Mea Culpa

I am a reformed anti-vaxxer. My old­er boys were vac­ci­nat­ed in the late 80s and ear­ly 90s, but when Oskar was born in 2002, our pedi­a­tri­cian dis­cour­aged us from vac­ci­nat­ing. He cit­ed the increase in the num­ber of vac­ci­nes as well as the dan­ger of side effects, etc. and we went along with it. I also had my old­er sons cir­cum­cised (despite their mother’s protest), and by the time Oskar came around, I had come to see the error of my ways, so I prob­a­bly con­sid­ered my ear­lier atti­tude toward vac­ci­na­tion to be part of my cave­man ways that need­ed to be reformed. I’m a smart guy, but I admit that I didn’t do my home­work or even con­sid­er things like herd immu­ni­ty.
Oskar got whoop­ing cough last year when he start­ed mid­dle school and since then he’s been vac­ci­nat­ed for every­thing except HPV and menin­gi­tis. The menin­gi­tis vac­ci­na­tion comes in high school. I have done much more research and have come to real­ize that I was very wrong. It’s impor­tant to be able to admit your mis­takes and change when you can, and it’s just as impor­tant to speak out when what each of us does can affect all of us. 
I live in the heart of the anti-vax move­ment (San­ta Mon­i­ca), and our pedi­a­tri­cian, Jay Gor­don, has been at the white hot cen­ter of the debate for years. But when I sched­uled vac­ci­na­tions with his office, they were very hap­py to provide them. They real­ize that the risks are high and real (though they prob­a­bly don’t acknowl­edge their role in cre­at­ing the risk through the years). 
There are no intel­li­gent argu­ments again­st vac­ci­na­tion for peo­ple with healthy immune sys­tems. Zero. There is no point in pre­tend­ing both sides of this argu­ment have good points. They do not. Those who argue the sci­ence isn’t in on vac­cine safe­ty do not under­stand vac­ci­nes. Live virus/bacteria vac­ci­nes do not make you sick. They are atten­u­at­ed, which means they are not vir­u­lent but they are alive. This allows your body to devel­op immune respons­es with­out hav­ing to get sick. Like any­thing else, there are poten­tial side effects, but the com­mon ones aren’t seri­ous and the seri­ous ones are sta­tis­ti­cal­ly very rare. 
Some­one above post­ed that doc­tors came to her 24 hours after the birth of her child to vac­ci­nate her baby. That doesn’t make sense, and I can under­stand why that would be extreme­ly upset­ting. Your baby is brand new in the world and is per­fect. Babies also have their mother’s immune sys­tem for sev­er­al weeks, so there’s no need to act that fast. I’m sym­pa­thet­ic to par­ents who want to pro­tect their chil­dren and not just do every thing doc­tors say to do with­out ques­tion­ing. I was like that and I still am to a degree, but not about this.
When Oskar got whoop­ing cough, though, it was incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to watch him suf­fer, know­ing if we had vac­ci­nat­ed him, this wouldn’t have ever hap­pened. Night after night, he woke up ter­ri­fied and pan­icked, unable to breathe, mak­ing that awful ‘whoop whoop” sound that just breaks your heart. He missed weeks of school, he had a high fever, and even after the worst of it passed, he had a raspy, wet cough for more than three months. And if he had it as a baby or a tod­dler it could have killed him. 
I’ve come to real­ize it is the height of irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty bor­der­ing on crim­i­nal­i­ty to not vac­ci­nate our chil­dren. The state can­not and should not com­pel peo­ple to do it, but the prob­lem with schools refus­ing to enroll unvac­ci­nat­ed chil­dren is that schools are not equipped to be pub­lic health police. They don’t have the resources. And that doesn’t address home­school and pri­vate school stu­dents.
This is where it real­ly does take a vil­lage to raise every child. Each child is impor­tant to all of us, and her wel­fare is in our best inter­est as well.

2 thoughts on Mea Culpa

    • He is, Gail. There are two oth­er doc­tors in his prac­tice I love, and Jay is respon­sive when you take charge and insist on vac­ci­na­tions. Obvi­ous­ly, I’d prefer he were the one insist­ing, but Jay came to the hos­pi­tal at 4 in the morn­ing when Oskar was born, and he’s been his doc­tor ever since. For me, it’s worth mak­ing this sit­u­a­tion work for me rather than switch prac­tices.

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