Nobody should deny a 2-year-old a life-saving vaccination, but the other side is just scared

Moments after receiving news that her 2-year-old daughter, Emily, had a new kidney transplant in June, the Ashburn, Va., woman planned to exchange hugs and tears with the woman who donated her child’s life.

Now, as Emily continues to recover from the kidney transplant, Erin O’Toole is thinking hard about how the two women might behave. After meeting again, will the child, who endured a nine-hour surgery to her esophagus, mouth and abdomen, still be a happy child and a recipient of so much love?

“Will we be able to hug and kiss, not hug and eat, on both sides?” O’Toole asked in an interview with The Washington Post this week.

As Emily fights for her life, many questions linger for O’Toole and the rest of her family. Despite their past bitter fight with both family and medical bureaucracy over vaccinations, the family, among others, believes now that opting out of vaccines and having previously had a child with an adverse reaction, making the choice to have your child receive those shots again is the right decision.

However, they’re not celebrating. That is because Emily’s doctor says the vaccine against the brain-damaging but generally rare but deadly and easily preventable vaccine preventable disease, meningitis, is going to cost her life.

When there is no one to blame for the deaths of children brought on by vaccines, the previous official stance will stop being worth it — and the safety of a child’s life is something of more than an abstraction.

However, keeping Emily safe, protecting the other 7 million young children vaccinated each year and not “scaring away” other parents still presents a dilemma. The problem with scare tactics is that there is little reason to doubt safety of vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been leading the way in screening children and teens for conditions previously only found in adults, most notably with the measles vaccine. The implications of measles are different from those of other diseases.

Children have an incredibly low risk of dying from measles. Yet in the 2016-17 school year, about 10,000 kids were hospitalized with the disease. That risk of death continues to rise, requiring health care staff to be trained and money to be spent when something can be done to reduce harm.

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