Can you imagine a world without vaccines? This would be a world where children suffer polio, diphtheria, tetanus, meningitis. It would be a world where unborn babies are infected by congenital rubella. This would be a world where newborn babies cough so much with whooping cough that they suffocate to death?
What would we see if our children suffered from any of these long gone infectious diseases? Not all of them would be running in the park. Some of them would be deaf. Some of them would be blind. Some would grow up to be adults who could not live independently due to their disabilities.
The world we live in would be very different.
Most pediatricians of my generation have never seen a case of polio, or a case of small pox. And most young parents have never had to face the terror of a child with meningitis or a young one with diphtheria. When we look around we see healthy, beautiful children, running, playing, growing without disabilities or handicaps.
The advent of immunizations brought the promise of perfect health to our children. And that promise has been delivered. For many years millions of children have been vaccinated around the world. Many terrifying infectious diseases have been eradicated and we have lived free of fear because we have trusted the science of vaccination.
But the pendulum may swing in the other direction. Infectious diseases could make a come back. And that will be our responsibility.
Over a decade ago, a fraudulent paper implicating a relationship between vaccines and autism was published. This news received so much media coverage that many took advantage of the lime light and profited from the fear and concern created in the minds of young parents. The discussion over vaccinating vs. not vaccinating children is taking epic proportions, and parents on each side of the issue are casting blame and judgment on each other. Reading these arguments fills my heart with deep concern and despair.
I believe that for most parents vaccinating vs. not vaccinating their children is not a decision driven by facts. It is a decision driven by feelings. We are all suffering from an overload of information and not everything is accurate. We must return to common sense.
Young families can not imagine a world without vaccines because they have never lived in that world. They have never seen the ravaging effects of infectious diseases; however, they have heard the inflammatory rhetoric of those who blame vaccines for the rise in autism and other immunological diseases. These, and not the myriad of diseases vaccinations prevent, have now become the real threat in the minds of parents.
Germs are smart and will continue to adapt and transform and they will prevail, make no mistake about this. If we are not vigilant and allow unsubstantiated fears to dictate our actions on the vaccination issue, infectious diseases will rule our world once more and then, imagination will not be necessary. Families will see with their own eyes what a world without vaccines looks like.