With the emerging movement to delay or defer vaccinations, the landscape is beginning to shift in one very important aspect of preventative medicine. What used to be a given regarding vaccinations is no longer true. All children are not vaccinated. While most parents will vaccinate their children to prevent the spread infectious disease, the small number who do not create risk for all.
It is so difficult for me to believe that we, the doctors in the day-to-day practice of medicine, have been unable to use our knowledge and our connection with families to dispel the distrust parents feel for the ‘medical machine.’ It is challenging to know what to say when my heartfelt belief is that vaccines have been the largest public health success story ever and when I truly believe that the decision to delay or defer vaccines puts so many more children at risk than just one.
It is difficult to digest statistics of risk and benefit when a small infant is so much more than a number. Our responsibility as parents is huge, and decisions are numerous in the day to day life of what can go wrong. It seems that we should be able to better control outcomes, minimize all risk, ensure a wonderful future for our children… And yet, as the experts at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia tell us, even chicken pox can kill you.
So here’s my idea. For today… if it helps at all, I’ll carry the bag of worry for every parent who chooses to vaccinate their child. It’s a big, canvas LLBean-kind-of-bag with room for each and every one of the worries that risk/benefit ratios and Jenni McCarthy and autism and the MMR have created. It doesn’t matter how heavy it becomes; I’ll carry it for all the parents who need to trust again.
I am truly struggling today, and I need a place to put my own worry for all those children who will be needlessly at risk by parents who delay or defer vaccinating their own children.