To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate… That is the Question…

21 Jun

So many parents are having a difficult time with this question. For me and my family, it’s a no-brainer.  We lost our college-aged son 13 years ago to bacterial meningitis, because we did not know that a vaccine existed or was available.  Had we known, our son would have been vaccinated and would be alive today.

Can I go back and rewind the tape on these last 13 years?  Can I start over again?  Why didn’t I know about this vaccine, when so many other vaccines were listed on my son’s college-admission forms?

Parents with children today are so lucky, compared to our parents and grandparents.  Vaccines are medical miracles that have transformed the face of medicine.  Diseases like polio, measles, rubella and pertussis that once killed or maimed hundreds of thousands of children have been dramatically reduced or eliminated through widespread use of immunizations.  As a result, the United States has successfully conquered many of the most challenging infectious childhood diseases, regardless of families’ socioeconomic status.   However, we can’t let down our guard.  Diseases can make a comeback if people are neglectful about vaccinating based on an assumption that their children will be fine because everyone else is vaccinated.  It’s important for everyone to participate in vaccination programs.  We must keep protecting our children with vaccinations.

Vaccines save lives.  The meningitis vaccine could have saved my son’s life.  My son was a 20 year old college junior – honor student, pre-med, and pitcher on his college baseball team.  He was healthy, happy, and living his dream.  Would he have made it to medical school and become a doctor?  I think so, as his younger brother did, and their dream was topractice medicine together.  Would he have made it to MLB as a pitcher?  Who knows?  He had a wicked fastball, but that’s not what’s important.  What is important is what he was – a wonderful son and brother, who was loved more than I can even put into words, and he will be missed forever.

I can’t even begin to describe what life is like after you lose a child, and then to be devastated all over again when you find out that your son didn’t have to die.  There is no such thing as “closure” after losing a child.  You might not cry as much as you did in the beginning, but that hole in the heart will never heal.  You now live a different type of “normal,” one where there can be much joy from other children and grandchildren, but a life with a background sadness that never goes away.  You walk down the street and see people laughing, joking, having a great time.  For that parent who has lost a child, that will never be you.  There is just too much pain and emptiness to be carefree.

Vaccines save lives and protect our children.  I have confidence in the FDA regulation process that if a vaccine is licensed, it is safe.  I don’t understand parents who question the advice of the CDC and our country’s most brilliant children’s advocates.

I don’t want any other parent to be me, a mom who lost a child to a vaccine-preventable disease.

So, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate ….  You shouldn’t have to even think about the answer.

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