THE BLOG
01/23/2015 10:59 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why My Son Isn't Vaccinated (It's Not What You Think)

Jamie Davis Smith

I love my son deeply and want to protect him from harm the best I can -- and he isn't vaccinated. Why? Because he's a seven-week-old baby and, with the exception of the Hepatitis B vaccine, it isn't safe for him to receive vaccines.

Because I am unable to vaccinate my son, he is susceptible to a wide range of preventable diseases, from whooping cough to the measles. Some of these illnesses can be fatal, especially to infants.

But, my son is a healthy, thriving newborn who will be vaccinated against a host of terrifying diseases as soon as he is able to safely receive the vaccines. Why? Because we do everything we can to stay healthy, from eating organic, non-GMO foods as often as we can to taking vitamins and getting regular exercise. I know that there is still more I can do to protect my son from many diseases that have shattered lives and families in the past.

When my son's vaccines are finally administered, I will breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that he is protected, that the lucky combination of his being born healthy with access to high-quality health care in the 21st Century will prevent him from catching so many diseases that plagued his great-grandparents' generation -- and still ravage countries where vaccines are not easily available or affordable.

Once my son is old enough to be vaccinated, contracting preventable, horrible diseases with a high risk of serious complications, such as polio and rubella, will never be a worry of his. He will not have to experience the chicken pox that caught like wildfire in my middle school and caused a lot of discomfort to those unfortunate enough to have a serious case, with pox growing in their throats and eyes. I am beyond grateful that I can offer my son these protections and help ensure that he lives a long and healthy life.

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There are many children, no doubt some in your very own community, who will not be able to be vaccinated because of health issues ranging from allergies, to immune system disorders, to cancer treatments, which can completely wipe out their immune systems. Certainly, there are babies. These children are among the most vulnerable in our society -- and also the least likely to weather a bout with a serious disease.

Those who are old enough to be vaccinated and otherwise healthy enough to receive vaccines -- but do not -- put my infant son at risk. They put children so sick they cannot receive vaccines at risk for suffering from preventable diseases and in extreme instances, a completely preventable death.

While I do not blame these children for the decisions their parents made not to vaccinate them, I do not want these unvaccinated children around my children. I want them far, far away from my infant son and from all of the other children who cannot receive vaccinations. As the recent outbreak of measles linked to Disneyland shows, it doesn't take much for disease to spread and make children very, very sick. While no one in the U.S. should have to suffer from measles, which was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, cases of measles have been on the rise thanks to exposure of the unvaccinated abroad. Just last year, 644 people were sickened from a disease that was completely eliminated from the country 15 years ago. In my view, this is a huge step backwards. Rather than having a healthier population, we are getting sicker.

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My three older children are all vaccinated. I am reminded by our pediatrician with each stick of the needle that vaccines carry risks. Yet, most of these are mild and fleeting and the risk of complications from a vaccine is far lower than the risk of contracting a potentially deadly disease.

While I do not doubt that parents choosing not to vaccinate their children believe they are doing what is best for them, the reality is that they are turning their children into walking public health risks who pose a direct threat to my son and all other children like him who cannot get vaccinated for various reasons. If parents spoke to their pediatrician about their concerns, it is likely their doctor would have an honest conversation with them and may provide them with information that assuages their concerns about vaccines. One of the most common reasons for not vaccinating children is a concern about autism. However, no link between autism and vaccines has been found. Even Autism Speaks encourages parents to vaccinate their children, stating that no link has been found between vaccines and autism.

Parents need to consider that, when they make the decision not to vaccinate their children, they are making a decision that doesn't just put their own child at risk of contracting a serious disease with the risk of serious complications; they are putting the lives of countless other children at risk as well. Compounding the weight of this decision is that the children most likely to suffer the consequences of this decision are children of parents who never had a choice in the first place about whether or not to vaccinate their medically fragile or very, very young child.

As a mother, I believe in doing everything I can to keep my children healthy and protect them from illness. So, although my son is not vaccinated yet, he will be as soon as he is able.

We all want what is best for our children, but the truth is that we are all in this together. Vaccines matter. They save lives. And when they are not given, the impact can be devastating and far-reaching. My son isn't vaccinated because he can't be. I can only hope that his health will not be damaged by a child would could be vaccinated but wasn't.

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