need to make sure we take into consideration their children’s safety as well as our own children. The decision to vaccinate should be made carefully based on the child’s wellbeing, and the decision to not vaccinate should be made carefully based on other children’s wellbeing. I think that it’s not entirely unfair for the doctor to deny services, once you have made the choice to not listen to their advice in the first place. If you make a decision to not vaccinate, when the child later gets sick, then it will be your responsibility to make the child better, because you made the decision in the first place

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