I’m always very careful not to lambast parents who choose not to vaccinate. The reason is that I want to persuade rather than force. This is supposed to be a free country and even if I think otherwise about vaccines, I do think we ought to respect the right to choose not to vaccinate.
Be that as it may, this post itself is to give parents who choose not to vaccinate an informed appreciation for the darker side of that choice.
In an article posted here on ABC News’ web site, there is a sad story of a six year old girl who contracted chickenpox, i.e., varicella, and then subsequently developed pneumonia. The storm of both infections was more than she could repel. She passed on in her mother’s arms.
Her mother was reportedly talked out of childhood vaccines that have proven efficacy against those infections by the child’s physician. He apparently told her he was suspicious of the vaccines and that the child should be exposed to the illnesses and develop immunity naturally.
At autopsy, Abby was found to not have a spleen, which predisposed her to fatal infection by encapsulated bacteria in particular. Her asplenia is what happens to children with Sickle Cell Disease where the malformed red cells destroy the spleen over time. We vaccinate those children to Pneumococcus to prevent those fatal kinds of infection.
So often anti vaccine proponents tend to point blame at reactions to vaccines. But the dark side is that not giving vaccines is not the same thing as doing no harm.
Let me repeat that I staunchly support a parents right to refuse medical care, including vaccines, (except of course in the case of child abuse), but it is vitally important to clearly understand that not vaccinating does not equate to no consequences.
If you have further questions about vaccines, come in for an appointment and I’ll be glad to tell you what I know. We will treat you with respect and courtesy and answer your questions honestly.
Ron Smith, MD