Monday, 22 March 2010

Why do people not vaccinate their children?

There's a whole epidemic of chicken pox going on at nursery. This doesn't bother me a whole lot; both of mine have already had chicken pox. In fact, Luke had chicken pox when he was 9 weeks old, despite being exclusively breast fed so don't believe those stories that babies will get your antibodies through your breast milk. There is also a rumour of a few cases of measles here too. This doesn't bother me either; both of mine are fully vaccinated against everything.

The Bosnians also believe in vaccination, and have a schedule that is very similar to the British one; the only difference being that the children are also routinely immunised against TB whereas in the UK they inoculate those children they think are more at risk.

Which is why I was so surprised to have a conversation with a parent here that went along the lines of this:

Parent: I'm very worried about the outbreak of measles.
Me: Oh, measles isn't good but if your child has had the vaccine then there should be nothing to worry about.
Parent: We don't believe in vaccinations. Our child hasn't had any.

Now, I'm a fan of parental choice. I think that everyone should be able to choose how they want to bring up their children. There is only one parental decision that I have any strong opinion on, and that is that every single child should be vaccinated. These childhood diseases can be killers. They are serious and they can be controlled but to do so everyone needs to inoculate their children.

I'm not really talking about the MMR here (MMR being the combined vaccination for Mumps, Measles and Rubella which was linked to autism in children in the late 1990s, the research of which was later discredited). After all, you can still vaccinate your children separately against these illnesses if you don't want to have the combined vaccine. No I'm talking about those who choose not to immunise their children at all. I simply don't understand this decision.

Is it because most people do immunise their children reducing the likelihood of an epidemic, meaning that some feel they can afford to run the risk of not inoculating their own? But, at the risk of offending a few people, isn't this quite a selfish form of action to take? Everyone else can have the inoculations so we don't have to?

Is it because fit and healthy children can usually throw off these illnesses without long term damage? But some children are not fit and healthy, some are not able to be vaccinated. By allowing the potential of a spread of disease, surely these more susceptible children are being exposed unnecessarily?

Back to the conversation. I spluttered a bit before finally muttering something along the lines of being very pleased that mine were fully vaccinated and headed off. British you see - don't like unnecessary conflict. But the conversation has been playing on my mind for a few weeks now. So I thought I'd bring it out in the open here and see if there is anyone out there who can shed light on why they believe that no vaccinations is a sensible choice. Am I the only one who struggles to see the sense in this course of action?


Very Bored in Catalunya said...

I agree, but on a purely selfish level, why on earth would you risk your child's health. OK, I haven't vaccinated Joseph against Chicken Pox, I'm not sure it's an option over here, but he's had every other jab including ones that I've had to pay €80 a time for. I would never forgive myself if he became really ill or suffered some long term health issues from getting a childhood disease.

Mwa said...

I agree with you. Also because I know some very weak children can't be vaccinated at all. They are now losing their protection as well. My childhood pediatrician refused to treat children that weren't vaccinated against measles, because she'd seen a child die.

@Very Bored - Chicken pox??? I didn't think you could vaccinate for that. Mine have both had it and were fine.

Dan said...

@very bored - I'm not even sure you can vacinate against chicken pox.

I feel strongly that it's a parent's duty to have their kids vaccinated. Not just for their own children but for herd immunity.

The whole anti-medicine thing generally has me fuming anyhow as those sorts of people take all manner of "natural remedies" that haven't had half as stringent testing as licensed medicine.

Michelloui said...

Im another one who agrees. And how refreshing to see a parent who actually knows the MMR/Autism link has been discredited!

And if their children one day grow up to want to travel to places with these diseases they will have to have the injections anyway (or be at high risk of becoming seriously ill). Or if someone arrives in their homeland who hasn't been vaccinated and is carrying a potentially deadly disease then the vaccination-free families will all become seriously ill.


Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

VBC - I think you can get a vaccine for chicken pox, but I don't know how proven it is - don't think it is offered as standard. Mine haven't had it, they had the full blown chicken pox thing.

