Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Vaccination Blues

The town which nurtured my children in their youths is in the news these days.  There's a youngster recovering from chemotherapy for leukemia and a unvaccinated cohort of classmates who are putting him at risk for measles.

The little one can't be vaccinated; his immune system is too weakened by the cancer treatments.  Should he become ill, the consequences could be grave.  The school has a No Peanuts policy because "some children could die" but refuses to consider a requirement for vaccinations.  Though the school nurse was careful to insure that all his classmates had received the vaccine, that doesn't protect him at recess or assembly or on the playground, waiting for school to start.

It's personal for me.  I was president of that school board.  We brought great changes to that district, not the least of which was not rehiring a long-time superintendent, and we paid a heavy emotional price for doing so.  There are still people who won't speak to me. 

We knew we were in the right.  My file of faxes (this was before the internet made communications instantaneous) reminds me of the vitriol which came our way.  A great many well educated people took us to task, blithely ignoring the fact that we had information which they did not.  I could understand their frustration, but personnel issues belong to the employee; the Board was forbidden to speak on the subject in public. 

Without our data, it was easy to see how those who loved her could assume that we were acting out of spite.  She'd been there forever; why couldn't we let well enough alone for eighteen months until she retired gracefully? My response was two fold: "those eighteen months are some child's first and second grades, I was elected to be sure that they are outstanding years"; and "we know things which you do not."

It made no difference to many; people were entrenched in their positions.  Others were able, after much time and energy, to come to the conclusion that when people you respect act in ways which seem incongruous, it behooves one to wonder if, perhaps, they are operating with more information than is generally available.  With that respect must come the concomitant belief that their actions, while surprising, come from a place of caring, where the needs of the many outweigh the fears of the few.

It's time for that school board to remember that, I think.

This will not turn into a rant about vaccines.  The bad science underlying the current wave of unimmunized children has been well documented.  The parents who are making these decisions grew up in an era where they and their schoolmates were receiving new technology - vaccines for chicken pox and measles and mumps and rubella.  They knew no one who suffered. 

Now, as parents themselves, they are .... I just don't know.  Are they trying to look smart, claiming to have read up on the issue and made an informed choice?  Are they seeking a cause celebre? Are they trying to set themselves apart from the rest?  Can they really be so misinformed?

Are they eschewing the polio vaccine as well?

It's impossible to argue with a zealot.  I've tried and failed.  They know what they know and, there's no talking to them.  Listen to this cardiologist from Arizona, telling the world that his children are not polluted by vaccines, that they are pure.  He is looking forward to the time when they have the opportunity to contract a childhood disease.

I can understand the paleo diet, but paleo medical care?  Seriously?

We are all part of the herd.  We share this planet.  We are responsible for one another.

My granddaughter shouldn't be put at risk simply because she is too young for the vaccine and others are not accepting their responsibilities to society.  I wonder if these parents ever consider the social contract.  Do they honestly believe that they exist in an island? 

The father of the 7 year old makes this point :
 "If you choose not to immunize your own child and your own child dies because they get measles, OK, that's your responsibility, that's your choice. But if your child gets sick and gets my child sick and my child dies, then ... your action has harmed my child."
Or, how about this: Your right to make a fist ends at the tip of my nose.
Here is a link to a graphic explanation of vaccines and the current controversy.  Thanks to John E Simpson for the connection.


  1. I totally agree. If a child doesn't have an immune problem, they should not be admitted to any public school without vaccinations. I am old enough to remember bringing signed permission from home and getting my shots right there in the school. The current anti-vaccination movement is as bad as anti-science for the ignorance behind it. If a child has a real medical reason to not have them, then it should require a doctor's signed slip.

    1. I, too remember needing an Immunization Record in order to enter school on the first day. Our parents were so grateful that we were not in fear of polio, which terrorized them as children, and saw medical breakthroughs as true life savers, which they were.

  2. As you have seen on my FB page, this is VERY personal for me. Having a friend whose child had a transplant and then people being so cavalier about vaccinations infuriates me. I agree with Rain--no child should be admitted to a public school unless they have been vaccinated or have a medical reason why they have not. No exceptions. This whole thing of my child is pure or my child leads a healthy lifestyle is a bunch of BS.

    My uncle almost died of polio as a child and he still is handicapped because of it. One leg is longer than the other and he has to wear a shoe that's raised on one foot. My sister had mumps as child and we were vaccinated. My husband is allergic to chicken and all vaccines are incubated in eggs. BUT... his mother STILL had him vaccinated as a child--just in very small intervals. She did it because she wanted to make sure he was protected. And then there is my friend whose child had a lung transplant last year. She could die just from getting the common cold, much less a life-threatening disease. I have no patience for all of this anti-science crap.

    The people that don't want to vaccinate their children, should not be allowed to bring them out in public. They are endangering the lives of children and babies that don't have a choice in getting a vaccination. They cannot due to their medical condition or their age.

    I heard from one friend today that she has a friend who doesn't believe in vaccinating because they have side-effects. I guess your child dying from not getting vaccinated is not bad enough.

    I despair at the stupidity of some people. :(

    Thanks for writing this post.

    Megan xxx

    1. I go to fury instead of despair, Megan. Your parents' generation (and mine) lived with polio and the fear of contagion was close enough to their lives as parents themselves that they raced as fast as they could to immunize us all.

      As we become safer, we become cavalier, I guess.

  3. I brought home measles in 1960, my little sister was under the age of one and there were no vacinations then. She caught the measles, ran a fever of 105 and it fried the nerves in her ears, causing a severe hearing loss. She has worn hearing aids since the age of 4. It is not a harmless virus, it can cause severe problems, just ask my sister.

    1. Ellyn, I think this is at the core of the issue. The young parents who are not vaccinating today have no memory or real life experience of these diseases. You had no choice in contracting measles. I had them around that time, too, and mumps and chicken pox as well. I was so grateful that the Rubella vaccine was created so I could be protected - fear of mumps or Rubella (German Measles) during pregnancy was very real back then..... and, I fear, coming to be so again, soon.


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