The choice to vaccinate your children and whether you choose to or not doesn't make you a bad parent. Both sides are guilty of accusing the other as such, and it's unfortunate. Bottom line, parents on both sides of the debate are just looking to protect their children. Unfortunately, in all this, our children are becoming unprotected.
Vaccine exemptions and pockets of unvaccinated children have taken a toll on our ability to potentially alleviate the population of vaccine-preventable disease. All it takes for an outbreak is one sick person coming into a highly unvaccinated community. These diseases, of course, are only a plane ride away. Although you may think so, vaccine-preventable diseases have not been eradicated; they're still out there.
What do I think the real problem is behind all this? It's strong emotion and just plain old bad information.
Any vaccine search on the Internet brings up heart-wrenching stories of extreme vaccination injury. These typically fictional stories are often propaganda looking to reel you in. I can tell you that even to someone with many years of vaccine research under her belt, some of these fictional stories are really convincing.
Once you have the idea that these things could happen to your child it's easy to head down the rabbit hole of misinformation out there and convince yourself that vaccines are unsafe. The truth is that vaccine injury is very rare and many vaccines have decades of research and reporting behind them.
When it comes to vaccinating your children maybe it would help to look at the bigger picture. Put aside the fact that vaccines could protect your child from infectious disease, because they could also protect those too weak or too sick to be vaccinated.
A child with an illness such as cancer, a newborn baby, or your child's grandparent are all people you can protect when you vaccinate our child. When the vaccinated community surrounds those unable to be protected it helps keep them from getting sick as well. This is called herd immunity. It's easy to say your unvaccinated child will be protected due to herd immunity (which may be true) but when we get a lot of people thinking that way and not vaccinating it leaves communities open to infectious disease.
Since the rate of exemptions is on the rise, pockets of unvaccinated children are forming and we are seeing measles outbreaks (among other diseases) in many states across America. Handfuls of doctors are making big money off of people seeking exemptions and unfortunately, that has led to us seeing these diseases pop up again.
Religious and personal belief exemptions leave children with compromised immune systems – only when we remove those exemptions will we be on track to eliminate vaccine-preventable disease from circulating around the country.
My best advice if you are vaccine wary? Talk to some real doctors about your concerns and stay off the Internet. Look past the propaganda and realize vaccines aren't the enemy; vaccine-preventable disease is the enemy – one we have the ability to eliminate if we all decide it's worth it.