The connection between vaccine rejectionism and disease outbreaks continues to spread, and news and entertainment media are waking up. CNN reports how the Lacek Family in Pennsylvania came within minutes of losing their three-year-old son to Haemophilus influenzae type b.
For years, Kelly Lacek felt she and her husband made the right choice by not having her two youngest kids vaccinated. After all, the children were thriving without immunizations.
But in 2006, Matthew, their youngest, complained of a sore throat and a pain in his neck. The 3 year old suddenly developed a high fever. Hunched over, he struggled to breathe.
When his parents brought Matthew to the hospital, an older pediatrician asked, “Was your son vaccinated?”
No, he wasn’t. The Laceks were among those parents who had decided to postpone or skip vaccines altogether, because of skepticism over the number of shots required, the ingredients or concerns over a now-largely discredited link between vaccines and autism.
As Matthew’s windpipe was shutting down that day in the hospital, his parents were told: “Your son has minutes to live.”
The stunned mother cradled her son in her lap as doctors scrambled to find an open operating room.
“He didn’t cry,” she said. “He was laboring to breathe. He didn’t move. He was perfect. He was just at peace.”
Matthew’s parents had sought and received a philosophical exemption to vaccines. They nearly paid the ultimate price for their wrong choice.
The Laceks were among those parents who had decided to postpone or skip vaccines altogether, because of skepticism over the number of shots required, the ingredients or concerns over a now-largely discredited link between vaccines and autism.
The writer, Madison Park, doesn’t quibble about the science when she calls the purported vaccine/autism link “discredited. Vaccine injury is rare, but study after study has found no association between immunizing children against dangerous diseases and autism spectrum disorders. There is no “controversy”, outside whatever fear, uncertainty and doubt the anti-vaccine movement can fabricate.
Parks’ story briefly regresses when she introduces us to Bert Martinez, a vaccine-rejecting father from Houston, Texas, who intentionally leaves his five children vulnerable to disease.
Martinez believes his eldest daughter developed lupus as a result of the childhood shots. His other four children who did not receive vaccines do not have the condition.
“It’s the only thing we have to go on,” he said. “I know it’s not scientific and it’s not enough data. It is something.”
Martinez said vaccine policies are based on fear. He expressed questioned motives of the drug company, vaccine ingredients and the frequency of recommended shots.
“From the age of a few months old, we start vaccinating with strong medication, when the reality is there’s a 1 or 2 percent chance that it will hurt your child,” he said.
Martinez’s tortured syntax leaves readers with the impression that vaccines leave one percent of children with Lupus or another serious medical condition. Park, or Park’s editors, should have added context and clarification – a high percent of vaccines can result in harmless swelling or soreness at the injection site. That means the vaccine (not a “strong medication”) is working.
Vaccine rejectionism, not policy, is based on fear. The pediatric vaccine schedule is based on evidence, and the informed deliberations of experts who weigh the options. Don’t be afraid to say so.