I never really gave vaccinations a second thought until a few years ago when I first became aware of the former-Dr. Wakefield/Jenny McCarthy/autism/big pharma/parental choice “debate”. I admit, I was a bit taken aback. How could intelligent, rational, educated people who grew up in a world free of polio and smallpox and in which cases of measles and whooping cough were few and far between, risk the health and lives of their children based on a thoroughly debunked study done by a doctor whose “study” was retracted and who has been legally barred from practicing medicine?
Well, I have to admit; I’m pretty set in my beliefs, especially those built around scientific facts, but today the anti-vaxxer movement actually changed my mind.
Today I took our 10-month-old boys to one of those little play areas that shopping malls have these days. I put them down on the floor and stood back while they crawled around, hovering just enough to make sure they didn’t trip the bigger kids or get trampled by same.
A little girl (4ish?) walked by and ended up randomly stopping and standing next to the boys as she watched some other kids play. I wouldn’t have even noticed, but I saw that she was coughing. Without covering her mouth. Kind of a lot. Nothing hackey or pained, just a little cough.
For whatever reason, that little cough nearly triggered a panic attack in me. It’s not that I thought that the little girl had the Andromeda Strain (obviously; she would have been long dead from coagulated blood) or something that would be spread to my boys; I’m sure she didn’t. Kids cough. Kids have runny noses. Kids throw up for no reason. Kids get sick.
Until recently, though, kids rarely got sick from diseases that are now preventable because of vaccines. It’s been a non-issue for years, but now some parents are choosing to forgo vaccinations.
If I had given vaccinations a second thought, I would have thought that I could take my babies out to mingle with other children without fearing at all for their safety from diseases that went the way of poodle skirts and penny candy. My boys aren’t old enough to have gotten their full regimen of vaccines, which means that they are still vulnerable to diseases that can fucking kill them.
Now I’m paranoid. I’ll be worried about play dates and schools and playgrounds. I’m not going to lock my kids up in plastic quarantine tents, but now I’ll wonder if we’re going to be a thread in the CDC investigation tracing the origin of the latest outbreak like the recent one stemming from Disneyland.
I thought my kids were automatically safe from preventable diseases because of vaccines and herd immunity. Now, I’ve changed my mind.