Preface: I am not a doctor. But I believe in medicine. Science exists whether I believe it or not. My children exist today because of the miracles of modern medicine. Do I believe we’ve achieved the end all of scientific advancements? Of course not. But do I think we should disregard current advancements due to the misinformed beliefs of a Playboy Bunny? Nope.
The boys have an upcoming trip to Disneyland. So imagine my distress when the news headlines shouted back at me that the anti-vaxxers broke the happiest place on earth.
As written in the LA Times, “Measles is a disease that has been beaten by modern medicine. That makes it all the more frustrating that anti-science stubbornness has proven, in the case of the Disneyland-related measles, that when it comes to contagious diseases, it’s a small world after all.”
One of the largest outbreaks of a formerly dead disease is spreading across the west coast; it started at Disneyland. Measles is one of the most contagious human diseases. The virus is airborne and can linger there up to two hours after an infected person departs. Approximately 90 percent of people without immunity will become sick if exposed to the virus. (Basically, all of the unfounded fears on Ebola transmission are how measles actually migrate.)
Last week, Disneyland issued a plea that no unvaccinated people visit the House of Mouse (those immune to the disease still very welcome). Well, I thought, maybe the mid-week visit will be awesome due to disease-induced lack of lines.
Then Jon texted me. “Have the boys had one MMR vaccine or two?”
I’m sorry. What?
The MMR vaccine is delivered in two shots. The first is around a child’s first birthday and the second as part of the series of shots issued prior to kindergarten. (Unless the parent declares a “personal belief” exemption.)
Guess who hasn’t had their second series of the shot.
I called our pediatrician; we’ve got his number on speed dial. I was nervous. Would I have to be the one to tell my children that Disneyland was canceled? Ever the calming professional (yes, this is why we chose him) he mused, “Eh, they should be good, but why don’t you go ahead and bring them in. We’ll just make sure they’re good to go.”
Turns out the second dose is not truly a booster. Rather it is another full vaccine intended to create immunity in the 2-5 percent of people do not develop immunity after the initial dose. Take no chances!
The vaccine is effective; it has reduced incidents of the measles by 99 percent.
The United States declared measles eliminated from the country in 2000 – meaning, in the medical lexicon of the day, the disease was no longer native to the United States. Our country effectively eliminated measles because of vaccination programs.
A number of parents from my generation decided fear mongering and Google were more informed than the medical community. The “mommy-instinct” combined with a trend toward helicopter parenting alongside a generation who’s always thought we know best has created a ridiculous monster. According to the LA Times, vaccine exemptions have increased from 1.5 percent in 2007 to 3.1 percent in 2013. This may seem small, until you consider the concept of herd immunity.
Autism is bad, after all, right?
One of the major concerns regarding the safety of vaccine involves the link with autism as noted in a fraudulent paper published, and later retracted, by The Lancet (The study’s author has since lost his medical license for falsified data. There is no link between autism and any vaccine.)
“Well,” you may be thinking, “I don’t vaccinate because I should be allowed to decide what goes into my child’s body. I have adopted a healthy lifestyle that will encourage a natural immunity. We don’t know what’s in it. The vaccine is dangerous!”
- Why stop at vaccinations. Have you ever given your child medicine? What about those natural remedies you believe in. Who told you about those?
- “Natural immunity.” If this was a thing, there wouldn’t be the need for vaccines in the first place.
- Yes we do.
- severely allergic to neomycin?
- with child?
- completely immunosuppressed from disease or resulting therapy?
- recipient of an antibody that contains blood within the past year?
- currently suffering an acute illness?
- under treatment for thrombocytopenia or thrombocytopenic purpura
No? Congratulations, you have no contra-indications for the MMR vaccine. Yes? Get thee to a doctor. No vaccine for you, but you’re likely in need of a plethora of additional medical expertise.
“In any case,” as you continue your fanatical first-world problems argument, “it’s a harmless childhood disease. People used to have pox parties to encourage exposure.”
You mean they would try to expose their children to a very mild case of the disease, hoping immunity would build up so little ones wouldn’t suffer an extreme miserable illness? Or as I like to call it, vaccination.
Let me be clear. The measles is not a harmless disease.
You’re likely thinking merely of the typical textbook cases, where recovery begins shortly after the rash appears and two to three weeks later all is hunky dory. (Although here I’d argue – three weeks?! I’ve got things to do, people!)
Prior to the 1960s, when the vaccine was introduced to the U.S., approximately 48,000 people were hospitalized and 500 people never returned home.
And it’s still killing people globally. The World Health Organization reports that 145,000 lost their lives to measles last year. That’s 400 a day despite 84% of the world’s children being vaccinated.
Children under five have the highest probability of death. The muppets are 4.5. The most common complication from the measles is pneumonia, which accounts for most measles-related deaths. As super-powered preemies with lungs predisposed toward attracting all the germs, this is not a concern with which I care to play Russian Roulette.
I certainly questioned the delivery timeline for Search and Destroy’s first shots (vaccines for DTaP, polio, hepatits B, and PCV13). We were still entrenched in the daily tribulations of learning how to breathe. I wasn’t terribly thrilled with the potential side effects that could threaten the bodies of two negative-1-month-olds. Could a mild fever cause respiratory arrest in chronic lung disease patients? Would a decrease in appetite stall our homecoming since the ability to eat was one of the main cornerstones? Should we wait until their adjusted vs. actual age?
Ultimately I turned to the technology at my disposal. I googled. Then I talked to the doctors and nurses caring for our kids in the neo-natal intensive care unit. And after lengthy conversations, I let the medical professionals do the job I had entrusted to them since before my children’s birth. The benefits (life) outweighed the risks (feeling kinda icky for a few days in a highly monitored environment).
“We take vaccines so for granted in the United States. Women in the developing world know the power of [vaccines]. They will walk 10 kilometers in the heat with their child and line up to get a vaccine, because they have seen death. [Americans have] forgotten what measles deaths look like. I’d say to the people of the United States: we’re incredibly lucky to have that technology and we ought to take full advantage of it.”
Melinda Gates to the Huffington Post
It is the height of hubris to think ourselves so self-aggrandized that we begin to scoff at proven medicine simply because “one should question it.”
Have we fallen so far from reality that we can no longer see the benefits due to the possibility of a drawback? No science has 100% efficacy except death. Do not use your misguided beliefs to prove that.
We are a society compelled by fear of “what if.” Thanks to the advancements of generations past we no longer fear this disease.
This is a mistake.
You just got your child vaccinated, what are you going to do? WE’RE GOING TO DISNEYLAND!