M was screaming at the top of her lungs. Both her Dad and I had been up all night.
“Remind me why we did this again,” he said, only half-joking.
“It’s important for her health. Even if it is unpleasant!” Only my language was much more colorful.
M had just gotten her one year vaccines and she was having a hard time after. She cried constantly for a couple of days and ran a low grade fever. Tylenol helped, but not enough for us to get a good night’s rest.
Why I vaccinate my child is a particularly important issue in our house. I have a mitochondrial disorder and while it is managed, it is genetic. Even the CDC admits that with mitochondrial disorders, the risk of autism is higher and it cannot be ruled out that vaccines may aggravate (or even cause) autism in these children. But we decided that we would rather have an autistic child than a dead child, so went ahead with the vaccines. But rest assured, I’m no helicopter mom.
More and more parents are opting not to vaccinate their children. Nearly one-third of parents believe vaccines cause autism. Parents who support this movement cite their right to make decisions for their own child. Many of these parents also believe that the illnesses are already extinct, so their children are safe even without vaccines.
Nonetheless, it has been well-documented that there is no scientific link between vaccines and autism. There have been over 100 studies done on the subject, but again and again all of them come to the same conclusion – no link. There is a link, however, between antidepressants taken in early pregnancy and autism, because of the way that the chemicals in an SSRI affect the developing brain. This may be a more reasonable explanation for why incidents in autism have increased in recent decades.
Because of the popularity of the “Anti-Vax” movement, the number of cases of preventable illnesses are increasing. There was a recent mumps outbreak in Ohio and a polio outbreak in California, both of which were thought to be essentially extinct. Officials continue to urge parents to vaccinate their children to prevent the long term damage — or death — that can come from these illnesses. Clearly, they aren’t extinct. And children – among other people – are becoming very sick from these illnesses.
If I did not vaccinate my child, I’d be as good as encouraging these diseases.
Unlike the illnesses, vaccines are very safe. According vaccines.gov, the incidence of allergic reactions or serious side effects are rare. Redness, swelling and a low-grade fever are common, but it’s good practice for a child’s immune system. I vaccinate my child to prevent illness in other high risk individuals, such as the elderly or those with a weakened immune system. Ultimately, it isn’t just a decision parents makes for their child, but one they make to protect the community as well. I vaccinate my child because it is socially responsible.
M has long since recovered from her vaccines and is showing no signs of autism or any other ill effects. On the contrary, she’s one of the most social kids I have ever seen. I also feel good that we’ve done the right thing in following the orders of doctors and the government, although that’s not at all why I did it. (There’s plenty of stupid things they also say, by the way.)
Last month when we went to visit a coughing family member (who we later found out had the flu), so there was another added benefit in that we went into the social situation with this person knowing we’d done everything possible to guard our family against any potential disease. We didn’t worry about whether she would get sick because I had long ago already made the decision to vaccinate my child. We knew that she was protected from the serious stuff.
That sort of long-term piece of mind is worth a few sleepless nights, isn’t it?