As John and I nurse our 2 year old son through a particularly nasty round of Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease, a viral infection for which there is no vaccine, I have an awful lot of feelings.
Firstly, it is horrible to watch my baby in this much pain. Adults who've gone through HFM say the pain is worse than shingles... and watching him, I fully believe that. He is currently half-asleep, moaning the saddest little moan, "Mommy? Daddy? Owwie. Hurt." over and over again. There is no comforting him. I can't pick him up, it hurts his blisters. I can rub his back, but that only comforts him for a moment. I can put a zinc oxide barrier cream on his bum, but he still winces every time I change him. (Really, they should call it Hand, Foot, Mouth and Bum... or in Remy's case, Hand, Foot, Mouth, Bum, Face, Arms, Legs, Belly because there seems to be no real boundary that these beastly blisters will not cross.) The Tylenol and Ibuprofen the doctor instructed we give him don't really do much but they bring his fever down below 103 F so that the chills and aches are a little less awful.
Secondly, I wish there were a vaccine for HFM, or more specifically, the various Coxsackie viruses that cause HFM. If there were, I'd get my kids vaccinated in a heartbeat. Then they'd *never* have to go through this, and I wouldn't be worried that their friends were at risk of picking it up from them. As it is, Remy's entire daycare is now on alert and there are such little babies there. I will worry each moment about them until we're in the clear again.
Thirdly, while dealing with this with my sweet son, I cannot help but be angry that people willfully choose not to vaccinate against the communicable diseases that we CAN prevent. We're blessed to have a healthy enough child that he should recover quickly... this time. If this were a more respiratory oriented illness, John and I would likely be sleeping in shifts and monitoring Remy's O2 sats and respiration. Why? Because he has a slightly more narrow than normal airway and any inflammation puts him at risk of low blood oxygen levels. He looks healthy! You'd never know he had somewhat problematic anatomy that puts him at risk! But every single day, and every single time he gets a sniffle, we worry that THIS could be the illness that lands him back in the hospital. There are thousands of kids just like him, and thousands more battling cancers, or autoimmune disorders, or with suppressed immune systems, and we ALL rely on the magic of community-immunity or "herd" immunity to keep our families safe.
I've heard all the arguments of course... I understand why people don't want to vaccinate. It actually has very little to do with science and everything to do with wanting to protect our children. My reasons for vaccinating, and those with reasons NOT to vaccinate are the same. It all boils down to a very basic, "I want to keep my kid safe." The problem isn't who is right or who is wrong anymore. The problem is now whether or not we will see these once nearly eradicated diseases make a devastating return. I hope, for the safety of us all, that we don't have to experience mass casualties in order to listen to peer-reviewed science and reason. I hope that we don't have to spend more time on the respiratory floor of a children's hospital. I hope other families don't have to spend time there either.