Put a Bib on It

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Measles?

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I’m a pretty relaxed parent. Seriously. I don’t worry much about most things. I want Elliot to be safe, but I don’t wash off her pacifier when it falls on the ground. If most of the dog hair gets wiped off on my pants, that’s good enough. We tend to do our homework about things, make an informed decision and then try not to worry too much. She’s not crawling yet but other babies are? Oh, well – she’ll get there. She is in a low percentile on the growth charts? Oh, well – she eats like a horse so she’s probably just petite.

But there is one particular thing that I do worry about. And honestly, worry isn’t a strong enough word. There is one thing that makes me really, really afraid. I’m afraid that my daughter could get the measles.

We chose to vaccinate our daughter for many reasons. To us, the science is clear. We trust the CDC and our daughter’s pediatrician. When I saw that there was an outbreak of the measles at Disneyland, I was worried about all of the children that had been exposed and sad that many of the children who got sick were “infants too young to be vaccinated.” What I didn’t immediately realize was that my daughter is an infant too young to be vaccinated.

For the first year of life, babies have to depend on “herd immunity,” which means that they are dependent on everybody else around them being vaccinated.

Measles is incredibly contagious, so much so that if we were in a waiting room with a child who had it, she would most likely get sick. So much so that if a baby in her child care classroom got sick, she would most likely get sick. Children who are too young to be vaccinated have a 90 percent chance of getting sick if they are exposed to measles. And that makes me very, very afraid. As of 2000, measles had been declared eliminated, but now it’s literally raging back. Which means babies too young to be vaccinated—like my daughter—are at risk, just like kids who couldn’t be vaccinated because of health reasons, or kids whose parents refused vaccinations.

So, why is it a big deal if measles is spreading? This outbreak is predicted to continue to grow and to be worse than the Ebola outbreak. Potential consequences from measles are real and they are scary, ranging from blindness to pneumonia to brain swelling to death.

I support parents being able to make choices about what’s best for their children in almost every circumstance. You might choose a different school than we would, or have a later bedtime or decide that you are introducing foods in a different way. We have so many friends and family members who have made parenting decisions that we never, ever would, but I would defend to the death their right to make those decisions. Until those decisions impact my daughter’s health or safety.

Until my daughter is fully vaccinated, we won’t be taking her on an airplane. We’ll ask questions at her child care center. Because I’m afraid of the measles.

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