Tuesday, 3 February 2015

I am glad my daughter was vaccinated

My daughter was born in 1999. The decision on whether to vaccinate children or not at that time was being driven by the MMR controversy after Dr Andrew Wakefield's research was published establishing a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. As a result, we consulted a private pediatrician who advised us to opt for vaccination. We agreed but with a degree of trepidation. A number of new mums faced the same dilemma among my circle at the local baby and toddler drop in sessions. Our concerns were solely centered around the wellbeing of our children.

Looking back now I am embarrassed at not considering the wider implications of not having my child vaccinated. Was it the fault of science for not informing parents of this?  Was it the cocoon of new parenthood that blinkered us all? I don't know the answer but I do remember that  the choice of having a vaccination was presented as a personal choice. To opt for the vaccination meant that you were erring on the side of caution and, if nothing else, your child was 'safe'.  At no time did it occur to me nor was it put to me that not having my daughter vaccinated could cause cause harm to others who came  into contact with her.

Private versus public choice is the context for the debate currently framing the news that a woman who had not been vaccinated visited Disneyland in California in December 2014. She infected 7 people but the numbers subsequently being infected hit 84 at the end of January and is growing. The fall out has spread to 7 American states and Mexico. It's become a national issue and has impinged on politics (Obama has spoken out in support of vaccination) and has become a class issue too because medical experts have noted that rich parents tend to go down the route of 'personal choice' with a veto on vaccinations. Even American sport was affected when health officials warned people who were suffering from measles like symptoms to avoid attending the Super Bowl on Sunday 1 February.

Is it time that vaccinations were made a legal requirement? Should parental choice supersede the greater good argument in favor of 'choosing' whether to vaccinate their children or not or is there enough evidence to suggest that the causal effect in terms of public health and costs justifies a mandatory requirement?  
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17 comments

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I'm a bit squeemish about the idea of mandatory vaccines but as a mum and a scientist I find it incredibly frustrating that people are still choosing not to give them. we really are incredibly privileged not to have to worry about diseases that have killed huge numbers of children for most of human history and if only everyone would do their part we could be rid of many of them forever. We should be celebrating vaccines as one of our greatest human achievements, not quibbling over retracted research and conspiracy theories.

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    1. I see that you are a Scientist. Interestingly, the Republicans in America are using the debate on vaccination from a Science angle too. Paul Rand, Senator of Kentucky, said that he had 'heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines'. However, the director of the vaccine education centre at the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia said the science was 'utterly conclusive, completely conclusive' in favour of vaccinating children. He uses Science to prop up his argument. Thank you for leaving a comment.

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  3. The great conveyor belt of life. You may as well be sat on a real conveyor belt when you are born and let machines feed, clothe, medicate, tend to you according to whatever the 'powers that be' decide is best for us. Let's ignore the wishes of those 'parents' - what would they know about caring for their own baby...

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    1. Hi Paul, the acts that you list are straight off 'choices' e.g clothe, feed. In these cases parents may know what is best but their choices would also be influenced by their personal preferences. 'Knowing what is best' is therefore sometimes negated by personal choice. When it comes to certain illnesses parents may not always know best in terms of medical treatment because we are not all doctors. Even within the cohort of doctors not all doctors would know what is the best which is why we have evidence bases such as data collection and science research. I, for one, never thought that I always and consistently knew what was best for my daughter.

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  4. Andrea

    This is a complex and emotional and very important topic, for parents and for grandparents like myself

    There are some alternative views to the one that you suggest and maybe you have not investigated their position sufficiently.

    Some parents of vaccine damaged children (from USA where what you are suggesting is enforced by law) have make a movie which is well worth watching.

    http://bit.ly/1zPSdYQ

    Much of the research behind the views that you express has been carried out by those companies who profit from the sale of vaccines. And little independent research has been done on the effects of multiple vaccines

    Also there is a very good web site that identifies the independent research called greenmedinfo.com

    http://bit.ly/1xoF8Qf

    You mention Dr Wakefield, i wonder whether you have listened to his point of view - it is quite revealing. http://bit.ly/1zbCD4r

    He says "These vaccines contain genetically modified viruses, genetically modified microbes. We still haven't got enough data to know what exactly they're doing to the human body, and what exactly these genes are doing to our gut flora in these children."

