The Public Health Council in NJ has voted 5-2 to make flu shots mandatory for preschoolers. The Department of Health and Human Services has a vaccination schedule that calls for at least 34 vaccines by the time a child is six years old. As a parent-to-be, I am very uneasy about the ever-increasing number of vaccines that are doled out to our nation’s children. Here in Colorado, we have a right to waive vaccinations based on “personal belief” and I’m glad that right exists – Jay and I may decide to invoke it over the next few years for many of the vaccinations given routinely to babies and preschoolers.
When I was starting my Peace Corps service in Tanzania in the late 90s, I had numerous vaccinations. They were for things like rabies and hepatitis and tetanus – life threatening illnesses that were very prevalent in the areas where we served. Once we finished our training program, we were sent to remote, isolated villages to teach for two years. My village was a two day trip from the capital city where quality medical care could be found. In circumstances like that, prevention is probably the best cure, and the benefits probably outweigh the risks.
But the trend towards vaccinating babies and children against every common childhood ailment – chickenpox and the flu are two very popular immunizations at the moment – is alarming. I honestly believe that if researchers were to come up with an annual vaccine against the common cold, parents would be lining up to get their children immunized.
I am not convinced of the safety of vaccines, and I am not alone in my concerns. Parents all across the country are taking issue with the number of vaccines that are administered to children – and the autism link, while scoffed at by medical officials in high places, has failed to go away, and seems to only gain strength with each passing year. I have no idea whether vaccines cause autism, or any other health problem. And neither do you. We don’t know what potential harm the chemicals and preservatives in vaccines are doing to our children during their developmental years.
Breast feeding is a known immune booster for babies. And yet only 20% of mothers are still breast feeing by the time the child is 12 months old. Unlike lab-created vaccines, breast milk has no unknown side effects, and with the exception of a very small number of mothers who are infected with diseases like TB, HIV, or Hepatitis, breast feeding poses no medical risk to a baby. So what if we were to make breast feeding for 12 months compulsory for all new mothers? The benefits to their children (including vastly improved immune systems) would be marked. And yet such a proposal would be met with fierce resistance. People would consider it to be an invasion of privacy and a violation of a parent’s right to decide how to best raise their children. I feel strongly that babies should be breast fed, and yet it’s not my place to insist that other mothers feel the same way. Nor should any laws be dictating whether or when we vaccinate our children against childhood illnesses that rarely result in death or lasting medical problems in otherwise healthy children.