As well as the sense of unease left over from Wakefield’s report – and the people who will still try to convince parents that it was “covered up” and that they’re putting their children at greater risk by giving them the vaccine – there is a perception that Measles isn’t that big a deal. A lot of us remember having it when we were young, or knowing people who did, but not many of us know anyone who was seriously affected by it.
Measles can cause “serious complications, including blindness and even death” and can lead to Meningitis and Pneumonia. If you need to know more about the complications check out the NHS page here. And for details of the number of avoidable deaths compared to the number of Autism links see here.
I read today that there have been calls to make the MMR jab mandatory, as it is in the US. Apparently it’s possible to claim exemption “on philosophical or religious grounds,” and the idea is that vaccination is still a parental choice, but although not having choices might make us uncomfortable is it possible that it might be for the greater good?
I appreciate your right to make certain decisions for your child, but not at the expense of other people’s children. If you decide not to vaccinate your child and he contracts Measles there are a whole lot of other people who could be affected – babies not yet old enough for the vaccine, toddlers not ready for the booster, children with cancer, pregnant women and so many other groups of vulnerable people. Those people are all at higher risk of serious complications than your “healthy” child.
Worse than those who have been genuinely misled by media campaigns and conspiracy theorists are those who take an “alternative” approach to vaccination. Although I try to be charitable when people use homeopathy, and I try to tell myself they might not know any better, in this day of the internet there’s really no excuse. If you want to take a homeopathic remedy for your acne, go ahead. But if you’ve been scared enough about the MMR vaccine to look for an alternative then you clearly have the means to research the alternatives, and to find out that giving your child water is not going to protect them from Measles, Mumps or Rubella.
In a 2003 study only 3% of homeopaths asked for advice about MMR advised vaccination. Just bear in mind that where you ask your questions, and of whom, will have a serious impact on the advice you’re given. Remember it, too, if you come across the “anti-vaxx” army, “a powerful citizen misinformation activist movement.” Don’t trust your doctor? Dig out the research and read it for yourself. We have choices so empower yourself with the knowledge to make them*. Don’t let the Daily Mail make your decisions for you, or maybe it really would be best for the decisions to be taken out of our hands.
Luckily, the impact of the hoax seems to be waning and the vaccine uptake rate in the UK is increasing again. What hasn’t changed, however, is the status of those who missed the vaccines during the scandal itself. There are so many children and teenagers who have not been vaccinated because their parents were lied to fifteen years ago, and those children and teenagers are now at risk. Their parents didn’t vaccinate them because they were scared and because they loved them, but if you’re one of them you need to give it some thought now. It doesn’t just happen to young children and it can be serious. And not just for your children.
*As an aside, I may have told you to do the research for yourselves but there’s no harm in reading this while you’re at it: An open letter to the anti-vaxx movement
As another aside, I came across some frightening anti-vaxx websites whilst researching this post, including one which compared the health of a vaccinated mother with that of an unvaccinated child – despite the fact that the mother was born with a disability that affected her health in a great number of ways. Listening to this woman, you’d think vaccines were responsible for everything from stomach bugs to dental problems and even viral (I think there’s a clue in the word viral, but apparently not) Meningitis (but not ear infections – that’s a lack of breast milk!). My point is that people are reactionary. They’re scared. They don’t want to hurt their kids. But is it really genuine when they say “I’d rather her die of Measles, a natural occurrence, than as a result of the toxins they put in her body by my say so” when they choose not to vaccinate? It’s easy enough to say until it happens to you, but I suspect it would be the cue for the setting up of a charitable foundation raising awareness of vaccinations.
One last aside. I know this is a controversial topic. I know my stance might seem a little aggressive. But I really care about this and I think all parents should. Can you imagine choosing not to vaccinate your child only for them to contract Measles, take it to nursery and pass it to the six week old boy in the baby room? Or the girl recovering from Leukaemia? What if it was your own newborn your toddler passed it to? I just couldn’t.