Addison is one of those children who hasn’t been vaccinated against measles (and mumps and rubella, plus the chicken pox too.) It’s not because we belong to the group of crazies known as the ‘anti-vaxxers’…hell no I don’t want to have anything to do with them so let me get that out of the way right off the bat. It’s not because we have forgotten to follow up with boosters, as some of our local health authorities believe is the primary reason why vaccination rates are falling dangerously low for children under the age of two. It’s because she CAN’T get the vaccine. This leaves her with absolutely no protection from contracting a potentially deadly disease, except by the grace of everyone else who CAN get the shots.
As the parent of an immune-compromised child, I have been following the debate over the Disneyland measles outbreak closely. It makes me sad and angry there is even any discussion needed. Why are we seeing more and more outbreaks for a disease that was once considered eliminated in North America? Canada’s Public Health Agency doesn’t mince words: “Measles presents particular challenges because it is the most infectious disease known…There is no place to hide from measles, and sooner or later the virus will seek out anyone who is susceptible.”
This is terrifying. Addison was not even a month old when she received her heart transplant. She was too young to get even one dose of MMR vaccine because it contains live, weakened virus. And now she will never be able to get it. Same thing with the chicken pox. And rotavirus too. That small amount of live virus could make her gravely ill. We even have to avoid other people who have just had their shots in case the virus sheds. Some older transplant children have had at least had one shot, but that’s not full protection. On top of that, all these kids who have fought so hard for their second (and third) chances at life are on a heavy dose of immune-suppression drugs to prevent rejection of their transplanted organs. This means they are already punching way above their weight class, with one hand tied behind their back, hopping on one foot. You get the picture. And it’s not a pretty one. When Addison got the rotavirus three years ago, we were in and out of the hospital for weeks.
It’s not just transplant kids and adults who are at high risk. Cancer patients are extremely vulnerable too. So is anyone with an immune condition or on immune-suppression medication. Babies under six months have no protection. The only thing standing between all of them and a disease that could kill is all of you who choose the right thing for your kids and mine. Please vaccinate.
Elaine, Aaron and Addison