Written February, 2012
For me, vaccinating my children is an act of protectiveness, not passive compliance. Haunting childhood images of polio victims trapped inside breathing machines surely influenced my appreciation of vaccines, but even I sometimes felt trepidation, especially reading pharmaceutical inserts and Center for Disease Control fact sheets delineating side-effects.
I heard vaccine opposers insisting vaccines don’t work, aren’t necessary, cause untold injuries and deaths, that unvaccinated kids are healthier, refusers more intelligent, natural alternatives available and herd immunity a lie.
Embarking on a personal quest about a decade ago to sort fact from fiction, I learned the importance of seeking science-based sources and of honing my “baloney detection” abilities.
After studying the vaccine debate I came to this conclusion: Not much is 100 percent safe or effective, but the most credible sources reveal vaccine benefits far outweigh their rare serious risks, saving lives and reducing suffering. Governmental, independent, and research organizations worldwide are committed to maximizing vaccine safety and effectiveness.
Meanwhile, anti-vaccine assertions are often fallacious, scientifically unsupported and misleading – yet compelling enough to result in destructive outbreaks and derailment of disease eradication efforts.
I first encountered anti-vaccine sentiment in Ashland when my teenage son was a baby. A dad announced: “I won’t poison my daughter’s pristine system with vaccines!” My reflexive response: “Fine, our vaccinated children will protect yours.”
I received a disturbing introduction to “herd immunity” relaying this story to our pediatrician: “You’re not protecting his child as much as his child is putting yours at risk,” she said.*
Maximum protection depends upon the community.
Vaccination neglect, refusal and delay threaten our community’s well-being, and while I empathize with parents’ fears and concerns,it’s hard to contain resentment for authority figures who twist facts and spread misinformation.
* Measles Epidemic in The Netherlands, 1999–2000,
Susan van den Hof, et al. [Excerpt of findings: “More case patients came from the vaccine-accepting population living among unvaccinated clusters than from individuals who declined vaccination and who lived among the vaccine-accepting population.”]