Recently, following a "pertussis party," all five of her kids came down with whooping cough. WHOOPING COUGH. You know, that incredibly dangerous disease that (in the words of the CDC) causes violent coughing spells so bad that children cannot breathe, leading to pneumonia, seizures, and even brain damage or death? And for which there is a vaccine? But which is making a comeback now, due to people who opt out of vaccines because they feel like they can treat diseases with homeopathy and natural remedies by rubbing garlic on their kids' feet?
ARGH! There's so much wrong with this situation that I don't know where to begin!! So I am going to stick with unpacking just one of the points that made me all ragey.
Soulemama never directly addresses whether or not her kids are vaccinated (I mean, obviously they aren't, because who would vaccinate their kids and then directly expose them to an infectious disease?!? We vaccinate because we want our kids to stay healthy!!), instead sidestepping the issue by saying (in the comments to her post): "if you read my post, never do I say that we did not vaccinate. I think that is entirely beside the point, completely personal, and only leads to finger pointing."
Head: asplode. Because actually? Whether or not you vaccinate your kids is not a completely personal decision. It's a question of PUBLIC HEALTH.
Not everyone can be vaccinated. People who are immuno-compromised, for instance, may not be able to tolerate the vaccine. Children under 2 months of age don't get the vaccine. And (as Soulemama points out, thinking it's a reason not to vaccinate) the vaccine isn't always 100% effective. That's why it's so important that EVERYONE vaccinate - to build the community (or herd) immunity.
If enough people are vaccinated, the spread of a disease becomes sufficiently unlikely that even those who can't be vaccinated, who aren't immune, are protected. But if people start opting out of vaccination... the community isn't immune. And these communicable diseases start making a comeback.
The website Science-Based Medicine has a nice explanation of herd immunity, and what happens when people start opting out, which I'll excerpt briefly:
Published in Pediatrics this month is a paper that looked at the effect of vaccine refusers on laboratory confirmed (PCR or cultures) pertussis in Colorado (13). They had 158 cases of pertussis in the Kaiser system between 1996 and 2007.Infected children were significantly more likely to have parents who refused vaccinations (11.5%) than the controls (0.5%). The difference translated to a 22.8-fold increased risk of pertussis in the unvaccinated children.At the time in Colorado, vaccination refusal was less than 1%, but they accounted for 11% of the cases of pertussis. That’s not surprising. With a bacterial disease like pertussis, a small slip in the vaccine rate can lead to a big jump in disease.The vaccine is not 100%. So there will be cases in vaccinated children as well. What is striking is ALL the cases in the unvaccinated group could be attributed to not having the vaccine.
So, in short: No, Soulemama, whether or not you vaccinate your kids isn't a "completely personal" decision. Maintaining community immunity against infectious, deadly diseases requires EVERYONE to vaccinate who can. This protects people whose vaccines didn't take or whose vaccines need a booster; it protects small babies and elderly folks and people who are immuno-compromised. It protects all of us.
So if keeping your own kids safe and healthy isn't enough of a motivation for you to vaccinate them (to which, as a parent, I must say WTF?!?) - fine. But then do it for my kids.