No Patience for This: Vaccinating the Smallest Babies
My sons were at thirty-two weeks gestation when the doctor said, “looks like it’s time for their two month vaccinations.”
I recoiled in surprise–they were technically two months old, but they were micro preemies. If they had been term babies, they wouldn’t have been born for another two months and they were so small.
They were barely 3 pounds. They were hooked to wires and tubes, and being treated for multiple life-threatening conditions. Doctors had put off procedures and surgeries until they would be healthier and larger.
Don’t get me wrong. I am strongly in support of vaccination. But, Jesus, my kids weren’t even supposed to be born yet. They were tiny and medically fragile. There had to be a mistake.
I asked why we weren’t waiting until they were two months old corrected (six months actual), and the doctor explained that they needed their vaccines on time for all the reasons that caused my hesitation.
Because they were medically fragile, diseases other children might survive would kill them. Because the diseases of childhood wouldn’t wait until they were five months old or hit a certain size. Because, no matter how much we tried to protect them over the next few years, they would come in contact with unvaccinated people, and getting them on a vaccine schedule gave them the best chance possible.
I was afraid. If anyone was going to have a reaction to vaccines, it would be the smallest sickest babies. But, the attending physician had never seen an adverse vaccine reaction. Other doctors and nurses echoed his sentiment: no one had personally seen a NICU baby struggle due to vaccinations, nor did they know anyone who had, and they had data to back their assertion that on time vaccination is best even for NICU babies.
I looked for reputable, peer reviewed studies and articles suggesting that vaccinating preemies was a mistake. But I found none–only the hyperbole and fear-mongering of the anti-vaccination movement. (This NIH article was helpful, though)
So, my tiny 3 pound babies got their first vaccinations on time despite being too sick to undergo surgery, too weak to breathe or eat on their own, and too young to have been born.
And they did just fine.
I have no patience for the “too small for vaccinations” excuse.
All of this is to say that I have no patience for the argument that healthy, full term, two-month-old babies are too small or too fragile to get a vaccination that could save their lives. Especially given that the average two month old child in the United States weighs 10 lbs, more than three times what mine weighed when they got their shot.
Small, early term preemies are safely vaccinated every day because there is no room for unfounded unscientific claims when making medical decisions for babies who live so close to the line between life and death.
I have zero patience for the casual trivialization of serious illnesses.
It blows my mind that someone fortunate enough to have a child who has never spent time in an intensive care unit would skip doing the one simple thing that would keep their baby healthy and hospital free. These parents have never had to watch their child struggle to breathe, or see a line running from their baby’s head because the staff ran out of accessible veins, had to sit beside them hopelessly, or listen to the alarms ring as their child’s heart slows or stops.
Yet they repeatedly make the deliberate choice to avoid a proven safeguard against that dark future.
So, although by nature my babies’ vaccine story is not scientific, and should carry no greater weight in decision making than any other piece of anecdotal evidence, I share it often in the hope that it sets new parents’ minds at ease as they take their 10lb infant in for vaccinations, or provides a counter to the horror stories on anti-vaccination sites.
But often, conversations with anti-vaxxers take crazy turns into logical quagmires. I walk away frustrated beyond the ability to speak because, there’s no way to make some people see the bizarreness of their choice from the perspective of someone who has had a critically ill child.
Seriously. When you are fortunate enough to hold a healthy baby in your arms, why would you let debunked research, fear-mongering, and friend of a friend stories be the deciding factors in putting that child’s health and life at risk instead of the overwhelming sea of scientific research?
Why would you take their health so much for granted? I have no patience for this.
Featured image by Christine Szeto can be found on flickr. All meme images are commonly shared, but credit was given where possible.