Pondering the Pox

As a child I was not immunized for anything growing up, my mother said she believed that it was not a good idea and firmly believed that I never contracted the chicken pox virus as so many other children did, because my immune system was stronger. I don’t know that much about immunizations, I’m not really sure the good outweighs the bad, neither am I convinced that innoculations are the big bad enemy they are accused of being either.  In any event, as a rebellioous teenager, I decided that if my mother believed immunizations were bad, they MUST be good! So I went to my Dr and was updated on the shots I was able to receive at that time. Right or wrong? I’m still not sure.

Fast forward 10 years, to find me sitting in the pediatricians office with a newborn trying to decide if my mother was right all along or if this medical Dr whom I trusted implicitly was right, as he counted the reasons that immunizations were a necessary step to maintaining good health and reminding me that the widespread immunizations were the reason that diseases like Polio and Measles no longer took the lives of small children en masse. Good point. So I had my son vaccinated for all the long-tested diseases, MMR, DPTP and HiB. Right or wrong? I’m still not sure. 

I did not however, choose to give my child the optional, newer immunizations for meningitis, chicken pox and PCV. I wasn’t yet passionate in my view of immunizations, however since Canada has comprehensive healthcare, I figured if we really needed it, the government would probably be funding the shots. Since they weren’t, I figured why bother? Right or wrong? I’m still not sure.

Fast Forward again 5 years to find me sitting in the pediatricians office again with my daughter getting her check up and shots, and my Dr suggesting the now-funded chicken pox vaccine for both my children. Hmm. What to do? Never having had chicken pox as a child (neither had my husband) and never personally hearing of anyone dying from the disease, I was fairly certain that this childhood disease was not that big a deal. However I was frightened to read the statistics of the increased numbers of children having complications resulting in hospitalization and increasingly in Varicella related fatalities. I didn’t know what to do, what happened to the decree that “no one ever died from a little chicken pox”? Apparently that didn’t hold true anymore, but my Dr assured me that he absolutely favoured the immunization and had in fact administered it to all 4 of his own children.

I generally trust my Dr’s and medical professionals in general, I sort have the opposite to “white coat syndrome”, I am usually quite confident in the man in the white coat. That said, this Dr is special, having been in the delivery room with me when my son was born and stood beside the incubator with me for 15 days while I cried at the news I would have to leave him in the hospital for yet another day, I felt a special bond with this Dr. I trust him, completely. I believe he saved my son’s life with wise medical care and not giving in to the emotional please of a heartbroken new mother to just be allowed to take her baby home.  All that is to say that when this Dr encouraged me to vaccinate and I could think of no significant reason to disagree, I went ahead and go both children vaccinated for chicken pox. Right or wrong? I’m still not sure.

Bear with me as we fast forward 2 more years to this past Christmas when my husband came down with a nasty case of the Chicken Pox. Really. He’s 37 years old and he never contracted it as a child either. Honestly I have never met anyone other than he and I who made it to adulthood unscathed by the varicella virus, what an interesting coincidence that we would find each other. Imagine my surprise when, exactly 20 days after he came down with the “pox”, I found my first spots! Never in my life could I have imagined the uncomfortable, painful, icky experience of chicken pox as an adult. I have heard off-handed references to adult chicken pox being “worse” than when you are a child, but that is the understatement of the century!

In any case, I have checked my children every day for the last month to see if they have, despite being vaccinated, actually contracted the chicken pox from us. To be honest I am not one to avoid cuddling and kissing even when one of us is sick 😉  So far I see no signs of infection and I truly hope that they stay healthy because, frankly I have had enough of spots, and itching, calamine lotion and oatmeal baths!

So I guess in the end, I still haven’t decided how I feel about all the different vaccinations out there. I’m confident that the time-tested vaccines are an important part of our healthcare, and all the newer ones I will have to evaluate on an individual basis. In retrospect getting both kids vaccinated for Chicken Pox might turn out to have been an excellent choice after all, can you imagine all four of us getting sick at the same time?

However there is a small voice I hear at the back of my mind that sounds a lot like my mother, telling me that the only reason I eventually succumbed to Chicken Pox is because I caved and got vaccinated as a teenager. Maybe I really did have a stronger immune system before, maybe not. Was the decision right or wrong? Hmmmmm I’m still not sure.

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