It's one of those hotbeds of debate, up there in terms of parental controversy with formula feeding and circumcision. I'm talking about vaccines, of course.
It used to be that modern medicine was a thing to be venerated, a doctor's words regarded like golden nectar of wisdom. Now, not so much. As with the unschooling movement, many parents have grown skeptical and jaded with conventional medicine as others have with the education system. Once upon a time vaccinations were seen as miracles in a needle, warding off potentially life-threatening illnesses.
The backlash started with a now-infamous study published in The Lancet in the late '90s linking autism with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. And even though the findings of that study were since refuted and thoroughly discredited, the bad taste has lingered in the mouths of parents.
In the States, the unvaccinating movement has turned epidemic, with as many as one in 10 parents refusing to vaccinate their children, and many more delaying the recommended vaccination schedule. More worryingly, unvaccinating parents tend to cluster in certain regions, leading to high rates of untreated children in some communities, thereby putting those communities at risk.
In many practices doctors are lenient about protracting the vaccination schedule. Others drop recalcitrant patients like hot potatoes. Kids here can go to school, provided they sign an 'unvaccinated' waiver.
I'm no scientist, granted. I have no idea what caused my son's autism. Yet I can say for certain that if autism has been filtering throughout our family for generations, it's most likely caused by hereditary, rather than any environmental factors.
To my mind, vaccinations are a necessary evil that have kept certain, largely avoidable diseases at bay for decades. It scares me to see some diseases like whooping cough and measles making a comeback, sometimes with fatal consequences. I hope that if parents choose not to vaccinate, they are making decisions that are right for their children and informed on concrete data rather than good old-fashioned paranoia or outmoded studies.
Do you vaccinate your children? Why/why not? What propels you to resist (or embrace) the needle?