Vaccines and Child Health

The other day I watched a documentary screenings from NOVA entitled “Vaccines: Calling the Shots” The movie was essentially about parents, even though it mainly featured mothers, withholding or spacing out vaccines for their children. Due to the decrease in vaccines, infectious diseases that had all but disappeared, such as measles, are cropping back up in North America.

The films overarching purpose was to convert non-believers to the vaccine train. From the production and editing you go the sense of them sending the message that vaccines do more good then harm and parents need to understand that and set aside their fears. As I said, it was mothers being showcased as the voice of the anti-vaccin charge. Some of the reasons they gave for not wanting to spacing out vaccines and not following the physician recommended schedule is because they did not want to tax their child’s immune system. One woman also attested that one of her children had a seizure (which happens sometimes, but usually has no recurrence or adverse affects) after receiving a vaccine so she did not complete the vaccine regimen or vaccinate her subsequent children. Viewers are also shown the tale of a mother who’s 4  month old child is suffering from whooping cough. We watch as the new born falls into fits of coughing so severe he has to be propped up and given oxygen.

I think this film is relevant to birth and global health because of some of the biases that were apparent in the film Some things that were not addressed. For instance, most of the mothers portrayed were white, middle to upper class woman who have the privilege to decide whether or not to vaccinate a child. Other mothers of different racial and ethnic backgrounds were not shown. But I imagine infants in those households may miss vaccination as well but not by choice. Or there are others who don’t vaccinate for religious and cultural reasons, their stories were also left out of the film.

All that said, I am someone who was vaccinated as a child and will more than likely be vaccinating my children. I am curious to know what others opinion’s are on not vaccinating a child. If the child ends up contracting a preventable infectious disease and suffering or worse passing away do you feel this is grounds to make vaccines required? Should it be a mothers decision whether or not to inoculate her child and/or forego the vaccine schedule? if you are interested in watching the film, heres a link to what its about.

5 thoughts on “Vaccines and Child Health

  1. Hi Ugochi,
    I think this is a very important topic and one that I feel passionate about. One of the things that happens when you age is you see pendulums swing in different directions. When I grew up, polio vaccines had recently been discovered. One of the boys in my class at school had an atrophied left arm from polio. A mother’s worst nightmare was losing a child to these infectious diseases – a huge cause of child mortality around the world. When I was in the Peace Corps many years ago, I always remembered a child who died who could have been saved by a penicillin shot. I still remember the mother, and her crying still haunts me, over 35 years later. I think it is because it was something so preventable.
    So I get so upset when people do not want to vaccinate their children. They don’t remember the fear mothers used to have of losing their children to communicable disease. And then there is the issue of privilege: living in a wealthier context, where generations have not had these diseases, we don’t see them much. We think it can’t happen to us anymore, only to the people in other places. But it can, of course. Of course there are reasons why some people can’t or won’t vaccinate their children – there will always be exceptions to the rule. But that old saying applies: those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it….forgetting what it meant to prevent these diseases is a dangerous thing.

  2. I’m glad this topic has been brought up, because I also feel strongly about this issue. I think that the decision to not vaccinate your child puts not only your child at risk, but others around him or her as well. We are lucky that many of us in America have the ability or the option to choose most things when it comes to health care, but there are many people in the world who do not have that choice or do not even have access to the vaccine. Because of this, thousands of people die each year from diseases in which we can protect them from such as measles, meningitis, and polio. As Dr. Foster said, its amazing how far we have come with vaccines and that we even had the ability to eradicate polio. The fact that we could allow such preventable diseases to come back into populations, just because people want to have that “choice” or to have control is in a way irresponsible.

    I came across this article about the current outbreak of Polio in Pakistan, which is mainly occurring because the vaccine was forbidden for several years due to implications by the Taliban and militants. Because of their fear and lies that have been spread throughout the community, people refuse to vaccinate their children and the cases of polio are on the rise (over 200 cases in Pakistan this year). This is proof in itself of what will happen without proper vaccination, for a disease that can easily be prevented. Its unfortunate that we will have to have outbreaks like this occur around the world for some people to start understanding the effects of vaccines.

    Khalil, S. (2014, November). The Parents Refusing to Vaccinate Their Children Against Polio. BBC News. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from

  3. As someone who has been studying public health, I am also extremely irritated by the entire anti-vaccine campaign. The success of vaccines has been so vast that there is an ironic outcome that has come as a result: due to the fact that so few of the vaccinated diseases can be seen by the developed world, some people don’t seem to think they exist at all. The fact that smallpox and soon-to-be polio are eradicated can be attributed to vaccination campaigns.

    This causes problems not only for the children who aren’t vaccinated, but for the general population as diseases that were previously thought to no longer exist in the United States are re-emerging (

    There is also the ridiculous assumption that some vaccines may cause autism, a claim that has been refuted by a multitude of studies.

  4. Great topic! … Last summer I did research on vitamin K deficiency bleeding in infants and how the Vitamin K shot administered at birth can help prevent fatalities. It was interesting to read the views of expecting women and mothers who were on their 2nd, 3rd, 4th child. Some parents were all about vaccines, and had all the necessary shots given to their newborn before leaving the hospital, other parents had different views.
    I noticed that nowadays, a lot of parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children. Some of the reasons for not doing so were things like not wanting to cause the child pain so early in his/her life and wanting to be 100% organic and letting nature take its course from the very beginning.
    I was given all the necessary vaccines at birth, and like Ugochi mentioned, I plan to give my child/children all the necessary vaccines. I had not heard about the Vitamin K shot before the summer (it isn’t very popular) , and I don’t think I ever received it but now that I know about it and what it prevents I know that I will take advantage of that.
    This post also got me thinking about college applications and how you’re required to have certain vaccinations (Hepatitis, HPV, etcetera) to complete your application. Does this apply to people who do not believe in vaccines? or who have gone their entire lives without vaccinations?

    • I know that in the US there is paper work you can fill out for schools starting that your child has not been vaccinated for religious reasons or things of that nature since you are not allowed to enroll in public school without administering the appropriate vaccines. I actually hadn’t consider what not being vaccinated meant for college but I am sure you could do the same kind of thing. I do remember that some of my vaccines weren’t complete upon arriving here (I didn’t know until I was asked for vaccine records and some were missing) and they made me come in and get them, but I was in way opposed because like I said I am pro-vaccine, but I do wonder what might of happened had I refused.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *