Tuesday, December 16, 2008

MMR

People’s attitudes to vaccinations never fail to amaze me.

Tom went for his second MMR jab yesterday and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t overtaken with feelings of trepidation and anxiety for most of the day. Although the benefits hugely outweigh the risk this is nevertheless my own flesh and blood I’m talking about – not a faceless statistic – and the fears, no matter how small, become magnified by emotion.

The nurse told us that he could become “grouchy” over the next 72 hours (give him Calpol), he may develop a measles rash in 5 days time (give him Calpol) and in ten days time he may develop a rubella rash (great, just in time for Christmas – give him Calpol). Or he may have no reaction at all.

Hmm. On the whole it’s not a great prospect for the Christmas holidays but so much better than the alternative.

I had measles when I was 7 and it knocked me off my feet – quite literally – for 3 weeks. I couldn’t stand up unaided. I spent 7 days unconscious. It’s a truly horrible disease and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone let alone my 14 month old son. If I can beef up his resistance to such a nasty disease I’ll do it and very gladly.

But weirdly one of Karen’s friends is dead set against giving her kids any kind of immunization and has already said that she’d prefer her son to catch the actual measles disease and develop immunity the “natural way”. She thinks that, if properly managed, measles is easy to cope with and easy to nurse.

Karen and I were, if we’re honest, horrified.

People seem to forget or just be in pure ignorance of the fact that measles is a killer. They seem to be unaware of just how much infant mortality rates have dropped in the West because of immunization programmes over the last 100 years. Our kids enjoy the luxury – and it is a luxury – of good health and a relatively disease free existence because of organized inoculations. Fact. Without them I dread to think how may of our kids wouldn’t make it all the way to adulthood.

I realize there’s been lots of bad press and misinformation regarding the MMR jab but, really, the right information is all around and easy to come across if you look for it. It’s not difficult to make an informed decision.

But there’s the rub. This person thinks they are making an informed decision. And at the end of the day the decision is hers to make. I must add that this person is a fantastic mother – very forward thinking and not at all locked into an idea of mediaeval parenthood – but her stance regarding vaccination puzzles and troubles me.

If you have a choice between giving your kid a mild, carefully controlled dose of a disease to build up their immune system or giving them the full-blown, potentially fatal version of the disease to do the same isn’t it logical and far saner to go for the mild version? The end result is identical if all goes well but the two journeys could be vastly different.

You also, of course, run the risk of infecting other children by letting them develop the full blown version of measles – a factor that is completely eliminated with the jab. Another plus in its favour.

So surely there’s no real decision to make?

Sometimes it’s right that science interferes with and combats nature. The glamour of being a Luddite must surely fade when you’ve got a priest standing above you reading the last rites...

19 comments:

Reluctant Blogger said...

It isn't always logic that determines what we do though, is it? My experience is the opposite of yours. I had measles and I remember having a very pleasant week off school - very different to chicken pox which was hell on earth.

However, I had my daughter and eldest son vaccinated with the MMR. Within 24 hours of the initial MMR jab my son's immune system went crazy - he was in hospital for weeks and he was yellow-carded (they sent notification of what happened to him to the drug manufacturer and elsewhere - makes my hands shake just typing it actually. He couldn't stand either for ages) and I was strongly advised not to let him have the booster (as if I would!). It may not have been the jab- we'll never know and it was just an individual reaction that he had - he is also allergic to many antibiotics and to some nuts.

My youngest two sons have not had the MMR or the single vaccines. It was a decision I took based on my own experience, talking to doctors and quite a lot of reading (not newspapers - I mean proper medical reports)

I never try to talk anyone else out of the vaccine (although if asked I will say what happened to Harry) but I get very cross if anyone tries to criticise my own decision. My sister (who is a doctor) would only give her children the single vaccines because she believes they are safer and I personally agree with that. For society the MMR is better (because it ensures mass immunisation - single vaccines means people forget to go etc) but for the individual child I think single vaccines are better (although you can argue it is more stress for them having to be jabbed more often), as you can more easily spot a reaction against one particular part of the vaccine and it doens't overload the immune system.

Having children is such a fraught experience isn't it? But we all do the best we can.

I hope little Tom does not suffer any hotty or spotty side-effects.

Brother Tobias said...

I'm sure you're right - and we did have ours immunised. (I'm not sure the Blairs ever came clean about what they did, hiding behind an 'anonymity for our children' ticket which they were nevertheless happy to breach for useful photo opportunities, and as a result of that fuelling the doubts that have lead to the current risk of an epidemic).

I remember having measles (I hallucinated with the fever). The odd thing was that at that time parents made a point of mixing their children with people who had it, along with German Measles and Chickenpox, 'to get it over with' (maybe they thought it was better to have it at home than when we were away at school), and the disease, was not feared to the extent it is now. I think the incidence of lasting harm must have been quite low, in the days when natural resistence in the population was high.

Steve said...

Gina, that is very true and your own experience sounds absolutely horrendous... and has kickstarted all my fears anew (as you say, logic doesn't come into it when it's your own kids). At the end of the day it does indeed come down to the personal choice of the parent and I guess it's important to maintain that right to have a choice and decide for ourselves. At the end of the day I'm also selfish enough to have the view that as long as my boy is ok I don't care about anybody else. I don't mean it as callously as that but being a parent yourself you know how it is. You and yours come first. Everybody else comes second.

Brother T: sage and balanced as always. Maybe there's hype on both sides of the argument that does much to obfuscate the truth of the matter. As said above: as long as my little one is ok I'm happy.

Reluctant Blogger said...

