One of the most talked about - and hotly debated - parenting issues lately is childhood vaccination.
To vaccinate or not to vaccinate is one of the biggest questions in parenting forums these days, with arguments erupting all over social media between parents on either side - most armed with inaccurate information. Thanks to the new "live and let live" online parenting culture, the upshot of the argument always seems to be 'it's a parenting choice, we're all trying to do our best, you decide what's best for your own child.'
Here's the thing: it's not a choice.
It has been turned into a confusing issue with mixed messages and false information posted everywhere, leading parents to believe it's a decision they have to make for themselves. But it's not a choice to be made - or shouldn't be.
There's not a valid argument for one side and a valid argument for the other.
It's not a subjective issue that comes down to parents' personal beliefs and preferences.
It's a matter of science.
Children should be vaccinated. Period.
Making the parenting choice not to vaccinate your child is the same as choosing between feeding your child or letting them starve, clothing your child or letting them freeze.
I am not a doctor, a scientist, or a medical researcher. I don't expect anyone to take my word on a subject in which I have absolutely no formal education; however, since those parents arguing against vaccination tend to get their "proof" from outdated articles, disproved studies, random subjective opinion and flat-out false information, I've done the research and included the relevant sources right here for those unable to find and verify the correct information for themselves. Valid, legitimate, accurate sources acknowledged and proved by the medical community throughout the first world.
I actually cannot understand why there is even any debate on this issue. Why any parent would choose to intentionally withhold vaccines for their child that could prevent them from contracting and spreading diseases - contrary to all valid scientific research and against the advice of the world medical community - makes absolutely no sense. Talk about your first world problems - I can guarantee you there are no parents in Uganda saying "no, thank-you; I'll take my chances" when offered life-saving vaccinations for their children. What a luxury to live in a part of the world where we have developed so far that some people are actually choosing to move backward instead of forward.
How about we rely on fact instead of myth?
Myth: These diseases are almost obsolete anyway.
Fact: Diseases that people once died from - like measles and polio - are uncommon only because people are vaccinated against them. If people are not vaccinated, these diseases will reappear. (1)
Myth: Vaccines have harmful side effects.
Fact: Vaccines are safe. Side effects are minor, like soreness at the injection site or mild fever. Major reactions are extremely rare; you are far more likely to be injured by a vaccine-preventable disease, if you choose not to be vaccinated, than by a vaccine. (2)
Myth: It's more natural to be immunized through disease than through vaccinations.
Fact: Vaccines produce an immune response similar to the one produced by the infection, but do not cause the disease or carry the risk of the disease's potential complications, like disability or death. (3)
Myth: Giving multiple vaccinations can overload the immune system and increase risk of side effects.
Fact: Multiple vaccines have no effect whatsoever on the immune system. Children are exposed to hundreds of substances a day that trigger an immune response, including food. There is more antigen exposure from a common cold than from vaccines. (4)
Myth: Vaccines can cause SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Fact: There is no link whatsoever. These vaccines happen to be administered at an age when infants can suffer from SIDS; the two are not linked. (5) Giving the child the vaccines will not increase their risk of SIDS at all; not vaccinating will risk disability and death as a result of these vaccine-preventable diseases.
Myth: Vaccines can cause autism.
Fact: There is no link whatsoever. This FALSE rumor started as a result of a FRAUDULENT study published in British medical journal The Lancet in 1998. The study was subsequently discredited and retracted; the doctor who published the study was found guilty of professional misconduct and struck from the medical register and the original study was deemed fraudulent by the British Medical Journal. (6) The completely fabricated connection between vaccines and autism led to decreased vaccination rates - and therefore higher incidence of disease and death. There is no link between vaccines and autism - but there is a link between uninformed parents believing the false story and children contracting the disease.
The World Health Organization estimates that immunization averts 2-3 million deaths worldwide each year.
So don't vaccinate your child if you feel more qualified to make that decision than your pediatrician, Health Canada, the World Health Organization, every legitimate medical journal and organization and the entire scientific and medical community in the first world. I'm thrilled that group immunity granted by my child and the other children in our community will - hopefully - keep your kid from dying from a third-world disease.
But every time someone "chooses" not to protect their children with the required immunizations increases the risk that those diseases we once all but eliminated will return.
World Health Organization
Health Canada (Public Health Agency of Canada)
Canadian Paediatric Society
Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
British Medical Journal
The Lancet (Medical Journal)
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