I normally don’t do this, because I prefer to keep a lot of hot button issues out of my blogging life, but this latest debate with vaccines and the resurgence of measles has me so steamed that I’m going to go outside of my box and dedicate a post to this.
First, I would like to correct some misinformation that aired on NBC Nightly News earlier in the week. As we all know, mainstream media often omits parts of a story for various reasons, but this particular segment bothered me more than others because of the potential harm that could come to a newly diagnosed CF patient if their parents saw the segment and panicked. In the clip, a mother with a child with CF was interviewed, and she stated that because of CF, her child could not be vaccinated. The short versions of the fact is this is incorrect, and a CF patient CAN be fully vaccinated. CF alone does not prevent you from fully vaccinating your child. There are exceptions, however, and those exceptions are the same as with the general population: if a CF patient is post-transplant, is allergic to ingredients in the vaccine (eggs, for example), is otherwise immunocompromised/has another underlying condition (like cancer) that makes it medically unadvisable to vaccinate, then the CF patient becomes part of the population that herd immunity is designed to protect. Based off the clip that was aired, we do not know if this particular patient has an underlying medical reason other than CF that is preventing them from being vaccinated, but the way NBC News passed it off made it sound like CF alone is the culprit, which is not the whole story.
This business of people choosing not to vaccinate their child without a valid medical reason is scary and disturbing. People will often joke about having a “First World Problem,” using the tag #FWP in posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media. If you want an example of a big first world “problem,” look at the population over the last decade that made the decision not to vaccinate their child(ren). People are shunning actual proven scientific facts after they do a quick Google search and read incredibly shady websites that are in no way, shape, or form, credible resources based on proven scientific facts. Now what is happening because they’re shunning decades of research to follow debunked “studies,” the advice from celebrities who do not have any scientific or medical backgrounds, and so forth? Herd immunity is breaking down. And that is leaving the portion of our population that is meant to benefit from it even more vulnerable.
People, let’s be real: VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM. At this point, professionals are still trying to figure out the exact causes, but they do know one thing. Vaccines are NOT the culprit. Wakefield’s “study” was always questionable because of his methods, and peer review has firmly discredited him.
Chemicals seems to be a popular argument against any sort of vaccine. The amount of chemicals in any vaccine are negligible, and many are nonexistent because they stopped using them years ago. You are honestly way more likely to be exposed to more toxic things by simply breathing. And then there are those that believe the government and “big pharma” are out to get them. Vaccines are not a money making scheme! “Big Pharma” isn’t profiting off of you taking a step to prevent your child(ren) from contracting something like polio, measles, rubella, whooping cough, etc. The same vaccines we have access to are also being sent to developing nations where parents are gladly accepting them so their children can escape the horrors of these diseases.
I firmly believe that a lot of the issue is stemming from the fact that the vaccines are doing their job. I’m 31 years old, and never had to witness or experience the diseases that were considered eradicated until recently. My parents’ generation was among the first to start receiving some of the vaccines for things like polio, but they still remember some of these diseases and what it was like for people contracting them. For my generation, we had the luxury of being almost blissfully ignorant thanks to vaccines. Yes, these diseases were still around, because there always have been people who claimed religious exemptions for their child(ren), and there were always the medically exempt, but hearing about one of these diseases appearing was a rarity because the herd immunity was still very strong, as the vast majority of the population was vaccinated. It’s almost like there’s a line of thought of “It can’t happen to me” because herd immunity does still exist, but I’m not sure people actually realize that by making the choice not to vaccinate their child(ren), they’re contributing to the demise of that protection that needs to be there for the vulnerable population, which is assumed would also protect their child(ren).
Yes, there is always a possibility that immunity can break down over time, and you won’t know it’s happening unless you get lab work to check your levels. There may also be a moment of panic when you realize you’re not up to date on boosters, or didn’t receive a subsequent booster at all (like I discovered when I was in high school and was volunteering at a special needs preschool, and there was a mumps scare; it was previously thought that my generation was fine with the initial MMR doses, but they discovered another booster was needed to rebuild immunity that was breaking down over the years). If that would happen, though, for a typical healthy person, it would be assumed that whatever immunity they had left would lessen the severity of symptoms if they were exposed to the disease.
The resurgence of these diseases scares me. We do have Judith fully vaccinated, and would have done so regardless because we firmly believe in the scientific data and evidence collected over the years that proves vaccines work. However, I have friends who have or are having babies, and their precious little ones are now at risk. I know a few ladies from various groups who have children battling childhood cancers. They are now at a greater risk. In the CF community, there are patients who are post-transplant that are now at a greater risk. And for the CF population in general, I still worry about the risks. Even though Judith is fully vaccinated, I worry that her body hasn’t built up the proper immunity to it. The complications from many of these diseases is enough to make me want to put her in a bubble right now (even though I realistically won’t). Let’s look at measles as an example. One of the biggest complications is pneumonia. For a CF patient, pneumonia is bad news. Pneumonia means irreversible lung damage, which then chisels away at life expectancy and can further shorten their life. Depending on the patient, it can also be a death sentence.
I wish things were different. I wish that this movement hadn’t gained the momentum it did, and innocent kids who are able to be vaccinated were/are vaccinated so we can preserve the herd immunity, keeping these diseases eradicated in our country. I wish that we were not in a position now where 5 infants in Illinois, over 100 people at Disney Land, and how many others across the country hadn’t contracted measles because of these chunks taken out of herd immunity. Maybe now that this is happening and people are starting to see the repercussions of their choices, some eyes will be opened and minds will be changed. It’s incredibly sad that it has come down to this, though, and there are innocent people suffering.
Please vaccinate your child. Do your part to help protect those that cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Please do not contribute to the demise of herd immunity, but contribute to the solidification of it so we do not have to witness these diseases making a bit comeback in this country.