Monday, March 17, 2014

An opinion on vaccines (because it's, apparently, on my mind)

Here we are, Internet.  My favorite baby is now 6 months old.  He’s in the middle of getting his first teeth and he goes from being hilariously happy to screaming like he is on fire in a matter of seconds.  He is becoming easier to burp (finally!) and he’s great overall.  We are going to see Dr. Soulpatch on Friday for his 6 month wellness exam.  I started scheduling his vaccinations for Friday afternoons so I can be home with him all weekend when he isn't feeling well.

I know some people don’t believe in vaccinating their kids, and to those people, I would like to say that you are foolish and ignorant.  Let me now tell you all a story.

Once upon a time, there was a man named Andrew Wakefield.  He was a British surgeon and medical researcher who published a paper in 1998 claiming there was a link between autism and the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.  For the non-sciencey folks out there: in order for a scientific experiment to be valid, it has to be reproducible.  This means the measurements made under the same operating conditions over a period of time and/or by different people should yield the same results.  Scientists tried for four years to reproduce Wakefield's results and were unable to do so.  It turned out that Wakefield had conflicts of interest and manipulated evidence. 

Speaking as a scientist, that is unethical at the very least and illegal in many cases as well.
Wakefield’s paper was originally published in a peer-reviewed medical journal called The Lancet.  His paper was partially retracted in 2004 and fully retracted in 2010.  He was also found guilty of professional misconduct in 2010 and had his medical license revoked.  You can read more about it on Wikipedia*. 

MotherJones magazine printed a fun article on how people that are anti-vaccine are stubborn about it.  I’m going to assume their stubbornness is not born of a desire for their children to die and/or suffer from preventable diseases.

Early this year, Amy Parker wrote an article that was published in Slate on her experiences growing up unvaccinated.  It’s, at the very least, a good read.

If anyone reading this is on the fence about vaccinating their children, I encourage you to do so, both as a scientist and fellow human.  Can you imagine a world where your baby gets polio?  Or measles?  Or dies of whooping cough?  Because that’s happening.  Babies are dying of whooping cough.  There was a 9 day old infant in my state who died of whooping cough around the time Hamburglar was born.  It scared me.  It takes a lot of work to make and deliver a baby. 

I would feel terrible if I could have done something to prevent an unnecessary death.  Like vaccinating my wee babe.  That’s also why I got the Vitamin K shot for McCloud in the hospital.  It didn't do any harm and, even though the chance of him getting a brain hemorrhage was super rare, I would have felt terrible if I could have easily prevented it and instead sat by and did nothing.

If you want to bed share and/or breastfeed your baby until he/she goes off to college, more power to you.  If you have no desire to breastfeed at all, who gives a shit?  If you're into attachment parenting or not?  If you like Dr. Spock or Dr. Sears?  I don't care.  That’s your business.  But you not vaccinating your baby is all of our business because it affects public health. 

At the very least, I encourage you to do your own research.  Don’t blindly follow someone who doesn't know what they are talking about.  And don’t adopt an opinion just because it’s the first one you hear.  I believe in your ability to think for yourself and make an informed decision using real science.

*I recognize that Wikipedia isn't considered a scientifically reputable source and some people question it's awesomeness, but I love it and I find it to be reliable for the things I tend to link to.  But, seriously, don't take my word for anything.  Research it yourself!  It will be awesome, I swear.

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