The topic of “vaccinations” has been weighing heavy on my mind for a while. I felt that my silence was not a good representation of my (strong) feelings, when out of the blue, a dear friend wrote this piece and asked if it was appropriate for my blog. Yes – and 110% YES! I am proud to feature this guest post. Although the words were not written by me, I completely stand behind her message. Please read – and leave an encouraging comment for this incredible mama – she’s on a journey much harder than you can imagine.
Social media has become a breeding ground for the vaccination debate. Comments on blog posts are battlefields for why vaccinating or not vaccinating is bad for your child. The references to facts and evidence based practice are non-existent when it comes to the reasons why you should not vaccinate your child, yet there are a growing number of parents choosing to follow this dangerous path. Not vaccinating is dangerous for your children, but IT IS ALSO DANGEROUS TO MINE!
NOT VACCINATING YOUR CHILD COULD KILL MY CHILD. That is not an inflammatory accusation; it is the plain and simple truth. One of my twin boys was born with half a heart, so from day one the option to vaccinate or not vaccinate was not an option at all – Camden, and his twin brother Nolan, would be vaccinated in order to protect Camden’s medical status.
Tragically, this is not the end of my public service announcement on vaccination. Camden had open heart surgery at 4 months old. 2 days into his recovery, he contracted VARICELLA (Chicken Pox) WHILE IN THE HOSPITAL. At 4 months old, he was too young to have received the chicken pox vaccine and was therefore relying on the rest of our community to protect him from this terrible virus. Contrary to what antivaxers will tell you, the chicken pox CAN KILL a HEALTHY CHILD, never mind a child with half a heart two days out of open heart surgery. The fact that Camden is still alive today is a miracle and a testament to his innate zest for life. Due to the chicken pox, Camden suffered a major stroke, was on life support for 2 months, lost all movement on the left side of his body, has major feeding issues, lung issues, seizures, a much more severe heart condition, and a dismal prognosis.
Again, tragically, this is not the end of my anti-vaccination tirade. Because of such an early exposure to the chicken pox, Camden is unable to hold titers to vaccines (I will explain how this also affects your healthy children) and he does not have a functioning immune system. Every sniffle or cold sends him to the cardiac ICU. So, Camden RELIES on the rest of his COMMUNITY to be vaccinated in order to PROTECT him from communicable DISEASES. If a common cold sends Camden to the cardiac intensive care unit for a weeklong stay, can you imagine what the measles would do??
For the first 3 years of their lives, my children have either lived in the hospital or in a tiny bubble of protection and lack of interaction from the outside world. At age 3, I found a wonderful rehab- center preschool to enroll them in where Camden could receive therapy to treat his hemiplegia and gross developmental delays (just a few of those wonderful after effects of the chicken pox I mentioned). The center also included typically developing children like Camden’s twin Nolan, making it a wonderful learning environment for both of my children and their first chance to interact with their peers.
However I recently found out that a student in attendance of the program is not vaccinated. She has the proper state approved waiver exempting her from vaccinations, so legally there is nothing that I can do other than pull my boys out of school, which is exactly what happened. I find it infuriating and disheartening that after everything my children have been through, this one freedom has too been taken away from them because of the current trendiness of not vaccinating.
Why would an unvaccinated child attending preschool be a concern for parents of typical children and not just a concern for my family’s unique situation? Have you had your children’s titers to vaccinations checked? Do you know for a fact that they are fully protected from communicable diseases like chicken pox, measles, and pertussis? Blood titers tell you whether your immune system holds enough of a vaccine to protect you from contracting a virus you have been immunized against.
For example, I had Nolan’s titers checked when we learned of Camden’s immune deficiency. Nolan has been fully vaccinated and I was under the illusion that he was therefore protected from said diseases. However, his blood titers showed that he was not protected against the MMR or DTap sets of diseases. Nolan has since received boosters to these vaccines and is now fully protected.
Unless you have your child’s titer levels confirmed, YOUR VACCINATED CHILD could be in a classroom with an UNVACCINATED CHILD and still get the communicable DISEASE you think they are protected from. And another unfortunate symptom of the aforementioned communicable diseases is that an unvaccinated child could be carrying one in their body for days to weeks before ever showing symptoms.
So, if you think your children are protected if the school’s policy is that unvaccinated children can attend until there is an outbreak or they themselves show signs of a communicable disease, THEY ARE NOT.
I hope my perspective on vaccines encourages you to get the facts (evidence based research!) when you make vaccination decisions and to also think about the rest of your community. Think of the childhood cancer patients who need the protection of the vaccinated community. Think of your newborn baby whose older sibling attends school. Think of the medically fragile children who rely on HERD IMMUNITY. Think of Camden.
You can follow Camden’s journey at “Courage for Camden”
Please remember to leave Camden’s mama an encouraging message! She deserves to feel a village of supportive mothers around her!