The reports in the news today that the number of children being vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) has fallen for the first time in seven years made me think back to a night three good friends shared (a few!) bottles of wine and a heated debate broke out.
We’ve all been friends a long time, seen each other through birth, death and divorce but this was one topic where the gloves really came off. Clare is in her late 30’s, has one daughter and according to her, “What she chooses to do with her child is her business” while Alison, mum of four and the same age, couldn’t have disagreed more. She argued it “lacked a moral duty” to choose not to vaccinate. Me? I was undecided really. My daughter has been vaccinated but I can’t say it was done out of any moral obligation or for any other reason other than I thought she should have it done at that time. ( I know I’m deep.)
I’ve since thought it over a little more. Two children at my daughter’s primary school are being treated for leukaemia and we regularly get letters home asking us to keep the school informed of any contagious diseases our own children pick up, as the potential repercussions for those two children could be life threatening. Could I honestly say if my daughter was in that position I wouldn’t feel some degree of anger or resentment to parents who chose not to vaccinate? I don’t think I could. Which is a strange notion for me as I’m a great believer in “each to their own” and try not to judge other parents.
While writing this I found out from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that “measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children” with 145,700 deaths globally in 2013. That surprised me a little I have to say, I assumed it would be much lower than that. But are those figures enough to vaccinate? I really don’t know that they are. I vaccinated my own child as I thought it was best for her but I have to be honest and say I didn’t really give the wider population much thought. That may not be very public spirited but it's the truth. With the day to day worries that many parents face, I can also understand the concerns regarding possible side effects from multiple vaccinations. It's unusual for me as I'm not really one to sit on the fence but I genuinely have no firm answer for this one.
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Oh and Clare and Alison? They’ve happily shared many a bottle of wine since and will continue to do so…..
Image credit : inhabitots