Friday, March 29, 2013

Immunization: The Bear Gets His Shots In

I had a bit show up in my news feed again about the anti-vaccination folks, the vaxxers.

I gather that most of these people are younger than me, and I was fortunate, polio had been all but eradicated around the time I was born. But just barely.

My sister was one of the early recipients of the first polio vaccines, she is just a few years older than I am. People today don't know the terror of a disease that could strike your child and cripple or kill him. The March of Dimes was founded to help families affected by polio and to try and prevent the disease. You may have heard of them. Franklin Roosevelt was stricken with polio and it left him unable to walk, Forrest Gump was likely a polio survivor too.

As I said, I was lucky.

Today many childhood diseases have been largely eradicated because of advances in medicine, mainly vaccinations.

When I was a kid, almost everyone had a scar on their shoulder from getting a vaccine. I didn't have one, I was a baby when I got my shot and it healed very nicely. I can remember like lining up for our shots in school, everyone took home a letter that we were to have our shots and everyone brought back the signed slip... And everyone got their shots.

Back then rubella, the German measles was the big one. They weren't so worried about us, but if you came in contact with a pregnant woman her unborn child was at risk of birth defects.

We suffered through the then normal childhood diseases, chicken pox, measles, mumps, and so on. Some people even went so far as to host parties when their kids were sick so all the neighbourhood kids would get it too... And parents sent their kids willingly, a way to control when your child got sick and to make sure they did get the childhood diseases while still kids.  These things can be more dangerous if you contract them as an adult.

And yes, big pharma makes money from vaccines, they also make money from Aspirin and Tylenol too.

The thing that they seem to forget is that these childhood diseases aren't always just icky-sicky for a week things. The mumps can cause sterility, other diseases can cause deafness or blindness or death. In the developing world these diseases are a huge problem with mortality rates of over 20%, and these are preventable deaths from preventable diseases.

As I write this there is an outbreak of measles in the UK that is nearing epidemic proportions. People there didn't bother to vaccinate their children apparently thinking there was no need. Now they are scrambling to get the shots before their kids get sick.

When I was little a measles outbreak would affect one grade in the school, chances are that the older kids had their bout with it when they were in that grade as well. Imagine a whole school where few if any of the kids have been exposed to the measles, we're not looking at a handful of kids anymore, but of potentially hundreds sick at the same time.

I guess it depends on your priorities.

But if your child comes down with one of the childhood diseases and you have to wait because a few hundred other kids are in line at the Emerge or the doctor's office, don't complain to me. You have the opportunity to prevent these diseases from affecting your child, and if you don't, it is your fault.

If you want to get your information from the Internet, be my guest, but talk to your health care provider first. After all, they are in the business of keeping you healthy, aren't they?

Thankfully the number of children here in Canada who suffer complications from these diseases is very small. Part of this is that vaccinations have made these diseases fairly rare. Keep in mind that it's a numbers game, if there are 1,000 cases across Canada, chances are you won't know the few that develop complications. If there is an outbreak in your community affecting 1,000 you very well could know some of the families that end up dealing with the complications.

Many people today have never heard someone suffer from whooping cough and their only experience with polio is pictures or film clips from the 1950s and earlier. Vaccinations have removed these diseases from our part of the world and vaccinations keep them at bay. Wouldn't it be nice to put all preventable diseases on the shelf with them so the worst thing most parents would have to deal with is a skinned knee?

Cheers! BC

No comments:

Post a Comment