I am not a doctor. I don’t even really enjoy playing one when my four year old brings out her pink plastic medical kit, so I generally leave the bandaging and temperature reading to her. I do like to listen to my real doctor though, and did so when she encouraged us to get our first born immunized.
Like many parents in this area, my husband and I were leery about the prescribed vaccination schedule. We had heard stories about risks and many of our friends were electing to skip or delay shots for their kids. This peer influence made us question what to do for our then-infant son. (I now see that a New York Times article from a few years ago reported Washington State had the highest percentage of parents in the country who declined vaccines for their children).
Our son’s doctor appealed to our love of travel in trying to convince us to authorize the vaccinations. Sooner or later, she promised, we would want to take our kids out of country and it would be irresponsible to do so without shots. She told us about kids she’d seen during her international service who were ill from an otherwise preventable disease. Okay, fine. We had our son immunized.
Two years later our daughter was born, and we didn’t hesitate to follow suit. We also didn’t need to travel far to see the benefits. When she was a baby we drove north–only a few counties north to Skagit County–a hotbed for whooping cough. I remember seeing billboards on the side of the highway encouraging people to get immunized. I was pleased we had done so.
I’m writing this post today because we often think of these diseases as obscure and obsolete, but their reemergence is very possible. I just read an article about someone at SeaTac Airport with measles. I’ve also just watched a NOVA special on vaccinations, educating us about the enormous benefits and the minuscule risks. And I vividly recall meeting a couple in Nicaragua whose grand kids in the United States couldn’t travel internationally because they weren’t immunized. Whether venturing out in our own community, state, country or elsewhere on the globe, it makes me remember the best travel advice our family doctor ever gave–get immunized.