Thursday, February 12, 2015

Contempt and Mercy: The Vaccine Debate

The parents in the waiting rooms of children's hospitals give each other soft, sympathetic glances. Rich, poor, black, white, we're all in the same boat, and it isn't a good one. We feel ourselves sinking. Meanwhile we give each other sidelong glances, quick smiles, and look away. Too much sympathy is heartbreaking too.

I can't tell the whole story here because it is not mine.

In the waiting rooms of children's hospitals some of the children are bald. They are tiny toddlers or sullen teens. They are, every one of them, gorgeous. They are breathtakingly beautiful, tenacious and frail. You find yourself praying for them, Dear God, don't let them die.

If cancer doesn't kill them, chicken pox might. These children's immune systems have been destroyed. They can be put in grave danger by anything, any virus, any germ, any microorganism at all.

In the hallway of a children's hospital, during an epidemic of influenza several years ago, nurses grabbed the arm of every single child that walked by. Patient, sibling, visitor. They hauled that child into a room that was usually a playroom but had become an influenza vaccination center. The nurses asked, "Is this child immunosuppressed? Has this child already had a flu vaccine?" If the answers were not yes, the parent was handed a consent form to sign and the child was vaccinated. Period. The End.

The parents didn't argue. They didn't bring up discredited scientific studies or random noncausitive correlations. (I've noticed that there are more cell phones these days. Does cell phone use cause autism?) They didn't complain about the very slight chance of a febrile seizure. They signed the consent forms and bared their children's sweet slender arms.

Why? Why no howls of protest? Because they were standing in a room in a children's hospital. They already knew what real danger was. Their hearts were already broken by those tender bald children down the hall.

In my hometown newspaper this morning, a letter to the editor saying that vaccinations should be a choice parents could ignore said in part (I swear I am not making this up.): "Do your research on the Web. If what you read doesn't ring true to you, then ignore it."

Feel free, please, to stick your head in the sand. Believe that the Government and the Doctors and everyone else is trying, for some nefarious purpose unknown, to cause your child harm. Imagine yourself some monsters.

Unless you've ever sat in the waiting rooms of children's hospitals. Then you'll know what the real monsters are, and you'll see the faces of children you'd do anything to save. Vaccination? Yes please. My God.