By: Daina Sparling
I have a dirty little secret. Until recently I’ve kept it to myself so as not to offend anyone. I vaccinate. And I believe that those who don’t are wrong.
In today’s age of tolerance, taking a stand for (or against) something can make you wildly unpopular. And while some may think that me pushing my pro-vaccination agenda is insensitive, I say this.
I am a tolerant person – 99% of the time I believe parenting decisions ultimately do not matter. Whether your child uses a soother until he’s four years old, or wears a leash to the mall makes very little difference in whether he will turn out to be a normal, well-adjusted adult. Our children are resilient. With very few exceptions, we cannot ruin them.
Why Vaccinations Matter
However, the other 1% of the time I do have an opinion. Vaccinations are necessary. They save lives. Period. Whether it’s a recent trend, or something that I’ve only lately become aware of, many parents in first world countries are choosing to not immunize their children. Here is some of the discourse I’ve encountered.
- Herd Immunity. Basically, herd immunity relies on the fact that since the majority of our population is immunized, individuals receive the benefit of a vaccinated cohort without themselves receiving the vaccine. Here’s the problem with that. The more people who choose not to receive vaccinations in a group of individuals (or herd), the lower the percentage of vaccinated individuals there are. A low percentage of vaccinated individuals means a higher risk of transmitting a disease should it arise.
As I was writing this I was going to cite an outbreak of measles recently in Texas (article here). However, as of this week, I don’t need to look outside our provincial borders. Alberta Health Services has reported an outbreak of measles in southern Alberta (article here).
- Risk. I recently paid a visit to my friendly neighbourhood public health nurse. She suggested that while I was there I receive a booster for pertussis (whooping cough). When I asked why, she told me that there has been a resurgence of the disease (article here) in the last number of years, and even the previously immunized are now encouraged to receive shots.
Arguing with people who genuinely believe that vaccinations can hurt their children will always be a losing proposition. That’s why I instead urge parents to consider risk. The chance of your child contracting any type of side effect, proven or not, from vaccinations is far less than the likelihood they will become ill if not immunized at all. As much as I hate quoting Wikipedia, here is an easy-to-understand explanation of what’s called Attributable Risk, a statistical term relating to risk of becoming ill, for those interested in statistics.
Vaccinations are not 100% effective. So you choosing to not vaccinate your family can be fatal for mine. I feel as if we have abandoned our sense of social responsibility. We have so much as a nation – wealth, health, prosperity – that we’ve become dulled to the fact that recent generations struggled and died from diseases they worked hard to eradicate. Have we become so focused on our individual rights that they’ve superseded the greater good?
Daina is a wife to Darryl, mother to Jacob (2 years) and Audrey (3 weeks) who lives in Edmonton, Alberta. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends and looks forward to the day where she can once again have more than 3 hours consecutive sleep.