I just like flamingos.
Rugby is a big deal in our house. It has to be – I live there. The Rugby Union World cup reached the quarter final stage at the weekend and the wonderful Welsh team stomped all over the Irish boys to secure a place in the semi finals. Obviously, that meant Aidan had to buy me a curry.
Yesterday evening the three of us, My Little Pwdin, Hubby and I, went out to get that curry. We reached the only restaurant we could find that was open early enough for us to bring Pwd along. No sooner had we got through the door, Pwd spewed what seemed like litres of milk and hardly chewed lumps of fries all over the floor. Naturally, we headed straight back home.
Three days earlier my Pwdin had got a round of vaccinations: diptheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus in one beefy arm and MMR in the other. Apart from being very angry with me and biting into my wrist for not letting him get out of his buggy to run riot in the treatment room, he was fine.
Over the weekend though he was getting grumpier and grumpier culminating in his frothy white spewings. Of course, he didn’t go to school today and won’t be going tomorrow.
He’s got a few spots on his legs – no doubt a minor but predictable reaction to the measles element of the MMR. Vomitting, however, isn’t a common side effect of the shots. It would be easy to frighten myself into thinking that he was having some kind of peculiar reaction and work myself up into a frenzy about it. Some poor kids DO have adverse reactions to vaccines and for most, sadly, that it should happen couldn’t have been predicted. Thankfully, though, such problems are incredibly rare and the most commonly reported one is soreness at the injection site.
His dots, I have no doubt, are vaccine related but being rational about the puking I have to say there are far more plausible culprits. My Pwdin is a boy who won’t keep his shoes or socks on and will run around the garden barefoot, sit on the step and suck his toes. I’m always fishing stones and wood chips out of his gob and he and KaBoom fight over their chewy toys. As well as all that Pwd does like to smear himself in his own poo so finding the cause of his tummy trouble is a bit difficult.
Not averse to a bit of self promotion, I mentioned this blog to the nurses vaccinating my Pwdin. I wanted to know if they still got asked about the MMR-autism nonsense. Their replies saddened me. It seems vaccine fear is somewhat generational. Young mums in their teens and twenties, still reliant on their own mothers’ advice are, upon that advice, choosing to skip MMR. These women have had the benefit of protection against these diseases and have no idea just how devastating they can be. The generation ahead of them are passing down a belief in, what seems to me, like a folk memory or tradition that combines two dangerous falsehoods: that a vaccine can cause autism and that the diseases the vaccine prevents never really hurt anyone anyway. The nurses told me of how they regularly go through vaccine records to recall patients who have missed one or the other. By far and away the one most of the patients seem to lack is MMR.
“We were ready for an arguement when you came in,” one of the nurses told me. I had scheduled Pwd’s appointment outside of normal baby clinic as he finds it a bit overwhelming. The nurses thought that, because my Pwd is autistic, I wouldn’t want him to have the MMR.
No vaccine or any other medicine come to that is without its side effects. Autism is not one of MMR’s! After the injection it’s common for children to get a bit spotty: a very mild form of the killer disease, measles. A couple of weeks later some children have swollen glands and a temperature – mild mumps. More rarely a child can develop idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) which commonly occurs with natural rubella infection. Usually no treatment of this purplish rash is needed and it goes away on its own.
I understand that some parents may have no idea what autism is and quite frankly the rhetoric from certain quarters (yes Polly Tommey and the other wailing banshees) has painted a very gloomy picture of what it is to be autistic. On their narrow canvass it is they, not the austic children they profess to represent, who are front and centre, flanked by the quack medics and alternative therapists who rely on them for their income.
The health and well being of children – autistic or not – comes way down the list of their priorities in my opinion. They are but the mediators of their parents’ public profiles. When the likes of Tommey et al talk of the dangers of vaccines they rarely acknowledge the dangers of the diseases which those shots help prevent. Measles alone has a death rate of one in a thousand. Yet the anti-vax websites will phrase that as “only one in a thousand,” such is their disregard for the death and suffering of others.
They play with the statistics and exploit the prejudices of those of us living in comfortable societies of western Europe and the USA by suggesting that the 1/1000 only really applies to poorer and less educated people. They flatter their followers into believing they, too, possess some secret knowledge. Your kids don’t need vaccines is the suggestion. What they need are all these supplements you can buy direct from this website or its partners.
Setting aside their obvious lack of understanding of basic science, the recent measles outbreak in Europe has shown that figure to be very robust. Of 6,ooo French children who acquired measles between January and June 2011, six died. Six out of six thousand in a well developed, modern European nation with an enviable health service.
Vaccine opponents always fail to mention that autism, though life long, isn’t terminal. You can live with autism, I once told a friend who was concerned about giving her daughter the MMR (after trying in vain to assure her that the Wakefield paper was a fabrication), but could you live with yourself if she died or was brain damaged from measles?
Autism isn’t something that my little Pwdin was given either by some god or another nor through a needle. It cannot be taken away. He doesn’t have autism in the same sense as someone might be said to have a cold or a more serious disease like, for example, leukaemia. Pwd IS autistic as much as he IS a boy or a proper cutie pie. More than any of these though, he’s my Pwd, my big, handsome boy.
You can read more about my thoughts on vaccines and about Pwdin’s 1st MMR in my article Measles Returns Autism Never Went Way