Mwa - exactly. That's why I find it a selfish decision to not vaccinate, it exposes others who are not able to be to unnecessary illness.

Dan - I'm not letting you talk to my husband ever, he doesn't need any more encouragement to get wound up about alternative medicine!

Michelloui - If people are up to date enough to know about the MMR autism allegations then they should really know that they have been discredited too. It was in the media for a while. Do people still think that there is a link?

Catharine Withenay said...

Being married to a paediatrician who specialises in immunology, querying vaccines was never an option!! I cannot understand those who are against them - not even during the height of the MMR crisis. Clearly there are some children who are going to struggle to take the vaccines (medically), but for the rest there is no excuse.

As for chicken pox ... I asked OH about that the other day. He says the reason we don't have it as a routine vaccine in the UK is that there is concern that if all our children (and future children) are vaccinated there will be a higher risk of our generation getting shingles in old age. Chicken pox just floating around the population clearly limits that.

Glowstars said...

Notonly would I not risk my children's health, it wouldn't be fair to risk the health of those they mix with. You only have to look at how swine flu spread through some schools last year to know how devastating an outbreak of measles, or worse, polio or pneumococcal disease would be.

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

It's interesting that all the comments are from pro-vaccination parents. There are definitely anti-ones out there. I appreciate it is a personal decision to some extent but, as you and others have said, the herd immunity and responsibility we have to other children is paramount.
My hubby is a GP and finds it so frustrating when people refuse to get the jabs.
Our generation needs to understand how awful some of these childhood diseases were.

Really Rachel said...

I wonder if it's an issue of fear? Mine are both fully vaccinated but I remember feeling apprehensive about taking my tiny babies to be injected. Aww. It was more of a problem for me than them - a brief howl and it was all forgotten! I'm glad they're 'covered' anyway.

Really Rachel said...

I wonder if it's an issue of fear? Mine are both fully vaccinated but I remember feeling apprehensive about taking my tiny babies to be injected. Aww. It was more of a problem for me than them - a brief howl and it was all forgotten! I'm glad they're 'covered' anyway.

angelsandurchinsblog said...

Did you say anything to the mother, such as, 'Hmmmmm, not expecting many playdates then?' Does she seriously think her child will come to less harm from a serious illness such as measles than from a vaccination? Or does she just hope that everyone else will be vaccinated, so no one will get an illness, therefore her untainted offspring won't get ill? Very selfish, and not a little stupid.

deer baby said...

Where I live, in Brighton, the take up rate for all vaccinations - especially the MMR - is extremely low. I have had my two done - for everything (although not chicken pox - which you can vaccinate for - it has been in the news recently). There are more than a few children at my son's school who are immunity compromised - not sure what the correct term is, but are having treatment for cancer. They are severely at risk from children who have not been vaccinated. I do find the attitude selfish and ill informed.

When the Andrew Wakefield report was published nearly 10 years ago, my entire ante natal group were in mass panic. Many of the mums paid to go to France or went private and did the 3 dose separate jab. I didn't and several told me I was being foolish. I suppose if you have had a child have a severe reaction to a jab, then you may feel differently and still believe in the link even though it has been discredited.

One final point (essay here) I always remember an episode of ER where a child died and hadn't had their immunisations.

Tattie Weasle said...

My boys had the full complement. I was aprehensive but felt tyhat the risks of serious illness and in the case of mealse deafness warranted the vaccination.
I think the problem is that it seems as if anti biotics etc are used too much now. Perhaps they are.
We should take advantage of the huge leaps in modern science when they are proven to help society as a whole.

Helena Halme said...

I'm completely with you on the necessity of vaccinations. Perhaps in other countries more recent generations have experienced fatal outbreaks of these diseases and therefore they understand the issue better than others, such as the parents in the UK?

If not, it beats me why some people are so selfish and ill-informed.

Good for you for discussing this issue. xx

planb said...

You're probably hoping that someone is going to come out and say "oh, I think vaccination is a load of nonsense..." Sadly for you I'm not that woman. In fact just reading your post made my blood seethe with anger.

