We have the huge measles outbreak that started at Disneyland. We have an outbreak at a daycare center in Santa Monica that forced it to close temporarily, but has just reopened only to children who are vaccinated. KinderCare, in Palatine, Ill., has a measles outbreak on its hands, with many of its charges too young to have received their vaccinations yet. And on, and on, and on. One father has had enough, and, in an open letter published in Mother Jones, but first appearing elsewhere, explains both poignantly and angrily, just how selfish anti-vaxxers are.
Tim Jacks is a doctor whose family falls into all four categories of people when it comes to measles. His wife is vaccinated, and received full immunity. He himself is vaccinated, but didn’t respond well to the MMR vaccine, making him vulnerable. His 10-month old son is too young for the MMR vaccine. And his daughter, Maggie, suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukemia—a type of blood cancer requiring chemotherapy—and has a compromised immune system.
What was supposed to be a three-week break from chemo, a break where they could just be a family without doctors and hospitals if all went well, has turned into a quarantine nightmare, all because of a patient at a clinic that had measles. Everyone in Jacks’ family, except for him, was exposed to the virus there, meaning his sick daughter, and his infant son, are now both at risk.
In expressing his anger and frustration with the anti-vaxxers, he said:
Unvaccinating parent, thanks for screwing up our three-week ‘vacation’ from chemotherapy. Instead of a break, we get to watch for measles symptoms and pray for no fevers (or back to the hospital we go).
You see, developing measles could be especially deadly for Maggie because of her cancer. Despite the stories of a measles virus putting a woman with terminal cancer into remission last year, the truth about that is researchers actually used a genetically modified virus, according to Cancer Research U.K. Cancer patients that contract the standard measles virus, or are injected with the MMR vaccine, are at extreme risk of complications and death because their bodies cannot fight it off.
So, in Maggie’s case, if she develops the measles, her life is in considerably more danger than it already is. So are the lives of other children with cancer, and other diseases that leave them with compromised immune systems. Jacks was able to get rubeola immune globulin injections for both of his children, which should help provide temporary protection, but that may not be enough.
Do any of the anti-vaxxers who cry, “It’s MY child, therefore it’s MY choice,” even know what they’re saying? What they’re doing? What they’re forcing on other families? No, they don’t, or perhaps they do, but either way, they can’t see beyond their own little bubbles. Their arguments don’t wash, yet they keep repeating them. This is why their position is extremely selfish. They can’t see that their so-called “personal decisions” actually affect everyone in a very bad way.
Jacks ended his letter with this. He’s angry, and rightfully so:
Thanks for making us cancel our trip to the snow this year. Maggie really wanted to see snow, but we will not risk exposing anyone else. On that note, thanks for exposing 195 children to an illness considered ‘eliminated’ from the US. Your poor choices don’t just effect [sic] your child. They affect my family and many more like us.
Please forgive my sarcasm. I am upset and just a little bit scared.
Other parents have similar stories: CNN has the story of a mother with an eight-year old boy who had to have a heart transplant nearly right after birth. He is on immune suppressant drugs, and cannot be vaccinated. Another mother, in Portland, Ore., has a son who has had allergic reactions to every vaccine he’s ever been given. He, too, remains susceptible to measles and other diseases.
That CNN article is a plea from parents of children like these to the anti-vaxxers. They’re rightfully angry and frightened that these people could be so blind, naive, and selfish, that they would willfully endanger children like theirs, all in the name of “personal choice.”
Here’s hoping for a happy ending to this nightmare for Jacks and his family, and other families like his. As for the anti-vaxxers, CNN reports that California is considering a law that would remove the personal beliefs exemption from vaccine requirements, at least for children to be able to attend public school. Parents could still choose not to vaccinate, but that choice means their children would have to be home-schooled. Perhaps more states ought to consider this, and maybe we can put a stop to this nonsense.
Featured image by CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons