As vaccine opposition grows, those who suffered complications of childhood diseases say, ‘How different my life would have been’

Most of you probably know how strongly I feel about the importance of vaccinating against childhood diseases such as rubella, measles, mumps, whooping cough and polio.

I realize that there are sometimes negative side effects from vaccines, but they are very rare, and no medical procedure is free of potential negative results. In fact, almost nothing we do in life is free of the possibility of disaster.

Please read this article, from The Chicago Tribune, which touches upon the lives of several people who were permanently disabled because they were not vaccinated. I assume that, unlike today’s children, the vaccines were not yet available to protect them. And yet, the disabilities that these people suffer – permanent vision and hearing loss – are relatively minor compared to the possibility of brain damage and death, which they might have suffered, and others did suffer.

The irony is that the success of childhood vaccination has, until recently, decreased the incidents of these diseases to almost nil in the United States.

…Disabilities due to vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles, mumps and rubella — including blindness, deafness and permanent brain damage — are rarely discussed in an increasingly heated national debate over vaccine avoidance, in part because discussion tends to focus on the more dramatic risk of death, in part because it’s no longer common to know someone living with the lifelong effects of a serious childhood illness. But the risk of disability remains one of the most important reasons to vaccinate, according to Patsy Stinchfield, senior director of infection prevention and control at Children’s Minnesota hospitals and clinics.

“(People) look around, and they don’t see polio. They don’t see measles. They don’t see the disabilities. It’s invisible,” said Stinchfield, senior director of infection prevention and control at Children’s Minnesota hospitals and clinics.

“And the trouble is, it’s not only young parents, but young providers who don’t know. Those of us who do know need to keep reminding people: We do not want to go back to death and disability from vaccine-preventable diseases.”



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20 Responses to As vaccine opposition grows, those who suffered complications of childhood diseases say, ‘How different my life would have been’

  1. jeans2nd says:

    “(People) look around, and they don’t see polio…”

    Well yes, yes I do. I see Maxine H., in my memory, who lived 5 houses up from where I now live, who had polio before there were vaccines. Maxine’s life was miserable – full leg braces with permanent metal arm crutches, re-fitted as she grew. Maxine H. never ran with us, never played, never climbed our tree, never ran to the end of the street for sour green apples. We were afraid of Maxine as we were too young to understand.

    Maxine H. did not live past her teens. Another casualty of polio.
    Maxine H. still lives, with every person who will stand still long enough to listen to me tell them about Maxine. Would that more would listen.

    Thank you, Stella, for your continuing attention to this.
    Feel free to pass on my memory. I feel certain Maxine wouldn’t mind.

    Liked by 4 people

    • WeeWeed says:

      I also knew a girl in my high school graduating class – her name was Nita – with the same situation. Her situation was personal with my family as we knew her parents well and oddly enough they never regretted their choices.
      Nita did.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Re-Farmer says:

    This is a difficult one for me. I am not against vaccines, at all, but I do believe that parents need to make that choice based on their own child’s needs and responses.

    With my first daughter, I started with the regularly scheduled vaccines. She reacted badly, and it was worse, each time. My husband was at sea each time, so he didn’t see her reactions (and the doctors just brushed them off) and didn’t understand why I didn’t want to do them anymore. Between him and pressure from a doctor (not our regular doctor), I finally agreed to do the 18 month vaccinations on my 2 yr old daughter.

    Her reaction was worse than ever, and this time my husband was there to hear the screaming and deal with the projectile vomiting. After several days of this, I still vividly remember the look of utter shock and horror on his face as he held our screaming, crying, feverish daughter and said “never again!”. As she got older, this daughter seemed to be feeling sick often. She’s in her mid 20s now and still has pain throughout her body, and feels ill pretty much every time she eats.

    When her sister was born, we didn’t vaccinate. We wanted to wait for her to get older. As we home schooled both of them, there was no requirement to do so. The only thing she ever got was chicken pox. Her health is much more robust than her sisters. Is that due to not vaccinating? Or due to something else? I have no idea. Both of them have done their own vaccine research, both are aware of the benefits and the risks. So far, neither has decided to get vaccinated.

    On top of our own personal experiences the only person I knew who had polio contracted it from the vaccine. She had mobility issues and used a scooter or wheelchair; on her good days, she would walk with a cane. Her health was never good, however, and she eventually had a stroke, but she lived along and was not found for 3 days, when her co-workers tried to figure out why she wasn’t showing up for work. Last I knew, she was still in a coma, in long term care. My son-from-another-mother, who was born with numerous health issues, went for the avian flu vaccine because his health issues made him higher risk. He got the avian flu from the vaccine.