When I was a child my favourite friend at playschool became deaf and blind through measles. (The measles jab then not being routinely given). It happens. And it happens a lot more often than people realise.

So clearly I think you should vaccinated (although incidentally you can't apparently currently in this country get the separate mumps vaccine - and I know some people who STILL, STILL (despite my basically telling them they are stupid and that Andrew Wakefield MADE UP most of the stuff he published) are opting for the separate jabs, and going without mumps for their sons, and thereby putting them at a real risk of infertility at a later stage on the basis of some complete and utter nonsense).

No, what gets me is that nurseries, and private ones at that, say they can't require the children in their care to be vaccinated. L's nursery had a suspected case of measles last year. She had had dose one of the MMR, but not the second (she wasn't old enough) and the advice was to give it again to her. That's fine, and as it turned out then child didn't have measles anyway. But what got me was why hadn't the child (who was four or five) been vaccinated, and why hadn't the nursery insisted? There are children there as young as six months who won't be vaccinated for a while, and what right does the parent of an older child have to put them at risk?? Surely the nursery could quite easily require parents to stick to the schedule with a leeway of, say, two months. If the child wasn't vaccinated it simply wouldn't be allowed in the nursery. I asked, and was told that they couldn't enforce it. Can't? Won't, more like, because they need nutters' money just as much as they need the rest of ours...

Sorry. Rant over now.

Dokmosis said...

Adistant cousin of mine had a delaye drecation to measles, became mentally & physically disabled & died aged 31 a sa result. Afriend of mine who is a dr in Uganda seethes with anger at middle class ill informed parents who won't vaccinate their children & thus endange rthem, & lower the 80% (or whatever) of population protected, wch is needed to eradicate it, thus endangering other children. he sees children regularly dying in Africa from diseases preventable by vaccine.
Whenmoving abroad our chcildren had to have loads of vaccines. I counted them up. My daughter had 27 seperate injections before she was 3. I agonised over it. Japanese encehalitis? Not registered/licensed in the UK even, can have a severe reaction, drs both recommended AND counselled agst it. IF u get it, u die. 100% fatality rate.
Rabies- a cours eof 3. Rabies wa severywhere we have lived but there is an anti serum. HOWEVE tehr ei sa world shortage of it AND it has to be administered in 24 hrs or u are dead. Difficult choices.

in the end we always opted for the vaccination, but it is agonising & trying to explain all thes einjections to yr young children is v hard.

But as we told them, we are so lucky that we have medicines & injections & can be protected from getting nasty diseases unliuke many people in the wrold

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Sorry someone else has been using my computer. That last comment was from me, Paradise. Incidentally chicken pox is not vaccinated agst in the UK but it is in the US. My daughter had mild chicken pox aged 3 wks, then had the chick pox vaccination in Sri Lanka, then last yr got shingles, aged 4!

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

That's an interesting point from Plan B, Joseph went to the state run nursery in the village and I had to produce evidence that he was up to date with all his jabs before they would accept him.

nappy valley girl said...

It amazes me that people do not vaccinate. Being married to a doctor we give our children every immunisation going (including swine flu) - not only does it protect them but it is an issue of public health. Yet I know of intelligent, educated people who are sceptical of vaccinations.

In the USA they vaccinate against chicken pox routinely, and the preschools require all the kids to be vaccinated against a checklist of jabs.

Potty Mummy said...

I'm just wondering if there are going to be any commenters who are willing to put their heads above the parapet on this one and disagree... Not me, Brit; I totally agree with you. And as for the chicken pox vaccination, it's standard in the US (children HAVE to have it), and when we enrolled the boys at an American school the only reason they didn't have to was because I put them both in harms way (callous mummy should be my name) and made sure they got it before they reached school age...

London City Mum said...

