I don’t write about this very often here, because it is not the purpose of my blog to soapbox about anything (although sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t make it my life’s work to promote childhood vaccination, which is pretty much the only thing that might prevent other children from dying the way Hudson did), and I won’t say much here. Hudson was fully vaccinated completely on schedule. She was vaccinated against the most common cause of meningitis, which is the HIB bacteria—the introduction of the HIB vaccine preceded a dramatic drop in the incidence of meningitis in children in the nineties. And she was vaccinated against the most prevalent strains of strep pneumo, the type of bacteria that ultimately claimed her life. Strep pnuemo bacteria are among the most common in the world—most of us are walking around with some strain of it in our respiratory system right now. Unfortunately (tragically, horrifically, terrifyingly, bang-my-head-against-the-wall-and-shake-my-fists-why?!), there are about 90 strains of strep pneumo floating around, and at the time, only 7 were covered in the Prevnar vaccine Hudson received. Another 6 were added in the months just preceding her death.
Opponents of vaccinations might look at what happened to Hudson and argue that vaccines don’t work. But vaccines DO work. They work, but they are imperfect. Just as we can’t create a bubble for our children to walk around in, neither can we vaccinate them against everything. All I can think about is how much MORE exposed to these life-threatening bacteria Hudson would have been without immunizations.
All I can ever do is offer this mother’s perspective in the debate about vaccines. Any informed choice about vaccines must include the information that children CAN AND DO DIE from these childhood illnesses that we vaccinate against. As parents, I think it is so difficult for us to believe that something as simple and intangible as a bacterium or a virus could claim our child’s life—we think so much more about cancer and cars and choking. And yes, what happened to Hudson is exceedingly rare—of course it is. But so are any serious adverse reactions to vaccinations. I remember another mother who once opened up the comments on her blog for people to debate about vaccines. One mother whose child had autism said this: “The parents yelling the loudest and calling personal choice selfish, are (mostly) the ones whose children do not have autism. For those of you who would ‘take autism over childhood diseases any day,’ yeah, right.” I responded in a way completely uncharacteristic for me, because it was so melodramatic. I said, “For the commenters above who seem to doubt this sentiment, yes, I would much rather have my child on the autism spectrum than have her ashes sitting in the next room.”*
Children can and do die from childhood diseases. They are not routine or always mild. There is a reason we vaccinate against them—because they can kill children (and in most cases, WERE killing children in large numbers before the vaccinations were introduced).
I did not write this to start a debate about vaccinations. I can’t control the comments here (well, I can, but I choose not to), so I can’t stop readers from starting such a debate, but I hope that can be avoided. I just wanted to express (and explain) my gratitude today for the fact that although I can’t protect Jackson against all the terrible things in the world that might take him from me, I can protect him from some of them. I know I will be breathing just a little easier in a few weeks when his immunity from today’s shots kicks in. For me, there is no question but that the benefits outweigh the risks.
*I want to stress here that in no way do I believe that there is ANY link whatsoever between vaccinations and autism, nor have I ever.