Oh Steve, i'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you worry more. My daughter was fine when she had it - no reaction at all. And she's certainly not autistic!!!

Sorry!

Steve said...

Don't worry, Gina, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a whole heap of anxieties bubbling below the surface about it all anyway despite my pro-vaccination stance... just human nature! ;-)

The Sagittarian said...

Ditto, Steve...I was relieved when we had "finished" with the vaccination thing but recently we had a school-wide programme for Meningitis which consisted of 3 jabs 8 weeks apart. Horrendous. Just got thru that one and now there is the cervical cancer one for the girls aged 16 and over....which will be another 3 over a period of time...it's hard and easy at the same time. The girls will actually be old enough to make their own decision on that one tho'. Hope your wee man is ok.

Daisy said...

steve...i do understand both sides of the argument and while i am a supporter of immunizations and had my own son immunized i think there is a happy medium somewhere...i do believe too much is not good and there are some things out there that truly scare me...i remember my husband being in the service and they were trying to develop an immunization for AIDS...with our armed forces, you don't have a choice to take it or not...if they say you need it...you have to take it...period...he did not reenlist largely due to that (and some other personal reasons) but it was a deciding issue...

Steve said...

Hi Amanda, yeah it seems to be one long list of potential hazards to protect our kids from other hazards! Surely that's not right!

Daisy, your story proves the point that choice is the most important factor. People have a right to choose and when that is over-ridden then any good that may get done is devalued.

Inchy said...

A little knowledge is a good thing, but a lot . . .

Steve said...

A lot, Inchy, is never quite enough to allay all the fears...

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I was never vaccinated but survived both German measles and whooping cough. Not pleasant, but an accepted part of childhood.

I think the kids truly at risk are those under the breadline or with pre-existing medical conditions. Those with robust immune systems eating vitamin-rich diets should be able to shrug off most childhood illnesses suffering little more than unpleasantness/discomfort for several days, but should will end up with even stronger immune systems naturally.

However because it's not PC for the government to admit that healthy children are not at serious risk, they insist on vaccinating all children it seems, and there ARE risks, whatever they say. I myself have a friend with a vaccine-damaged child, though it is admittedly probably as rare as a child being badly affected by measles, so take your pick!

I think it is wrong that parents are denied the single jab though. It should be the parents' choice and not the government trying to inflict the dodgier MMR onto them.

But then there's all sorts of health risks, not least the government allowing INDUSTRIAL-grade fluoride into our water to get rid of an industry waste product, rather than the human grade variety, which actually might benefit our health rather than otherwise (sic the rising incidence of brittle bone disease/osteoporosis)

Steve said...

You make a good point, Laura, the scariest thing about all these health initiatives is our Government's over-sermonizing involvement...

Sweet Cheeks said...

Hi Steve
I chose to immunize the kids, and waited through the tense period for possible side effects. Scary as it is, I'd rather protect them against it than lose them to the disease. One of my co-workers that I used to work with was JUST diagnosed with whooping cough. This disease is alive and breeding again. Food for thought...

Steve said...

Thanks for the heads up, Sweet Cheeks - and for the iron backbone. Touch wood, Tom is a-ok so far...

kate5kiwis said...

funny, i hang out with a lot of organic hippie type peeps for whom the topic of immunisation is as fraught as convos about politics/religion/conspiracy theories - approach/avoid!!!

BD and i've immunised all of our kids - danny had a moderate reaction to his six week jabs - EGADS!!!!! six weeks is young - i think if i did it all over again i'd be a Delayed Vaccinator.
all our other kiddos have been absolutely fine.

so like everyone else, our decisions are based on experience/reading/education/more experience/more reading... and lack of subscription to conspiracy theories (have been avoiding a few convos lately *grin*)

i am certainly not negating anyone else's experiences - i love it that we have choices as parents X

Steve said...

Hi Kate, it is indeed a fraught subject and I nearly didn't write about it in case I started a blog war - however, everyone's opinion is valid and it's been interesting reading of other people's experiences. I must admit, in retrospect, even though Tom seems fine, I think I would have preferred him to have the single jabs spaced out over a month or two rather than everything pumped in at once. It seems wrong somehow to put the convenience of the medical programme before the child.

MOTHER OF MANY said...

Beauty is profoundly autistic and believe it or not I do not believe the immunisation had anything to with it.
Snowhite and Fiona have autistic tendancies and I can see them also in the way that I think and react.
Beauty's Dad also has similar autistic tendancies (tendancies which did not seem apparent in my first husbands family)and I think that more than probably that Beauty's issues were more likely the coming together of 2 similar sets of genetic patterns.I have no academic proof of this but having done an MA in Autism and from seeing Beauty's problems existing before she was immunised,I can see no reason to believe otherwise in her case.

missbehaving said...

Your post and everyone's comments are very interesting. I entered a little tense wondering where it might go, it's such a hot topic.
I really appreciate the respect you have offered other peoples' decisions.
I wont bore you with my reasons or the results but non of my 4 kids are vaxed.
It is, as you and others have said
a huge decision to make, and I believe everyone makes it based on what they think it the very best they can offer their children.

Steve said...

Ally, it's so good that you have retained a balanced view. I think a lot of people would have automatically blamed the jab and not given it a second thought.

Missbehaving: I must admit I posted this piece a little nervously as the subject is such a hot spud, however, people have been very respectful with their comments and it's been, as you say, very interesting to hear other people's views and experiences. The overriding conclusion that I've drawn from all this is that people want the choice - not a surprise really - but it's a fact that Governments don't always take into consideration when they set up these programmes.