Nine years is long enough to accomplish something really good.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes? Ten years. Einstein’s theory of general relativity? Eight years. The moon landing? Eight years. U2 when they were good (1983-1991)? Eight years.

Nine years is also the length of time it took to convert me from a vaccine skeptic to a vaccine believer.

Nine years separates my eldest from my youngest. My eldest was born at the height of the vaccine skepticism (and Jenny McCarthy’s stint as a leading medical expert).

Also fueling my vaccine skepticism was a terrible experience my husband had shortly before she was born. One of his arms was paralyzed for about a week after receiving three vaccinations in the arm.

So how did my vaccine skepticism manifest itself? I read everything a non-medical type could understand on vaccines and compromised with an alternative vaccine schedule for my eldest three (i.e., spacing out vaccinations over multiple appointments rather than administering them four or five at a time).

Before you ask, yes, they are all fully vaccinated. I said I was a vaccine skeptic not a vaccine refusnik.

By my fourth kid, the vaccine debate had swung the other direction. Anti-vaxxers went from being viewed as concerned parents to a public menace.

And I vaccinated my youngest according to the CDC schedule.

With all of the stories in the news about a “measles crisis,” I did a little research on what the current measles vaccination rates are and what the law is on refusing to vaccinate your kids.

The answers were surprising.

Surprise number one? Measles vaccination rates have been stable for many years.

Like really stable.

According to the CDC, in 2017, 91.5 percent of kids under 3 had received their first dose of the MMR vaccine. In 2014, the rate was also 91.5 percent. 2010? Again 91.5 percent. And 2005, the year my eldest daughter was born and celebrity anti-vaccine activism was at its height? You guessed it, 91.5 percent.

In fact, the percentage of American 3-year olds who have received their first MMR vaccine has remained steady for the last 25 years.

Despite the wildly disparate coverage of the safety of vaccines over the last 25 years, the actual number of kids receiving the measles vaccines hasn’t changed. While not perfect, we’ve been pretty darn close to “herd immunity” vaccination rate of 93 to 95 percent for a pretty long time.

Surprise number two? Despite every daycare, school, and camp requiring kids to be vaccinated, there are still plenty of ways for parents to get out of vaccinating their kids.

There are always going to be children who can’t receive the vaccine for medical reasons (hence the need for “herd immunity”). Every state has an exemption for medical reasons.

So what about the rest?

Some are taking advantage of religious and philosophical exemptions. Almost all states grant religious exemptions for people who have religious beliefs against immunizations. Also, 17 states (including Texas) allow philosophical exemptions for those who object to immunizations because of personal, moral or other beliefs.

In Texas, it’s a relatively simple process. You request an affidavit form, check the boxes of which vaccines you object to, and sign the form and have it notarized.

You know what’s missing on the form? Your reason for objecting to the vaccine(s). This is what I found most surprising.

I’m not looking to get into a debate on the merits of the personal belief exemption. Seriously, do not try to engage me on this one–I am not going to take the bait. But I think some (maybe many?) of you will agree is you should at least be required to give a reason.

I’m not a medical type or any sort of expert on vaccines, but it seems to me that if the goal is increasing vaccination rates, we should have some inkling of why people are refusing them (so we can address those reasons).

If you want to disregard generally accepted medical advice of vaccines, putting your kids and other kids at risk, shouldn’t you at least be required to give your reason why (and stand by it)?

What say you? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Copyright © 2019 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

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