Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vaccinations And Spiritual Flu

A few years ago my mom gave a really great talk on "Spiritual Flu". In it she said that we can't quarantine our children from the evils of the world, but by helping them internalize the truths of the gospel we can immunize them so they will be far more able to resist evil when they come upon it. Alma tells us that teaching the gospel will have a more powerful effect on the minds of our children than the sword or anything else (see Alma 31:5). We need to teach our children (by word and example) so that they can develop the spiritual "antibodies" to resist wickedness.

Isn't my mom awesome? But besides that, she's a registered nurse and knows a whole lot of useful things about medicine. It is so handy! I can't count the number of times I've called her with some medical question or other. She's also practical. If we ever had a headache, the first question she would ask is, "Did you take something?" If we hadn't, she would send us off to take some Tylenol instead of listening to our complaining. She was a regular drug pusher. No need to suffer when something can be done about it, was her motto. When I got braces, she taught me how to swallow pills by rolling up little tiny balls of bread and having me practice swallowing them. She sneaked the ibuprofen in one of the little bread balls, and I got it down without a problem. From then on, taking medication was a snap.

But back to Spiritual Flu. The world seems to be getting so scary, I sometimes get really freaked out about sending Michael out there to fight off all the fiery darts of the adversary. But then I remember that David and I have the opportunity to immunize him against the evils of the world. If we do our absolute best to teach him the gospel, and if we do our absolute best at living it and showing him by our example what the gospel means to us, he'll be okay. There is no need for us to panic.

I have also been thinking about how this spiritual immunization parallels a current world situation. Doctors everywhere are getting concerned about the number of people who aren't vaccinating their children. In this day and age of too much access to crazy health information on the internet, belief in inaccurate reports of vaccines causing autism or other frightening side effects, and downright ignorance and stupidity, it seems many parents are foregoing the opportunity to protect their children against some awful diseases.

I honestly think part of the problem is that we have never seen what these diseases are like. We have never seen whooping cough or polio, or even measles or mumps. We have no idea of the devastation that can be caused by tetanus or diphtheria. And so we ignore the warnings of medical professionals, and we don't vaccinate our kids. After all, who gets these diseases anymore? Do we really need to make sure our kids get all these shots?

Frankly, this attitude scares the pants off me. Yesterday, my sister was telling me about a whooping cough outbreak in her daughter's school. It caused the death of two babies, who were not yet old enough to receive the vaccine. And how do you think those infants caught it? Well, their un-vaccinated friends or siblings brought it home! How scary!

I know of many pediatricians who will not treat children who haven't received their vaccinations. (And rightly so). It's simply too risky! They can't put other patients at risk because some parent thinks a polio vaccine is unnecessary for their own child. It's not one of those personal decisions that doesn't affect anyone else. One unvaccinated child can cause a whole lot of problems for a whole lot of people.

I really think the diseases that will sweep through and destroy a bunch of people in these last days are not going to be new-fangled bugs we haven't yet discovered. I think we are going to be wiped out by outbreaks of measles or pertussis, or diphtheria. We'll be killed by our own stupidity and our inability to listen to the warnings.

Which brings me back to Spiritual Flu. Prophets have told us, I don't know, about a billion times, to have Family Prayer, Family Scripture Study, and Family Home Evening. Why do you think they keep telling us this? Because it will help inoculate our children against the evils in the world! And yet, we still aren't doing it. Because we don't think it's important, because we don't think it will help anything, who knows? But when the fiery darts of the adversary manage to spiritually kill our children, won't we feel horrible for not having protected them by doing everything we could to immunize them?

And as long as we're spiritually immunizing, why not physically immunize as well? We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.


Megan B said...

#1, Your mom totally cracks me up and that talk sounds awesome.

#2, The immunization debate is a very bold posting topic, one I've not been brave enough to tackle myself on my own blog. I fear vaccinations. But we still get them. I don't think they are 100% safe, so I insist that Justin give them a blessing before each and every immunization. I feel the benefits to getting them outweigh the risks.

I used to feel like "to each his own" on the whole immunization debate until a non-vaccinated visitor brought a creepy and totally preventable disease into our home and exposed my infant to it, before the baby was old enough to get immunized. Granted, the icky disease wasn't a deadly one and nothing even happened at our house (to my shock and relief), but it really gave me pause to think, but what if it HAD been something more serious??? Is it right for them to take away MY choice about immunizations??? I formed a pretty strong opinion at that point. Then again, my sister doesn't immunize and it's not like we'll never play with them, but it's still a tough and sensitive topic for me, especially when I have tiny babies.

Evil HR Lady said...

This is a brilliant post. I need to make sure my children are immunized against both spiritual and physical diseases.

fiona said...

That is a great analogy, I love it!

And yeah, way to tackle a hot-button topic! One I have mixed feelings about, too. I agree that kiddos need vaccinations, but I do think that so many so early in life like the CDC recommends can overwhelm or adversely affect the rapidly developing brains of some children. Obviously not all, or even the majority, but some. There is enough evidence and studies out there to make me want to delay certain vaccinations for my children and spread them out when possible (which, incidentally, we couldn't really, b/c we needed to be medically cleared to go overseas, and actually going overseas makes me more prone to get the vaccinations anyway, since who knows what they could end up exposed to, but if we were staying in the US, I would delay a bit). We actually have delayed MMR and plan on getting that when they're 2. We also have Z give them blessings before immunizations :)

Anyway, those who don't vaccinate on the CDC schedule aren't always crazy or ignorant, often they have researched and are doing what they think is best for their children, but hopefully they will be more cautious about who they expose their children to, when choosing that route. I def think children should be vaccinated at least by the time they start school, as the growing #s of unvaccinated children will leave gaps for diseases (like that sad pertussis example) to reach the more susceptible.

