Yep, I'm going there. When people talk to me about the things I'm passionate about I may come off as a rather granola mom: we're gluten free, we don't do preservatives, I use organic foods whenever I can, I grow my own food when I can, we don't spank, we send our kids to Montessori school, etc. While I may have some hippie tendencies, I'm kinda old fashioned with vaccines. That means I think we need them and should keep them up to date. And here's why...

First, the history of vaccines...

Vaccination, or more accurately: inoculation, first started popping up as early as the 10th century in India and China. The process back then involved scraping the sores or some form of infectious goo (for lack of a better term) from a sick person and then applying it directly to an open cut on a healthy person's body. This introduced the bacterium to the blood stream, hopefully in a controlled and mild way, and helped to bring about immunity to the disease. In many cases, however, this proved fatal or completely ineffective. Then came the father of modern vaccines... Dr. Edward Jenner.

Sometime during the 1770s Dr. Jenner heard a milkmaid boast that she would never have the often-fatal or disfiguring disease smallpox, because she had already had cowpox, which has a very mild effect in humans. In 1796, Jenner took pus from the hand of a milkmaid with cowpox and inoculated an 8-year-old boy, James Phipps, with it. Jenner inoculated Phipps in both arms that day, subsequently producing in Phipps a fever and some uneasiness, but no full-blown infection. Later, he injected Phipps with variolous material, the routine method of immunization at that time. No disease followed. The boy was later challenged with variolous material and again showed no sign of infection. And thus, modern vaccination was born...

How do they work?

It's actually kinda simple.
Pretty frickin' cool, eh? Now, the part that's getting us all into trouble is the re-vaccination bit. People seem to think that one vaccine means they're set for life. Nope. You need to get your boosters updated every 10 years.

But then people say silly things like, "I'm not a kid any more, I don't need to worry about mumps or whooping cough!" and then they go and get whooping cough and pass it on to their kids. This is how the disease mutates and spreads. Pertussis (whooping cough) is a really, really scary disease. Most people don't realize how serious this disease is. According to 92% of the pertussis deaths occur in infants under four months of age. Can you imagine your four month old baby making this sound? That is the sound of a child who genuinely cannot breathe. And it could be prevented with a simple vaccine.

Yea, yea. That's what they make antibiotics for!

Ever heard of MRSA (methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus)? How about the new one USA300? We have bombarded our systems with so many antibiotics and so often that the bugs are immune to them now. Antibiotics have their place in medicine, lord knows I've used (and needed!) my share of antibiotics. But we can't pull out this card for every cough and sniffle which is what's we've done. People say the reason that the infant and juvenile mortality rates from disease have gone down is because we're cleaner now and we know how to treat illnesses better. I have one word for you: Smallpox.

The earliest credible clinical evidence of smallpox is found in the Egyptian mummy of Ramses V who died over 3000 years ago (1145 BC). That's how long we, the human race, battled the disease. Smallpox has since been eradicated from the face of the earth through dedicated vaccination campaigns. The only place smallpox now exists is in test tubes. Two-year old Rahima Banu of Bangladesh was the last person infected with naturally occurring Variola major (smallpox), in 1975.

Need more proof? Polio. A number of eradication milestones have already been reached, and several regions of the world have been certified polio-free. The Americas were declared polio-free in 1994.

The Americas were declared polio-free in 1994.

In 2000 polio was officially eliminated in 36 Western Pacific countries, including China and Australia. Europe was declared polio-free in 2002. As of 2012, polio remains endemic in only three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, although it continues to cause epidemics in other nearby countries due to hidden or reestablished transmission. We could do it. We could erase pertussis from the face of the earth. We just need to do it.

But...what about the kids with reactions or who can't get vaccinated?

Those kids are the exact reason why everyone else SHOULD get vaccinated. Those kids can't get the protection they need. I gave birth to my son and the next day I demanded I get my TDaP booster. I was not going home without some sort of protection for my son. I can understand the catch 22 that so many parents find themselves in: I don't want to hurt my baby. Some go the way of "playing it safe" and don't vaccinate. And others go the way of "playing it safe" and DO vaccinate. What's best for your kid? I haven't the foggiest. What was best for MY kids was to vaccinate them. I don't believe the hype that vaccines cause autism. Even the Amish have cases of autism and they don't get vaccines. I don't believe there are too many vaccines in the current schedule. Yea, there are more in the schedule than when we were kids because they didn't frickin' EXIST when we were kids! If you get your kids no other vaccines, please PLEASE just get them their DTaP: diphtheria, tetanus, and a cellular pertussis. These diseases are more than just "childhood illnesses": they can, and do, kill children every day. So maybe, if you don't get kids vaccinated, you should vaccinate yourself. Offer them some modicum of protection. The vaccines work, people. You just have to use them.