10 April, 2009

Vacillating on vaccinations

I want to be serious for a moment. I will try not to get overly science-y or too serious, but I've been thinking a lot about the topic of autism and vaccinations recently, especially given April is National Autism Awareness Month.

On the subject of vaccinations, many parents increasingly deciding not to vaccinate, and the possible links to autism from vaccinations, Heather Armstrong over at dooce pretty much sums it up for me:
And I put myself in the position of the mother of that ten-month-old baby who caught the disease because they happened to be at the doctor's office at the same time as the infected boy. A ten-month-old baby whose immune system is such that there is a possibility of death. And I realized, I do not think that I would ever be able to forgive the parents of that infected boy. That is my raw, honest emotion toward that scenario.

That our children do not have to fear death from diseases like measles or polio or whooping cough is a miracle made possible by modern technology and science. And I guess the crux of this really complex problem for me is that as the number of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children increases so does the likelihood that these diseases will become a problem again. [Read her full post
What I want to say on this subject, particularly as a mother who has had to make this same decision, is this. Celebrity spokespeople like Jenny McCarthy can do great things for an issue by increasing awareness of it, but please don't substitute stardom or first-hand experience for expertise. The only expert in the clip below is the pediatrician:

Deciding whether to vaccinate your child is a weighty decision, and one that I believe is still best made between you and your pediatrician.

Learn more about the issues - research the hell out of it - and draw your own fact-based conclusions. But do not be swayed solely by who can argue a point better, what so-and-so starlet/hunk thinks, who had the best sound bites, etc. Likewise, do not make the mistake of believing your resulting encyclopedic knowledge substitutes for a medical degree; it does not, but hopefully it will elevate the level of conversation you may have with your doctor. And recognize that your decision might not solely affect the life of just your own daughter or son.

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