This story didn’t happen in the United States, but it easily could have. In Auckland, New Zealand, a couple of parents made the decision to pay heed to all of the conspiracy theories regarding the dangers of vaccinations, and how their children would be better off without them. No word on whether they are avid readers of this nutjob and her collected works.
Well wouldn’t you know it, their kid got tetanus. He was rushed to the hospital and ended up on life support in an induced coma. He’s out now, but the recovery is going to be a long and painful process. Among other things, he has to learn how to eat and walk again, and still suffers from spasms as a result of the infection. Now here’s the upside:
[After their son Alijah fell ill, t]hey immediately immunised their other children and wrote to Alijah’s school to warn parents who had not vaccinated against the disease and others such as whooping cough.
“It was me that put my son in this situation,” Mr Williams said.
“Parents like us make the decision to not vaccinate on very little factual information about the actual consequences of the diseases – massive pain, disability and death – and a lot of non-factual, emotive information from the Internet stating inflated figures on the frequency and severity of adverse reactions and conspiracy theories about ‘evil’ doctors, governments and drug companies.”
In this particular case it had nothing to do with religion but just the belief that all of the frightening horror stories about the deadly side effects of vaccinations were true. I’d actually prefer to deal with people like this over the ones who are well aware of their benefit, but choose not to vaccinate anyway because God told them not to. As with the Williams family, their eyes were opened when their son became a data point.
Auckland Regional Public Health clinical director Dr Julia Peters said parents who did not immunise their children were making choices with potentially far-reaching implications for society.
They should think about whether they might infect someone without the same level of defence as them, for example, someone with cancer or a baby who was not yet immunised. So I think when people (think) ‘it’s just about me and my individual choice’, actually that’s not true.”
The decision whether or not to vaccinate should not be left to the parent. Sorry. Not when there is so much at stake from a public health perspective, and especially not when the parents decline based on fear and misinformation. If there is a valid medical reason a child cannot get immunized, then by all means they’re exempt and some other way should be found to protect them and those with whom they’re in contact. Vaccines are obviously not perfect and there are some potential side effects, but the good they do significantly outweighs the harm making them a necessity in any industrialized society.
There are some who would crow about freedom and personal liberty when something like this is proposed, but to them I say “tough shit”. Their rights end when mine begin. If an increasing number of people choose not to immunize their kids, then we’re all susceptible to these diseases, even if we were vaccinated ourselves … and I’m in no mood to suffer for their ignorance, regardless of its origins.
I’m glad, at least, that Alijah is making a recovery and that the parents have seen the light. Maybe testimony from former “believers” will end up carrying more weight than the collective voice of the medical community. That’s a sad statement to make, but I guess if that’s what it takes to get more people on board, I’ll take it for now.