Over the years as a parent I’ve noticed that the topic of whether to immunise your children is always a hot topic. The argument over whether to protect the health of your children by injecting them with a vaccination can apparently break long time friendships. The assumption that vaccinating or not vaccinating a child is a personal choice with no affect to anyone else but their own children, is always at the top for defending their choice. But here’s the thing, that assumption that you have the personal right to decide whether or not you should vaccinate your child is just that, an assumption, and you know what they say about those.
I grew up with stories from my mother about the epidemics that she went through as a child. Stories about the children up the road who suffered through polio and measles and mumps simply because there were no vaccines available in her youth to stop it. By the time she had children of her own she made sure to give them all the vaccinations available to prevent them from having to go through it too. Growing up hearing of those stories first hand has meant that I always did the same. It was a strong factor in my decision making as a parent. These days most parents are too far removed from first hand stories of children who get sick from what is now considered preventable illnesses.
But here is something else that you should consider when making your own decision to vaccinate your child.
Vaccinations are only as good as the number of people in the community that have them. When the majority of the community have the vaccination then there is less chance that the illness they are vaccinated for will rise and the everyone is protected including those who can’t take that vaccine due to health risks. The more people that vaccinate the higher the protection that community has. The less people that vaccinate the higher the risk that community has of bringing back that illness.
For me, this is a very strong reality. My best friend has a family of children who have a very rare immune deficiency. Every little germ that we as a normal healthy person can ignore and let our immune systems fight on our behalf, can send these children straight to the hospital for serious treatment. Her children don’t have an immune system to fight off even the common cold let alone a more serious illness. It also means that they had to have delayed vaccinations for when the health professionals could be sure that they would be beneficial and not risk these children’s lives. These children, and others like them, need the protection that a community full of vaccinated people can provide them.
But when a parent decides not to immunise their children because “it’s their right” to not vaccinate their healthy child, they put my bestie’s children at risk. They put all children in that community at risk.
While a vaccine won’t prevent those illnesses from occurring, they do provide our immune systems with a booster that help to fight those illnesses with less risk of a deadly result. Every willingly unvaccinated person increases that deadly risk to not only themselves but everyone around them.
We may think it’s our “right” to decide whether or not to immunise our children. But please consider that it’s also our DUTY to protect those around us who don’t have that freedom.