Blog Post 2.28.15 Measles

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate… is that really the question?

There have been many articles written on this debate.  Both sides entrenched on the side of doing what they believe is right, and launch scathing comments about the extreme views of the other side.  But what is this debate really about? Is it simply a case of the facts vs. beliefs or can we find a common ground with which to discuss. As a religion enthusiast, I feel this argument has some dangerous conclusions on both sides, and, in many cases of discussing beliefs in right and wrong, I think we missed the point.

In a recent CNN article, a family whose child is 10 months old is exposed to the measles.  At 10 months, the child is too young to be vaccinated for defense against the disease, which has major risks for deafness, blindness or even death.  In addition to the 10 month old, this family also had an older daughter with leukemia.  Having to go through chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can lower your immune system and increase your risk of other infections.  So now this family is facing a certainty of fighting through another disease, with the possibility of losing one of both of their children.  

When it was reported that the possible cause of this exposure was due to a child exhibiting symptoms while at an amusement park, an additional piece of information surfaced that the family of the child did not believe in vaccinating their children, and the blame game started. With ire and acid tongues, the internet re-ignited the debate of vaccinating versus not vaccinating your child. 

Vaccinations: IEDs (Immuno-Enhancing Drugs)

Being a baseball fan, I liken this debate to the case of steroid use.  Vaccinations are a way of giving a headstart and an advantage over the onslaught of diseases we come in contact with everyday.  Vaccinations have allowed us to eradicate debilitating ailments like Polio, whooping cough, and smallpox.  Smallpox nearly exterminated a whole race of people not exposed to the virus, and now we read about it in the history books.  Partly evolution, partly science.  Call it a tag team effort.  But we live relatively cushy today, due in part to the science before our times. Immunizations can help us avoid the discomfort and inconvenience of building antibodies by experiencing the actual “wild” diseases. But it’s still a choice nonetheless.

Anti-Vaccinations: Uncomfortable Natural Selection

The arguments against vaccinations vary from the interesting to the hilariously absurd.  My favorites usually center around conspiracy theories involving mind control.  But more concrete opposition reveals interesting theories and logic that you would assume would translate to strange decisions in other applications. In this particular example I mentioned earlier in this post, the argument against vaccinations was that we should move through life and face the diseases as they come and either survive them, or not. This philosophy translated means that we should follow the natural course of action, and leave the outcome to the strength of our immune systems. Following this logic, this would mean no treatment, hospitals, or anything. This is very similar to the belief system of the Christian Scientists. However, I do feel that this is difficult to do when facing the possibility of telling your flesh and blood that their future may disappear because they are not genetically strong enough.  

Who’s Right?

I have a bit of cynicism when it comes to people openly and publicly taking an antagonistic stand. In this particular debate, it’s very chic to go “on the soapbox” and pick a side. If you hear yourself saying a statement “You people who believe this should do that,” I can’t help but think there is something more to gain from taking a staunch position in the argument. But, when tasting the acidity of the attacks on the vaccinators and non-vaccinators, I think we are losing sight of the important concepts. We should all have different opinions, but rooted in facts to sustain a dialogue. Honest and open dialogue can allow to get below the surface of the issue and discuss the core problems. I remember the first time I saw my daughter. I thought about the all the possibilities. What would she be when grows up? When would she say ‘Ugh, Dad! Gosh, you are so uncool!’? When would she come to me for comfort, eyes welling up with tears, looking for a hug? When would I be walking her down the aisle toward her soulmate? All the experiences the future holds, it’s overwhelming. From that point, I felt it my responsibility to get her to adulthood, no matter what. I know at the core, we all are trying our best to get our children to be strong and healthy adults.  There is another important consideration; that everyone else is trying to do the same with their children. We have a human responsibility to be empathetic towards others. It’s part of the concept of community.  

Our actions have consequences, whether they are experienced directly by us, or if they affect others.  When we are sick, or our children are sick, we should understand what bringing them out in public can possibly do to another family. Just as we would never want to see ourselves grasping our child’s tiny hand in a hospital bed unsure of what to say or rationalize why, we should never wish that for someone else.