Should you vaccinate your children against whooping cough?

The recent outbreak of whooping cough has made headlines across Canada and the US, renewing the vaccination debate.

Photo by surabky/iStockphoto

The death of one-month-old Harper Whitehead from Alberta is devastating beyond words. The resulting news item that is bubbling to the surface once again is the debate as to whether or not vaccinations should be mandatory in order to prevent these types of tragedies.

As many of you know, I have four kids. In 2007, someone very close to me went through the assessment process that determined her son was on the autism spectrum. It was at that time that I learned about the unproven theory that there may be an association between vaccinations and autism. It was also around this time that I learned that not everyone unquestionably followed Health Canada‘s recommended guidelines for administering vaccinations like I did. With my first three children, I didn’t think twice about immunizing them against absolutely anything and everything that was offered. (Preventing death and diseases? Bring it!)

I had my son Beckett in 2006, so he got his regularly scheduled shots for the first year. But by the time he was 12 months old, I had read countless articles and testimonies from various sources about the implications of not just vaccinations, but the age of administering them, the preservatives and the chemicals used in them — and the option of not giving them a “cocktail” of shots all at once. I spoke with my doctor (the same doctor who administered my other three kids’ vaccines) and chose to put off giving Beckett the rest of his scheduled immunizations until he was older. We also spaced them out differently than they were medically recommended. By the time Beckett turned six, he was completely caught up. Do I know if what we did was any better than what my other kids experienced? Or, did I know if we had prevented some sort of developmental delay? Absolutely not. But I certainly felt better equipped to make the decision with my doctor’s help.

But today, I asked myself: If I had an infant right now, would I have them immunized for pertussis according to Health Canada’s guidelines due to the virus’ resurgence? (In Ontario, the DTaP-IPV vaccine covers diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis plus Inactivated Poliovirus which is given to children aged two months, four months, six months and 18 months with a fifth booster recommended after the age of four years.) It’s so hard to play the “what if” game, but considering I went against my gut instinct and gave my kids, including Beckett, the H1N1 vaccine in 2009 as per my doctor’s recommendation, I think I’ve done my research and ultimately trusted my doctor’s recommendation.

But, what about adults? Statistics show that whooping cough is likely passed from grown-ups to children, and the pertussis vaccine most of us received as children has waned and we need to have another one. What if I got a mild case of whooping cough (it’s common for adults to have less severe symptoms than young children) and then unwittingly passed the virus on to a young family member or friend? Unthinkable. I plan on speaking with my doctor ASAP. (Of course, I will also be researching what kind of chemicals or preservatives, if any, are being used….)

My point — and I do have one — is that some of us may feel more skeptical than others but, at the end of the day, educating ourselves and protecting our kids the best way we can are two goals we should all share.

My question to you: Is it your responsibility to protect the rest of society by having your kids immunized?

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