24 March 2008

The Burden of Children's Health

I was watching the news when they started discussing people who elect not to vaccinate their children, with mention of the fear that vaccines may cause autism.

First of all, it made me sad that people are so uninformed and/or misinformed about autistic people that they'd rather not have one of us as their kids.

Second, I had to fight my natural inclination to blame plain, ordinary human stupidity and paranoia. The fact is that like the burden of proof that exists in a court of law, there is a burden of the health of not only our children, but those of future generations. We each carry a bit of this burden in the responsibility we exercise in our decisions, but there are others whose burden in protecting children's health is far greater than any individual alone.

Yes, the people who decry the vaccines for this connection they claim to have undeniable proof of, they carry a large portion of this (ir)responsibility. I hate it when people lie to other people, particularly those people who lie to parents, teachers, and others who have authority over the lives of children. While I am sure that some of the main anti-vaccine people actually believe what they are saying, there are many who are abusing the concern parents have for their children and using the lack of good information about autistics to this end.

In reading this blog post, I have come to a startling realization: the alternate vaccine schedule promoted, which omits vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella (doesn't even include them separately), in leaving children unprotected from measles, would result in 1-2 in 1,000 children infected to die of measles. If every child (or even a majority) weren't vaccinated, that would be a lot of kids overall. Maybe to the anti-vaccine people this is rare, but would these same people consider telling that same thing to each parent of the future children who would die this way?

Likewise, any individual or organization takes a larger share of the burden when they put out negative and misleading propaganda. Being autistic is not a ride on the merry-go-round (however many times we may spin!) but it is not a hell either (though oftentimes we are told it so much that we become depressed and begin to believe that some monster called autism is the cause of our sadness). And showing purely the negatives, and misinforming people about autistics leads to a parent fear having an autistic child more than a dead one.

For even if it was a well-accepted, completely verified fact that the vaccines cause autism, autistics can and do have good quality of life (which is remarkable not because we're autistic, but because the majority of autistics have been abused). A dead person cannot have a good quality of life. There is no opportunity for life. And there is no way to mitigate the disadvantages of being dead.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

"Showing purely the negatives, and misinforming people about autistics leads to a parent fear having an autistic child more than a dead one."

Yes, and what a terrible thing this is. It is why we need to speak out about the truth of autism, as parents of autistic children and as autistic people.

Thanks also for pointing out the danger to public health of low vaccination levels.