March 15, 2014

Anti-Vaxxers & Public Health Concerns Clashing in Real Time.


The web is buzzing with controversy over the recent measles outbreak in the densely populated New York City.

In one headline the Daily Beast blames “Anti-Vaxxers” for the outbreak, in another Gawker calls a celebrity an idiot for refusing to vaccinate her children, but as far as I can tell this isn’t so simple.

According to an article in Slate Magazine of the 19 confirmed cases many of the individuals were too young to receive the vaccination, and others have had at least one round of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination and were still infected. There are some important things to know about this vaccine before we start shouting so loud we can’t hear each other. (I don’t know about you, but blame and name calling never really motivated me to engage with someone I disagree with.)

1. Children do not receive the MMR vaccination until they are between 12 and 15 months old. (Centers for Disease Control, CDC)

2. Children should receive a second MMR  vaccination between the ages of four and six. (CDC)

3. According to the Department of Public Heath (DPH) there was no vaccination until 1963.

4. The second vaccination was not recommended until a large outbreak at the end of the 80’s claimed the lives of many children. (DPH)

5. People with compromised immune systems should not ever receive the vaccine. (DPH)

6. Countless numbers of people from outside the US are traveling or moving into the country each year. A majority of documented cases of Measles in the last 20 years or so have been from people traveling into the US from countries where the vaccine is not required or maybe not available. (CDC)

7. Medical care costs money. According to the White House there are over 20 million uninsured people in the US. And the most recent census claims that over 45 million Americans are living at or below the poverty level. I haven’t been able to find any information indicating this vaccination is free.

What is my point? Context and facts are important before we start casting blame. The 19 confirmed cases in NYC are not clearly connected to crazy parents dancing under the moonlight instead of vaccinating their children.

Many Americans are too young to be fully vaccinated.

If you were born before 1963 chances are you aren’t vaccinated. If you were vaccinated before the the 1990’s, you may not have received your booster. And let’s face it there are a lot of barriers to health care beyond the new-age rage of not vaccinating your children.

I am not a doctor, but I am a mother. I remember how overwhelming it was for me when just an hour or so after the birth of my first son doctors were waving papers in my face asking to vaccinate my child for a number of things.

It was overwhelming and scary.

I can’t ever fault someone for trying to do their best for their children. I did vaccinate my boys, but I did so on my terms. I delayed their immunization schedule in an attempt to not overwhelm their tiny new bodies. I scheduled more appointments to avoid getting so many vaccinations in one day.

I read. And I asked lots of questions. That took a lot of work. And I truthfully don’t know if it made a difference.

I also understand that not all of us have the means or opportunities to do what I did, and if you are receiving public assistance you have even less choices.

A break out of a deadly virus is scary. And it is true we have a duty both to our children and our communities; it is important to make decisions with these implications in mind.

I think problem solving from a place of fear is a waste of time. Finding empathy, creating opportunities for dialogue, identifying obstacles and barriers, these things might actually take us where we want to go.



> Ask Dr. Ayurveda Dr. John Douillard.#2: Which Vaccinations are Safe for My Child?

> The Vaccine Debate Like Never Before

> Why all Boys & Girls Should be Vaccinated for HPV


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