Sunday, October 19, 2008

You call that a party?

As Ward has recently made very clear, parenting is hard. You have a lot of decisions to make and fears to worry over. One of these is immunizations, to have them or not to have them, to have them all at once or split over several shots, to wait until their two or have them done on the doctor’s prearranged schedule.

The fear that immunizations cause Autism is not a new worry, it’s just one that has received even more publicity in the last couple of years thanks to Vh1 and Jenny McCarthy. I worry about Autism, not a lot, but I think about the possibility of one of our children having one of the Autism spectrum disorders and what that would mean for our children. But I don’t lose sleep over that worry and our children attend every well baby visit scheduled and have had all their shots on time.

I am aware that some people are fervently against having their children immunized. I think that is a bad call, the fact that we don’t have to worry on a daily basis about polio, measles, mumps, pertussis, etc is because of these wonderful advances in the medical field. Now don’t get me wrong, I think that seeing our children get those shots and feel on the verge of illness for several days following is heartbreaking but I know that it is in their best interest. It is for their health. I think the chance (which I believe to be rather small, if existent at all) that our children may contact Autism from their vaccinations is worth their being fully immunized.

I know this is a debatable issue, with lots of different arguments that could be gone back and forth with for days. So I keep my pointed feelings to myself and attend all of our Well Baby visits and leave it at that.

But today I had the opportunity (first time all year) to actually sit down with a cup of coffee, a slice of Pumpkin Cake and the newest Parenting magazine and read a few articles. The one about vaccines struck me as interesting but even more so when I came across the heading, “The Worry: It’s healthier to contract some diseases naturally.” This section of the article described a family that decided not to have their 2-year-old child immunized against Chicken Pox, but rather “seized the opportunity” for the child to get it from dad when he came down with shingles. Not only did they encourage hugs and cup sharing (which did indeed result in their child contracting the illness, but a “very mild” case of it) they posted a notice on a local listserve for other interested families to come over and have an infectious play date with their sick family (oh, the double entendre there), “knowing” other parents may want their own children exposed, and guess what? Two families jumped at the opportunity, unfortunately neither of the play mates got sick, but they did come bearing presents.

I am not making this up. This couple and other parents like them, really worry me. We all have to do what we think is in our family/children’s best interest, which I think is the regimented vaccines, but I can’t imagine thinking this play date idea is in your child’s best interest. These people fear that their children will get sick with Autism but would like them instead to intentionally get sick with chicken pox or shingles? It may be rare, but children can and do DIE from chicken pox, has any child ever died from autism?

I am floored that these chicken pox and measles “parties” even exist, and that any parent in the 21st century would think they are a solid choice for their child.

I believe that Autism should be researched, funding should be provided for preventive testing and treatment, and awareness generated over the growing condition but to resist and in some cases even refuse immunizing your child against harmful, potentionally deadly illnesses with vaccines which have never been proven to cause autism, well that just seems a tad negligent to me.


Chris and Erin said...

Oh haven't you heard? Jenny McCarthy can now cure Autism!

Cheryle said...

Oh, you are such a wise mom! All of my kids had chicken-pox (pre-vaccination availability) but my middle son had the worst case his doctor had ever seen: on his eyeballs, the soles of his feet, inside his ears, the tip of his penis - it was fairly awful. The poor kid had to be carried everywhere because his feet hurt too much to walk.

My best friend wanted to bring her son over to expose him to them, but her doctor said absolutely NOT! He told her that a small number of people do die from them and if he were one of that small number and she had exposed him deliberately, how would she ever live with herself!

As a footnote, this same son's oldest son came down with them last year. It was a very mile case, thanks to the vaccination, but our question was: Which child in school had not had his/her vaccination? If you choose not to have your child vaccinated against these entirely preventable diseases, then you need to keep them out of the same schools as the kids whose parents keep their shots up to date!

Sorry for the rant, but this is such a sore spot with me!