Friday, January 18, 2013

The Unvaccinated Child with Pertussis in My Kids' Preschool

Last week, I got a mass email from the Board of my kids' preschool that hit me like a ton of bricks.

The email from the school informed us that there is a child in my kids' class who has been sick for the last two weeks with Pertussis (aka Whooping Cough). The email shared the child's name.

Given that this is such a tiny community, and a school of < 20 kids, we all know of the little girl and her parents, and word about these matters spreads so quickly (even when you've given up gossip entirely) so I don't see the sharing of her name as the privacy violation I would have seen it as when I used to live in a large city. But still.

Coincidentally, our DD had experienced some severe unexplained coughing symptoms recently, so we had a bit of a freak out once we heard the dreaded word "pertussis." You may have heard there was a pertussis outbreak in my state (WA) last year, due to vaccine-denier parents who had refused to get their children vaccinated.

The pediatrician thinks she has the asthma that runs in DH's family, and possibly some allergies. Anyway, the nebulizer he prescribed seems to be working. All is well for now.

This whole episode really has me thinking. While on the one hand, I'm not terribly sympathetic to parents who by choice have never had their children vaccinated against the preventable, devastating diseases of childhood - to be honest, I really question their intelligence, on the other hand, I tend to see this as one of the costs of living in a free society. Maybe there's a benefit to living amongst the occasional free rider in our democracy.

Your thoughts?


Nataliya said...

I don't know what to tell you. We are up on all vaccinations with Miss C. And while hubby gets his flu vaccine every fall, me and Miss C go without.

I too cannot rationalize putting my child's health at risk this way. However, I do also believe that we, as parents, have the right to choose for our children and that some of my own choices for my child might not work for others.

It's a tricky balance. Sorry, I guess I'm not adding much to the discussion after all :)

Sonia said...

While I understand that some children legitimately cannot be vaccinated, I resent parents who benefit from the herd immunity of widespread vaccination without vaccinating their own children because it is "the right choice for their family." Without society-wide vaccination and the herd immunity it confers, the most vulnerable among us are even more at risk. Vaccinating my children is one of the key things I can do as a parent to keep everyone healthy. And because the vaccines have been so effective, we, as 21st century parents, have the *luxury* of worrying about the relatively minor side effects of the vaccines rather than the massive childhood mortality of the diseases themselves. Yes, I get that the side effects are no fun, but I'd much rather deal with a fussy baby for a few days than bury my infant or care for a paralyzed child. And spacing the vaccines out, fine. Personally, I'd rather minimize my time at the pediatrician's office, but I do understand giving one shot at a time as long as vaccination is complete.

Lisa @ Trapped In North Jersey said...

Interesting topic! I am generally all about letting other people parent the way they want to, whether or not I agree with that particular manner of parenting. I am ok with other people not vaccinating their kids, and would never say anything to someone about that choice. I do wonder, however, how someone who does not vaccinate and relies on herd immunity, rationalizes that plan of action. 99 other people should do the thing that you are not willing to expose your children to, so that you don't have to? Ethically I'm not sure it makes much sense.

We moved twice in the two years right after my youngest was born, and somehow, despite me showing up for all the regularly appointed vaccine visits at three different pediatricians, the chicken pox vaccine and second dpt shot was never given to my younger two kids. (We discovered it this summer when we started at a new pediatrician, and i'm sure the oversight was a result of the fact that we went to so many different pediatricians in such a short period.) We were traveling during that time period and I was a nervous wreck for a week until we actually got the shots.

I do believe in letting other people make informed choices, even if I don't agree with that choice or would make a different choice myself. I had a midwife-attended homebirth with my second child, and you would have thought that I had suggested we start practicing Santeria as our method of childbirth. I read the research and made an informed choice for myself, perhaps one that many other people wouldn't, but that's my right. I feel strongly that its ok to let other people make informed decisions for themselves and their children, even if its outside the mainstream "what everybody else does."

Janet @ House Four said...

I had a whole comment written in my head as I read through your post, but I think Sonia (above) said everything I would have wanted to say! So a "plus 1" to that comment.

Hope your daughter continues to improve and glad to hear it's not whooping cough.

Anonymous said...

I was on a mommy forum in a blue city with a lot of non-vaxxers. There were a small number of hard-core anti-vaxxers who spread all sorts of misinformation about vaccines (saying there's mercury in all vaccines, which isn't true anymore, saying the link to vaccines and autism was proven etc.). Surrounding this core group of strongly opinioned women were women who were more influenced by others. As said blue city started getting cases of formerly rare diseases and children started dying (and later, when the faking of research came out even more on the autism link), it was very interesting seeing how the non-core started taking their unvaccinated kids to get vaccines, and started following the pro-vaxxers.

Which is to say, I'm not sure how important the crack-pots are, but the people who listen to the crack-pots... the easily-led... those folks can really mess with herd immunity.

Anonymous said...

also, not vaccines, but...

Cloud said...

There was a measles outbreak in my neighborhood when Pumpkin was 11 months old... so 1 month away from the vaccine. A couple of babies and a bunch of kids got sick. Thankfully, they all recovered, but the babies were in the hospital for awhile. I confess I felt quite a bit of anger towards the parents who decided that they didn't need to vaccinate their kids, and then took their kids to visit a place where other people also choose not to vaccinate, and then when their kids got sick just took them in the main waiting room at the pediatrician, never suspecting measles, because who gets measles these days? People who don't vaccinate, that's who. And little babies who are too young to be vaccinated.

I don't know what the right answer is. Sometimes I wish I believed in Hell so that I could be sure that people like Jenny McCarthy would go there.....

NoTrustFund said...

We have vaccinated on schedule and I've never really thought twice about it even though I know of a lot of people who are very against it. The was a big whooping cough outbreak around when our second was born. My husband and I got boosters but that was the first time I was really worried about all the unvaccinated kids out there.

Luckily, we have not yet dealt with any big outbreaks and my sense is that most of the kids at our daycare are vaccinated. I'm sure this will change once our kids are a little older and in a proper school.

hush said...

Great comments, all. I'm enjoying this excellent, new-to-me blog called Moms Who Vax - their first post is a must-read Manifesto:

Love their proposals for shifting the current costs and creating some better incentives, including higher insurance premiums for vaccine-deniers with "philosophical reasons" only, and making it easier for daycares and schools to refuse admission to the unvaccinated. I'd also like to see some tort liability for folks who knowingly put others at risk for phony "personal reasons."

Also, did anyone hear about the airtime given to a anti-vax crackpot on NPR this week, in the name of "false balance"? This post totally nails it what is so very wrong about the current vaccine dialogue:

Anonymous said...

I agree. And I don't think people who refuse at least the big vaccines, including pertussis, should be able to go to school. If they weren't allowed to participate in school, taking the selfish way out wouldn't be so easy. Private schools are free to require vaccines without exception, and should. Each state handled publics differently, but they have to allow a religious exemption. This practice should end.