    Those are just a few examples. I know more people who have been damaged by vaccines (including the annual flu vaccine) than people who don’t vaccinate, but got measles/mumps/etc. And I have lived in 3 different provinces, and 4 different major cities, over the last 30+ years.

    In the end, all I can say is, people need to make their own *educated* decisions for themselves and their kids. Unfortunately, there is so much bad information out there, it’s really hard to be properly educated on the subject.


    • stella says:

      You cannot get flu from the vaccine, as it does not contain a live virus. Your friend may have gotten the flu at around the same time as he got the vaccine, but correlation does not equal causation. The flu shot, as you may know, is not 100% effective at preventing every kind of influenza, and its effectiveness varies year by year.

      I won’t argue with you about vaccines, but I can say that I don’t believe you are as educated as you believe you are.


      • Re-Farmer says:

        First, should be more specific. He got the H1N1 vaccine, which was called swine flu for a while, not avian flu (which is H5N1), though the virus itself is a combination of swine, avian and human flu genes. Neither is the same as typical human influenza, and their vaccines were different, too. At the time, it was very new, but H1N1 is now included in human influenza vaccines. It was the doctors that diagnosed that he got it from the vaccine and treated him. He never fully recovered. So maybe you should avoid making snarky insults about my being educated or not.


        • stella says:

          The live H1N1 virus is only present in the flu nasal spray. The H1N1 virus in the injection is killed virus, so if your friend used the nasal spray, it is possible that he contracted flu from the vaccine.

          ADD: I’m curious. You say the doctor determined that your friend got the flu from the vaccine. How did the doctor know that he didn’t get the flu from exposure to an infected person, which is more likely? The disease would look the same in either case.

          You may or may not be correct about the flu vaccine and your friend, but I don’t retract my comment about your education. It wasn’t snarky – just my opinion about your knowledge of vaccines.

          Yes, there are occasional side effects from vaccines just as there are side effects from every medical procedure. Like anesthesia. Or surgery. Or antibiotics. I mentioned that in my original post. But the first-hand accounts of one or two events that you attribute to vaccines doesn’t change the fact that vaccines have saved millions of lives worldwide.


          • Re-Farmer says:

            The doctor new because there were no actual cases of H1N1 in the area. Just a whole lot of fearmongering about a pandemic. People with compromised immunity were encouraged to get vaccinated. He was one of them.

            Okay, so maybe your comment wasn’t intended to be snarky. It was, however, both insulting and condescending. Condescending is also a good way to describe your apparent belief that you know better than me, about the examples I gave, where I have first hand information and you are simply getting defensive and telling me (and the doctors) are wrong, because you don’t want to accept what I’m saying.

            My entire point was that people have to make their medical decisions individually. Averages and hypotheticals and statistics are just abstract concepts and information that the individual can use for their own personal decisions.


    • stella says:

      By the way, polio vaccines containing live virus have not been used since 2000. Live virus is the only way that polio can be contracted from a vaccine, and it very rarely happened. It is now not possible, so nobody should worry about that happening to them from the polio vaccine. Please don’t frighten people into believing that it could happen to them.

      The reason why your friend is the only person you know who has polio is because millions of people who DID know people who died or were permanently disabled lined up to get their shot. The disease is pretty much eradicated in the USA, and it is because of vaccines.


      • Re-Farmer says:

        She was a few years older than me, which means she was vaccinated probably in the late 1960s, early 1970s. So yes, she was getting a live virus vaccine. Did you think she was only, what? 19 years old??

        And you’ve clearly missed the entire point of my comment.


        • stella says:

          No I didn’t miss the point, but perhaps you missed mine. I didn’t assume that your friend got the vaccine in the past 19 years. I pointed out the fact that live virus hasn’t been used in vaccines since 2000 so that you (or any anyone reading this) will know that this can’t happen now.


        • stella says:

          Your friend could have gotten a live vaccine if she had the Sabin rather than the Salk vaccine. Nevertheless, the overall statistical risk of getting polio in the 1960’s or 1970’s was greater in the wild than it was from a vaccine. Again, no medical procedure is without risk.


          • Re-Farmer says:

            The fact is, she got it from the vaccine. Full stop. Why are you even arguing with that point, unless you believe I’m either lying or dumb as a post?

            There are two mistakes people are making.

            One is deciding that vaccines are all dangerous and no one should get them. The crappy information, fraudulent information and conspiracy theories are pretty insane.

            The other is deciding that all vaccines are good, and everyone should get them. What you’re basically saying is, everyone should be vaccinated because the risks are worth it. Quite the thing to decide for other people.

