I just finished watching The Vaccine War, a Frontline investigation into the benefits and risks of early vaccination.
I didn’t feel like it was completely fair to parents who decided to not apply all of the recommended vaccines to their children. My wife and I fall into this group, but our reasons were different than those given by the parents selected for the program. The majority of parents interviewed either had some conspiracy theory reason for not vaccinating, or simply believed that vaccination in general was unnecessary because these diseases had been eradicated. We actually were unaware of many of these conspiracy theories surrounding early childhood vaccines at the time we made our decision, and we are (and were) very aware these diseases have not been eradicated because we in fact have relatives who suffered from some of them.
Our reasons for not supplying our child with certain vaccines (I hope) were a bit more nuanced:
- We felt the vaccine was too new and had not undergone sufficient testing yet, and/or
- The disease the vaccine prevents is rarely deadly, or requires transmission through a means we doubt our child will engage in anytime soon
I’ll leave the reader to figure out which vaccines we declined.
Herd immunity was an important aspect of our decision making process. But I am concerned that by immunizing ourselves to all of these common (and rarely deadly) diseases we may be leaving ourselves open to being susceptible to some new disease that would otherwise not be possible. So in fact, we could be doing the herd a disservice by vaccinating too large a population. Perhaps this is completely unfounded, but I give Methicillin-resistant staph bacteria as an example of human intervention creating a far more serious health concern than the concern it was originally trying to address.
In the last several years we’ve engaged with many health professions on this topic both for our children and ourselves, not just with vaccinations but also with preventative medication. In my opinion, the medical establishment needs to perform longer term studies, have detailed information readily available for patients, and not discriminate against them because of their decisions.