There was a measles's scare at my kids' preschool the other day. It was scary for a short time. Once we got the details I realised that the infected child was there on the same day my kids were. That means it was a day my 12-month-old sat on the floor and was fondled, kissed and hugged by many of the centre's kids. Pre-schoolers love babies. And he loves to be loved by them.
Now, my kids are fully immunised. I looked into it with my first child and haven't looked back since. But the MMR vaccine (mumps, measles and rubella) isn't administered until 15-months-old so my 12-month-old smallest boy is not protected.
For a moment, I freaked out. Imagine if my 12-month-old had measles? Yes it can be mild, but 30 per cent of those who catch it develop dangerous and significant side effects.
It is no laughing matter. It's a deadly disease. That's why we immunise. To stop children getting sick or dying. And let me say that again. That's why we immunise. To stop people getting sick or dying. It's quite simple.
It's not some conspiracy by the medical profession. It's not an under researched experiment on the human race (or those lucky enough to live in countries where it's offered) and it's not drug companies trying to make money.
It is one of the many benefits of coming along a few centuries into mankind, that we have this medicine to stop thousands of people being wiped out young by disease. Societies of old could only have dreamed of such a luxury. And in fact, they did dream of it.
A four-week-old baby in Australia has just this week died from whooping cough. He was too young to be protected so relied on other people immunising. There is currently a widespread measles outbreak in Vanuatu following the destructive hurricane. Mothers there are scrambling to immunise their children. Countries more recently ravaged by disease than ours, like parts of Africa, will not let unimmunised children attend school. They know how destructive it is.
And what if there was an epidemic here in New Zealand like they've had in the States? Well, that means babies like mine, who I've chosen to immunise and protect, are at risk from children who are not immunised. Not because those children chose not to be, but because their parents chose for them not to be.
There are many recent stories out of America of babies in the safe haven of a doctors' waiting room catching highly contagious measles from unimmunised families. And because immunisation rates are down, herd immunity is down and therefore outbreaks are happening again.
Listen, I am all for parents choices on everything. Raise your child how you like. Co-sleep if you want. Use dummies until teenage years if you want. Breastfeed till 10 if you want. Bottle feed from birth if you want. Be a disciplinarian or be child-led.
Do what you like, in your house. That is OK and not for anyone to judge. And none of it will kill a child.
But for goodness sake, immunise.
I'm afraid to say that is something I do judge. You're not just putting your own child at risk from disease, you're putting many others at risk, you're putting society at risk.
The thing is, when you talk to a parent of a child who hasn't been immunised - they more often than not say this: "I did some research and it wasn't for us." What is this research? Is it decades of medical testing and studying like those who have developed the vaccines or is it a Google search, a quick look in a chat room full of conspiracy theorists and a read of blogs. That is not research.
No, vaccines do not cause autism. Another thing trotted out due to a now debunked study done some time ago by a doctor who has since been struck off. I'm not saying these vaccines are 100 per cent healthy and perfect for the human body. But whatever risk they carry certainly is minor compared to the risk of not immunising.
I know this all sounds preachy, one-sided and judgemental. But quite frankly I'm past caring. It's important to speak out about this issue. Who doesn't want to keep our society as disease free as possible and our children safe.
Debate on this article is now closed.