Memory: I lay in my bed with a fever, restless, taking sips of water that my mother delivered, she a constant at my bedside. This delirium lasted for 18 hours or more until the fever broke. I recovered. Diagnosis: measles. Memory: the salivary glands on both sides of my face swelled making talking and eating painful and difficult. I had a fever and of course was confined to my room. So were my two brothers. Diagnosis; mumps. Memory: another rash and a fever which kept me home from school for a week. But though I wasn’t very sick, my mother said I had to stay home, relating the story of a child I knew. She was completely deaf, the first hearing-imparied person I ever met. And she was deaf because her mother had the same rash and fever when she was pregnant. Diagnosis: rubella.
I also have very vivid memories of chicken pox. For me, this was probably the worst as I had more than my share of the classic rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters that finally scab over. And they weren’t just on arms and legs. These blisters can appear inside the mouth, eyelids or genital area.
These four illnesses, combined with fears of polio that often occurred in the early fifties, were part of raising a child. Mothers and fathers expected these diseases to infect their children–and they did. We missed weeks of school and upset households. When I was ill with chicken pox, my younger brother succumbed a few days later. My mother, who worked at home, could do nothing else but care for us.
So you know where I’m going with this–make sure your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren are vaccinated. Children need to get an MMR. Read more about the MMR here. And everyone needs to help provide herd Immunity. Read more about the concept here.
Definition: Herd immunity is a form of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population (or herd) provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity. It arises when a high percentage of the population is protected through vaccination against a virus or bacteria, making it difficult for a disease to spread because there are so few susceptible people left to infect. This can effectively stop the spread of disease in the community. It is particularly crucial for protecting people who cannot be vaccinated. These include children who are too young to be vaccinated, people with immune system problems, and those who are too ill to receive vaccines (such as some cancer patients).
- So when you vaccinate your children and grandchildren you are also protecting vulnerable members of your community by reducing the spread of disease.
- When you get a flu shot you are protecting the elderly and immunocompromised from dying of the flu–and some do every year.
- “When the number of people vaccinated drops below 95 percent, a community loses herd immunity to highly contagious germs…”
Looking at the History: the 1950s
In a recent article in TIME Jeffrey Kluger provides great information: in 1952 there were 57,879 cases of paralytic polio in the United States. By 1961, six years after the Salk vaccine was introduced, that number fell to 1,312, a 98% reduction. Today the figure is zero. Measles?? In the 1950s, 3-5 million of us contracted the disease EACH YEAR! 48,000 of those cases were hospitalized. In 2012 there were only 55 cases. BUT WE DON’T WANT TO GO BACK.
Some states have excellent rates of coverage: Louisiana 96.6% rate for the MMR and 98.3% for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis Tdap. Mississippi boasts a near perfect 99.9% but California, with its contributing figures from Orange County where mothers often listen to a certain pediatrician who tells them not to vaccinate if they don’t want to, has only 92.7% for the MMR and 92.5% for Tdap. This is serious. Populations cannot afford the numbers to drop below 95%. It puts many people at risk. It puts immunocompromised people, infants and cancer patients at risk.
Kluger reports that some medical professionals are able to convince parents to vaccinate by using these measures:
1. Relating the consequences of getting the disease:
mumps: deafness, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), inflammation of testes which can cause a drop in the sperm count and inflammation of the ovaries though fertility is not affected;
measles: ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis; and in a pregnancy miscarriage or premature birth; death, as one or two out of 1,000 die;
German measles, rubella: poses a grave danger to a pregnant woman’s fetus and can cause miscarriage or birth defects like deafness, intellectual disability, heart defects; 85 out of 100 babies born to mothers who had rubella in the first 3 months of her pregnancy will have a birth defect.
2. MOBI – maximizing office-based immunizations–in other words, taking the opportunity to offer vaccines to children whenever they appear in the medical office. “We think people listen to their providers, Says Mary DiOrio, the state of Ohio’s epidemiologist.
3. Laws. 49 of the 50 states have laws that require kids to be vaccinated before attending public schools and daycare centers. Ohio does not extend the law to daycare centers. PROBLEM: parents can utilize an opt-out form for religious reasons–but this is being exploited.
4. Schools are now permitted to require unvaccinated children to stay home during outbreaks and to bar them from school activities. Says superintendent of schools in Delaware County, Ohio: “We say unvaccinated kids can’t come to school dances or play on sports teams because of the risk. That gets it on the child’s radar screen.” And thus the parents’.
The Autism Component
The initial fears that the MMR contributed to the rise of autism are still circulating, though the research has been found to be totally inaccurate. As Kluger writes: “The vaccine opponents are not going away anytime soon, though encouragingly, some are going dark.” He states that Jenny McCarthy speaks little of the matter anymore. And in some communities parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are being outwardly criticized by vaccination proponents. This just might bring those parents around.
With the scare of Ebola now coming to our shores, once again it is important to educate ourselves. We need to understand how the virus is passed and what controls or measures to take to protect ourselves. Panic blinds us. Education helps people make sensible decisions. To read about Ebola go here.
My husband and I were able to vaccinate our two daughters with the MMR and DPT and thus their childhoods were free of these pernicious illnesses. They did have to deal with the chicken pox as the vaccine was not available then. My son, born in 1989, was able to get the chicken pox vaccine. To create good memories, avoid mother-worries and raise children with healthy results–vaccinate. For more information, talk to your healthcare provider or pediatrician. And thanks for reading
More info on vaccination: Great article about docs helping to convince parents to vaccinate here.
On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Bliss Graywolf
Who’s Afraid of a LIttle Vaccine? by Jeffrey Kluger
Thanks to Google Images