I wasn’t going to say anything about this, but as usual, semantics made me do it.
Because we live in a free and democratic first-world country (except for those places you don’t want to walk through), you get to choose not to vaccinate your children, and your reasons for that don’t matter. Good for you. You made a decision!
I don’t actually care what your reasons are for choosing not to vaccinate your kids. I toyed with the idea of not vaccinating mine, but in the end, reason won out over paranoia. No, I don’t think that’s being harsh at all. I wasn’t considering not vaccinating my kids because I thought vaccines caused autism (which is, frankly, the stupidest claim I had ever heard *anyway*); I was considering not vaccinating my children because I had questions about the efficacy of the vaccines being used.
Then I remembered having pertussis (whooping cough). And chicken pox (which I got as an adult, from my kid). I remembered my grandmother telling me about how she watched her brother die (in the bathtub) of diphtheria. That was what made her decide to be a nurse. I decided it really didn’t matter what the efficacy was of the vaccine, because giving my kids a chance to not have these illnesses or to have far less virulent versions of them just really seemed like the common sense thing to do.
FAR BE IT FROM ANY OF US TO HAVE COMMON SENSE.
When my kid got chicken pox, one of my friends said “you should bring him over for a chicken pox party”. I had never heard of a chicken pox party. I asked whether my friend’s kid also had The Pox.
“No,” Friend said. “I want your kid to GIVE my kid chicken pox.”
Of COURSE I thought Friend was joking. I said something about syphilis and gonorrhoea parties probably being kind of fun, please pass the mercury har-har-har before I realized Friend was serious. Because that’s how I roll, yo.
Cue me being horrified at people WANTING to spread virulent, potentially deadly diseases.
I’m not a scientist, and there are plenty of people far more edumacated than I am who can explain to you how vaccines do and do not work. Now maybe you and God had a little sit-down over instant coffee and He told you that He most certainly did not invent science and that the devil did that and that anything that comes from science is evil so you have, which is your right, decided to forego the ‘lectricity, plastics, synthetic fibre, the Internet, your telephone, that stroller, and fire-retardant sleeper PJs, along with diapers and detergent. And instant coffee, come to think of it.
But just in case you’re not living on Mount Sinai tending your goats (and what adorable goats they are) and you’ve decided to pick and choose *which* bits of science are the work of the devil AND you’ve decided not to think about why God wouldn’t take credit for inventing things – you’ve chosen to believe that vaccines are bad and evolution is just a funny thing that the British talked about for a hundred years. Maybe it’s not a God thing at all. I shouldn’t be so…religion-shamingey?
Like I said, I don’t actually care about why you don’t think public preventative medicine is a good idea. Diseases, and particularly viruses, have a way of mutating (but it’s not through evolution, of course, because that’s just that silly British thing…it’s more like God creates a new virus every time an angel sneezes) and not all vaccines work for every person and not all vaccines work for life and let me just reiterate that my great uncle died in the bathtub when he was 13 because of diphtheria.
People didn’t used to have 6 to 14 kids in their families solely because women had no easily accessible control over their fertility. People used to have families with 6 or more kids because usually every other kid died from communicable disease. Pertussis, measles, mumps, smallpox, chicken pox, polio, diphtheria, cholera, tuberculosis… you name it, kids died from it. Yes there were shitloads of other reasons why graveyards up until the 1940s had so many tiny headstones with lambs all over the place. And yes, people still get those diseases. All over the world.
Hell, if you made it to age 6, you beat the odds. Entire generations of families didn’t name their children until the babies turned two because it was statistically probable that the kid would just die anyway. Or they just really really really wanted a daughter called Mary so they kept naming every doomed child “Mary” until one survived past infancy.
We have the ability to reduce infant mortality through vaccines. Yes, there are other things at work here, and no, reductions in infant mortality doesn’t exist in a vaccine-only vacuum. A minority of people in the world have cleaner, improved living conditions from what we had 100 years ago. A minority of people in the world have access to clean water, food, shelter, and health care. Children dying of preventable disease is something we are happy to leave “over there” in third-world countries and in the parts of our own cities we choose not to walk through.
Whatever the brainwashy reason you choose not to vaccinate your children is your decision and because you live in a free and democratic society you get to exercise stupid decisions all the time. So here’s the deal. Don’t send your kids to school. Don’t put them in sports (unless you’re that family from teevee whose mother has a womb that’s actually a clown car and you can form three full lines for hockey out of your own direct descendants). Don’t take them to church, don’t take them to the mall, don’t take them to day-care, don’t take them to the strip club. Just sit up on your mountain, tending your goats, and don’t let your children carry and spread communicable diseases.
Because even though my kids ARE vaccinated, one of the points of vaccines is to strengthen the community’s resistance to highly contagious pathogens. That means you are the weak link. Well, okay. That’s not fair. Your kids are. Keep those little typhoid Marys and pertussis Pauls away from other people.
And the semantic thing that set me off? There is no “vaccination debate”. It’s not about the argument, in other words. There is hard, scientific evidence that supports the practice of vaccination, and there is crackpot, knee-jerk paranoia that undermines public health.