One of the perks of networking among diverse groups is the interesting discussions it leads to. I was at an all-women networking group recently and talk turned to vaccination. There was an alternative medical practitioner who expressed that she was not in favour of it. A young lady who’d brought her toddler along chimed in to say that she hadn’t vaccinated either of her kids and it was a decision she was going to stick to. I could not help but tell them how strongly I disagreed with them and that no amount of love for one’s child ever made it right for them to put other children’s lives at risk.
The conversation made me recall my maternal grandmother who died of tetanus. I had not known the exact details of her demise as my mother was just four when she was bereaved. Much later, my uncle who was nine at that time filled me in on the horrific circumstances that caused her death. My grandmother was in her early twenties/early thirties, pregnant with her sixth child and had gone to the hospital for an abortion. Her husband was too miserly (my uncle claimed) to pay for private health care and she ended up on a government-run hospital bed. This is how my uncle described what he saw there, “One evening, I found that that they had inserted a small piece of wood covered with a bandage cloth between her teeth and she was having severe spasms. Her whole back would bend like a bow. My aunts quickly took me outside and told me that my mother had developed lockjaw and tetanus. The piece of wood was to prevent her from biting her tongue off and also to feed her.They told me that it was ok and that she would be cured quickly. Next day, when I went with my tiffin carrier, her bed was empty and some nurse told that she had gone.”
My grandmother would have lived longer if only she had been vaccinated against tetanus, a close friend would not have developed a limp if he had had polio vaccination, my neighbour in India would not be suffering extreme degenerating disability due to polio if she had been vaccinated against polio…the instances of suffering and loss are too many to recount here.
Mums don’t always know best. We are not experts in preventative medicines. We are experts at knowing how to calm our children after a turbulent day at school, we are unparalleled in cooking their favourite dinners but do we really know better than established science when it comes to vaccination? I think not.
(here’s a short documentary I made about my grandmother)