Special thanks to Trisha Gum at Parents for Vaccinations for this guest blog post discussing the importance of childhood vaccination and herd immunity in the US.
As parents, we all know the typical safety questions you ask when your kids go on play dates, such as “Do you have a dog?,” ”Do you keep guns in the house?,” or “Do you smoke?” But, with the increasing number of parents choosing to forego or delay vaccinating their children and the resulting resurgence of deadly childhood diseases, I realized there is a safety risk when my children play with other kids whose vaccination status is unknown. This risk has created a new safety question that must be asked – “Is your child vaccinated?”
I am the mom of two little kids. A few months ago, our daughter had just turned two and was still at home with our nanny, Maggie; our son was enrolled in preschool. One afternoon, Maggie told me she met another nanny in the neighborhood who looked after a little girl my daughter’s age and wanted to set up a play date for the two girls. I was happy to hear about a new friend for my daughter. Like any mom, I want my daughter to have lots of friends and play dates with kids her age. Plus, I love the opportunity to meet new neighbors. Maggie has been instrumental in bringing several families into our lives through the nanny brigade in our neighborhood. My first instinct was to say “Yes, of course!” and encourage Maggie to get the kids playing together as soon as possible, as I had done several times in the past. But something stopped me this time.
The measles outbreak at Disneyland had been in the news recently. When bad things happen to other people and I read about it in the news, I often try to rationalize it away. I tell myself, “It couldn’t happen to me because we rarely go to Disneyland; because we never drive in that neighborhood; or because we never shop at that mall.” Whatever the situation is, I try to distance myself from it. But the more I thought about it, I realized I couldn’t distance myself from measles or some other disease if I sent my daughter to play with a child who was unvaccinated. My daughter is only two. She hasn’t had all of her vaccinations. What if she got ill from playing with an unvaccinated child? I realized I was not comfortable sending my daughter into a situation with such a big unknown. I wanted to know if this family was pro-vaccination. I wanted to know if their child was vaccinated. Because it could happen to us.
At first, asking that question seemed like a crazy, over-zealous, helicopter mom. But the more I thought about it, it seemed so obvious. I have the right to know if my daughter’s playmates are vaccinated. I have the right to know what risks my daughter is facing.
Wanting to know if another child is vaccinated is one thing, but actually asking a parent the question at the park, in a music class, or at a birthday party can be difficult. The question can elicit an emotional response and no one wants to create drama, especially when kids are involved. In response to this oftentimes difficult situation, we created the I ♥ VACCINATIONS wristbands to provide a positive way to express our support for vaccinations. We wear our wristbands to let our community know that we are pro-vaccination and our kids are up-to-date on all of their vaccinations. When others inquire about the wristbands we are wearing, it makes it easy to strike up a conversation about vaccinations. Our dream is to see a sea of bright orange wristbands in our kids’ preschool or gym class and know that the safety question has been asked and answered and that herd immunity is hard at work.
In addition to making the safety question easily answered, we created the wristbands to start a movement in support of herd immunity. I think a lot of parents who vaccinate are comfortable with their decision and don’t feel a need to talk about it or make it an issue. But it must be made an issue and it must be talked about because herd immunity rates are falling below the safety ratio and putting our children, as well as immunocompromised individuals and our communities at risk. When you wear a wristband, you give herd immunity a voice and you show that you are proud to be pro-vaccination. Our hope is that pro-vaccination families will wear their bright orange wristbands to bring attention to this important public health issue and encourage other families to vaccinate to help ensure that herd immunity can protect all who need it.
Parents For Vaccinations (PFV) donates the proceeds from sales of the I ♥ VACCINATIONS wristbands to Voices for Vaccines. The bracelets can be an effective tool for building herd immunity. To learn more about the bracelets and to order online, visit www.parentsforvaccinations.com and follow Parents for Vaccinations on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. To learn more about recommended childhood vaccines, visit www.family-vaccines.org.