Monday, 1 November 2010
A sticking point
Last week, I took Lil-lil off to get her scheduled four-year-old jabs. Of course, it wasn't the most fun either of us have ever had, but I felt good knowing that I'm doing what I can to protect her – and the community – against disease. I feel grateful to live in a country where these vaccines are not only available but they're free!
If you ever take a cursory glance at parenting forums or websites, you'll be bombarded with scaremongering about why you shouldn't vaccinate your children. I'll admit that this makes my blood boil. When I see Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vaccine rhetoric being promoted by The Oprah Winfrey Show, I get angry (it's actually when I turned off her show for good). The fact that many people would rather believe what a former Playboy model has to say than medical researchers with years of training and experience makes me frustrated. The fact that author Andrew Wakefield (who wrote the piece linking the MMR vaccines and autism) has been not only widely discredited, but has also been found guilty of serious professional misconduct, seems to be constantly ignored baffles me. The fact that people would rather believe information they read on the internet than advice from their doctor staggers me. I'm not a scientist or a medico. I haven't read reams and reams of scientific research or medical journals, so I'm not equipped to give you the hard facts of why you should vaccinate your family.
I think that we're incredibly lucky, I think that a lot of us are blissfully complacent because we come from a generation that hasn't had to suffer polio or diphtheria. We didn't see the effects these diseases had on children, families, communities, so it's easy not to think about it and consider it something resigned to the history books.
I grew up listening to stories from my great aunt, who was born in 1900, about how when her younger sister was diagnosed with diphtheria her parents travelled from their farm to a distant hospital for treatment. At 12 years of age, she was left to look after her other siblings while their parents were away. Soon after, more of the children developed the disease and she was left to care for them, including having to boil the blankets in an effort to stop further infection.
As a young child I lived in a country where I didn't have access to the MMR vaccine. Subsequently I got measles, at Christmas time. I was incredibly sick and while I only have very vague memories of it, it must have been horrific for my mum to see her small child so ill.
Hearing these kinds of stories and suffering from measles myself, has led me to feel that vaccines are a gift, something to be thankful for. The fact that we live in an age and a country where safe vaccines are available is fantastic. How lucky am I? How lucky are my kids?
It seems absurd to me that some people would see vaccination as some kind of government conspiracy theory. A lot of people were concerned recently when the flu vaccine was withdrawn for young children. People used this as an example that the government and medical bodies weren't regulating vaccines enough. I felt the opposite, the fact that a problem was recognised and swiftly dealt with made me feel that the safety of vaccines was taken seriously.
So, that's why I'll keep taking my kids to the GP to get their jabs when they're scheduled. Of course, it's not a 100% guarantee that they won't get sick, but I believe they will stand a better chance with them.