- At Home
As a mother, health journalist, and former pediatric emergency room nurse, the decision to vaccinate our children was a no brainer.
Caring for children with vaccine-preventable diseases gave me a front line view of just how damaging these diseases can be. Seeing patients with bacterial meningitis, measles, infected chickenpox lesions, and secondary pneumonia from the flu, was enough of an incentive to make sure our children were protected. So when I read a post on ModernMom that mis-interpreted how vaccines cause the body to be imbalanced, I had to respond.
Vaccines strengthen our natural immunity, not knock it out of balance. Think of Popeye. He’s pretty strong and healthy, but now here comes Bluto, beating the stuffing out of him. Things aren’t looking so good for Popeye.
But wait! He gets a taste of spinach and he’s super strong, knocking Bluto out of the park.
This is how vaccines work. By giving our immune system a “taste” of what it’s supposed to be fighting, it can be primed and ready to go when called into action. The author of the post I read reported that vaccines bypass the first line of defense... and he’s right, but what he didn’t report is that the first line of defense is your skin, infection eating cells, and inflammation (swelling). These can’t be trained to fight any specific bacteria or virus. If the vaccines tried to start at this level, they would be ineffective.
Immunizations are soldiers and are supposed to serve as the second line of defense to help mount a quicker attack against a foreign invader. Now when you’re exposed to the flu and you’ve had a flu shot, your body won’t take one to two weeks to produce antibodies. It’ll take days. Not only that, the severity of the illness is far less and you might not even notice any symptoms. Note too, when you receive the flu shot, you might feel yucky for a couple of days - that’s the second line of defense getting primed for action.
Let me make this clear, the vaccines don’t prevent infection, they help your body react more quickly if you are exposed to the virus or bacteria. In fact, you could have been exposed multiple times and never know it because the vaccines are doing their job.
Everyday, people are exposed to millions of bacteria and viruses. On your skin and in your intestine there are one hundred trillion bacterial cells and fungus. (Remember the national debt is around fourteen trillion.) Your body constantly fights these nasties, but they can't fight them all off without help.
Many people think vaccines are only for illnesses other people can give to you, but this isn't true. H. Flu and Pneumococcal bacteria grow naturally in the nose and throat. The Hib and Prevnar vaccines help to protect against overgrowth and invasive illness (meningitis) caused by these bacteria. So not only to immunizations protect against foreign invaders, but also when your body goes haywire. The reduction of bacterial meningitis in children has plummeted since these vaccines were added to the recommended immunization schedule.
I know we all want to believe that these illnesses aren’t here. That all we have to do is eat our fruits and veggies, think happy thoughts, practice good hygiene, and keep our kids around “healthy people” none of us will get sick. I also wish it weren’t necessary to use needles to administer the vaccines. Then the children wouldn’t cry and we wouldn’t feel guilty trying to protect them.
Nature simply doesn’t work that way, but I sure wish it did.
Patricia Walters-Fischer, RN, worked at the busiest Level I Pediatric Trauma Center in the United States. Before that, she worked in adult critical care and emergency room medicine for eight years. Since 2002, she traded her stethoscope for her stay-at-home-mom status and now writes full-time. Her articles have been featured in Hot Mom’s Club, the Chicken Soup, American Journal of Nursing, Nurseweek, and iVillage. She lives in Texas with her husband, children, two dogs, a rabbit and too many fish.