Monday, February 16, 2015

Measles: What Else is There to Say?

I have been trying not to get into the vaccine debate, mainly because I have friends who choose not to vaccinate their children, and whether I agree with them or not, I do respect and love them.

This used to be the only protection against measles.
I'm still hesitant to post this: I mean, there's already enough blogs on the subject, aren't there? Why should I post this and risk further alienating those who disagree with me? (I say further, because for the first time tonight I did speak up on a friend's post, and I was torn about whether to do that or not, too.) What more can I possibly add to the ever-mounting din of measles and vaccination debate?

Not much, I suppose. Except this.

I suspect most parents my age or younger have no real concept of measles. The first measles vaccines were around in the 1960s. In 2000, the year before my oldest child was born, measles was essentially eradicated in North America. Most of us have never seen a person with measles. Up until the glut of news coverage lately, I would imagine that most of us thought of measles as similar to chicken pox: a fever, some spots... just another childhood disease to check off the list in the baby book.

But it's not. Yes, it was once a common childhood disease that almost everyone got. But it was also the most lethal one. In the years leading up to the 1963 introduction of the measles vaccine nearly everyone got measles at one time in their life. According to the CDC, 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 people were infected each year, and approximately 400-500 of those would die. Another 4,000 were affected by encephalitis (swelling of the brain that could lead to permanent mental impairment.)

And it nearly killed me.

I was 11 months old, according to my mom (I obviously don't remember the details) and too young to be vaccinated. Mom says she's put a lot of the details out of her mind, which is understandable, I think, but basically she just remembers giving me alcohol baths, and praying that my fever would come down, because there really wasn't anything else she could do.

I can't imagine going through that with one of my children. I went through a life-threatening illness with my husband last year, and that was one of the most traumatic things I've been through in my entire life. If it had been one of my children, I don't know how I would have coped.
Roald Dahl dedicated his book, "The BFG" to his daughter, Olivia,
who died at the age of 7, after complications from measles.

The mistrust I see in my generation - of the political system, of capitalism (or socialism, in some cases), of "Big Pharma" - it's a systemic problem that isn't going to be cured overnight. There's no vaccine for it. This measles outbreak may convince a few anti-vax parents to vaccinate, but most of them, like my friends, will just dig their heels in even further. They will be even more convinced of the conspiracy behind vaccination. It won't matter to them that their children are more likely to be killed in a shark attack than they are to be injured by a vaccine. They are more likely to be struck by lightning.

It's true: you don't know that your child won't be the 1 in 10,000,000 to die from a vaccine complication. You also don't know that they won't have a reaction to peanuts, or eggs, or Tylenol, or any other number of things.

No matter how much we want to, we can't protect our children from everything.

You know what we can protect them from?


Friday, February 13, 2015

Dear Justin: A Response to Your Fundraising Emails

Dear Justin,

I got your email today. And the one from a Toronto MP. I got one from your wife a day or so ago. Oh, and the ones from the National Party Director and the Senior Director of Fundraising. Each and every one has made me feel very special that I'm worthy of so much attention that you'd send me at least one per day.  I mean, you guys have so much to do - how on earth do you find time to send me so many emails???

I especially like the ones where you remind me that I haven't yet donated to the Liberal party. Seeing that $0 is an excellent reminder of my negligence.

But here's the thing: as much as I'd like to donate, I'd also like to ensure that there's food on the table for my kids, and maybe even manage the mortgage payment, to keep the house where that table sits. And right now, that's a bit of a challenge.

You see, back at the end of October, my husband's company decided that they no longer needed an IT department in Canada at all. They were just going to run everything remotely from the US. (That was almost as good as when the company he was working for decided that they could outsource all of their tech support to India.) So my husband was laid off from his job. That was challenging, but since I still had a pretty decent job, we knew we could manage if we cut back a bit. Sorry, but the political donations had to be one of those cutbacks.

Then last week, my company decided that my job wasn't really necessary, either, and I was laid off. That kind of stung.

So now, here we are: two university-educated, middle class parents of four children, without a single employed person in the house. One person working and one on EI was a stretch. Two parents both on EI will be a disaster.

It's likely that at least one of us will find work before my small severance package runs out, and we'll be okay. We're pretty resourceful, when it comes right down to it. But I have to say, I'm getting really tired of the constant uncertainty of our lives. I'm tired of food prices going up and up, and housing prices continuing to rise, and insane utility bills, and car insurance that was supposed to go down, but instead just keeps on heading north. I'm tired of all of this happening while people like us struggle to provide a comfortable, secure life for their kids, and people like the boss who just laid me off have three vacation homes. I'm tired of people not caring what happens to everyone else, as long as they get what they want out of life. I'm not asking to be rich: all I want is to pay my bills, keep my house, and maybe someday go on a vacation (it's been seventeen years, so I'm pretty sure our family is due for one soon.) I'd like to know that someday I'll be able to retire and not have to live on cat food. I have no need for three vacation homes.

Is that really so much to ask?

It probably seems like I'm just picking on you, Justin, and for that I'm sorry. The truth is, just before I was laid off I actually did join your party, because I do believe that at the core of it you do have our country's best interests at heart, and I sure don't want to see the Conservatives elected again. But once my family is back on its feet, if I'm going to support you financially, I just want to know that you actually intend to do something about all of this, and that you really do want to see the return of the middle class.

And another thing: in the last election, the Liberals couldn't even be bothered to have a candidate in Oshawa who was actually FROM Oshawa. Instead, they chose this guy as their candidate. Which, to my way of thinking was their way of saying that they knew there wasn't a hope of unseating Colin Carrie, so why bother. If you're expecting support from me, do you think you could at least get a real Oshawa resident as a candidate this time?

Thank you for your time. I'm afraid I won't be able to keep up our daily correspondence. I have resumes to send out.

Cynthia Hill
Oshawa, ON