Eesh, what is it with me and long comments?? Good post, Bonnie.

just wondering said...

So for the people who don't vaccinate, do they think that the whole world shouldn't vaccinate or that just their kids shouldn't have to risk it (but will be ok since everyone else took the risk for them)?

Bonnie said...

That is the thing that scares me - if you don't vaccinate your child, you are not just risking your child. You are risking my child! And there is really no way you can control who your child is exposed to. It's a real community health issue.

And Just Wondering, I think you have a great point. I doubt there are many parents out there who think no one should vaccinate. They hope everyone else will, and thus the herd immunity will protect their child as well.

The risk posed by vaccines is actually much, much lower than you think. There is no need to stress and fret about getting them. I count vaccinations as one of the great scientific discoveries revealed by God. I can't imagine our pioneer ancestors would tell us, hey, you have a way to prevent your child from dying from these common diseases (that half of their children died from)? Well, the preventative measure carries a small risk, so don't do it. No way! They would be thrilled and grateful beyond belief to have the shots!

There are risks to everything, even taking tylenol. The thing with vaccinations is that the benefits FAR outweigh the risks, which are definitely small.

Ah, nothing more fun than stirring the pot. Who else wants to jump in?

Anonymous said...

Just look at Abigail Adams. She had her children vaccinated against small pox during the Revolutionary War despite the huge risk. Now the risks are minor!

I love that we can be vaccinated, that I don't have to worry about getting tetanus, or measles, that my kids don't even know what it is like to have chicken pox!

When I was in high school we had a huge measles outbreak because some of the kids weren't immunized, it caused all sorts of problems, and those that had actually been immunized were put in danger due to those that didn't want to take the risks.

In my view, not immunizing your children (or yourself) is an incredibly selfish act. You are letting your fears negatively affect the entire community. If you are not immunized you are putting my children and me in danger.

fiona said...

Okay, I'm in again. hopefully shorter this time... ;) First, I just want to clarify that I do NOT think vaccinations are bad, but I DO think too many are given too early. I am a proponent of delayed/more spread out vaccinations. Just wanted to clear that up.

Yes, the risk is very low of a child having some neurological disorder (ND) triggered by a vaccination, but if that one child is mine, and I can lower the risk even more by waiting a few months until his or her little brain is more developed and by not all at once loading his system with vaccines, then I would do it. And you're right, the connection between vaccinations and NDs hasn't been conclusively proven, but there is enough evidence to indicate to me that they are linked in many cases. It hasn't been conclusively disproven, in other words.

When we decided we would like to delay or stagger certain vaccines, we never once thought "oh our kids will be safe b/c everyone else's kids are vaccinated." That really is a selfish view, and makes for too many weak links in the community immunity (that rhymes ;) We only made informed decisions from the information we researched to decide what would be best for our little guys. Which, I do want to point out again, was just to push back and spread out some vaccinations, not send them out into the world as cute little vessels to spread disease.

I guess I do "stress and fret" about them, because vaccines contain neurotoxic ingredients and I, like any mother, would be devastated to have my child be the one out of many that was affected by them. So, in summary, my opinion is: the benefits do outweigh the risks, and that's why we vaccinate. It is truly a blessing to have them available in this day, but I think they could be administered in a safer manner. Doctors aren't ALWAYS right! Remember when leeches were a preferred medical procedure? ;)

(okay, so that was NOT a shorter comment...)

fiona said...

p.s. Yes, me again! I just wanted to say that I do not think spiritual immunizing should be delayed at all! In case there was confusion ;P

Bonnie said...

Good points, Fiona. I am not saying people should blindly do whatever their doctors tell them. You are very right that doctors don't know everything. I'm not opposed to parents staggering the vaccines to make sure their kids little systems aren't overwhelmed (and to make sure there aren't severe reactions). And parents should definitely research and make informed decisions about the care of their children. What I am worried about is people who forego vaccines altogether, or who avoid certain vaccines out of an irrational fear, or because they have read some inaccurate information somewhere that scared them.

I love a lively discussion!

fiona said...


(How's THAT for a short comment? almost makes up for the others?? ;)

Sara said...

I'm in the exact same boat as Fiona. We chose, after doing extensive research, to stagger Woodstock's vaccinations - and, believe it or not, it was with the support of our pediatrician (who said, "this is what I'm supposed to tell you..." and "this is what I'd do for my own child..." when I asked her opinion).

Sadly, I know of MANY people (as in 20 or so) who vehemently disagree with vaccination and wholeheartedly believe NO ONE should vaccinate. I too worry about what they'll spread to my kid. :(

There is no perfect answer, because I also believe that parents should research and make a choice based on what they feel is in the best interest of their family - unfortunately, in cases like this, it is a public health issue.

A complete catch-22.

Anonymous said...

RE: Sarah

You really have a child named Woodstock?

Bonnie said...

Ha! Woodstock is an internet code name, so she doesn't have to reveal the actual name of her child.

Anonymous said...

That is what I was hoping, because a child named Woodstock has a lot more to worry about than vaccinations.

Sara said...

LOL. Yes, could you imagine? The poor kid would need years of psychotherapy. :)

I spend 95% of my work time online doing marketing, so it's the only way to keep "personal life" and "public work life" separate.

GREAT post though Bonnie. I always love reading your posts!