By: Dominique Tol
EDITOR’S NOTE: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proclaimed April 27-May 4, 2019, as Infant Immunization Week in Michigan.
There are so many decisions to make when it comes to raising children. At the end of the day, we’re all trying our best to do what we feel is right in raising our little humans.
Being a parent has brought me so much joy — but it is hard. One decision that was not hard to make was choosing to vaccinate. I vaccinate my daughter not only for her own well-being, but for the safety and protection of others as well.
We usually think of vaccination as being something we do to directly protect our own children, but vaccination is more than just a personal choice. Your decision affects the health of everyone in your community by creating a circle of protection from disease. This protection is especially important for children who have not yet been immunized or who cannot be because they are too young or too sick. It also protects others who are most at risk to the serious health complications of vaccine-preventable diseases, including the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients in active treatment.
As a pediatric registered nurse, I have seen firsthand the effects of not vaccinating children. In Michigan, only 58 percent of toddlers are up-to-date on all of the recommended vaccinations. This means that children who are too young or too sick to be vaccinated are more at risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable disease, if it’s prevalent within a community. The thought of a child beating cancer only to possibly contract measles is heart-wrenching — and entirely possible if not enough people are vaccinated to provide herd immunity.
We often take for granted vaccine effectiveness because of the fact that many vaccine-preventable diseases were eliminated through immunization. Before vaccines, parents in the United States could expect that every year measles would infect about 4 million children, killing about 500. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, would kill 8,000 infants. Diphtheria would be one of the most common causes of death in school-aged children. This was a reality for parents.
Unfortunately, we are learning firsthand that vaccine-preventable diseases are not a thing of the past — they are making a comeback in our communities. Michigan is currently facing the worst measles outbreak in decades, with 43 cases confirmed so far affected individuals ranging in age from eight months to 63 years.
As some parents are choosing to delay vaccinations or are refusing to have their children vaccinated altogether, we’re unfortunately seeing an increase in vaccine-preventable diseases.
Low vaccination rates create a window of opportunity for deadly diseases to spread through a day care, classroom or larger community. And as we’ve seen with the Michigan measles outbreak, these diseases can spread quickly.
As a nurse, I know and trust the science. As a parent, I appreciate how overwhelming it can be to face all these decisions for our kids. Parents should bring up questions with their pediatrician. And if you’re looking online for answers, be sure to turn to trustworthy websites like IVaccinate.org, which provides Michigan parents with clear answers and resources based on credible medical sources.
Dominique Tol is a mother, blogger and pediatric nurse in West Michigan. This op-ed originally ran in the Holland Sentinel.
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