Saturday, January 21, 2012

We apologize for this unintentional exposure

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I'm pretty sciencey. I also work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prevention is one of our things. So, not surprisingly, we get how vaccines work and support their use. In my mind, it's not a matter of belief. Every parent gets to make their own decision, but the facts are this: the more people who are unvaccinated, the more people are going to get sick from preventable (there's that word again) diseases. The cost of not vaccinating can be pricey, too, as this article shows. Health departments still have to contain and quarantine. Not a great use of public money, in my opinion.

Will your kid die from chicken pox? Not likely. And perhaps that is the thinking, why risk side effects (perceived or otherwise) of the vaccination when their child won't die of the disease?

This extremely narrow view of disease irks me.  The point of having a high rate of vaccination is so that babies, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems, people who either can't have the vaccination or for whom it is not as effective, are protected because they aren't exposed. It's called Herd Immunity.

Anyway, Mr W has been vaccinated with the full battery of recommended immunizations. He's going to this weekly program at my church and a couple of days ago, I got an email with this post's title in it. A kid in the group exposed everyone to chicken pox at the meeting this week. That's how it works. If the parent had seen spots on their (I'm guessing unvaccinated) kid, they would have kept him or her home (or I hope so, anyway). But kids are contagious a day or two before they get the spots. That's how it works.

I'm not worried that Mr W will get it. I'm not worried that I'll get it. However, I had to write to Mr W's dad and tell him to keep Mr W away from his grandma (ex's mom) who is elderly and should not risk exposure. It annoys me that I have to make accommodations like that when on the other end, if the kid was unvaccinated, that family didn't make accommodations for the rest of us. It's part of living in a society.


  1. I trust that you've heard this episode of TAL? It's one of my favorites because of the measles/vaccination chapter. I, too, get angry when people don't vaccinate. It's such a selfish decision.

  2. Agreed. Our kids have all the recommended vaccinations and it irks me when people don't vaccinate, mostly because my dad was one of those with a compromised immune system and I was constantly aware of being as cautious as possible when I was growing up.

  3. When my elder son was not quite 2yo, he was exposed to chickenpox and I still don't know the source. Michael is now 23, and chickenpox wasn't yet in the routine battery of vaccinations. Before he broke out with the blisters be was in close contact with a friend who was in her first trimester of pregnancy. I did call her and tell her and she was unconcerned. Her baby was unaffected but I remember being very upset about my child being exposed. The prevailing thought at the time was, hey, let the kids play together, get exposed, and get it over with. I'm a big believer in herd immunity, it protects those among us who would be the most harmed.


Hi, sorry to make the humans do an extra step.