A mom from Michigan is doing something unusual this weekend. She's taking a busload of kids across the border into Canada. OK so maybe that's not unusuall -- kids go on trips all the time, right? Well how about this: her mission is to get these kids vaccines that she hopes will save their lives.
In an era when the number of parents who are opting out on vaccinating their kids seems to be on an upswing, it could be said that Alicia Stillman is an anomaly. But her story could have other parents checking flights northbound.
Stillman's 19-year-old daughter died more than a year ago of meningitis B. Emily Stillman had gotten the meningococcal vaccine recommended for American kids by the CDC, but the immunization couldn't save her life; it doesn't protect kids from meningitis B.
That's why she told NBC she's taking teenage son Zachary, and some 50 other kids, to Canada. There's a vaccine offered by healthcare workers in our neighbor to the north that does cover the strain that killed Emily (the kids will get one shot this weekend, another on a return trip in a few months).
It's that same strain that has been blamed for outbreaks at at least two American universities in the last few months -- including Princeton and UC Santa Barbara. It's here; in America, threatening kids' lives.
So why aren't American kids getting the vaccine? Ever heard of a little organization called the Food and Drug Administration? Turns out the FDA hasn't yet approved this version of the meningitis vaccine (although it's under review).
Which puts parents in a pretty precarious position.
Should we TRUST vaccines administered elsewhere? Vaccines that our government hasn't rubber-stamped? Many parents consider the words "FDA approved" as a gold standard of sorts on whether or not something is safe to give to their kids. Granted, other countries have their own drug review boards, but if something hasn't passed the FDA's approval, one would think there would be a reason!
Then again, if there's a medical breakthrough out there in the world that could save your child's life, what mom or dad wouldn't go to extreme lengths to get it for their kid? Even if it means crossing international borders? Taking a risk?
Some would say it's riskier not to do it than the opposite.
How about you? Would you take your child to another country for a vaccine?
Image via Noodles and Beef/Flickr