If you're a new mom struggling with the decision of whether or not to vaccinate your baby, I can sympathize -- I agonized over the choice when my first child was born almost 10 years ago. That was when mercury = autism rumors were running high, and I was terrified of what the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine) might do to my daughter (since then, the initial study linking vaccines to autism has been called a fraud).
But the news that measles cases in the U.S. are at their highest in 15 years makes me glad I listened to my pediatrician and went ahead with the vaccinations.
I'll never forget the doctor's words and how she convinced me that immunizing my daughter was the right thing to do. We lived in New York City at the time, and my pediatrician was associated with St. Vincent's Hospital. When I told her about why I was hesitant to vaccinate, she didn't act like I was a crazy hippie, she just listened. Then she said that while nobody knew for sure whether or not vaccines triggered autism, she did know for certain that diseases like the measles, mumps, and rubella (not to mention pertussis and polio) were still out there. She knew this because she treated these illnesses in her own hospital.
They don't call it The Melting Pot for nothing -- NYC is a very international community, and a lot of parents make the mistake of assuming that because certain diseases have been all but eradicated in the U.S. that they aren't still a threat worldwide. Should my daughter ever travel, or merely come into contact with someone carrying one of these diseases, I would want her to be vaccinated, the pediatrician assured me. "I've seen polio, and it's not pretty," she said.
That did it for me, and I'm thankful. Eighty-seven percent of Americans ages 12 months to 19 years who got the measles this year were unvaccinated; there are measles outbreaks. And many of the kids who aren't vaccinated had parents claim religious or philosophical objections to why they didn't get the shot (which, I was told, is the only way your kid will be allowed to go to school without getting his or her shots). I almost objected, but I consider myself extremely lucky to have two healthy (vaccinated) children today.
Does the rise in U.S. measles cases scare you? Does this change your stance on vaccinations?
Image via Dave Haygarth/Flickr