This is an issue very close to my usually cold and concrete heart as it involves the lives and deaths of innocents from completely preventable diseases and infections. With the recent explosion of anti-vaxers circling internet forums, television, and communities, I felt helpless to stop them or challenge their disastrous messages. I thought, what can I do, as an individual, to make their toxic message just a little bit less effective?
I’m going to help strengthen herd immunity, and urge others to do the same. If we can’t silence the anti-vaxer’s dangerous vocal arguments, we can silently protect those they affect by doing our part biologically.
I was worried that this post might conjure images of me sitting on a very high horse dictating what you should do and how great I am for suggesting you do so. If that does come to mind, what colour is the horse? If this post reminds one person to get their booster shots, then I consider that a large victory.
A lot of anti-vaxers recoil in horror at the mention of ‘herd immunity’ as if they’re being referred to as mindless sheep being herded into the doctor’s office in an orderly assembly line (if only that were the case…). Herd immunity is the immunity of a large proportion of the members of society and the consequent lessening of the likelihood of an affected individual coming into contact with a susceptible individual. These susceptible individuals are usually newborn babies who are too young and vulnerable to receive their vaccinations for various infections such as whooping cough (pertussis) and the measles. So basically, the logic of herd immunity dictates that the more individuals who are vaccinated, the chances that a chain of disease transmission will be interrupted are very high, resulting in self-contained, small outbreaks that will die out quickly.
What many adults do not know, and what I’m endeavouring to spread the word about, is that you need booster shots. I was surprised to learn that the vaccinations I received as a young child are not permanent (and this is why I’m not a doctor), and your body needs ‘reminding’ with regards to fighting these infections. Vaccinations for adults are also highly stressed for new parents, or people who are in contact with young and vulnerable babies and children. What actually spurred me on to getting my boosters was the fact that my neighbour is pregnant and I will no doubt be interacting with, holding, kissing, and sucking the youth out of this newborn baby. I feel like it’s my responsibility to be vaccinated before handling this new innocent baby. I am the adult, and for visits where I am responsible for the baby’s health (not dropping him, holding him correctly, basically keeping him alive), I should be vaccinated against any infections that he may catch.
The same logic applies to older children who I am in contact with as part of my work, study or volunteering. I do not know whether these children have been vaccinated. If I can be one more person that they interact with who CANNOT infect them, I see this as only a positive result of booster vaccinations. Their parents have obviously decided against vaccinating their children (something I vehemently disagree with, and with the help of ‘Stop the AVN’ am trying to change), and I can’t change that, but I can help herd immunity by protecting the ‘innocents’ in society. These innocent new born babies include Dana McCaffery who at 4 weeks old died after being exposed to whooping cough after her mother took her outside in a notoriously anti-vax area of New South Wales here in Australia. My heart breaks every time I hear this story, both for the painful death of this beautiful little baby and for the guilt the family feels for not knowing about the blatant apathy their community had with regards to immunisation. Here is her story:
Although verbal back and forths with the anti-vax groups may be falling on deaf ears, you can do your part to fight their dangerous messages. Do exactly what they’re campaigning against. Get vaccinated. Next time you go to your GP, discuss possible booster shots you’re eligible, swallow some concrete, and get the shot. Then, when you’ve got your little bandaid and lollipop for be such a good patient, tell anyone who will listen about what you did and why. You never know whose life you might be saving in the future.
Here is some information for Australian residents about vaccination programs: http://www.myvaccination.com.au/