            One of the problems with the published risk factors, is that the data is not accurate. When I went to the doctors because of my daughter’s reactions to her vaccines, my concerns were brushed off. Her reactions did not become part of the statistical data. How many hundreds of other children’s reactions did not get recorded, just in that city, in that year? How may across the province? The country? The continent? The statics only show what was known and recorded. It’s the best we’ve got to work with, but that’s not very encouraging.

            People need to make those decisions on their own situation, on a case by case basis. For vaccines or any other medical treatment. Not everyone responds to treatment the same. The thing that disturbs me about the attacks on anti-vaxxers (as justified as some of them are) is that too many are going the opposite extreme, saying that everyone should be vaccinated, by law, or that their kids should be taken from them, etc.. To me, the less government involvement there is in our lives, the better, so I certainly do not agree with the government administering foreign substances into people against their will.

            The problem is that, simply pointing out that vaccines are not for everyone and that people should decide for themselves, doesn’t get a conversation going, but instead gets attacked. As you did. You basically took issue with what I said, insulted me, and decided you knew better than I did in my own examples where you don’t have the information I do, and basically accused me of fearmongering. Which is pretty insulting of your readers’ intelligence, if you think my anecdotal illustrations would scare people.


            • stella says:

              I didn’t “attack” you. I pointed out what I thought were errors in judgement when evaluating certain of your personal experiences, because you either misstated or left out information. I still believe you are incorrect about some of your assumptions, and I responded accordingly. This is my post on my blog, and I will respond in order to set the record straight as I see it. I’m sorry you don’t like that, but it is the way it is and will continue to be.

              Vaccines ARE for most people. Giving people the impression that it should be some intellectual personal decision is wrong.

              Do I think that public schools should enforce vaccination unless there is a real medical reason for not having them? Yes, I do, since those who can’t be vaccinated are being put at increased risk for disease because some parents “decide” they don’t want to vaccinate. If there is a real medical reason for not vaccinating, then that is a different story entirely.

              Some doctors refuse to continue to treat children whose parents decide not to vaccinate. Children in a doctor’s office with preventable diseases risk the health of babies who have not yet been vaccinated.

              I am (based on what you have said about yourself) older than you are. I remember when my classmates got polio and measles and whooping cough. My own nephew, a few years my junior, had permanently impaired vision due to complications following measles (encephalitis). Hundreds of children died EVERY YEAR from measles complications, and thousands were hospitalized EVERY YEAR before the measles vaccine became available. Many were left with permanent disabilities – brain damage, deafness, blindness. Just because you haven’t seen this yourself is no proof that it didn’t happen and couldn’t happen again.

              I didn’t argue that your friend didn’t get polio from the live virus vaccine. I even said that it was possible, but rare. It is NO LONGER POSSIBLE today because live virus isn’t used. I think that you and everyone else should know that, which is why I mentioned it. The reason is that the risk for getting polio from a live virus vaccine now exceeds the risk in the USA of getting polio in the wild, so all polio vaccines in the U.S. today contain killed virus. Isn’t that a fact that should be known?

              I said, repeatedly, that there are risks for adverse effects from vaccines, just as there are risks with other medical procedures. I am allergic to penicillin and had an adverse reaction to it as a baby. My pregnant sister went into anaphylactic shock after a penicillin injection. Is the fact that there are sometimes adverse reactions to drugs like penicillin a good reason for avoiding drugs that may cure a disease?

              I had a friend who died from complications related to anesthesia while having his tonsils removed. People died from anesthesia complications during surgery many times every year. Is that a good reason for avoiding necessary surgery?


            • stella says:

              PS: I consider this topic closed. Comments will be shut down on this post.


  3. czarina33 says:

    I worked for almost 30 years in institutions for people with mental retardation/developmental disabilities. I have no count of how many of the thousands I provided care to had disabilities because of rubella contracted by their mothers during the pregnancy. I can state that by the time I retired, there were no people being admitted with deafness, blindness, intellectual disabilities, or the other problems from pre-natal rubella, because the vaccine was effective. Now, who knows, maybe millennial mothers want to risk the babies they are carrying. As for the people I knew, I’m sure their mothers would have preferred to have had perfect babies….and the people would have had much better lives.

    Liked by 2 people

    • stella says:

      I often tell the story about my nephew, who is four years younger than I am. He developed encephalitis caused by measles, and ended up with severe damage to his vision.

      I worry about the kids who can’t be vaccinated, because they are too young or have suppressed immune systems. There are already increased cases of measles and whooping cough, both of which are serious diseases in infants.

      Liked by 2 people

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