The vaccine debate tends to bring out fighting words from both sides. For many parents, their choice to vaccinate or not is based on beliefs; for others, it’s a matter of life or death. Atlanta mom Camille Echols, mom to 11-year-old Ashley, recently went viral for sharing her daughter’s story, and now she’s the latest voice to shout across the internet world that we need to vaccinate our kids.

As Camille addresses in her post, many kids are not fully vaccinated, but this is not by choice. Ashley, for example, did not receive the full does of the chicken pox vaccine as a young child because she had a kidney transplant at two years old. Camille explains, “She got one varicella vaccine but couldn’t get the second because she was immunosuppressed and instead of developing immunity, she would have contracted the virus.” 

But then, at 11 years old, Ashley was exposed to the chicken pox virus, and had to be immediately rushed to the ER. Camille goes on to say that Ashley was “getting lab work, injections of immunoglobulin and then we have to wait to see what the infectious disease doctor says. The incubation period of chicken pox is 7-21 days. So even with all we are doing, she could still become sick in the next 3 weeks. And that would mean an automatic admission to the hospital for IV antiviral meds. She could become very, very sick from this.”

If you’re an 80s kid like me, you likely had chicken pox as a child. I still have a few scars from picking at those suckers. And the standard mom response (that my mom followed) was when one kid brought it home, let her share a drink and sleep next to the other so that both kids contract the disease. Get it over with. Good. Done. So why is chicken pox a huge deal in 2017? Why are kids vaccinated for it and what happens to a kid like Ashley if she’s exposed?

Well, first of all, turns out chicken pox was more serious than our parents knew back in the Madonna Like a Prayer days. The rash can spread to and damage the eyes, it can cause a secondary bacterial infection, and it can be especially harmful to people with weak immune systems or to pregnant women. If a woman did not contract the disease as a child, she can get it while pregnant and her baby could be at risk for “poor growth, small head size, eye problems, and/or intellectual disabilities.” So now all of a sudden the vaccine makes sense.

In Ashley’s case, her body developed resistance to vaccines as a result of her transplant, so rather than preventing the illness, the vaccine could have caused her to contract chicken pox. This is why we need to vaccinate our kids. We aren’t just protecting them. We are protecting all of the kids they are around. And if you are of the mindset of “I only care about my own kid, not everyone else’s”, and you’re buying into the “vaccines are dangerous” theory, you probably haven’t had to rush your child with a weakened immune system to the ER. Or had an infectious disease while pregnant that could harm your baby. Because if you did, you would realize the truth: We need vaccines. They save the lives of our babies and other people’s babies. If your baby was ever at risk, you would be praying that the rest of us do our part to keep her safe. Well, that’s the reality for moms like Camille. 

Camille also responds to the “you should educate yourself” comment she often hears from anti-vaxxers with this: “I am a pediatric RN with over 10 years’ experience in transplant and chronic illness populations. I have had extensive education regarding vaccinations. I would not post about something I was ignorant about.” And she’s living the reality of having a daughter with a compromised immune system. So yeah, she probably knows a thing or two.

And honestly, if you’re not vaccinating your kids, you should educate yourself. Do you want to go back a hundred years to when kids were contracting polio and measles? I don’t either. I’m pretty thankful my kids get to grow up with the benefits 21st century modern medicine has to offer. Vaccinate. Please.


Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson is a freelance writer who is known on social media as The 21st Century SAHM. She is an assistant editor at Sammiches and Psych Meds, staff writer and social media manager for Scary Mommy, and is the author of I Brushed My Hair Today, A Mom Journal for Mostly Together Moms. Follow Karen on Facebook, Twitter , and Instagram