The drama surrounding the recent rise in Whooping Cough cases rose up during my pregnancy, and I hot footed by way to my GP’s office to get vaccinated, and received my flu jab at the same time. This was met with a great deal of controversy on the parenting board I was a member of at the time, and it completely shocked me.
Whooping Cough is a hideous illness in adults, let alone babies. The recent number of cases has come about because people weren’t vaccinated, and until her 8 week jab Miss Rose would have been without protection. Me having the jab meant she received passive immunity as the vaccination passed through the placenta into her. It’s no guarantee but it’s a step and a step I would happily take again in a heartbeat. Babies suffering from Whooping Cough have such intense coughing spasms that they cannot breathe, they turn blue and suffer intense chest and throat pain. It often results in death. Yet many of the women on this board were opting out of this vaccination, and interestingly several were choosing to not vaccinate their child against any illnesses once it was born.
For those of you who find this bizarre and worrying, like myself, these are some of the reasons given. They ranged from the incredibly selfish, other mother’s who had been vaccinated had sore red arms after and they didn’t want that, to the medically concerned, putting poisons into your body cannot do any good.
One woman insisted she had not vaccinated her children because the diseases being vaccinated against had died out, and she would not be putting unnecessary drugs into her child. The reasons these diseases had died out is due to vaccinations, and the reason there are resurgences of illnesses such as Whooping Cough and Measles is because people are now opting out of vaccines.
Another stated that as the majority of children are vaccinated causing herd immunity, there is no need to vaccinate her child. If the vaccinated children won’t catch the disease they cannot pass it on to her child, so why bother? That would be a reasonable argument in a way, selfish but reasonable, except that every child in the herd not vaccinated reduces this herd immunity. There are children with low natural immunity due to illnesses such as cancer who cannot be vaccinated. You choosing not to vaccinate your healthy child increases their risk. And what about new born babies, they have low immunity, and the elderly who are also vulnerable. As a nation we have come to assume that almost all people vaccinate and therefore as most fragile members are protected, opting out puts everyone at risk, including your own child. And remember a vaccination doesn’t necessarily stop you getting the illness, it increases your chance of getting a milder version and surviving it should be you be infected, so even those vaccinated are at risk.
An utterly confounding argument against it I read was from a breast feeding mother. She insisted that as breast feeding helps a child’s immunity, and once they’re on solids she would be feeding them a healthy and nutritious diet that too increases healthy and vitality, she had no need to immunise. She was doing it naturally. If only the world new! Breast milk and vegetables can prevent people catching rubella! No, I’m sorry, it can’t. Just no.
The MMR controversy started when Andrew Wakefield published an article claiming a link between the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine and cases of autism in 1998. This has been widely discredited. Signs of autism start around the same time as the vaccination is given, and obviously a percentage of vaccinated children will turn out to be autistic, but as a percentage of none vaccinated children will. You cannot cause autism, but you can diagnose it, and this coincidental timing incident is to blame for a lot of people opting out of this and other vaccinations. Recently one (note, one) Italian judge ruled that a case of autism had been caused by the MMR vaccine. The anti-vaccination lobby have leapt upon this as more evidence to their cause. One judge. One case. Still disagreed with by medical experts.
A particularly interesting argument is often one that speaks volumes in it’s own way. Many, many non-vaccinators stated that THEY have done their research, THEY have read all the evidence, and have decided against it based on what they have read, whereas pro-vaccinators are just blindly following what doctors say. I will admit, I do not know or understand all the evidence. It’s science, it’s medicine, and to me it may as well be a foreign language. I am not trained nor qualified to understand the information and would make no pretense as to otherwise. I am following what my doctors say. Happily. The doctors and nurses have seen the people suffering from these illnesses, have seen people die from them, and do understand the information, they are trained, they are qualified, and they agree with it. Just as I wouldn’t claim to understand enough about maths to educate Miss Rose, I don’t claim to understand enough about vaccines to decide whether they are or aren’t safe. I rely on maths teachers for maths teaching, and doctors for medical advice.
Obviously there are many more arguments both for and against vaccination that I haven’t included and if you want to share them that’s great and I would love to read them. I do not hide the fact I am very pro-vaccination and despite reading many and varied arguments against vaccinations, I still do not understand nor agree with it. I want to take as many steps as I can to prevent my daughter from catching the hideous number of awful illnesses that are out there, and that includes vaccinations. If you believe you’re doing the right thing by not vaccinating I hope you’re right and your child is lucky and stays well, because enough hearts are broken around the world by children dying who were unable to afford or don’t have access to vaccinations, and I would hate for yours to be added to that terrible list.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!