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If only we'd had the vaccines in time...

If only we'd had the vaccines in time...

I'm a hospital pharmacist (now semi-retired) who has worked in pediatrics for many years, which means I've had to maintain a pretty good knowledge base on vaccines.

Whenever I'm in a conversation with patients or their parents, friends, or family members and the subject of vaccines comes up, I always take the opportunity to remind others of the benefits of vaccination, both for individuals and for our communities.

I have two stories I use in these conversations, from my own family.  My mother and I both had the misfortune of having infectious diseases which became vaccine preventable.  In the early 1920's, my mother had diphtheria, and she remembered it vividly as she was seven years old at the time.  It was a few years before the antitoxin became readily available.  Later, the vaccine was developed.  

Then, my mother had the unfortunate experience of looking after me when I had measles in 1964, not long before the MMR vaccine was developed.  I was also seven years old and also remember how sick I was, with the typical rash and dry cough, fevers high enough to cause delirium and frightening changes in depth perception, headache and severe photophobia.  Mom was convinced I had encephalitis, but at 14 days I started to recover and made it through unscathed.

If I speak to parents who are worried about adverse effects of, and doubtful about the benefits of MMR, I remind them of how contagious measles is, how it can easily be imported into our country and potentially cause outbreaks, and mention my own experience with measles and how I would not wish that on anyone, remembering how miserable I felt and how frightened I was (and my mother, too).  When my generation passes, firsthand experience with most vaccine-preventable diseases will be very rare, so I think it's important to pass on these stories.  My daughter, who went for her MMR's along with all her other vaccines, including HPV a few years ago, knows them and I hope will have the opportunity to keep them alive, as I did with her grandmother's experience.

Last modified: 
Oct 26, 2017

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