Editorial: Illness changes minds about vaccinations

  • Monday, October 3, 2016 1:30am
  • Opinion

Because she is not a celebrity, Kristen O’Meara’s message won’t get much coverage, but here it is: The Chicago-area teacher was a converted anti-vaccination parent after reading a lot of anti-vaccine material online, but then her young girls became sick. Her three daughters, all under age 7, came down with rotavirus, which causes acute stomach distress. O’Meara and her husband also became ill.

“It was awful, and it didn’t have to happen, because I could have had them vaccinated. I felt guilty. I felt really guilty,” O’Meara told ABC News. She has changed her mind about vaccines — seeing them as essential to good health, rather than a health risk — and her daughters are now fully vaccinated after an aggressive regimen to bring them up to date on recommended shots, ABC reported.

“I put my kids at risk,” O’Meara said. “I wish that I had taken more time to research from both sides before my children were born.”

O’Meara admits she only read material online that cast doubt on vaccines and became “pretty convinced” that they might be harmful.

Tara Hills, of Ottawa, Canada, is another mother urging parents to vaccinate their kids because she learned the hard way what can happen when you don’t: All seven of her kids came down with whooping cough. She had begun vaccinating her kids, but then became fearful as misinformation about the safety of vaccines began to spread like wildfire across the internet.

Some people still remain suspicious, which is why it is important that parents who have changed their minds speak out. Moms listening to moms can change attitudes faster than another pronouncement from the medical field. But here’s another anyway:

“From a scientific point of view this is a closed question,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., Yahoo News reported. “Vaccines have virtually wiped out a number of diseases that used to plague this country — and they do not cause autism.”

Meanwhile, in great news, the World Health Organization reported last week that measles have been eliminated in The Americas after a two-decade effort of mass vaccinations. This is a global first, CNN reported, and a huge victory. What it does not mean, however, is that people can now skip the measles vaccine. Measles will only remain eradicated through continued vaccinations.

“We can not become complacent with this achievement,” said Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of the WHO. “Measles still circulates widely in other parts of the world, and so we must be prepared to respond to imported cases.”

Everyone — parents, kids old enough to talk who have survived a health scare, health officials, and the media — need to continue to spread the science behind vaccinations, until the disinformation is eradicated.

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