Anyone who knows me well knows that I am very much pro vaccination. It’s something I believe in and something I can be quite passionate about. And we all know this can be a pretty heavy subject (as well it should be) with impassioned arguments from both side of the fence. But I’m not here to do that. I’m not here to throw a whole bunch of science and stats around. The truth is I am not a scientist, a doctor or have anything that resembles formal training or education in this field. What I am is an intelligent person who has made an informed decision for myself and my child (in collaboration with my husband) based on what I do know and what I believe to be true.
Why I Vaccinate
1. I was vaccinated
My parents made sure that I, and my two brothers, received all of our vaccinations growing up. My mother hated needles, and hated the idea of her kids getting needles. Not because she feared they would harm us – it was just the whole idea of getting jabbed that caused her anxiety. But she concluded that the benefits of having her kids vaccinated was far more important than the brief anxiety she experienced as vaccination day approached. She believed that small amount of stress was nothing compared to what she would experience if one of her kids became ill with something that could have been prevented.
2. Our doctor says so
We have an incredible pediatrician. He has helped our daughter through horrible acid reflux and getting her asthma under control. He strongly recommends keeping up to date on our daughter’s vaccinations. BUT it’s not just him. I have yet to meet a licensed doctor who has advised otherwise. I’m not saying they don’t exist. But I haven’t encountered one. So, if every doctor I have ever met believes that vaccinations are a good idea then why wouldn’t I take that advice?
3. I believe it is important for my child’s health
We have a lot of decisions to make as parents. Many of those decisions are pretty big. Vaccinating is one of them. I love my daughter more than anything in the world. And I believe that vaccinating saves lives, therefore I have her vaccinated. My decision isn’t based on fear, it isn’t based on pressure from the medical community or the pharmaceutical companies. It is based on my own ability to make an informed decision and feel comfortable that it is indeed the best thing for my child.
4. Because not everyone can
There are segments of the population that cannot receive immunizations. We currently have a measles outbreak in this country and since children are not fully immunized for measles until they are 18 months they are at greater risk for catching this highly contagious disease. There are also people with compromised immune systems from other illnesses or because of cancer treatment. They can’t protect themselves. But I can. And in protecting myself and my child I am helping to protect them.
5. Because not everyone does
Vaccines are not 100% effective. They are VERY effective. the measles vaccine for example, is 95% effective. So, there are 5% of the vaccinated population still at risk. And with the every increasing number of people choosing not to vaccinate we are pretty quickly making herd immunity ineffective. It is, or soon will be if vaccination rates keep dropping, something we just cannot rely on. So in order to do what I can to protect my family, and those around us who cannot vaccinate, we do.
6. Because we can’t vaccinate for everything
There are thousands of diseases out there than can make us sick, or potentially kill us, that we cannot vaccinate for. Many are easily treatable, some are risky but treatable and some are difficult or impossible to treat. If I can protect my family from at least handful of illnesses then I will, and do.
7. I’m aware of the risks and the benefits
No medical procedure or medication comes without some risk. Science is wonderful but it is not perfect. I know that vaccinations can have side effects. I also know that many reactions reported through the vaccine adverse events reporting system are not directly related to the vaccine. Any adverse event that happens after a vaccination can be reported. That doesn’t mean the vaccine actually caused the event. We actually filled out one those reports after our daughter’s first round of vaccinations. Why? Because we ended up spending that night in the emergency room. Since we didn’t immediately understand what caused her to scream endlessly for hours after her vaccination we naturally reported it. We eventually got to the bottom of our daughter’s problems that night (it took some time) and were 100% certain that it was not a direct side effect of the immunization. She is now almost four and we have continued to keep her vaccinations up to date with no side effects beyond a mild fever.
I’m not disputing that side effects, even serious ones, are possible. But we have decided that the benefits of vaccinating far outweigh the risks for our family. Over the years we have had to give our daughter medications that have potential side effects. She received medication as an infant for her reflux, she takes medication for her asthma – both of these conditions are ones that, left untreated, can be quite serious. The clear choice was to give her the medication she needed to get well and thrive. We take that same cost/benefit approach when making decisions about vaccinating.
These are the reasons I vaccinate. They are my own reasons (shared by my partner) and I feel comfortable with them. I don’t believe in fear mongering. I also don’t respond to fear mongering. Anybody, on any side, can google all day long and find a myriad of numbers, stories, reports, etc. for or against vaccinating (or co-sleeping, crying it out, baby wearing, etc.). The bottom line is being comfortable with the decisions you make. Knowing that, as a parent, you have done the best thing for your child. For me, doing what’s best for my child also means not only considering her health and well being but the health and well being of those around us. Because the decisions I make right now not only impact her at this moment in time but they help shape the world in which she will grow up in.