Last week this new mom got to experience her baby’s first stomach virus. Oddly enough, it took a week to diagnose. This was due in part to my son’s incredibly happy disposition, along with the fact that he is trying new foods and never once had a fever. Over the course of four days he had a few eruptions at either end. One whopping experience with vomit caused him to cry, really truly cry, for the first time in his nearly five month old life. But he escaped the torture of the lethargy, rise in temperature and constant running at both ends for a week solid thanks, in large part, to the Rotavirus vaccine.
It seemed odd to me that a kid could be vaccinated against gastroenteritis, but thanks to modern medicine my baby escaped the kind of stomach torture that sends nearly half a million young children to the doctor and 200,000 to the ER every year. Thanks to two simple oral doses he was spared the severe dehydration and high fever commonly experienced by young babies inflicted with the virus. As parents we were given the option to decline or delay his vaccinations. However, as my pediatrician advised, he’s going to have to get them all eventually. So, why draw out the torture? Now we’re glad we didn’t wait. Unfortunately, not all parents are as lucky – or as wise.
Recently a report was published in Science Daily revealing that a full 34% of 2-year-olds have not received the full number of required doses of vaccinations. The CDC guidelines gravitate toward vaccinations between the ages of 0 and 24 months because a child’s body is highly receptive to vaccines and highly susceptible to vaccine-targeted diseases during that timeframe. However, many parents see needles and get scared. Or, they’re convinced by everyone from politicians to pop culture icons that all those shots are too much, too soon. As a result, up to 77% of children aren’t vaccinated according to recommended timelines.
The first question our doctor asked after diagnosing the stomach bug was: “Is he in daycare?” While my son isn’t, the majority of children from infancy onward are, making them even more susceptible to Rotavirus. Herd immunity is only effective when 95% of the population is rendered immune to the disease in question. This immunity is most easily and efficiently acquired through vaccination. Hence, children with legitimate medical reasons for not getting vaccines have a reasonable chance of being able to stay well without living in a bubble. But, when a child doesn’t receive his vaccinations on time, every other child, both sick and healthy, remains at risk.
At first I was hesitant to expose my 2-month-old baby to the Rotavirus vaccine. “That’s only for kids in daycare, right?” I asked my cousin, who happens to be a medical professional. “The bottom line is, if you want to take your child out of the house at all, you should have him vaccinated,” she explained. Now, on the other side of a few too many poopsplotions for my son’s liking, I’m glad I took her advice.