In the 1980s, author Roald Dahl reflected on the death of his daughter Olivia twenty years earlier. The open letter is quite devastating but the line that remains in my mind is : ‘It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised’.
It got me thinking: should we make it a crime to refuse immunisations for your child?
I never had any doubts or any concerns about getting my 3 children immunised. This week Zach had his preschool boosters. It is awful to see your child in pain but the discomfort of a few hours, perhaps days, can never and should never be compared with the heartbreak of losing a child to a preventable illness.
The alleged link with autism has been disproved time and time again yet some parents still cite it as gospel. The National Autistic Society states it ‘is clear that there is no link between autism and the MMR vaccine and notes the original research linking the MMR vaccine and autism has been comprehensively discredited and the person who wrote it has been struck off the medical register’.
Despite this debunking of the myth, fear prevails. According to the NHS website, the instances of measles and mumps in England doubled between 2016 and 2018. Quite honestly, I think this is despicable.
People with weakened immune systems due to illnesses and circumstances beyond their control are being endangered needlessly thanks to stubborn anti-vaccine propaganda. A child at my daughter’s school had cancer and therefore reduced immunity. How could I have lived with myself knowing that child caught measles and died because I exercised my right to choose not to vaccinate? My right to choose does not outweigh children’s rights to be protected.
Let’s think about autism. It is a lifelong developmental disability which affects more than 1 person in every 100 in the UK. Having worked for many years with autistic children in educational settings, I have some understanding of how lives can be affected by autism, however every autistic person is individual and displays unique symptoms.
I do not want to suggest that the everyday hardships faced by families are minimal, they certainly aren’t, but I would argue they cannot be compared with the grief of losing a child.
I am aware of serious mental health issues that can arise as a result of autism which may contradict my next statement, but measles kills and autism does not.
Ten minutes after his vaccinations, Zach was tearing around the playground, the pain forgotten. And now 4 days on from his jabs, Zach has a small bruise on one arm and a large red area on the other which he is not even aware of. Insignificant signs of massively important peace of mind for myself and others.
Should it be a crime not to get your child vaccinated? I don’t think so, but there should be sanctions in place to reduce the risks and I would personally support a refusal of entry to nurseries, preschool and school for unvaccinated children due to safeguarding and health and safety. We have a responsibility to protect ALL children, not just our own.