At some point the vaccine debate simply has to end

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noun di-ˈbāt, dē-
Definition of DEBATE

a : the formal discussion of a motion before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure
b : a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides

There is no doubt a time and a place for debate. But surely there must also be a time when one side, due to an overwhelming preponderance of evidence, must concede defeat so that we can all move on to other things.

This is how I feel about the whole ‘vaccines cause autism’ debate.

Measles outbreak in Wales

Measles outbreak in Wales

Photo credit: Matthew Horwood

Sadly, the current outbreak in Wales has claimed its first victim; even more sadly, this is unlikely to be the last.

Not some far flung corner of the planet where preventative health care is scarce: Swansea, Wales, UK.

Just the other night, I happened across a documentary program while channel surfing called “Ewan McGregor: Cold Chain Mission.” The premise of this documentary is that Mr. McGregor, supported by a team from Unicef, travels to some of the remotest places on the planet inhabited by man to deliver life saving vaccines. The title of the documentary is rooted in the fact that these vaccines need to be kept chilled in order to be viable. No mean feat when you consider that it might take days without access to reliable (if any) electricity for refrigeration to reach their destination. All this got me thinking about what is going on in Swansea.

“One in every 1,000 people who contract measles in a developed country will die, health officials say.”

Source: The Independent, UK Friday April 19th, 2013

According to reports, those currently most at risk of contracting (and spreading) the disease are kids aged 10-12 years of age. This equates to a statistically sizable segment of a whole generation waiting to start secondary school in the UK who were not consistently vaccinated due to erroneous fears spread a decade ago about a possible link between the MMR jab and autism. The report that made headlines in 1998 has been widely, I repeat, widely discredited. Click here to read more. So why can’t we shake this fear?

I have to say, that I find this whole phenomenon of ‘non-vaccinators’ a bit strange. Traditionally, statisticians would tell us that the more educated a group is the more affluent they tend to be. The more affluent you are tends to trend towards overall better health and a longer life span.The reasoning being that the better educated a group is, the wealthier they are, the better their access to health care (preventative and otherwise). Yet surprisingly, it’s exactly this group of affluent parents that the research tells us is making the “conscious decision” not to vaccinate their kids.

It is this group of parents who are deciding for their children that they know better than the family doctor and modern science. It is this group who are making choices for their families that are not only putting their children at risk but also putting the general population at risk. And let me be clear here. Not for one moment do I believe that these parents have anything but the best interests of their children at heart. To decide to not vaccinate actually takes more work than deciding to vaccinate. It requires investigation. To decide to not do something that the majority feels is morally responsible requires a reason. This requires parents to go searching for said reason. I also believe that these parents have been swayed by fear (see the autism debate) and the voices of a very vocal minority with access to a huge megaphone (Yes, I’m calling you out Jenny McCarthy).

As parents, we are charged with not only loving our kids, teaching them right from wrong and which fork to use for the salad but also in keeping them healthy. And I don’t believe that the last point begins and ends with getting them to eat their vegetables.

And, frankly, I don’t think that our health insurance providers are doing enough to encourage vaccination. In our 7 years in Thailand (with the same employer) we’ve had two different health insurance providers: neither of which covered vaccinations (children’s or adult’s). I once asked the question, “So you’re telling me that my insurance won’t pay for a polio vaccine for my child but they will pay to treat him if he contracts polio?” “Yes.”

Surely the cost of treating polio far outweighs the cost of a simple vaccination? Or is it that the insurance company feels that it is so unlikely that my kid will contract polio that they’d rather play the odds? Playing the odds: isn’t that exactly what those parents in Wales did?

If parents in some of the remotest and poorest parts of the world welcome having health care workers administer vaccines to their kids, why aren’t educated parents in the West doing the same?

Photo Credit: © 2006-2013 Pink Sherbet Photography via Compfight cc

My name is Jodie. I'm a 38 year old Canadian working and living in Bangkok, Thailand. My husband and I are both international teachers - though I'm taking this year off to be a full-time mom.

When we're not busy with other people's kids, we try our hand at raising our own very curious nearly four year old son and his 9 and half month old brother. When it comes to parenting, like most of us, I’m making a lot of it up as I go along .

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