Many families still make an active choice not to vaccinate their children from preventable diseases, despite increased awareness and even some states implementing compulsory vaccination with no exemptions.
A lot of the debate against compulsory vaccination policies stems from the matter of free choice and individual liberty. However, as this story explains, it is much more than a question of individual choice. In a community where mass vaccination has taken place, a "herd immunity" develops. This means most members of the community are protected against that disease because there are very few opportunities for an outbreak. This is especially important for those with an impaired immune system.
This letter comes from Saving Scarlett, a blog written by the family of a 4-year-old girl battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia – a form of cancer that affects white blood cells and therefore can result in severe immunodeficiency.
Today was supposed to be a great day: our beautiful daughters' first day of school. While all of the other parents were laughing and encouraging their children, enjoying this special moment, we were pulled aside by the teacher. As she went through the children's medical records, she discovered that one of the children in Scarlett's class is not vaccinated. There are many things I would like to say but my conscience stops me. I understand that nothing I say can convince another parent to change their beliefs. It's not going to matter so what is the point. But when I am upset, I write. So here is my letter to that parent:
This morning, my daughters got dressed for their first day of school. They had new outfits that they picked out themselves. They got their backpacks. They took their pictures. They smiled and laughed on their way into preschool. They were just like your child.
Except my daughter is not like your child. My daughter has cancer. She has had a drill bored into her hips. She has been poked with a needle more times than we can count. She has had surgeries, lost her hair, watched friends die. She has suffered through sickness and pain. She has suffered enough.
As parents, we have watched all of this. We have held her head as her whole body wretches. We have washed her bloody hands, raw from the medications. We have wiped her bottom while wearing masks and gloves because our own child is too poisonous for us to touch. We have worried and cried and planned. We have neglected our other children. We have suffered enough.