Vaccinations and Fear

So much of our parenting these days is influenced by fear.  There are warning labels everywhere — on our bouncy seats, our cribs, our toys, serving as a constant reminder of the dangers our children face just getting through their days.  It is exhausting, this fear.

As a measles outbreak takes hold in America, every mom blogger and politician has been weighing in on the news.  Honestly, I don’t often think of vaccines outside the doctor’s office and have purposefully stayed out of the vaccine fray here on Mary Tyler Mom, but I found myself worried last week, thinking of my own baby.  He is a newly minted 17 month old and while listening to the radio I was reminded that the vaccine for the measles, the MMR, is generally administered in two doses.  The first, at ages 12-15 months, and the second, at ages 4-6 years.

There I was in the car, listening to this report, which was a follow-up to a news story about a daycare in a local suburb that had five cases of measles in young babies suspected.  Huh.  Surely, my boys were both vaccinated, right?  I mean, I play on Team Vaccine and as the mother to a child who was immunocompromised, I didn’t mess around with the stuff.

My kids have been vaccinated on schedule, with confidence.  This has been something my husband and I have been in full agreement on, both for the safety and well being of our own children, but also for our neighbor’s children, the children in the park, the children we still occasionally come in contact with through our time in Cancerville who are unable to be vaccinated themselves.  Solidly Team Vaccine here.

But still, I was worried enough to call our pediatrician’s office to confirm.  The baby was due for another well visit at 18 months, but that was four weeks away. With confirmed cases of measles close to home, I wanted the reassurance that we were as prepared as possible, that both my boys had the protection we feel is needed for them.

Sadly, I got the news that my youngest had not, in fact, received his scheduled MMR vaccine at 15 months.  His 15 month “well baby” visit turned into a “sick baby” visit because the flu was making the rounds at our house that week.  Mary Tyler Baby was sniffly and a little wheezy, prompting the doc to refrain from the scheduled shot.  I was told to reschedule when the flu and colds had cleared (mind you, it was me with the flu, not the kiddos — they had gotten their flu vaccines earlier in the season, thank goodness; I had not) .  I had completely forgotten.  December and January, because of the decline in my Dad’s health, were nothing but a steady stream of hospital visits and worry.

Dammit.  I went ahead and made the appointment to get the MMR, which happens to be this morning, grateful I had caught the mistake.


This is when the fear set in.  Because of all the measles talk in the media right now, I have been paying greater attention.  It’s been hard not to, as measles talk is everywhere right now.  I have posted a few articles I have read on my personal Facebook wall and have been genuinely curious to better understand what is behind the anti-vaccine movement.  How does a dreaded disease that was effectively eradicated on U.S. soil return? Why do people willfully disregard the science, the community obligation?  I was honestly curious.

I watched the CNN interview with the doctor in Arizona refer to his children as “pure” and state without hesitation that were his unvaccinated children to contract measles and pass the disease on to an immunucompromised child and should that child die as a result, he would feel no regret, “People die,” he said with his challenging eyes looking right at the camera.

I have read as friends and acquaintances have described the terrible and horrible symptoms in their children that they fully attribute to vaccines.

I have seen more than a few articles posted about how autism is better than measles, autism is worse than measles, and on and on and on.

Today, in less than two hours, me and the baby will be sitting in a doctor’s office, getting the scheduled MMR vaccine and I am worried.  I am worried by vaccinating my son I might be harming him.  I am worried that I will walk in the office with a happy, smiley baby who will leave that office gravely different — unresponsive, listless, untethered, missing his anchor.  I am worried that my baby will be that one in a million baby I keep hearing about that might have a terrible, horrible adverse reaction to the vaccine.

That worry makes me angry.

I am tired of parenting in a culture of fear.  Exhausted by it, actually.  Having lost a daughter to cancer, I know fear intimately and tingles of it turn into waves within moments.  Thank you, PTSD.

I don’t know what the answer is.  I wish I did.  I do know I will be at that pediatrician’s office at 9:45 for the vaccination.  I will hold my baby and comfort him as he will surely cry in response to being stuck with a needle.  I will pick him up, and dress him back in his clothes and coat.  I will hold him and whisper to him that everything will be okay.  I will hope that it is true, that everything will be okay.  I will remember that vaccines are about the greater good, a personal and community obligation.  I will take a deep breath and trust in the science.  I will curse the fear that runs rampant at every turn. I will turn off the radio and shut down the screens.  I will kiss my sweet, sweet baby.  And I will wait for signs that all is well, the smile, the joy, the laughter, all intact.



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