Nothing to do with vaccines, but this child is a cutie!
To preface, I want to be honest. I've been honest about this before (on my Facebook) but not on my blog. Before Charlie was born and diagnosed, I decided to forgo the "unnecessary" vaccines for a little while. The ones I decided to forgo were chicken pox and the flu vaccine. I, of course, realized the necessity of the other vaccines but decided that my son would be healthy and therefore there was no harm in skipping the other ones. I changed my mind before he was born after talking with pediatricians but I did thoroughly look into both sides of the story ahead of time. I tell you this not so you copy what I almost decided but so you realize that I was wrong. I posted this on my facebook page a month or so ago as a plea for other mothers who were perhaps 'on the fence' to reconsider, only to have it thrown in my face by my 25 year old niece as "you didn't care about vaccines until your kid had CF!" type of comment. The truth is partially: yes! I didn't realize how important it was until I had such an unstable child, but once I realized it through Charlie I believed it was my responsibility to help inform others.
Truth be told, I always agreed with vaccines, I just didn't think every vaccine was important-- like the flu or chicken pox. This was wrong and naive, and I'd love to explain why, because if it convinces ONE parent out there I'll be a happy duck.
So to start my story, here's my background. I've worked in labs that cure life threatening and debilitating diseases since I was 16. I have 13 years experience working in biotech, quality control, micro biology, and molecular biology, including 2 years in the QC department of a company that produced a recombinant flu vaccine. I have also spent 3 years in graduate biology courses at Brown in addition to having a 3 year old immune compromised son with Cystic Fibrosis. I consider myself very well informed. I don't get my knowledge from questionable news stories or the "anti" or even the "pro" vaccine websites. This is all information I know from experience and from my background. And I can attest with certainty that vaccines are perfectly safe. Anyone that says otherwise by spouting the words "dead virus" "formaldehyde" "thimerosal" or "autism" is an idiot. Plain and simple.
This is for 2 hours every day. Someday it's 4x per day. How is it fair that some person can decide for me that children that get the flu will be "just fine"?
Let's start with what it feels like to be a mother that knows she will outlive her child. This is the worst, knowing there's a pretty darn good chance your son won't be around when you're 60 is just plain heartbreaking. And even if he is around it's likely due to an invasive but life saving lung transplant. I don't say this to be a bummer, because statistics can be broken, but because I want you to be in my mindset. So let's say you know you have a "fragile" child: a child that can be rushed to the ER with a flu, which can turn into pneumonia, which can turn into decreased lung function, which can turn into a transplant. These are BIG problems and big stressors. Keep in mind, when you have a child with CF you don't have the luxury of deciding "oh this vaccine is OK and I don't want to do this one". It's just not going to happen. When Charlie was diagnosed I was told he would need all of his vaccines no matter what and I accepted it without question and happily. I would do anything to keep him out of the hospital and (relatively) healthy. Not only did Charlie need every vaccine he needed extra vaccines, which meant more money and more home nursing visits once per month. Again, I was happy to do it.
A rambling pro vaccination scientist---I WISH that had been me lol.
So now that i know what a gift a healthy child could have been, I have a very, VERY hard time accepting the fact that other families throw away their child's good health by risking forgoing vaccinations. I notice other parents now a days saying how blessed they are to have a healthy child, but then why don't you vaccinate them to ensure they stay healthy? Why aren't you protecting the good luck you've had? Why risk your healthy child dying from such a mundane disease as the chicken pox or the flu or any other disease out there? WHY? You've been so lucky to have healthy children, why would you gamble and throw that luck down the toilet? This more than anything irks the beejezus out of me. The reason is because non informed people with almost no scientific background decided such by listening to propaganda, and only listen to one side of the story with the resilience of a brick wall.
In addition, I have to say that I am also frustrated that most parents don't think and/or care about other immune compromised children. My niece with her strong stance against the flu vaccine seemed to care very little that our family would be visiting them in the prime of flu season (in fact she didn't care at all, she simply said "fine then, I"ll stay away"). On Charlie's first day of pre-school I overheard the other moms sharing tips on getting away with not vaccinating their kids for school ("oh you just apply for the religious waiver and they'll never follow up on it"). No one else seems to care about the other children that might not be able to rebound from the flu as quickly as their (lucky) healthy children can. How wonderful it must be to be able NOT to care about such mundane issues as vaccinations. But some parents have no choice in the matter. And in our case, Charlie looks completely healthy (thanks to the hours per day of work by a variety of people) so no one would ever think "oh well maybe I should care about vaccines because that child is sickly". It just won't happen. SO keep this in mind: your child will be contagious for DAYS before they show any signs of being sick. In those days your one child in school can infect at least triple the amount in their class. So if your 4 year old child isn't vaccinated for the flu, they could infect easily 60 other children with the flu before you even realize they are sick. SIXTY. and chances are at least one of those kids is also immune compromised or could become very ill due to your negligence. You'll probably never know if you caused these people harm for certain, but I'm here telling you-- if you have done that because you didn't vaccinate your child, you have risked another person's health. It's not a "maybe" it's a definite.
Also, I've heard the argument that "my kid got X illness and was fine!". Which is just ridiculous. That may be the case, but first of all, is it good that your child was sick when it could have been prevented? Secondly, how many other children did your one sick child infect that weren't fine afterwards?
When it comes to why it's important to vaccinate and why it's important to be vocal about your vaccination choices I reccomend these two articles. They're both extremely well written and are worth 10 minutes of your time. Please read:
This is a great article about another CF mom that goes into all the reasons vaccination is important to mom's like myself. I didn't get into a lot of the science because this mother has already done it perfectly.
This is an important article that mentions how much more vocal the "anti vaccine" movement is than the "pro vaccine" movement and that if we need changes, we need to be more vocal. This is important and I hope that if you're pro vaccine you will take this to heart.
I want to reiterate a point made by that last article. Many people feel vaccines are a personal decision within their family. HOWEVER, this "personal" decision affects every single person an unvaccinated child comes into contact with. Vaccination must be everyone's business because it affects everyone. I don't want to give a shit about someone else's vaccination opinions, I honestly don't WANT to, but in my situation it could seriously affect my child, so privacy on this matter is null and void.
You live in a community, with old people, sick people, and healthy people. Everyone needs to work together in a community to keep each other safe. You might not want to vaccinate your child but when you live in a community you need to do what's right. If you lived on an island in the middle of nowhere that would be different, but you don't, therefore public health is everyone's responsibility.
Please, don't let the worst happen to you before you change your mind about vaccines. You will be saving children's lives, even if it isn't your own. I'm sorry to get on my high horse, but quite honestly, I want to be vocal about this opinion in particular. I feel very strongly about it and think it's becoming a bigger issue as the anti-vaccine movement takes off and kids are getting sick again from diseases that used to be almost non existent. I'm thankful I was vaccinated by my parents, are you?