We closed 2017 with some actual good news: the W.H.O. reported that measles deaths in 2016 worldwide fell to an all time low of 89,780. According to the New York Times, “the decline — a public health triumph, as measles has long been a leading killer of malnourished children — was accomplished by widespread donor-supported vaccination that began in the early 2000s.”
This is fantastic news! But unfortunately the NYT chose to illustrate their article with yet another photo of a terrified child being held down by two adults, one of whom is jamming a needle into his arm.
As many of us repeatedly point out on twitter, these photos provoke fear and mistrust rather than convey a positive message about vaccination.
As new parents ourselves, we are now intimately acquainted with the terror that goes along with suddenly being responsible for a precious new life. We question and second guess every decision we make about play, feeding, clothing, childcare and traveling. It doesn’t matter that we know rationally how adaptable children are—the emotions take over.
One decision we don’t question is our choice to vaccinate our child Ox (not what it says on his birth certificate) on time and according to schedule. We’d actually been looking forward to his two-month pediatrician appointment, because after he received his shots we would feel much better about our upcoming holiday travels.
We knew what to expect from a conversation with our pediatrician at the last visit, which made the visit less stressful than it might have been. She let us know that Ox would get some oral droplets and a few injections, and that he’d probably squall and be fussy the rest of the day.
When the day came, though, Ox hardly minded the vaccinations themselves. He fussed more about the measurements the nurses took–head circumference, length, weight, and so on. We’re data people, so we love the charts our pediatrician generates showing how Ox is growing compared to the national averages. (Lean, long, big head–he’s a lollipop.) Ox does not love the poking and prodding it takes to generate that data. And that’s fair, because it can’t be fun to have a stranger wrap a tape around your head, strip you naked, drop you on a scale, and stretch you out to see how long you are.
After all that, the vaccinations themselves were easy. Ox got his DTap, polio, Hib, pneumococcal, Hep B and Rotavirus vaccines in that batch–a total of three shots and some oral drops. Reading through the consent form and the information packet that came with it took much longer than the vaccinations themselves.
The nurses stretched Ox’s legs out and gave him a shot in each chubby little thigh at the same time, followed quickly by a third. There was a little blood and a fair amount of complaining (all from Ox), but neither lasted long. We hung around in the exam room long enough to nurse him, which calmed him right down, then got him dressed and took him home. He may have been a little sleepier than usual–it’s hard to tell when they’re so young–but recovered right away. And the most important thing is that he’s safer now than he was before, protected against diseases that devastated babies his age before the immunizations were worked out.
We’ll be going back for his second round of shots before long. Ox is too young to know what’s going on, but we do–we’ve done enormous amounts of research and been through the first set of shots already. We’re looking forward to giving him a bigger, stronger shield against vaccine-preventable diseases. And if Ox knew what we do, he would be too.
–Jennifer and Colin