    So who do we trust, big companies who profit from the sale of vaccines (and seem to be able to influence politicians and our doctors) OR informed parents?

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    1. Doctors who actually understand this stuff, scientists who have spent years researching the subject? or Google? Hmm, tough call.

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    2. Hi David, you may not have noticed but I did not discredit Dr Wakefield in my blog post. I know there's a plethora of cases which seem to support his theory. However, informed parents still cannot make choices that will tap into all spheres of civil society. I am a prime example because I thought I was fully informed then along comes the case of the Disneyland outbreak and I realise decades later that I was not fully informed.

      Hi Lynn, scientists do seem to have done a lot of research into this. Do you have a link that you could post here? Something that you have referred to?

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  5. The day vaccination becomes compulsory is the day I leave this country. It's the same as enforcing a one child law, but I don't see that happening anytime soon in the UK.

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    1. Hi Sophie, enforcing a one child law would be vastly different from compulsory vaccinations. The effects of one child laws in China are catastrophic but vary significantly in the outcomes that a compulsory vaccination programme would have. Should a one child law be enforced in a Western democracy it would lead to, and rightly so, a revolution. Some parts of the world have introduced compulsory polio vaccinations, for example, to good effect.

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  6. The idea of the 'state' making decisions about your child does not sit well with me at all. I think a huge problem in this country is that there are becoming no other options - it used to be possible to either have the MMR vaccine through the NHS or pay to go privately and get single vaccinations. This provided parents with a choice but each outcome still meant children were vaccinated. Now that single vaccines for mumps and, as of Jan this year, rubella are no longer available in the UK, I do think many people will choose to abstain rather than get so many vaccinations at once which is quite concerning.

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    1. Hi Lorna, the state already does make decisions about children by requiring compulsory education, for example, or what syllabus children should study. If vaccinations are only provided privately then there would be a skewed result with people who cannot afford them possibly suffering from a range of illnesses that do not affect children from better off families.

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  7. On the one hand the state making decisions on behalf of my child doesn't sit well with me either but there are a number of things which are enforced on us for our children's good, such as the fact we need to educate them etc. I believe in some countries schools won't accept unvaccinated pupils to reduce the chances of outbreaks.

    I chose to have my children vaccinated but just like the blog post author it never occurred to me that if I hadn't my choices could have affected more than just my child, children who are too young for a vaccine, are undergoing cancer treatment or who are allergic to vaccines. It wasn't something I'd considered in the light of a duty to other people.

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    1. Hi Ceri, Please see my comment above. It's very similar to the one you have expressed. I was brought up in a part of the world where children with disabilities was a common occurrence in schools till the Polio vaccine was made compulsory. Personal choice should involve a duty of care towards others if that choice impinges on others.

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  8. I think a lot of us have become quite complacent about the illnesses that we are vaccinated against. I didn't even know what diphtheria was, I had to google it. A lot of people need to look at medical history in the times before routine vaccs when kids were left damaged or died in large numbers from things like measels or polio. It puzzles me, I have to admit, given the known risks of potentially serious illnesses verses the tiny and unproven risk of the vaccine, that parents choose to risk having the illness.
    Having said that, does having several vaccs all in one go carry risks? Does it affect the immunity? Is it just a cost cutting measure?

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    1. Hi Esther, this may interest you: In 2008 a total of 140 measles cases was reported, the largest annual total since 1996. Eighty nine percent of these cases were imported from or associated with importations from other countries, particularly countries in Europe where several outbreaks are ongoing. Persons younger than 20 years of age accounted for 76% of the cases; 91% were in persons who were unvaccinated (most because of personal or religious beliefs) or of unknown vaccination status. The increase in the number of cases of measles in 2008 was not a result of a greater number of imported measles cases. It was the result of more measles transmission after the virus was imported. The importation-associated cases occurred largely among school-aged children who were eligible for vaccination but whose parents chose not to have them vaccinated. Many of these children were home-schooled and not subject to school entry vaccination requirements.http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/meas.html

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  9. Vaccines carry risks. Do you know anyone who has been vaccine damaged or that there is a vaccine damage payout to those affected. Its on the goverment web pages. It would be insane to make vaccines compulsory. As for protecting those with immune systems too weak to handle disease, the vaccines carry a warning that say to avoid people with weak immune systems for a certain time after being vaccinated as the vaccinated individual could affect those people. Not many doctors however forward this warning.

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