I'm with you on this as well. Afraid that in this day and age with the advances in medicine there is no excuse to put our own children (or others) at risk.
Opting to 'not' vaccinate is selfish, narrow-minded and irresponsible. I don't care what anyone says in defense of this type of decision.
We were routinely vaccinated as children (witness as an example the lovely smallpox scar on my arm) and it was never up for debate. No wonder there is a recurrence of illnesses - some of which as noted above can be fatal - that should have been near extinct by now.
I have nothing against natural remedies, but let's be smart here people. We are talking about putting our children's lives at risk. Is that really worth 'opting out'?


Muddling Along Mummy said...

Opting not to vaccinate and rely on the herd immunity offered by other people vaccinating seems plain silly to me, as does the frequently touted argument that the actual diseases aren't that bad after all and that having them isn't a bad thing for your child.

Vaccination is a great thing - its saving lives right here and now

Lady Mama said...

My opinion is, those who aren't vaccinating their children are being selfish and, like you said, are relying on the fact that the rest of us *have* vaccinated our kids and therefore their kids will be safe.

Interestingly, cases of polio still exist in some Hutterite communities, where they don't believe in vaccines.

These diseases - the ones we immunize our kids against - they do still exist. The only reason we don't contract them any more is because we're all vaccinated against them!

No one wants to have their kids injected with chemicals, but you weigh up the risk of the vaccine against the risk of disease that once wiped out kids like flies, and you make the decision that's best for your kids and for your community.

(Can you tell this issue really makes me mad?)

Expat mum said...

I lived first hand with someone who contracted a preventable disease (polio) as a 6 month old baby so am a fan of vacinnes. My sister works with children and babies and reports that illnesses like measles are back on the rise because of the non-vacinnating parents. Grrr.
In many states in the US, you can't register your child for school unless they are up to date with their shots (with some exceptions). It sounds a bit big brother-ish but it's for a reason.

kathryn said...

I agree with all of you - but one of our closest friends doesn't - it is just beyond us - and drives us to distraction - we too had our kids vaccinated against everything possible (like VB in Catalyuna even when it meant paying for it as the local health authroity in Italy didn't pass it on) - I can't believe some parents can be so bloody stupid when it comes to their kids' health!

Anonymous said...

This feels like another one of those 'common sense' things ('everybody knows they don't work' so why do it....) - infuriating when it means everyone else suffers...

Muddling Along Mummy said...

The more I think about it the crosser it makes me (didn't mean you not confronting In a bad way - think it's a hard thing to talk about face to face)

Modern Dilemma said...

It is a minefield I agree to find yourself in that tricky conversation with another parent and frankly, I still have no idea why a parent would say no to all jabs.

I MMR'd late with the first 2 and number 3 hasn't had it yet. I'm terrified about the autism spectrum link with ED having fun in that department and now its another girl....I know its crazy. You've prompted me to make an appointment with the GP and at least talk about this rather than hiding it away in the part of my brain marked "To Worry About At A Later Date".

On a much lighter note, I have tagged you over at mine with a Happiness MeMe. Tell us about 10 things which are making you happy right now. Hope you have time with the upcoming travel etc.

MD xx

Sandy Calico said...

So many comments, but I'll add my 2p anyway! I totally agree with you. People who refuse to vaccinate their children are selfish and ill-informed. Mine have had them all, including swine flu. I'll be paying for them to have the chicken pox immunisation too. Another reason that it isn't available on the NHS is that the take up would be so low, they are targeting resources elsewhere.

Chic Mama said...

My daughter caught whopping cough from someone that hadn't been vaccinated, she had so it was called something slightly different. She was so ill for over six months and is still tiny now. So, I'm an advocate for immunisations. Saying that I don't think people should be forced to have them but they should made aware of the consequences of not to their child and others around them.

Iota said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Iota said...

I'm going to be that head-above-the-parapet commenter. I'm just feeling ornery.

I think vaccinations are a good thing, and my 3 have all had theirs. In America, they are compulsory, and the kids couldn't attend school or preschool without them, or some kind of proof that I held religious views that precluded them. So I have experienced the UK persuasive approach and the US compulsory approach.

