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How Can Someone Not Vaccinate Their Kids?

Look, like many parents I have pretty strong opinions and like many bloggers, I have a hard time keeping them to myself.

I don’t spank, I think chores should be mandatory, I don’t believe TVs in kids’ bedrooms. But overall, if you do spank, if your kids don’t know the difference between chores and watching Dora the Explorer marathons from the comfort of their bed, I basically shrug and do the “to each her own!” thing. Because no, I don’t like it, but you’re also not doing it to my kid, so whatever.

But vaccination is different.

Because while you may choose not to vaccinate your kid, it’s a very no man is an island situation. Meaning that it potentially involves people outside your family. Like my kid.

One afternoon, as I picked up my son from his friend’s house, the friend’s mother took me aside and said that she thought her son has the chicken pox. He had a few spots on his body and she was wanted me to know. I shrugged it off. Don’t worry about it, I told her. Since they’ve been vaccinated, chances are her son wouldn’t get more than a few itchy spots and neither would my son. And then she told me. They had skipped the chicken pox vaccine.

To be honest, I was surprised.

I knew some people online who decided to skip vaccines for younger children after seeing their first child disappear at around the time of their vaccinations. I did not believe that there was sufficient science to link autism and vaccination, but I defer to parents who are affected. Besides, I’m no scientist.

But this was different. This was a woman who I was friendly with, who was smart and funny and compassionate and more like me than not, and yet she made a choice for her family that was so different from one that I made.

At the end it wasn’t a big deal: her son didn’t even have the chicken pox.

But what happens when parents skip other vaccines and their community is affected?

This weekend my friend Metalia tweeted an article that made me so angry. It’s about parents who delay  and skip vaccines for their children and the consequences that it has for the community.

Minnesota had a bacterial meningitis outbreak, its first in some 15 years, and there have also been recent cases of measles and whooping cough diseases.  Why are so many parents making choices for their children that have the potential to have tragic consequences for the whole community?

And what does that mean for the rest of us?

Look, I know what it’s like to take your baby in for vaccination. It hurts us more than it hurts them and we hold our breath a little as they are injected. And then we watch for adverse reactions, that list that ranges from mild discomfort to the unthinkable that was rattled off at the pediatrician’s office. And we sigh with palpable relief when our child emerges unscathed. And then we do it all over again, many times.

Vaccination doesn’t feel natural.

And it’s so easy to rationalize against it. “Well, how did people live before vaccines?” someone once asked when I expressed my disbelief at the choice not to vaccinate.

Good question.

Except the answer is terrible.

They didn’t.

Many people died.

Many people died from diseases that we know don’t have to bother to worry about.

Like polio. And measles.

And for all the nostalgia about the good old days, lack of vaccines should not be one of them.

 

Photo source: iStockPhoto

For more of Marinka, visit her personal blog Motherhood in NYC and The Mouthy Housewives, where she doles out advice as though it were candy. Mmm … candy. Also, follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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