A shot in the arm
Friday May 16th 2014, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Politics

A modest proposal ahead:

We as a society provide childhood vaccinations to rich and poor alike, without charge when need be for the good of everyone simply because it’s the right thing to do. Our grandparents suffered greatly but by the grace of God, our children don’t need to.

The old DPT shot is now the DTaP: diptheria, tetanus and acellular rather than whole-virus pertussis, just as effective but with no side effects, whereas the pertussis part was the biggest source of fevers and aches in the old version.

I chose to be a part of that change. My son was a newborn at Stanford when a researcher came to my bedside and told me that two million Japanese two-year-olds had been given a new DTaP vaccine with not. one. single. case. of reaction, and they hoped to be able to replace the old DPT entirely with this improved version that was so much easier on the children but that still clearly worked. It might require an extra booster later; they did not know yet. She offered me access to any information I might want about her team’s work.

But to be able to get that version in the US at any age would require finding parents willing to have their babies given this shot while it was still in study, Level III, if I remember right. It had not been given to anyone younger than those two-year-0lds. She explained the level of monitoring they would do and the care they would take to make sure my baby was okay and they would immediately discontinue it across the board if any problems surfaced whatsoever among the infants.

Of which there would be none. And so the FDA would later approve it and it would become the standard.

My oldest is allergic to the old DPT and, having reacted, cannot be fully immunized even with the new shot for all the wishing in the world.

So there was that, and, I pictured possibly millions of people spared a long night awake with a crying, unhappy baby in pain–my husband and I signed those papers. Which is why our youngest is part of why your children and my grandchildren have a safer, easier version of their shots now. There’s definitely an amount of pride in that.

Some don’t want vaccines for their kids. They haven’t seen their baby struggling for breath from pertussis or deaf from measles or paralyzed by tetanus so they don’t believe it could ever happen, and they put every immunocompromised person at risk too and don’t see it and don’t think it matters. They don’t know or they don’t want to know that the man who started the anti-vaccination fad had, by very many accounts, a huge financial stake in doing so.

I have an elegant, simple solution. A conservative solution, even.

Pass a law.  Aim it at any parent whose child does not have a valid medical reason and yet who knowingly outright refuses to immunize their child with the DTaP and MMR shots–the basic childhood shots, I’m not talking about Gardasil–any parent who cannot empathize with nor want to protect their own child from the harm these diseases could do to them, well, okay then, that’s their choice, even if I would want to argue with them that my real-world worst-case scenario, that their child dies, beats their imagined worst-case scenario, that their child becomes autistic.

But they should then be on the hook financially for the outcome of that choice. Hospitalizations, medications, therapies, hearing aids, doctors, nursing care, we can’t make them not risk their children’s suffering life-threatening or simply life-crummying illnesses but we can choose not to take the burden off those parents of the financial costs they expect to impose across the rest of us for it. Society already offered, they refused, they need to own it.

All we have to do to make this happen is to say that the insurance companies are, as of some date in the near future, not required to cover any costs incurred by a child’s illness of these specific and preventable types if this is why they were left susceptible and got sick.

The insurance companies will quite gleefully do the rest.

(Edited 5/18 to add: No, I certainly don’t think children should go without medical care. I do think we must speak out more about the costs, of every kind, of this terrible fad. See my comment below about friends of mine who dealt with a major medical debt and how it got worked out; another thought might be to, rather than withhold all coverage, impose a huge co-pay with, if needed, long payoff terms.)

12 Comments so far
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This should be on the front page of the paper. Having worked in elementary schools for 35 years, we are seeing outbreaks now that we haven’t seen in years. The man behind the Autism and immunization scandals has admitted he was wrong. People need to listen to their doctors.

Comment by Debra 05.17.14 @ 6:17 am

I agree with Debra. This is inspired, Alison.

Comment by Channon 05.17.14 @ 8:57 am

I was never immunized – on religious grounds. I’ve had some immunizations since, but not all.

When my younger brother had mumps, someone from the health department came to our house to diagnose and quarantine him.

Your idea would work, as these people aren’t going to use the healthcare system anyway.

Comment by Anne 05.17.14 @ 9:27 am

I’m right there with you on this one! Do you intend to pursue this? Hope so!

Comment by Jayleen Hatmaker 05.17.14 @ 10:26 am

I managed to catch measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox all before the vaccine came out. (In the case of measles, my mom didn’t take me in the day the dr. received it because I had a fever . . .

I’ve got mixed feelings about the flu shot, which might not even contain the virus I need protection against, and my youngest daughters were old enough to make their own choices about Gardasil, and they opted out. But they have all received the tried and true vaccines and have promised to pass that blessing on to their own children.

Comment by LauraN 05.17.14 @ 10:46 am

I love the way you phrase your argument in favor of vaccinations, however I cannot agree with the idea of laws forcing people to vaccinate or pay. Being fundamentally conservative in nature, I reject the concept of law forcing people To Do things.

Comment by Ruth 05.17.14 @ 11:44 am

Not all of today’s immunizations were available when I was a child so I had the mumps, measles, etc. It is pretty awful to be that sick…I remember well. I’m for vaccinations. However, I’m not sure about the financial burden being placed on the parents for lack of immunizations. I think children would further be at risk because of it. Trust me, I’m the first one to get upset when one doesn’t have proper medical care or insurance.

Comment by Joan 05.17.14 @ 1:16 pm

I hear you, Joan, and that’s why I thought long and hard before writing this and started it with the Jonathan Swift-ian intro of “A modest proposal ahead.”

I also know that friends of mine adopted two babies born addicted to crack and exposed to other things as well, and they were born just before the Feds passed a law saying insurers could no longer require a newborn to prove itself healthy for a month before it could be covered under its family’s plan–ergo, if you gave birth to or adopted a sick baby, it had no coverage even if you had insurance and that denial would continue as long as it was sick. Millions of families went through that lack of coverage. My friends took on a quarter million in medical debt to adopt those children.

What Stanford Hospital did at the time was to work out an agreement whereby these parents paid off the debt by a nominal amount every month based on what they could afford–something like $25.

Comment by AlisonH 05.17.14 @ 1:33 pm

In March I had my TDaP booster, because New Jersey seems to be having a recurrence of pertussis. I also had a blood test to determine if I still had enough antibodies from my infant MMR vaccination. I do, so no need for a booster. I am more than happy to do this for the sake of society, my family, and my own health.

Comment by Carmel Irwin 05.17.14 @ 2:38 pm

Alison, I would like to understand more what you mean about your oldest who is allergic to the old DPT and cannot be fully immunized now. My 14-year-old reacted as a baby to the old DPT and was tested last year by an allergist with a very small testing dose of the new DTaP, to which she also reacted. Could you email me and point me in the right direction? Thank you!

Comment by Elizabeth 05.17.14 @ 6:43 pm

Whether you agree or disagree with vaccinations being mandated is irrelevant. Punishing children by withholding medical care for the actions of their parents is wrong.

Comment by Sharon 05.18.14 @ 12:12 pm

I can not understand why any parent wouldn’t have their child vaccinated — my husband had polio as a child and continues to this day (at age 75) to have the lingering problems from it —

Comment by Bev 05.19.14 @ 7:47 am

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