Immunization woes


You know how we all (well, almost all - more on that later) get our kids immunized against diseases that we've never encountered in our lifetimes, or that we've never even heard of? Well, one of those diseases is back, in Tucson at least. There's a measles outbreak going on right now here. There have been 20 cases so far and all of a sudden everyone is in an immunization frenzy. The county has set up free immunization clinics and doctors' offices are swamped with kids getting their first shots or follow-up boosters, ahead of schedule. Since measles is so highly contagious, you can't take your child anywhere without worrying. It's really quite distressing.

I called Miriam's doctor this morning and was told that they were booked for the nurse-only immunization visits until sometime next week. In the meantime, the nurse suggested, I could take her to the free county immunization clinic if I didn't want to wait (yikes!).

All of this got me thinking about a very touchy subject - immunizing our kids. It's something that comes up every once in a while when talking to other parents, and until now, it has been largely a theoretical debate. Lots of "well, if there was an outbreak..." and "these diseases just aren't around anymore," etc. I told myself that I didn't really care what other people did with their kids, but that I would immunize my own, always.

Now that the facts on the ground tell a different story, I have to admit that my opinion has changed. Because somebody else not immunizing their kids is no longer their personal decision. It affects all of us. If you look at it closely, it's a bizarrely unfair situation: if you don't immunize your children, you can rest easy knowing that most of the rest of us do and will therefore most likely keep your child out of the way of an outbreak by preventing it from happening in the first place. On the other hand, if there is an outbreak, your child will be the means of transmitting it and putting the rest of us in danger.

Those of us who immunize our children bear both the risks (both supposed and real) of the actual immunizing shot, as well as the risk of them contracting the disease anyway between boosters (or whatever) because of someone who is not immunized.

I know that people who don't immunize their children generally have their (hopefully) well thought-out reasons. But in a situation like this one, isn't it time to re-evaluate? We're not dealing with hypothetical, long-eradicated diseases anymore.

Do you immunize your children? Why or why not? If there was an outbreak of an immunizeable disease in your community, would that change your opinion either way?

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