Vaccinations–Put the Debate Where it Belongs!

Dear Reader,  Please understand that I am writing from an extremely biased point of view today.  This subject is VERY important to me and I hope you’ll understand a mom’s tirade…

Let’s put the debate over vaccinations where it belongs–with the manufacturers of products that people have found untrustworthy.

The recent measles outbreak is very scary, no doubt.  You take your kid to Disneyland hoping for a great family vacation, and you come back with a disease that spreads easily, maims, and even kills those most precious to you. Yikes!  How could something like this happen in these great United States of America?  Didn’t we totally eradicate such a nasty disease, like decades ago?

picture of Sara in basketball uniform

Special Child

Actually, measles were officially declared eradicated in 2000 . . . until they made a comeback in 2013, with more cases in 2014, and now, with the Disneyland outbreak in December, the disease has spread to at least 14 states.

The problem is, the Centers for Disease Control and politicians are blaming the outbreak on evil parents who don’t vaccinate their children, which results in everyone being more susceptible. Many states make vaccinations a voluntary part of your child’s healthcare program.  This voluntary state of things makes parents–whether or not they have medical backgrounds–responsible for the health and well-being of their children, and they have to make the decision to vaccinate based on their own observations and concerns.  This way, the pharmaceutical companies can step back and take no blame when things go wrong.

I should know.  My child was a victim of such thinking.  I had her vaccinated with the DPT shot in 1985.  That shot left her with epilepsy, ataxia (balance issues) and mental retardation.  The thing that absolutely puts a knife in my soul is that, depending on the wave of public opinion, what happened to my daughter was either some strange act of God (just coincidence that she had her first seizure less than 12 hours after her shot), or a table case for saying that whole-cell vaccinations are not safe and should be abandoned as a preventative medicine.  My daughter’s situation has become that “anecdotal evidence” that can’t be scientifically proven. Grrr!  How could a child, with no previous indications of health issues, go in for a well-baby visit, have a shot, and end up so severely damaged without a connection to that chemical put into her system? Double Grrr!

With what happened to Sara, you might believe I think vaccination schedules for babies and small children should not be adhered to. There you would be wrong.  Life is a risk. There are no guarantees.

Thing is, I could handle the tragedy of what happened to my daughter a lot better, I think, if the vaccination controversy were handled in the media better, and addressed with less defensiveness by the CDC and the medical community.  And here’s where the water is muddied by conflicting goals.

The CDC is responsible for the health of our nation.  The best (not the perfect) tool for reducing the instances of outbreaks of horrid diseases, is the vaccination.  Before Dr. Salk, outbreaks of polio, measles, mumps, whooping-cough and more attacked our communities annually, leaving in their wake things like, paralysis, deafness, blindness, mental retardation, and, of course, death.  With Dr. Salk’s approach to killing whole cells and injecting the safer, dead cells into healthy people who would then develop antibodies to fight these diseases, the world began to feel a lot safer.  According to a Wikipedia article, Dr. Salk’s research and resulting vaccination was not developed for his personal gain: “His sole focus had been to develop a safe and effective vaccine as rapidly as possible, with no interest in personal profit. When asked who owned the patent to it, Salk said, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”[

Dr. Salk may have been altruistic, but in following years, pharmaceutical companies were not.  One of the companies I researched back in the 1980s, when my child was damaged, measured their profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars per month.  These conglomerates of chemistry sets and Dr. Frankensteins (oops! my bias is showing), hoodwinked the congress into protecting them from “nuisance” lawsuits like my family had initiated.  Congress came up with the Childhood Vaccination Compensation Act that virtually took all responsibility for a safe product off of the shoulders of the pharmaceutical giants.

Can you imagine if the auto-industry requested such protection?  If the auto studies were validated by some government department whose primary objective was to get people on the road?  People whose seat belts or airbags failed would be blamed for their imaginary ailments?

We feel safe in our cars because we know that lawsuits can and do occur.  Recalls happen. The automobile is constantly improving.

But where are the checks and balances for the pharmaceuticals?  Who’s asking for recalls of medical lots? Where are the pharmaceuticals being held accountable for the shots they produce?  With no evidence of this check and balance, it is no wonder the layperson is suspicious of the corporation products.  Let’s remember, there is no Hippocratic oath for pharmaceutical companies–no public inspection of their business practices–no financial responsibility when things go wrong. Grr, grr, double grr!

One day, long ago, I was doing my usual struggle with Sara.  She was about three or four at the time, and language had not quite become her tool. No doubt, we looked as messy on the outside as we, as a family, felt on the inside.  There were lots of struggles then.  Some mom with her neat hair and tidy child stepped up to me.  “I heard about what happened to your daughter,” she said.  Her face took on that sweet pout that only beautiful women can get away with. “That’s why I’m not going to get my child vaccinated.”

I believe that woman was trying to side with me. But all I felt was a sadness so deep it still rings in my heart.  Sara’s sacrifice was for nothing. Our community health was at risk, and it was my child’s fault. Or the fault of the defensive, lying pharmaceuticals. When will we put this health debate where it belongs? When will the pharma-giants be held to the same standards as other big businesses? When will parents stop having sole responsibility for decisions they are not necessarily qualified–or at least too emotionally involved–to make?

