There are two things I know very little about: medicine, cars, and the Law. (I am also not great at math.) So, like many people, I am sort of at the mercy of my doctor when I have medical decisions to make. She could tell me ANYTHING and I would just have to believe her. 'Well, Traci, you have hematomiosis with recurring acne. Also your lug nuts are loose." She seems like a nice enough person, very bright and un-evil, so I believe her, because I have to trust in someone. Similarly, my mechanic can tell me I need 4 liters of blinker fluid and that a new headlight costs $400-- how am I to know?
As I wrote this yesterday, I got an email telling me that a person who has contact with my daughter is being treated for H1N1. So again,
I have to make decisions on whether or not to immunize myself and especially my kid and I am again at the mercy of the medical profession.
Like most of you in the listening area, I did research before she was born, and made the informed decision - THAT WAS RIGHT FOR ME AND MY FAMILY AND IS IN NO WAY A JUDGMENT ON HOW YOU RUN YOUR LIFE FOR GOD'S SAKE DON'T BE Such A big baby- to stick mostly with the routine scheduled vaccinations. I almost didn't do the chicken pox vaccine because I thought, really? I had the chicken pox it was no big deal I stayed home from kindergarten for a while and watched General Hospital with my mom every day. But then I was taking a stroller walk with other parents of tiny babies, and one of them happened to be a doctor, and he sort of turned white and got this 1000 yard stare and began to talk about his ER days, and dear lord woman, when chicken pox goes wrong it goes REALLY REALLY WRONG and I started to cry and tried to stroller my baby to the nearest walk in clinic and handcuff myself to the reception desk until they shot The Girl up with dead chickens or whatever it is they have to do. It was pretty traumatic.
And so here we are again, and we, as an informed, news watching public, are being pulled in a million different directions. If we vaccinate, Will she get the flu from the vaccine? Will she grow up to rob banks because she got the vaccine? Will she suffer horribly if she doesn't get the vaccine? Will there even be enough vaccine to go around?
(cue going crazy music)
I am sympathetic to the alternative medicine way of thinking; I used to work for an acupuncturist, who prescribed me teaspoons full of some horrible tasting concoction; We use ginger for bellyaches, and Calms Forte for sleepless nights. I am not in the pocket of Big Pharma - I am unfortunately not in the pocket of anyone. I get the fear: having to count on someone else, essentially a stranger, to have the expertise to make decisions that affect your kids makes you feel powerless. Nobody loves your kid more that you do; how can they possibly make the best decision for them? Truth be told, and as attached as I am to other people's children, if it means saving Audrey's life, all those other kids can just fend for themselves, and I know other parents feel the same way. Having said that, I am firmly in favor of vaccinations, and I am a bit dismayed by the rise of non-vaccinations in the US.
(cue the angry mob coming to burn my house down)
I think it is disingenuous to call parents who choose not to vaccinate victims of pseudo-science or hippie morons who believe unicorns cure cancer. Like I said, it is scary to have to trust in experts, and the stakes are so high. Scientists are not always the best spokespeople for their cause, either; ask any nerdy person you know about the thing they are nerdy about, and your eyes will glaze over almost immediately. But, to quote a famous scientist, I recently read something Carl Sagan said about pseudo-science satisfying a human need and offering more comfort than cold, hard science:
“A great many of these belief systems address real human needs that are not being met by our society,” Sagan wrote this about the embrace of reincarnation, channeling, and extraterrestrials. “There are unsatisfied medical needs, spiritual needs, and needs for communion with the rest of the human community.”
Simply put, science may be the truth, but our brains are hard wired to want more than that. So, I get it, I truly do. I am not inclined to just believe anything the government or big corporations tell me. I read 1984. But I do believe in science.
In a recent Wired magazine article, which I will link to, it says:
" nonprofit health care provider Kaiser Permanente reported that unvaccinated children were 23 times more likely to get pertussis" which is whooping cough, and potentially deadly to infants. "Kaiser’s Institute for Health Research, revealed that the number of reported pertussis cases jumped from 1,000 in 1976 to 26,000 in 2004. A disease that vaccines made rare, in other words, is making a comeback."
Choosing to not vaccinate your children is simply choosing a different risk- you are betting your kid won't get the flu, or whooping cough, or polio. You are basing a lot of this bet on the fact that most kids do get vaccinated, so you are piggybacking on their continued good health. Statistically,however, the better bet is with getting the vaccinations. Especially in an area where a lot of parents are not vaccinating, there have been outbreaks of disease; most recently there was a measles outbreak in San Diego and one of mumps in Brooklyn. It would be heartbreaking to have your kid, or anyone else's kid, get sick or even die because of the choice you make. Remember that babies don't get a lot of these vaccines til later, so these outbreaks affect other people's children as well as your own. So the stakes are high. No vaccination is risk-free, but we are also taking a greater risk by not vaccinating.
There is a huge debate over whether vaccines are terrible and bad and more specifically cause autism, it can be summed up by the following: science says it doesn't, Jenny McCarthy, actor/playboy model/mother of an autistic child, says it does.
The controversy stems mainly from a preservative called thimerosal, which contains ethylmercury. Pregnant women are told not to eat fish because of the mercury content, so naturally freak out a bit when they hear about this preservative, and, somehow- the origins of this theory are unclear to me- it became linked with autism. Possibly because symptoms of autism show up around 18 to 24 months of age, around the time when kids typically get certain vaccines. Thimerisol has largely been removed from vaccines since 2001, yet the incidences of autism continue to rise, probably because of better diagnostics and clearly not because of mercury. There is also talk of the aluminum salts in vaccines used to increase antibody response, which also sounds really bad, right? However, one dose of antacid has about 1,000 times as much aluminum as a vaccine does. But, it's too late. Many people have "vaccines = bad" already stuck in their heads. It doesn't help that nobody knows exactly what causes autism, and autism has been in the news a lot in the past decade. We want to protect our kids, and we will do so in any way we can, right?
My cousin is autistic, and my aunt always laughs and says, "He's not my problem child. His sister, on the other hand..." I in no way want to minimize the effort, the worry, the heartache of having a child with autism. However, i speak for my entire family when I say that we would very much rather have my cousin in our lives, rather than risk his life by exposing him to infectious and potentially deadly disease. Autism has never killed anyone. And, again, for the record, there are no reputable, peer reviewed studies that make the link between vaccines and autism. I have links to the CDC and FDA websites on my blog if you would like their take on it, as well as other sources.
I expect a lot of mail about this, a lot of name calling and rending of garments. Don't disappoint me, people.