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I am a vaccinator. I have read the literature for both sides of the argument, Googled for hours the medical training and scientific expertise of the most outspoken advocates, and weighed the pros and cons. But the tipping point for me was seeing unvaccinated children in other countries who actually have preventable diseases with my own eyes. Holding a child suffering from measles made me a believer. Tiny, innocent babies suffering needlessly makes me miserable. Seeing the heartbreak in a mother’s eyes when she loses her child causes a physical pain in my stomach and heart. While many reading this may say, “Peru, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Philippines, Somalia and Afghanistan are not places I plan to take my children,” our world is getting smaller. Ease of travel causes diseases to be transmitted globally faster than ever before.
If a person has done the legwork and made an informed decision to not vaccinate – because, yes, there are legitimate risks involved – I have no problem with that. Your child just can’t come over. I do go to places that are less than ideal and, while vaccinated myself, I just can’t be sure that I’m not a carrier. It is the parent who chooses not to vaccinate because they believe rantings of a person with zero medical or scientific education that bother me. The myth that vaccinations cause autism has been debunked, as has the idea that they cause seizure activity. Thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative) has not been used since 2001 and the likelihood of a vaccine causing a disease is less than .01 percent, according to the World Health Organization.
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My husband routinely refused to get a flu shot, although both of our employers offer it annually and our insurance covers them 100 percent, until he actually got the flu. A night of excruciating body cramps, chills and a less-than-sympathetic receptionist at our family doctor along with a culminating gastrointestinal reaction to Tamiflu (common in 2 percent of those who take the medication) changed his mind. Now a proponent of all vaccinations, he is bit more soapbox-y in his attitude toward those who believe differently.
Whether one chooses to take the risk of allowing their child to get a potentially fatal disease or take the risk of possible debilitating side effects, there is a lot of information to sort through. There are also other considerations for vaccinations that include college admission, pediatrician selection, vacation to places visited by international travelers and community-based sports leagues. Taking the time to do what you feel best for your child is one of the most crucial acts of love a parent can do.