From Carl Zimmer today I found this excellent opinion piece in the NYT by Jessica Snyder Sachs, explaining why you should get your children vaccinated and why the “natural” approach is no such thing. Some extracts:
Some parents have come to embrace colds and flus, and in recent years we’ve seen a resurgence of the chickenpox party, where parents deliberately expose their preschoolers to infected playmates on the theory that it’s better to get the disease than to have the vaccine.
But the idea that illness is good for children — or anyone else — is wrong. In part, the idea of “good sickness” is a throwback to a now disproved version of the “hygiene hypothesis.”
And she goes on to explain why this idea, which originally was thought to be sound, has been proven wrong. I actually met a woman recently who thought it was better for her kids to get a disease than to have the disease prevented by a vaccine. The logic for that escaped me (if your kid gets the disease he’ll then not get the disease again?). I wish I’d had this article handy. Also, I didn’t know this:
Moreover, studies now show that the more infections a person has during childhood, the greater his or her chance of premature death from scourges of old age like heart disease and cancer. The link appears to be chronic inflammation, a kind of lingering collateral damage from the body’s disease-fighting response.
I thought the most interesting part was how Snyder Sachs explained that getting immunity through getting the disease, is not natural:
A second misconception common among vaccine-shunning parents is that there’s something “natural” about the 6 to 10 respiratory infections the typical American child gets every year (or even the two to four we adults experience). Common, yes; natural no, not if “natural” represents the forces that shaped the human immune system during all but the last sliver of our 250,000 years as Homo sapiens. Colds, flus and most other contagious diseases found a central place in our lives only after we and our domestic animals began crowding together in large settlements some 5,000 years ago.
The article goes on to explain why you really should get your flu shot this year.