I remember when I read the news on January 5th about measles being linked to Disneyland visits between December 15-20, 2014. I frantically googled how long someone can be exposed to measles before the disease manifests. I found out that at the longest, it’s three weeks. I was relieved, and then I was angry.
My son isn’t vaccinated.
I was relieved because it had been just about three weeks since my family, including my then 2-month-old son, were at Disneyland. And I was angry that measles, a preventable disease, was spreading through southern California.
Even though we were safe from the initial outbreak at Disneyland, we live just a few minutes away from other places where the outbreak is just beginning to show up.
My son wasn’t vaccinated because he’s too young.
I believe in vaccines. I am also a baby-wearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and organic-eating mommy (or try my best to be.) I’m not super “crunchy,” but some would argue I have a lot in common with the stereotypical “anti-vaxxer.” My son is lucky; he did not get measles. He has passive immunity because he is breastfed, and I have been fully vaccinated.
I am a “vaxxer.” I believe vaccines not only help my own child, but are our social responsibility to others who are medically unable to vaccinate to protect themselves. While pregnant, I had my entire family (30 people) get their TDaP booster because I was not risking my son getting whooping cough. He can’t protect himself yet, so it’s our responsibility to protect him. Likewise, the people of society should do so for each other. We might not be family, but we must live together.
Those who are medically able to withstand the minimal risks/ effects of a vaccine should be vaccinated. I know vaccines aren’t 100% effective in preventing a disease, but they do a great job of arming the body with immunity to fight against the disease. So, if someone were to contract the disease, that person is less likely to pass the disease to another and is better able to fight it, making the duration of the symptoms shorter and less intense than if that person had no immunity whatsoever.
Furthermore, even IF vaccines caused autism (which they don’t), I’d rather have a living autistic child than a deceased non-autistic child from a preventable disease like measles.
Having most members of a community, 95% vaccinated, creates herd immunity. People who are immunocompromised, or severely allergic, or too young (like my son) to receive vaccinations depend upon that immunity. It's what keeps preventable diseases at bay and keeps diseases from mutating. It is because so many have been vaccinated that this measles outbreak isn't worse.
That’s why the measles vaccine has been so effective. The strain has remained relatively the same for the past five decades. However, with so many anti-vaxxer clusters, communities have created a sort of petrie dish allowing the virus room to mutate. We see how readily viruses mutate each year with the flu. And measles is much more contagious than the flu.
Do you wonder why we see mothers in poorer countries walking miles to vaccinate their young children? It's because they have seen death first–hand from preventable diseases. There is a reason why we see so few deaths in the US from measles and other preventable diseases. It is because of our access to vaccines and healthcare.
I would hate for children too young to receive a vaccine to die because of another parent’s selfish choice to not vaccinate their child. It’s selfish because that choice affects others. The scariest thought is if the disease is allowed to mutate, then no one, not even the vaccinated, will have immunity.