The outbreak of Measles (or Rubeola) in Disneyland has set off another controversial discussion about vaccines. I say “another” because it’s always been a sensitive subject and one that quite frankly has no right or wrong answer.
One side feels getting kids vaccinated is the socially responsible thing to do to protect not only your kids but also protect others in the community, (especially those who cannot receive vaccines) from this very contagious and potentially fatal disease. On the other side we have those that are concerned about serious side effects and what the vaccines can do to an immature immune system. This was especially the case in the 1990’s when the now discredited reports by Andrew Wakefield linked measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines with autism. Both parties have solid differences and feel very strongly about their position. There is also plenty of research to back-up their claims and beliefs. This issue is not much different then talking about politics or religion. So stop fighting about it!
Families need to have a serious conversation with an open-minded physician. Not one that will judge them for having questions about vaccines and view them as “bad” parents for walking out of the clinic unvaccinated. The bottom line is: There are risks if you get vaccines and there are risks if you don’t get vaccines.
Be informed with the benefits and risks so you can make a good decision on what’s best for your child and your family. For instance, if both parents work, which one of you can afford to stay home for at least 1 week to take care of your child?
I’ve had plenty of distressed calls from parents asking me what to do after their unvaccinated child had a play-day with a friends child who came down with measles. Ask yourself how you would feel in that situation?
Know the symptoms of measles. They include cough, runny nose, red, watery eyes and a fever as high as 104 (which can cause your child to have a seizure). Then there’s the rash that starts on the face and spreads down to your feet. Ear infections occur in 1 out of 10 children that leads to deafness. One out of 20 children can develop pneumonia that often leads to hospitalization which is the most common cause of death. One in 1000 children can develop encephalitis, or swelling of the brain which can lead to seizures and leave the child deaf or mentally retarded. The virulence of the wild virus is a whole lot more then what you get in the vaccine.
That being said, you can still get the measles even if you’ve been vaccinated, but the symptoms are much milder, shorter in duration and you are not as contagious.
Vaccines have their own problems which includes mild side effects such as fever, rash, and stiffness in the joints. Serious side effects can be an allergic reaction, temporary low platelet count, seizure, deafness and brain damage. These serious side effects occur in less than 1 in a million cases. How can you guarantee that your child won’t be that 1 in a million….you can’t. And thats where the resistance for these voluntary vaccines comes in.
As a parent you would feel terrible if your child suffered serious side effects from a voluntary vaccine. On the other hand, you would also be devastated if your child developed permanent damage from a preventable disease. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
It’s not easy. But as long as a parent understands both sides and takes responsibility for their decision, then I believe parents should be given the right to decide for their child.