Recently I got into a heated discussion with some folks in the paediatric cancer forum regarding vaccinations. I think a healthy debate is beneficial for everyone who cares to listen. In any argument, the hope is that one can walk away from the debate with a better understanding to make the right choice for themselves as well as others. We all benefit from such a debate!
The issue of vaccination has landed in the same theme park as a religious arguments, climate warming, UFO, big foot etc, and no amount of reason seems to prevail. Regardless of the mountain of evidence that exists on this subject matter, still some view vaccination as evil.
Many people have written about it better than I can ever articulate. So why add to the pile?
Because I want to give a perspective from a pediatric cancer family. Not vaccinating may be harmful to individuals, community and society and possibly deadly for us. Of course, vaccination isn’t without risks. If you are immune compromised, or have other issues that require special attention, it may be wise to consider your options. This fact could not be more clear for us, who have a immune compromised child due to cancer therapies.
In the course of the said argument, I was especially drawn to the social aspect of the issue; One gets vaccinated to not succumb to diseases, but also to help the society at large as well. We all have a social responsibility to ensure that we do not harm others. In my opinion, altruism is part of our genetic makeup. From the social responsibility perspective, it seemed to me that not being vaccinated is akin to drunk driving.
Do all drunk drivers end up killing others? No. Probably only a handful of people end up hurting others. But it is understood that driving under the influence is a bad idea for our society and subsequently we do not allow such behaviors. The risk is substantial enough that we do not allow drunk drivers to get behind the wheel.
So, why is it that some of us, including some in the pediatric cancer circle, think that it is OK not to vaccinate? Some arguments I’ve heard are:
- It’s a personal choice.
- vaccines have poisons in them. Mercury, formaldehyde and Adjuvant are very unhealthy for people.
- We have had horrible reactions to it.
- There is a conspiracy to harm people through vaccination
If we translate some of these arguments into a drunk driving scenario, one can immediately see the failures of this line of thinking.
- It’s my personal choice to drive drunk.
- I had a horrible experience by not driving home drunk. I don’t know where I ended up.
- There is a conspiracy for cash grab by the government.
- I’m fine even if I have a few drinks.
There are genuine cases when vaccination may not be right for you. One of them is if one does not have a good immune system. In such a case, vaccination is not something that should be considered. But such a consideration should be made in conjunction with your doctor.
Moreover, there is a difference between getting the primary vaccines over flu vaccines. The primary vaccines which we get for diptheria,Tetanus,Rubella, Polio, etc saves lives and horrible consequences of the disease. Flu vaccines are more to protect you from unnecessary down time. Does it work always, no. But generally it is a good idea, although for most people, it is not deadly to not get the flu vaccines.
Notwithstanding a handful of acceptable reasons, if you do not believe in vaccination, all I can say is that you are prejudiced and put others in danger; prejudiced because because the opposing arguments flys against the substantial evidence. It is also very dangerous for those like us, who have been immune compromised for years.
What is incomprehensible for me is this:
- 1 / 1,000,000 dose of vaccine results in 1 person being compensated. (We can say that one person either died or became seriously ill. Those who suffered as the result of vaccines, most were elderly with weak immune system)
- 2 / 10,000 children under 5 will get cancer from CT scans.
- 2 – 3 / 100 pediatric cancer patient will get secondary malignancy from the cancer therapy.
Huge frustration that the paediatric cancer families often deal with is the lack of concrete data. We are often left to make decisions without any form of data to back our decisions. We make life and death decisions not based on facts, but gut feel. Will this clinical trial work? Will we have to deal with severe adverse reactions?, are but two of the questions we deal with on a regular basis. So when we are presented with concrete and credible information, it should be a no brainer.
Except it isn’t. I fail to understand.
- Why would you not vaccinate your children? (outside being immune compromised and with the consent of your oncology team)
- Why would you be OK to give chemo or radiation to your children when the chances of these therapies having severe adverse effect is so much higher?
- Why is it OK shirk your social responsibility?
I shudder at the thought of having survived two cancers, and having Maya exposed unnecessarily to other infectious diseases. It took all we had to keep Maya alive. Even then, the ripple effects of cancer just about destroyed everything it could touch in our lives. Everything!
Why would you insist on not getting vaccinated when it could potentially harm others? Why is your right not to vaccinate more important than my right not to be sick or die from your decision? Drunk driving is not acceptable. It destroys lives, just as much as not vaccinating you and yours.
I welcome your input from anti-vaxxers. Help me understand why you won’t vaccinate? And by the way, do you think drunk driving is OK?
PS: According to the WHO link below. 1.5 Million children died from vaccine preventable death in 2008 alone, against 1 / 1,000,000 death due to vaccine.