Monday, January 26, 2009

SOUND OFF: Vaccines

I read an article this morning on CNN which got me really riled up and in an effort to keep my BP down, I need to blog about it for a moment. The topic of today's sound off is vaccinations. The majority of new moms are quite well aware of vaccinations thanks to billboards, newspaper articles, tv news segments, and literature from pediatrician's offices. In case you've been living under a rock on Mars for the last 30 years, there are a small number of people who are members of the belief that some of the chemicals used in vaccinations cause autism and are therefore refusing vaccinations for their children so as not to contract autism.

I'm usually somewhat diplomatic, but right now I don't care if I piss anyone off on this subject, so I'll come right out with it: YOU ARE STUPID IF YOU DO NOT VACCINATE YOUR KIDS. Just because smallpox, measles, mumps, and rubella have not been in this country for some time, it doesn't mean those things don't exist out in the rest of the world. A vaccination doesn't mean that the disease is gone for good, it is an insurance policy against contracting the disease. And when you don't vaccinate your kids against them, it allows the disease to be present among the population and potentially mutate into something stronger than the vaccines are protecting against. By not choosing vaccinations, you are carelessly putting your child's life, and mine, at stake. I don't appreciate people putting my child's life at risk, so you can hopefully understand my anger and frustration on this topic.

The article in question is about an outbreak of Hib, aka Haemophilus influenzae type b, in Minnesota. Out of the five children infected with it, three were not vaccinated by choice, one was 5 months old and hadn't received all of the shots yet, and the fifth was a 15 month old who was vaccinated but has an immune deficiency. One of the children, a 7 month old whose parents chose not to get vaccinations, died. I am heartbroken for the parents' loss, but I simply cannot understand why they would ignore the scientific findings and refuse to protect their child.

The debate started some years ago over one specific vaccine and an ingredient used to preserve it's shelf life: thiomersal in the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella). Vaccine makers use thiomersal as a preservative and it's that item that vaccine naysayers say is the cause of autism in kids.

Autism is a generic term for one of several brain development disorders that are part of what is called "autistic spectrum disorders." The scientific community is still trying to determine what causes autism, but right now, research points to genetics and mutations within the genes. Because the symptoms of autism usually appear during the period of a child's life when they receive vaccinations (the first two years), parents have assumed that it was the vaccinations that caused autism in their otherwise "normal" child.

A study conducted by Wakefield et al in 1998 *SUGGESTS* there is a link between autism and the MMR vaccination. Wakefield and his buddies relied on the stories of parents with autistic children who received the MMR vaccination and did not perform any scientific testing to prove this suggestion. Further subsequent studies, including one by Wakefield et al again in 2000, still do not show any proof of the link. There are more studies that prove otherwise. That's not to say that there still might not be a link, but no one's been able to prove it yet and until they do, I'm going to play it safe and vaccinate my kids.

I don't know how many people read this blog, but I cannot stress how important it is to get your kids vaccinated. I was three when I contracted meningitis. Hib protects against kids getting meningitis, but unfortunately for me, the Hib vaccine wasn't readily available back in 1985 (it wasn't very effective and the next generation that WAS effective came in 1987). Considering the odds of my child contracting meningitis or something else as equally worse versus those of becoming autistic, I will take the chance and have my daughter and her future siblings vaccinated. I can handle autism. I don't think I could handle my daughter's death to a disease I could have protected her from. Don't put your kids or anyone else's at risk—get your kids vaccinated!

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