To vaccinate or not to vaccinate – there shouldn’t be a question

As parents there are hundreds of choices that we make on behalf of our children, particularly during their first year of vulnerability.

Whether to vaccinate infants is one of those decisions that have to be made, though there should not be much room for uncertainty.

In the midst of the current measles outbreak, government officials—including Barack Obama—are imploring parents to vaccinate their children, to protect their babies, and prevent further spread of potentially-deadly, preventable disease.

And that’s just it – the measles, and a host of other viruses that we vaccinate against, are completely preventable with due diligence.

But some fear the needle, quoting research done in the name of proving the dangers of immunization – like the 1998 study that claimed vaccines cause autism, which was ultimately debunked when it was revealed that British researcher Dr. Andrew Wakefield had falsified data and was consequently stripped of his medical license.

People like to have something to blame for matters out of their control, and so the autism study continues to have a following, regardless of its invalidity.

There are others who believe that vaccines are unsafe because children should not have chemicals and viruses injected into their bodies, and should simply develop antibodies naturally.

True, the body does need to learn how to fight its own battles. But left to natural devices, there is no telling whether a child will recover from a virus, whereas vaccines allow the immune system to cultivate those same antibodies without the dangers of infection.

Yes, people should be allowed to make their own decisions as to whether to have their children immunized. But they should also realize that their choices do not impact only their own family and children.

They are putting thousands of other people at risk.

My infant daughter began daycare this past September. She is now eight months old, and has received her first three rounds of immunizations.

But children, though especially vulnerable, are not eligible for the two-part measles vaccine until they are 12 and 18 months of age.

What this means is that my baby—like thousands of others—is at risk in her public daycare, where parents may not have chosen to immunize their child and could bring deadly diseases to other families.

Some parents take an “I don’t have to worry about other people’s kids” approach.

Frighteningly, some of these are even health care professionals, like cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson of Arizona, who told CNN: “I’m not going to sacrifice the well-being of my child. My child is pure.”

He went on to claim that he would never feel guilty about knowing his children infected someone else’s baby, saying, “It’s an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I’m not going to put my child at risk to save another child.”

How very “Hippocratical.”

Despite this close-minded, cold-hearted attitude, what Dr. Wolfson should consider is how he would feel if it was one of his boys who suffered and died at the hand of a preventable disease he chose not to protect him from.

While we cannot force people to vaccinate their children—yet—we should be educating people on both the true effects of immunizations and the diseases they protect us, and our children, from contracting.

And those who choose not to be vaccinated should not be permitted to use public services—like public daycares and schools—at least during times of infectious outbreaks, like the current measles situation.

One daycare in Ottawa, though it has received criticism and backlash, actually has the right idea. Melissa Amekah and her husband Paapa opened a “vaccine-free” child care facility.

Though some disapprove of their decision not to immunize, and condemn the couple for encouraging people to not vaccinate, they should be celebrated.

The Amekahs are keeping non-vaccinated children separate from vulnerable babies and toddlers in public facilities. Despite not believing in immunizations, they are providing some method of protection.

Elsewhere, parents who are not willing to have their children vaccinated should be prepared for criticism, and possibly a law suit.

Because if an unimmunized child transmits a deadly disease to a susceptible baby—particularly in the U.S., where the cost of healthcare can bankrupt a family during their time of suffering—you can bet there will be repercussions.

Not to mention the guilt associated with knowing that your child infected—and possibly killed—an innocent baby. Or that your own child died from small pox, or rubella, or any of the other many preventable communicable diseases we deflect with regular immunization.

Rather than questioning the needle and referencing fallacious arguments, we should rejoice in the fact that our western medicine permits us to keep our children safe from dangerous and potentially life-threatening viruses.

Vaccinating babies—saving lives—is our social responsibility.

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