Is There Such a Thing as a Vaccine Debate?
Aug 23, 2012

Many science minded people are bothered by the term “vaccine debate”.  The suggestion is that no debate exists when one side has the benefit of scientific evidence, while the other relies on an unproven hypothesis.
But a “debate” it has become.  Especially when it provides for interesting coverage in the mainstream media.  This recent PBS video, To Vaccinate or Not? Two Mothers ‘Debate’ is a perfect example of how various vaccination decisions can be compared, debate-style.  With the U.S. currently in the midst of the worst whooping cough outbreak in more than half a century, PBS Newshour positioned took two women from Washington state and addressed the question of whether it is irresponsible not to vaccinate our children.
I was somewhat impressed by how the women chose to defend their opinions.  At one point, even the woman who has chosen not to vaccinate her child, made some relevant points.

  • She emphasized that the most important thing that we can do for newborns is to keep infants away from anyone with a cough.  However, her suggestion to test everyone for pertussis reveals her lack of understanding of the symptoms and diagnosis of the disease.
  • She recognized that the pertussis vaccine has a less than perfect record of efficacy, yet she emphasized that the vaccine helped reduce the severity of the disease.  While most people who are well versed in vaccine efficacy realize this to be true, I agree with her comment that many vaccinated individuals are not always aware that the vaccine does not provide 100% assurance against contracting the disease.
  • However, my biggest concern with her statements was her personal conviction that her kids were at “no risk of complications from pertussis”.  She was certain that if they contracted whooping cough, that they would not die, but may suffer greatly.  I’m not entirely certain what she based this opinion on, but I found her statements a bit troubling.  Especially having just read the following comment from one of our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook followers.

Yesterday Michelle wrote:

Pertussis sucks.  I’ve had it twice now because we didn’t know I needed a booster and was around kids (*shudder*) and was exposed to every manner of germ known to man.  I now have Reactive Airway Disorder and am now considered asthmatic because of the severity of the pneumonia and bronchitis I had due to the pertussis. Just to give you a small idea, my doctor took 2 sets of chest x-rays because he was convinced the first set was somehow damaged because my lungs appeared almost entirely white.  NOPE!  That was all the infected mucus and fluid in my lungs strangling me.  He was amazed I was still walking, that btw was my second bout with pneumonia in 2 years.  I am an insurance nightmare and have a hard time getting private insurance.  I now have 2 inhalers and need combination allergy/asthma medication.  When I get a simple sinus infection I always have to get nebulized because my airway gets blocked up and I am at risk for hospitalization. Simple changes in air pressure or temperature are a breathing nightmare for me.  I am also at higher risk for pneumonia and bronchitis more than the average person because of my condition.  So yes people’s “personal” choices effect other unknowing people in many ways, sometimes permanently.

The truth is that I’ve heard lots of stories that are similar to Michelle’s.  But with Michelle’s comments still fresh in my mind, I was troubled by the convictions of this woman who has chosen not to vaccinate her children.  I can only hope that her children will remain healthy.  As for me, I would much rather protect my child through vaccination than rely on a “it won’t happen to my child” mentality.
I’m curious to hear, what are your thoughts on this video?  How do you think the women did in defending their positions? 

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