We make many choices and decisions in our lives as moms each day. From the second you tell people you are pregnant, your parenting choices are questioned. Are you going to breastfeed or bottle feed? Are you using cloth diapers or disposable diapers? Are you going to send your children to public school, private school, or teach them at home? Will you continue to work and look for childcare or will you leave your outside job to become a stay at home mom?
But in my opinion, one of the most important decisions you can make for your children is to vaccinate them, and protect them from many life-threatening diseases.
In addition to our roles as moms we all have many other identities- wives, sisters, friends, daughters. One of my other identities is registered nurse. I have studied nursing, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. I have experience practicing as a registered nurse for nearly a decade. My education and experiences, both as a nurse and as a friend, have definitely influenced my decision to vaccinate my children.
What do the experts say?
According to both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect their children from very serious, and potentially fatal, diseases. Delaying or refusing vaccines leaves children at risk. The number one reason why I vaccinate my children is to protect them from diseases.
High rates of vaccination are required to maintain herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficiently high percentage of the population develops immunity to an infection. There is then a resistance to the spread of the contagious infection. Even among those who have not been vaccinated. Certain populations cannot be vaccinated against certain diseases and depend on high rates of vaccination in others. These populations are often very medically fragile, and include babies who are too young to receive certain vaccines, and those with compromised immune systems. (Like people who have received organ transplants or chemotherapy).
The number two reason why I vaccinate my children is to protect other people. In my job, I have watched premature babies, who were previously thriving, go back on ventilators after developing a vaccine-preventable illness. In my previous job, as an Oncology nurse, I watched patients develop neutropenia, after chemotherapy wiped out their ability to fight off infections. In college, I watched my best friend set her alarm clock to wake up at various hours throughout the night, to remind her to take her immuno-suppresants so her own immune system would not attack the liver she received via organ transplant the prior year, after contracting liver cancer. All of these are examples of people who depend on herd immunity to protect them from infection. And I vaccinate my children because I care about these people too.
The “autism link” (or not).
There are many people who have suggested that there is some sort of link between vaccines and autism. This has been dis-proven many times over in medical literature. As a parent to two children who have autism, it actually kills me that so many people believe this myth. Trying to establish some sort of link between vaccines and autism, when no link exists, only takes away from other research that could actually help discover legitimate treatments or identify potential causes. And, for those people who do maintain that a link exists, even if there were a link – I would still vaccinate my children 1.000 times over. My children are happy, healthy kids. I am grateful for vaccines because they have eradicated many diseases that could have potentially killed my children if they were born several hundred years ago.
Your baby’s best shot.
I vaccinate my children to protect them from diseases. I vaccinate my children to protect others from diseases. I vaccinate my children to give them, and the rest of the population, the best shot at living full, long, healthy lives.