Ouch! That’s painful ... but vaccinations are for society's own good

Nobody likes needles, that much is fact. Whether you’re on the health care side administering a vaccination shot or on the patient side receiving it, the experience isn’t one you mark on your calendar and anticipate eagerly.

Especially not if you’re a kid and you have to have an additional vaccination so you can attend school in the fall.

That’s why sixth-graders throughout the North Kitsap School District (NKSD) are collectively groaning. The vaccination requirements have been changed. Students have to have either a shot of the chicken pox vaccine or a recorded case of chicken pox to attend the sixth grade.

Hmmm ... either have a whole bunch of itchy red spots or have one painful red spot. Not good choices.

Sixth-graders also have to have one dose of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine if it’s been more than five years since the last shot. Yes, to make it extra special, this one is a booster. Yeeowch.

As of this week, there are 269 middle school students who won’t be middle school students if they don’t get vaccinated before the start of the school year.

Yes, parents can apply for waivers for medical reasons and religious beliefs.

The school district has taken the tactics of aggressive telemarketers, blanketing children’s parents with e-mails, phone calls, newsletters and even newspaper notices to let them know that, barring any waivers, children need these additional vaccines.

“As a school district we’re trying really hard to get the information out to parents and we still have a large number of students who have not had their immunization forms updated,” said Chris Case, NKSD spokesperson. “The nightmare will be when school starts and we have 100 kids who can’t come.”

Why, you ask, is it important to vaccinate children?

Quite frankly, it’s a matter of public safety. Since vaccines have become widespread — nay, a rite childhood passage — diseases like smallpox and measles have become extremely rare. That’s a good thing.

Vaccines protect not only the person who receives it, but the public at large, in a positive mob mentality kind of way.

Yes, I am aware of the chatter of a link between vaccinations and autism. But I’m also aware of recent reports saying that “link” may have been a premature conclusion based on flawed evidence. I’ve also read in several places (most recently in Time Magazine’s May 29 cover story and FDA.gov) there are only trace amounts of thimerosal in most children’s vaccines that were manufactured after 2001. And even still, autism rates continue to rise.

Odds are now 1:150, meaning that among today’s 8-year-olds, one in 150 falls somewhere on the autism spectrum.

This is a statistic with which I am incredibly familiar. My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome last year. It’s on the mild end of the spectrum and comes with a special set of challenges. Sometimes I’m ready for them and sometimes I’m not.

Just to dispel the myth, the label of “autism” doesn’t automatically make him behave like Raymond in “Rain Man.” My son’s more like Calvin from “Calvin and Hobbes.” He’s incredibly intelligent, has an overactive imagination and bores easily. And he’s really fun to be around because you never, ever know what to expect next.

By the way, my son doesn’t know he has Asperger’s and I’m not about to tell him.

And I don’t blame it on the vaccines. I don’t blame it on anyone. It just happened.

Any way about it, I’d rather have a healthy son who sees the world a bit differently than the mainstream population than one who has some preventable illness. For that, I’d never forgive myself.

The point is this: Unless it’s against your religious beliefs or there is an underlying medical condition — like an allergy to tetanus — children should be vaccinated.

It’s for their and society’s own good.

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