Last week I told the story of how I contracted hepatitis as a child after the kids in my school were vaccinated.You may recall that my parents, for religious reasons, chose not to have us kids vaccinated. Because of inadequate sterilization of needles, our entire community became ill with hepatitis, including everyone in my family. I have been infected with hepatitis every since.
Fast forward from my six-year-old self to my young adult self. I was teaching at a tiny rural school, married, and expecting to start a family one day. That's when I learned about measles, which had just erupted among the students in my school, and pregnancy.
Measles, when contracted by a pregnant woman, affects her baby in serious and deadly ways. These babies are born with complicated mental and physical defects. Many of them don't survive into adulthood.
I was terrified. I didn't want my future babies to have birth defects – especially if I could prevent it. Other diseases were similarly bad for gestating babies, but the information about measles really shook me up.
I went to our school nurse, who was a county health nurse, as well as a ranch wife. She was absolutely unflappable and no-nonsense with children. I asked her how I could get vaccinated.
Okay, she was flapped by that. She wanted to know why I was asking such a thing, why I didn't already have vaccinations, etc. After hearing my story, and accepting that I wasn't teasing her, she and I planned for me to receive the normal round of vaccinations along with the children when they got theirs.
So there I was, standing in line with the Kindergartners to get my vaccinations. They eyed me skeptically, like maybe I had forgotten to get in the teacher line or something. I assured them I was there to get my vaccinations, just like they were. Fortunately, me and the five-year-olds were not stuck with needles, but only had to stick out our tongues and swallow the vaccinations put there.
I have never, ever regretted this decision.
According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), "Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) [German measles] can affect almost everything in the developing baby’s body." Because of the vaccinations I received at that little, tiny school, I didn't have to worry, when I was pregnant, about being around someone who was sick with measles that could infect my baby. Maybe my baby would have disabilities anyway, but I had taken significant action to prevent that. The relief was huge.
I made sure my own children were fully vaccinated. Would I have done so if I knew the pain for babies of getting shots at the tender age of six months, and later shots for ____? You bet. The pain of the shot is nothing compared to the pain of coping with a child with birth defects.
I read the material about possible side-effects for my babies, and I was willing to deal with those side-affects from vaccinations in order to make sure my children were safe from terrible diseases, particularly measles. Remember, I had side effects from a vaccination I never received, and recovered and led a normal life
What if I had known about the possibility of vaccinations creating autism?
I believe I would have gotten the vaccinations anyway. The fear of my babies or grandbabies being infected by measles – or something worse – far outweighed my concerns about potential personality problems such as autism.
Autism is a serious condition. I have a sister who probably fits on that scale and maybe I do too. (I prefer to claim that we come from a know-it-all, nerdy family.) Remember, we did not receive vaccinations, yet have autism attributes anyway.
The evidence showing that vaccinations cause autism is not nearly as strong as the evidence that measles causes extremely serious birth defects.
Birth defects have been an area of social concern for decades. My uncle was born in 1936 with one leg longer than the other, and his sister – my mother – gave donations every year to a birth defect foundation. Parents are much more savvy now, and they try to figure out why their child has a birth defect. They challenge the system, including the FDA, about medicines dangerous to unborn children.
Certainly, more babies are now born without the effects of measles. Thank goodness!
To all parents who are feeling reservations about getting your children vaccinated, I urge you to protect your grandchildren by getting your girls vaccinated at least. I urge you to get your sons vaccinated to keep them from getting measles and possibly infecting unborn babies they may come in contact with.
If you are a young adult and you were never vaccinated – and you do not have a religious concern -- consider doing so immediately. If you can't afford to go to the doctor, please find a clinic and tell them your story. They will help you. There are many, many programs available to help people maintain healthy lives, and vaccinations are part of that.
Young women in particular, you will not regret protecting your future babies from birth defects.
My relationship with vaccinations is complicated. Yours doesn't need to be.
Get your children vaccinated, get yourself vaccinated, make sure your grandchildren are vaccinated, as soon as possible.
Protect our unborn babies.