Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots, Everybody!
So you move into a new city and find one solid friend that you cling to for dear life. They invite you over to their friend’s place for a cookout and you agree to attend and think “What do I have to lose? I can make more friends!”
You get there and meet a handful of really nice people and are finally feeling comfortable when all of a sudden a person walks in and you hear a collective groan. Eyes roll and someone whispers to you, “That’s Lyle. I can't believe someone invited him. He is the worst. Don’t talk to him unless you want to hear him talk about himself for an hour.” You give a nod and thank the person for the advice.
Now imagine instead of being annoying and talking about himself, they warned you about Lyle because he was a serial killer who exclusively killed new people at parties. You would be 200% more grateful that your friends 1) knew that information themselves and 2) passed that info down to you.
In the world of vaccines, this situation is something called herd immunity. There is no way you could have been vaccinated from Lyle, so their vaccination kept you from getting trapped into a horrible conversation or, ya know, death. Measles, mumps, polio, whooping cough, etc were once so prominent, it was likely you knew someone that would contract them. No one knew about how to keep Lyle away. But thanks to vaccines, those infections are as outdated as prohibition or threatening to punch someone in the “kisser.” Everyone agrees that Lyle is awful and doesn’t invite him to stuff. Even today, there are some people that cannot get vaccines, like those children who are too young or whose immune system has been weakened by chemotherapy or those who have a severe allergy to the vaccination. It's takes all of us (well anywhere between 80 and 95 percent of us depending on the infection), the herd, to keep them protected.
Zoom back to the party.
This dude named Blane walks up and whispers, “I hear Lyle isn’t SO bad. I’ve never met him, but you never see him around anyway. We just don’t know about Lyle. I hear when people warn you about Lyle you actually lose 3 toes!” Would you trust him? Obviously not. First off, his name is Blane. Second, you have a lot of evidence against Blane’s story from people you trust. You do a polite nod and head back to the chip bowl to regroup. Blane being Blane, hops up on the nearest table and begins the whole “Lyle isn’t so bad” convo to the party and slowly new people reject taking their Lyle vaccines and Lyle starts showing up at parties and wreaking havoc on poor people whose friends didn’t vaccinate against Lyle.
Many of the dissenting opinions about vaccines come from people who aren’t experts and shouldn’t be trusted to give knowledgeable advice in the realm of immunization science. But sometimes science can seem scary and some worry about the trace mercury in thimerosal vaccines. But the mercury in vaccines isn’t the same kind of mercury that you find in fish. It’s a kind that is cleared out of the body much quicker and isn’t nearly as toxic. Like the difference between H2O (water) and H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide), one makes popsicles possible, the other is dangerous if consumed. Despite using low doses of thimerosal for decades with no problems, the outcry from concerned parents and over precaution lead to thimerosal being removed from all children’s vaccines in 2001. Thimerosal is the compound associated with the “Vaccines cause autism” idea. But not only is there no research affirming that vaccines cause autism, but many many studies have been done that show the opposite. Not to mention the fact that the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), polio, and chickenpox vaccines have never contained thimerosal. But if the idea of trace amounts of a more harmless mercury in the flu shot still gives you the heebie jeebies, you can request non-thimerosal form.
Let’s return to the party once more.
If your friends decided to wait to inform you about how much Lyle is a drag or decided to tell you slowly over a long period of time, you would have been at risk of letting Lyle in and bumming out all the rest of the newbies at the party! Likewise, the timing of when to give children vaccines has been tested many times and is timed perfectly so that your child is protected, but is also given in doses that their immune system can handle.
So while shots can look scary, especially going into a precious little baby, know that you are helping them and others around them stay safe from dangerous infections that are threatening to make a comeback during the anti-vaccine age. In the science world, people gain fame for accurately disrupting the status quo. If your neighborhood scientist found that vaccines caused autism, or cancer, or the ability to see through walls, the status quo would change. But just the opposite has been proven, over and over again. Protect your kids and other's kids who can’t get shots. Don’t listen to the Blanes of the world. Keep that herd immunity strong and dangerous infections and Lyle at bay. After all, your choice to not vaccinate may mean severe illness or even death for your child or another sick child.