The Vaccination Conversation
Do it! Don’t do it! Do it, but spread them out! Where do you stand on immunizing our children?
Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the newest installment of our parenting column written by two sets of Richmonders: Jorge and Patience Salgado (veteran parents of four gorgeous children), and Ross and Valerie Catrow (parenting rookies who have only been doing this “raising a child thing” for a few months). Check back fortnightly to watch them discuss/agree/disagree/throw down over all kinds of parenting issues, Richmond-related and beyond.
Today’s question: How do you feel about vaccinating your children?
I have to admit, vaccines have always scared the bejesus out of me. While I wholeheartedly believe in Jenner and the life saving work he discovered, it seems counter-intuitive to actually expose your kid to the very illness you are trying to prevent. Before all our infectious disease experts and doctors start throwing beakers at me, I want you to know, I depend on your knowledge and our children have been vaccinated.
So now that all our medical friends have taken a deep breath and feel a sigh of relief, I have not. I still hold my breath every time I sign the papers and hand them to the nurse.
Seven weeks after my son was born we moved from Miami to Richmond. Before we left my pediatrician suggested we give Josiah the full load of shots to buy me some time to find a new doctor and get settled after the move. This sounded logical to me, and I had yet to do any research on immunizations, so I agreed. Four shots and lord knows how many actual vaccines later, my kid was sick with an infection that sent us to the hospital a week later. While I’m sure it was unrelated, it did get my brain working to research this world and make some more thoughtful decisions.
It was hard to sort through the information; the two sides were so strong, and I found myself feeling lost and more conflicted. Other countries like Italy and Japan have more lenient vaccination schedules, and in the 80’s saw a decline in their rate of SIDS. Japan later saw an increase in cases of Pertussis and reversed some of their recommendations. Throw in the autism scare (which was found to be bogus), mercury madness, and the increased rate of neurological problems with our children and you have yourself a serious parental worry cocktail.
After reading about the effectiveness of certain vaccines compromising little immune systems and even more dizzying research we decided to work on a delayed schedule and give only two at a time. We secretly bank on the herd immunity of Richmond which makes us terrible public health citizens but allows me to be able to actually sign the consent forms at all. This is one topic that every parent should research for themselves. It’s more than playground conversation and news articles. However, when I start to get all up in my head, my wise mother reminds me that these are problems of privilege and wealth in our highly developed country. I sigh, kiss my babies and say a little prayer for parents everywhere.
When I was interviewing the doctor who we ended up choosing to be our child’s pediatrician (and who I like to call Dr. Cutie McSweaterVest – but that’s an ENTIRELY different post altogether), we naturally discussed the topic of vaccinations.
When I asked him, “What are your views on vaccinations?” he almost winced, I imagine from memories of being taken through the wringer by parents who wanted to 1) debate the vaccination/autism connection or 2) scold him for the AAP’s recommended (sometimes deemed “aggressive”) scheduling of those vaccines.
I think he was relieved when I said, “Oh don’t worry, I’m not going to fight you on any of it, I was just curious.”
Not that parents shouldn’t fight for the well-being of their children. That’s a big part of the job… you’re there to be their advocates until they can do it themselves. But based on the research I did (which was extensive – I mean, the majority of my job requires me to tool around on the Internet, so you can bet your sweet bippy that Google was groaning, “Vaccinations AGAIN?” at me by the end of my second trimester), Ross and I both just didn’t view vaccinations as something putting our child in danger. To us, not doing it seemed to set us up for something much riskier.
It’s our opinion that vaccinations are a public health issue. They are the result of advancements in medicine to which we are privileged to have access. And not only do I want to protect my child from certain life-threatening illnesses, but, had we chosen not to vaccinate, I would be paralyzed by fear of the possibility that not only could my child contract one of these diseases but also pass it along to someone else.
So we vaccinate. “On schedule,” I guess you could say, because, although some might consider it naive of us, we operate under the assumption that our child’s doctor (who was carefully selected… and not just because of the sweater vest) wants the best for him as well. We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had horrible side effects following the shots, beyond some minor fussiness. Does it give me the willies that I’m knowingly and willingly allowing someone to inject some infectious disease into my child, even though I understand it’s how vaccinations work? Yes. Do I hate how he looks at me in shock and then his face turns purple while he screams as the nurse plunges a needle into his chubby leg? Totally. But would we ever opt not to do it? Absolutely not. The alternative seems much more terrifying.
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