It's very hard for me not to rage about this. My son contracted chicken pox when he was ten months old, so I take this issue very personally. Someone knowingly exposed my infant to a potentially lethal virus. You can see why I'd get all mama-bear growly about it, right?
But I'm going to try something different. I'm going to try to talk to anti-vaxxers like they're regular people. Just moms and dads trying to do what's best for their kids. And I'm going to try to explain to them why they're wrong.
My very smart friend Doctor Ellen of Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms recently broke down the concept of herd immunity for us. I think a lot of anti-vaxxers hear about herd immunity and fire back with, "Oh yeah? Well, if you vaccinate your kid, why do you care? My kid can't infect your kid." Um, yeah, he can.
First of all, as I previously mentioned, my kid caught chicken pox, because children aren't vaccinated for chicken pox until they're 12 months old. Then, there are all the kids who can't get vaccinated because of other health conditions. Sure, my kid isn't one of those (lucky him), but that doesn't mean I don't care about them. And it doesn't mean you shouldn't, either.
Recently, there was a measles outbreak in a community close to mine. How contagious is measles? Well, if you were at Trader Joe's back in February two hours after patient zero coughed in there, then you were potentially exposed. He didn't need to cough in your face, or on your organic jicama. It just hangs out for hours, waiting for some poor, unfortunate soul to stumble upon it.
But what do I care, if I vaccinated my son? Well, you need two doses of the MMR vaccine. One at twelve months, which renders about 95% of patients immune, and then another at age five, which takes care of most of the rest. Not even 100%. The Trader Joe's employee was spreading his disease around on February 15th. My son got his second MMR shot on February 7th. That is too close for comfort. And that's assuming that my son is now immune. Remember the measles outbreak in New York? Of the twenty-five people infected, five of them had been vaccinated. But it wasn't enough.
Now, in my "If I ruled the world" scenario, vaccines would be mandatory. Supposedly, they are mandatory in order to attend public school, but really, that's only true in Mississippi and West Virginia. The other 48 states allow for religious exemption, and nineteen actually allow for "philosophical" exemption. Here in Massachusetts, all a parent has to do to get around the law is write a note that states "that vaccination or immunization conflicts with his sincere religious beliefs" (Massachusetts General Law, ch.76, sec.15). You don't need some official form signed by a religious leader. You don't need to have anything notarized. You don't even need to tell them what religion you practice. Just write a note saying, basically, "I don't wanna." And then you're allowed to infect my kid.
In my son's future school (four months until he starts kindergarten!), they offer a peanut-free classroom. Peanuts are completely legal, of course, and students are within their rights to bring them to school if they so choose, but parents whose children are allergic to peanuts, who consider peanuts to be a life-threatening danger to their children, may request that they be kept separate from the kids who wield these deadly snacks. Seems fair.
So why don't they offer an anti-vaxxer-free classroom?
I'm lucky enough to have a kid who's not allergic to peanuts, but kids are still allowed to bring polio to school, and I have no recourse to protect my son. Can we get on that, please?
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