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Liesa's Birthday

Life is good at the Broadmoor Sunday Brunch

This past Sunday was my birthday.  Thank you to everyone who sent cards, e-cards, and Facebook notes.  I was at the fabulous Broadmoor resort for their world-famous Sunday brunch, when my good guy surprised me with a special dessert.  A lot of friends from my dance studio sang the traditional birthday song, and while I’m not very comfortable being the center of attention, it was wonderful to feel such friendship.

Hmm. Birthdays.

At this point in my life, I’d rather forget they exist, as each year seems to fly faster, and I don’t think I have enough birthdays looking ahead to fulfill my dreams. I think more of bucket lists than pails of fun.  I doubt if I’ll ever learn a back handspring that I was so close to accomplishing at one time.  President of the United States?  That dream has gone by the wayside too. Now I spend more time thinking about ways to stay healthy than to have adventures–and spend my phone conversations complaining more of aches and pains than hopes and promises (something I vowed I would never do).

Am I getting old?  Yep.

Then, I take a look at many of the things in life that didn’t exist when I was born, but are ubiquitous now:

  • Wearing seat belts in cars – Saab introduced the retractable seatbelt as a standard fixture in 1958.  We still flung around in our cars without “buckling up” for several years more. I still smile at the “squish in as many as you can” rides, and thank my lucky stars we didn’t have any accidents in them.
  • Microwave ovens – We bought our first oven at about the same time my good guy and I bought our first house.  The microwave, our first piece of furniture, was a big two and one half-foot cube that sat on our living room floor (the only room with a high enough volt in the electric socket to run the thing–if memory serves correctly).  Although the machines were originally built shortly after WWII as “radar-ranges,” it wasn’t until I was grown that they became popular and popularly priced enough to have one.
  • Color television – need I say more?  I remember this enormous block of metal sitting in our basement flashing black and white pictures of The Lone Ranger and Rin-Tin-Tin.  Then, one day we went to my aunt and uncle’s house where they were showing George Pierrot’s travel program.  The program was truly boring, but all eight of us kids were enthralled because everything was in color. “It looks so real!” exclaimed a sibling.
  • Saran Wrap–Okay. Technically, this was introduced a few years before I was born, but wax paper still competed with this product for wrapping sandwiches well into my elementary school years.

I could go on and on about things that weren’t there one day, and a year later seemed everywhere–personal computers, cell phones, airbags, SUVs.  The world keeps spinning and churning out amazing inventions that become way-of-life necessities in the blink of an eye.  This amazing creativity is ours each day we have the get up and go to go get up. How exciting is that?

Today, thank you to the inventors, the dreamers and the visionaries. You’ve marked my life with wonderful growth, and I hope that you will keep being born, keep dreaming and keep inventing.  With this much hope, we can address the big issues of climate change, equality for all, and literacy around our world.

Yes, it was a great birthday. I’m alive in a wonderful time, and can hardly wait to see, “what’s next?”

New Blog Category — Literacy

GallyCat's Illiteracy in America: INFOGRAPHIC

Thank you to GallyCat for this important infographic

A few days ago I was playing around in YouTube and stumbled across a fun and funny video called “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis: President Barack Obama.” While Zach and the president were discussing affordable health care for young adults, one incident drew my attention.  President Obama referred to young adults as thinking they were “invincible.”  Zach played on that by interpreting the president as saying “invisible.” In a nutshell, these two professionals managed to squeeze two enormous issues into just a couple of sentences:  health care for the young and uninsured, and an issue of illiteracy that may be larger than we think.

I know very little about the Affordable Health Care act. It’s not my area of focus or expertise.  But I think that as a writer, the issue of illiteracy ought to be a concern for me.  Heck, if people don’t read or comprehend what they read, this hits me in a very direct way.  That’s a shrinking “target market.”  As an old marketing person, I understand the importance of expanding a target, not shrinking it. So the questions started:

  • Is there an illiteracy problem in our country?
  • What are the many facets of illiteracy?
  • Why should we care if people don’t read?
  • Is reading a quaint past time that could easily be replaced with movies, videos and other forms of communication? Is it “out of date?”

To be honest, I’ve done a little reading on the subject over the past few months.  I haven’t “fact checked” thoroughly, but here are some things that have surfaced for me:

  • 82% of the adults in this country read one book or less a year for entertainment
  • 19% of the adults who watch a television show will miss between a quarter and a third of the program’s message because they don’t understand it.
  • 20% of high school graduates can be classified as being functionally illiterate.

Ouch! For those of us who do read, try to grow our comprehension, try to think through the issues of our day with the information we get through reading, journaling and other forms of written communication, these figures must be cause for concern.

This is why I’m adding a new category to my blog posts–Literacy.  Over the next months, I want to explore this topic in greater detail.  But most importantly, if you and I discuss this and conclude that literacy is a “problem,” we may be able to brainstorm about how we can help. As my sister says, “Think global, act local.”

I know everyone has schedules that are crammed full of today’s pressing issues for her or him, so I’m not asking you to take action and “solve” this thing, but if you can join me in finding out more about the topic of literacy, perhaps we can come up with ways to address the issue in our own communities.

A few months ago, I read a book of short mysteries by a group of famous writers led by Mary Higgins Clark.  The Plot Thickens is a super fun read.  Each story had the requirement that it contained these three elements:

  • A Thick steak
  • A thick fog
  • A thick book

I enjoyed every moment of reading these stories, and am looking forward to buying this for my permanent collection, because not only were these terrific stories to read, but the proceeds from sales of the book go to helping Americans with literacy problems. How cool is that?

Wishing your week is filled with fun reading and great comprehension.