UNICEF efforts in Rwanda
include soap, water, and vaccines.Vaccines are an insanely heated and polarizing topic. Former doctor Andrew Wakefield fueled the fire by fudging records to show that MMR vax caused autism. And as with most issues, middle ground voices frequently go unheard, but are incredibly important for people who haven't chosen a side yet and feel lost and confused.
For many, the choice is much more complicated than most people give them credit for. I am in the delayed and selective camp, which often puts us under fire from ALL sides, because we're not doing enough or way too much.
The thing is, I think that both extremes are missing some seriously important points.
We know that plumbing, filtration, and personal hygiene significantly lowered the rate of diseases, and that's obvious in third world impoverished countries where babies literally die just from drinking the water when not breastfed and gaining generations of immunities from their mother. However, vaccines have helped decrease the rate of spread and contraction of many diseases, too. Hygiene and running water and vaccines work together, not against each other. In countries where that is lacking, vaccines save many, many lives and often are easier to afford and distribute than, say, a country-wide water filtration system, though UNICEF also gives out mosquito nets, cooking utensils, soap, and clean water.
But here in the US, I know people who had a child vaccinated who then suffered from seizures, loss of speech, and major allergic reactions. If that were my kid, I wouldn't vaccinate anymore either. Anyone can argue that it was something else, the timing, or an outside source, but to tell someone else you never met whose child was hurt or suffered that they don't know what they are talking about is plain ridiculous. Maybe it wasn't the vaccines, but who knows?
We also cannot ignore the fact that vaccines do not ensure that your child doesn't get the illness -- it only decreases the chance. So sometimes your kids are going to spread illness whether they are vaccinated or not. A lot more emphasis needs to go on prevention through healthy diet, breastfeeding, and not damaging the immune system with sugars, chemicals, and other common toxins -- something the anti-vax camp rightly prides themselves in, but the pro-camp often ignores entirely.
Government-run Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System or "VAERS" pays out plenty annually to children who are injured. Like any medication, there are risks. The insert tells us so. Millions of people take amoxicillin every day with no side effects but I'm deathly allergic to it and wear a medical alert bracelet because even TOUCHING it causes blisters. If something that is considered effective and safe can kill me, why is it that hard to accept that vaccines could hurt or kill certain children, too?
As far as delayed and selective scheduling, my pediatrician only barely tolerates my choices, but she did say something about the reason vaccines are given so close together and combined. In lower income families, getting to the doctor can be difficult, and for those with co-pays, sometimes the appointments can be prohibitive. One appointment and two shots (that contain 6 diseases) is more affordable for the average family than 4-5 appointments with 2-4 different shots.
Sadly, you usually can't get individual doses even if you ask, so that can leave you again choosing between too much or none. I think more people would vaccinate if they could get single doses. Combo shots have been under fire for higher rates of complications. The same shots given on the same day, had less side effects than the same two shots given as a combo shot.
Babies' bodies are more susceptible to many things, such as disease, yes. So in that case, vaccines are good. But there is concern about overdoses and build-up of toxic chemicals from vaccines.
While it pains me deeply to say that Jenny McCarthy might actually be right about something, the "Green Our Vaccines" movement is probably the smartest, most middle-ground, and positive solution there is, which moves to remove known toxic and damaging chemicals from our vaccines, and review and revise the schedule to stop forcing so much into tiny bodies that can't handle it. Less likelihood of negative reactions, less complications, less problems, same benefits for those who choose to vaccinate, and more incentive for a lot of those who choose not to, though many obviously will still opt out as is their right. Where's the problem with that?
Where do you stand on the vaccine debate?
Image via Julien Harneis/Flickr