Should the Fear of Vaccinations Override the Fear of Life-Threatening Diseases?
While outbreaks of whooping cough hit St. Louis County, the debate rages on regarding possible links between vaccinations and autism.
My youngest child is asthmatic. He was diagnosed at 18 months after a year that was riddled with many bouts of croup, ear infections and nighttime wheezing. Breathing treatments via a nebulizer are a necessary daily routine that has kept our son's asthma under control and allowed him to pursue his active 2-year-old lifestyle.
Unfortunately, the inhaled steroid medication that has kept our son's lungs so happy has a warning label that concerns me. Live vaccinations cannot be administered while a patient is using the medication. While he's current with all his vaccinations, he's scheduled to receive several booster vaccinations at age four.
Yes, that's years away, but with formerly eradicated diseases like whooping cough hitting St. Louis County every year—currently 11 school districts have reported outbreaks—the thought of not being able to administer any type of vaccine has me on edge.
Some believe that vaccines can cause autism, and, therefore, they choose not to vaccinate their children. Medical studies have proven that vaccinations are safe, and findings from the Centers for Disease Control have shown that there is no link between vaccinations and autism.
Despite medical research, the increase of autism diagnoses—1 in 110 children are diagnosed—has provided a very real fear to vaccine-wary parents.
Personally, I have no worries about vaccines. When both boys hit the 2-month mark and were able to get their first round of shots, I was elated. I gleefully offered up their hammy little thighs as the pediatric nurses rubbed them down with alcohol and plunged in the needle.
For me, the decision to vaccinate is not swayed by an autism fear. Vaccinations provide life-saving benefits. Whooping cough, especially in young infants, can be fatal. So can measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccinations were invented to end the spread of these deadly diseases.
Unfortunately, many parents fear the vaccines more than they fear the illnesses against which the vaccines protect. Just over one in 10 parents have refused a recommended vaccination, according to a WedMD survey.
As a parent, I cannot discount the fear of an autism link. I understand that fear, and, unfortunately, I had to face it.
At age four, my oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning autism-spectrum disorder. That diagnosis was a heart-crushing moment. There was sadness and disbelief, followed by the acceptance that our son would be ok. Different, perhaps, but OK.
Life with an autism-spectrum disorder diagnosis isn't easy, but it's also not fatal. My son may be different, but he has extraordinary intellectual gifts and abilities. If vaccines caused his Asperger's Syndrome, then so be it. I would rather face autism than risk a fatal illness. For my asthmatic toddler, vaccines are a necessary and life-saving precaution. I will find a way to ensure that he is safely immunized when it's time for his boosters.