Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A new study

I was delighted to see this article pop up on the Washington Post's website tonight:

Study Finds No Autism Link in Vaccine

This is one of my soapbox issues. I try to be very tolerant of different parenting techniques. Just because I don't cosleep with my son doesn't mean I am going to criticize you for cosleeping with yours. We let our son have a pacifier, but if you are vehemently anti-binky, that's fine, too. Breastfeeding is great, and I did it, but it doesn't always work out for every woman. Slings, strollers, however you want to carry your baby around or not carry your baby around is terrific. Whatever works for you and is good for your child is A-OK with me, not that you need my approval.

But on this matter, I am not so open-minded. I can't apologize for it, though. Vaccinate your children. Please. For so long, I've heard about and from people who choose to forego immunization about some unfounded fear that it might "cause autism" in their child. Based on one tiny and largely discredited study in Britain that was conducted years ago and based on lots of hearsay, people were shying away from vaccinating their kids.

It's not just about our individual children. It's about herd immunity for those children who really cannot, for medical reasons, be vaccinated. That child who had to have an organ transplant or a bone marrow transplant, the one whose immune system is too fragile to handle the vaccines--it's about her. It's about making sure there's herd immunity to account for children whose parents reject medical treatments due to their religious beliefs. It's about providing herd immunity to adults whose immune systems may be wiped out by chemotherapy for cancer. It's about providing immunity so that people who for some reason are not immune to certain childhood diseases will not be exposed and put at risk. Like me and my son. My doctors discovered that I was not immune to rubella when I was pregnant with William. Exposure to rubella--a child with rubella--during pregnancy could have been devastating to my unborn son. The thought of losing my son because of someone else's decision makes me shake with anger even now. After he was born, I immediately got a booster immunization. I would not take a chance.

And yes, it is also about your children. Have you ever seen a bad case of measles? One of David's instructors in residency told me that he'd seen them in third world countries and hoped never to see any in this country. It's so easy to prevent by giving the appropriate MMR doses, he told me, but people here have forgotten how really horrible some of those diseases can be.

Just so you know, I used to worry about my son developing autism. So many of us middle-class-parents do. But you know what? It never was an option to forego vaccinating him just on the off chance that he might be autistic one day. It wouldn't have been fair to him or anyone else to take such a gamble on his health. And I just hope that more parents begin to understand that. That's why I'm excited about the news of this study. I don't want parents to be afraid to vaccinate their children. And yes, I get a little emotional about it. And my biggest reason is asleep in his dinosaur jammies right now.

1 comment:

Shab said...

I hear you!
I saw a post after the hype with Jenny McCarthy's child's diet-induced "recovery"--
a mother with identical twins with the EXACT same vaccination schedule posted regarding her babies. One child turned out to be autistic and the other did not.

Another mother was so convinced that vaccines caused her son's autism that she refused all vaccinations of her second child...guess what! That second child was also diagnosed with autism. Now she would have an UNVACCINATED autistic child to boot.

Anyway, both of these moms' stories have really stuck with me. I'll admit that I worried about autism, but I never once considered skipping vaccinations.