I must admit I didn't like NOT having the choice. For example, my 2 oldest ones had chicken pox (the illness) before we moved here. My 3rd hadn't, so had to have the vaccination. My US doctor said that in his opinion chicken pox is not an illness that needs vaccination (and my experience with my 2 older children bears that out). But he had no choice, and I had no choice. (And I don't understand about shingles - you can only get it if you've had chicken pox, so surely being vaccinated against chicken pox means that you wouldn't ever get shingles either.)

The US list of vaccinations is already longer than the UK one, and they keep adding to it. The first doses are given at birth, and where our kids have 4 DTP doses before school age, American kids have 5. It wouldn't surprise me if the flu jab became compulsory.

Oh, and my brother had a severe reaction to one vaccination. My mother didn't want him to have the second dose. The GP told her not to be so silly. She insisted on seeing a specialist. He told her she was absolutely right, that he shouldn't have the second dose under any circs, and that she may well have saved his life by seeking a second opinion. Perhaps that's coloured my thinking over the years.

I agree in principle that people should vaccinate, and not rely on herd immunity without playing their own part. But I would also want to uphold people's freedom of choice. Would you blame my mother if she'd chosen not to vaccinate her other children? (This didn't arise as my brother was the youngest.)

There. Told you I was feeling ornery.

Sarah said...

Fear and a confusion over what constitutes personal research.

The red tops play havoc all over the globe with various country-centric versions of vaccination panic (or anti aids meds, depending where you are).

Parents then seek out in the main sources of misinformation that supports the panic, which they swallow unthinkingly whole, whilst dismissing out of hand anything that contradicts the panic. They tend to fall head first into conspiracy theories because the David V Goliath ideology appeals and it supports a decision that does not involve sticking needles in their tiny babies. which is always going to have an edge emotionally over big needle in tiny thigh.

Not to mention that some make it their life's work "not to be a sheep", as though anything that is walking against the flow is automatically preferable. I swear that a noticeable proportion of the other home educators I meet seem to do it, not because it makes sense to them in the educational sense, but mainly because it cements their status as an "altie" or "free thinker" (makes cat fur ball noises) so I tend not to underestimate the appeal on that basis.

I think the best antidote is cloning Ben G. and insisting that newspapers take responsibility for any hyped up disinformation they publish for the sake of circulation figures.(or make "Bad Science" required reading in the same way the "What to expect when you get as big and fat as an elephant, eating everything in sight" is.)

Make if fashionable to be able to read a scientific study (which isn't that hard, I was surprised how easy it was), make it a la mode to ask for evidence and to insist that pseudoscientific babble is backed up with good quality proof. Make Cochrane de rigure as a homepage.

We are going to have to work towards "Geek is chic".

"The whole anti-medicine thing generally has me fuming anyhow as those sorts of people take all manner of "natural remedies" that haven't had half as stringent testing as licensed medicine."

Oh that it were at least half as stringent. Much of it is completely untested or where it has been tested, has been proven to be as much use as vaccinating/healing yourself via self flagellation with a wet lettuce leaf.

Actually maybe "geek is chic" could be a good meme for a well read mummy blog to start, about time the idea that in the main mummies are science illiterate twerps who see "big pharma" black helicopters everywhere was counteracted.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

CW - Obviously, medical reasons not to have the jabs are a different thing from choosing not to. I agree with you, no excuse!

Glowstars - Exactly!

Trish - it is interesting, no real anti vaccine people commenting here. Wonder if I was too strongly against in my post, or whether people who read my blog are the type who will get their children vaccinated?

RR - it is distressing to see them cry so much, especially when they give the doctor their bestest sunniest smile right beforehand!

A&U - I agree, to not vaccinate is stupid and selfish. I was hoping some people would comment who could enlighten me as to why they choose not to, but everyone is pro jabs so far!

Deer Baby - Exactly. I read an article once about a boy who had just been released from hospital after being treated for cancer, and someone else at the playgroup had measles and it killed the boy. Tragic and totally avoidable.

TW - mine too. Only not TB.

