While my family is generally very healthy, we live in a community where that isn’t true of everyone. Our kids’ vaccine schedule has followed fairly closely the the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, with a few variations discussed with our doctor whom I trust implicitly. I am generally not an anxious mom, though I certainly have had thoughts of my earlier misgivings about vaccines pop up on shot day. Still, we move ahead in relative illness-free utopia. The things we are vaccinating for, for the most part, are very rare these days. The shots are to keep it that way. Then this week, everything changed in our community, prompting me to try for an early MMR vaccine for my baby.
A few measles cases popped up about 30 minutes from us, in places we don’t frequent. I kept an eye on the situation, but did not worry too much. Then this weekend, the health department in my county started noting places of potential exposure in our community. At the same commons as our church. In a thrift store we frequent weekly in our town, and in which my husband had taken our nine month old a few days after a measles patient had been there.
My typical laid-back-mom attitude began to wane, and worry crept in. Not only was I anxious for my baby, but I was anxious for those around me.
For my baby’s nine month well check this week, I came armed with data and a strong opinion that they should give my child the MMR shot that day.
One of my best friends is immunocompromised and cannot receive the MMR vaccine. Two of my neighbors in our small, close-knit community have young sons who have had heart transplants and cannot receive vaccines. As much as I worry about my baby getting measles (and I do worry about that, the mortality rate for kids under 5 with measles is higher than for older kids or adults), I worry more about how my child getting measles could affect those I care about around me. Those that cannot be vaccinated rely on those who can for “herd immunity” to keep these illnesses at bay. Since 2000, an estimated 20.4 million measles deaths have been prevented worldwide due to vaccines, per the CDC. Because of stringent vaccine programs, those who cannot be vaccinated can walk around in a world where they are much, much less likely to be infected by the virus.
So, for my baby’s nine month well check this week, I came armed with data and a strong opinion that they should give my child the MMR shot that day. We had a discussion, and after making sure that I understood that according to a WHO study, there was a chance the vaccine would not take effect, and agreeing to check her blood titers (to see whether she was producing antibodies) and give a booster if needed, the doctor agreed.
Typically early MMR doses are reserved for Americans traveling overseas, but our doctor agreed that the changing measles rates here in our own hometown warranted concern. The nurse came in and administered the shot to my daughter’s tiny little bicep while I snuggled her in my arms, and while no mom likes to see her baby in pain, I felt more relief than anguish. I knew we were doing the best thing we could do to keep her safe, and keep those around us safe as well.
I am worried about the fact that I have to be worried about a disease that was declared eradicated from the U.S. in 2000.
As parents, I know we are faced with a myriad of decisions all the time. We are bombarded by social media, blog posts, articles and more. The internet is great in that it allows us to access a lot of information easily. The internet is also terrible in that it allows us to access a lot of information easily. I can’t tell you how many Google rabbit-holes I have gone down over baby development, diapers, or a rash. (Let’s not even talk about the Google rabbit-hole I went down of trying to see what all my favorite 1990’s celebrity crushes look like in their forties.) It is overwhelming. I generally feel confident in my parenting decisions and don’t worry too much about the decisions others are making, but I am worried about the fact that I have to be worried about a disease that was declared eradicated from the U.S. in 2000.
I worry that the rise of pseudoscience and poorly sourced reading material is mongering fear about these little vials that have saved, again, over 20 million lives. I am worried that we live in such a privileged time in the U.S. that we don’t remember what it was like when loved ones died from polio or tetanus or measles, so we underestimate the seriousness of these diseases. Very worried.
So hell yes, if I can give my baby her vaccine a little early and reduce a little bit more risk in the world, I am going to do it.