Helena Halme - Me too, I just don't understand it. I think people think that these diseases can't be as bad as everyone says... but they can!

Plan B - I do think it is selfish, and needlessly exposes other peoples children to risk.

Paradise - Living in paradise does tend to mean a lot of nasty jabs. Luke got chicken pox at 9 weeks and had a mild case of shingles the following year. Poor lad!

VBC - it is like that here too, which is why I was so surprised this little girl wasn't vaccinated.

NVG - I think people don't appreciate the public health issue of jabs when considering whether to have their own children vaccinated.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Potty - No one is going to it appears. Mine both had chicken pox before they were 2. Not deliberately, but Adam got it from nursery and passed it on... Nice to know that it has been done so we can stop worrying about it.

LCM - exactly.

Muddling - loved your post on this issue!

Lady Mama - Makes me livid too. Really gets the old blood boiling!

Expat Mum - We do all complain about the Nanny state but like you say, sometimes we obviously need a bit of nannying!

Kathryn - I had a friend in Britain that I had to stop seeing because I couldn't get over that she refused to vaccinate her children. It made me so angry.

Hampshire Flyer - exactly.

Modern Dilemma - I think to talk t your GP is a very sensible idea. Hopeful (s)he can allay some of your fears and suggest a course of action that is acceptable to you. Thanks for the meme!

SC - if mine hadn't already had it, I'd probably be paying for them to have the vaccine too.

Chic Mama - Poor little thing. I think you are right, people don't really know or think about the public health consequences of their decisions. They should be educated so that they can at least factor that into their decisions. I'll still be cross if they choose not to vaccinate unless they have a bloody good reason!

Iota - I can see your point of view. And I agree that with a real reaction then the situation is different. But with the potentially serious childhood diseases, the ones that can kill and disable, surely people should vaccinate. If nothing else, they should be aware of the danger they are putting OTHER peoples children in by choosing not to do so.

Good to see you are feeling ornery. Always healthy I feel.

Sarah - people do make decisions on strange reasons. Frustrating, especially when the medical evidence is there in front of people, but they just refuse to read or think about it rationally.

cartside said...

I'm also with you on the vaccination issue. I'll never forget my worry when my daughter was diagnosed with measles before she got vaccinated. I'm sure it wasn't measles (because she would have infected me and didn't), but it's such a nasty disease that even the possibility made me very worried indeed.

I had a conversation today with a group of people who object to vaccinations. The reasoning was somehting like this: in Chinese medicine, mumps and measles are considered necessary child hood illnesses that make you stronger if you've been through them. Vaccinations are not natural and the whole approach to health in our society is focussed on illness rather than keeping well.

I didn't confront either, it was a first meeting, I was on my own with my strong views, I did consider saying something but it's hard if there's such strong agreement in a group, especially when otherwise the same people have very reasonable views. I would have begged to differ had I known them better.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

I do find it difficult to confront people, especially when they have strong views on it. Most of the time I am happy to let it go, most parenting doesn't affect me anyway. But on this issue, I wish I'd said something more to him, I really do.

Nishant said...

I agree with you.
home based data entry

geekymummy said...

So nice to see all you sensible people in vehement agreement! I'll add my agreeing voice also.

I think that the "not vaccinating" crowd are the victims of a lot of misinformation;

that the drug companies push vaccines to make money (they do make money of course but it isn't a huge profit generator, not like drugs that have to be taken daily), and that old debunked idea that vaccines cause autism, for example

I think it is a false confidence gained by living in a world where we no longer worry about polio, diptheria etc, because these have been practically eradicated. The diseases are far away frm our thoughts now. Thanks to vaccines

I bet many people who dismiss the childhood vaccinations were lining up for the swine flu shot, because the fear of the disease was greater than the fear of the potential side effects.

Public education is the way to go.

ella said...

My son is one of those who relies on others being vaccinated because he is immunosuppressed and is at risk of catching any of the childhood diseases that vaccines routinely prevent. Measles, in particular, is a very real risk to him. With the low uptake of MMR it is a constant worry for us.

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