To Immunize or Not to Immunize: One Mom Explores the Question

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As Bethany Sexton, mother, wife and Renown Health System vice president, prepared for the birth of her third child last year, she shared her thoughts on one of the bigger decisions she’ll make as a parent of a newborn: Immunizations.

As I drew closer and closer to the birth of my third child, there were a lot of choices that crossed my mind:  Am I going to use pain meds during labor? (A resounding, yes!) Will I breastfeed?  (Yes, if all goes according to plan.) Should we immunize our baby in the hospital and in the days following her birth? 

While my answer to this question seems very straightforward to me, I have come to recognize that for others, the decision to immunize may not be so simple. 

Over the past year, I have been keenly following the debate around the immunization of children, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I recently joined the board of Immunize Nevada. Being the type of person that relishes facts and data, I decided to do a little digging to better understand the big picture. 

What I learned was startling. 

Here is a breakdown of Global Immunization Data:

The total number of children globally who died from diseases preventable by vaccines currently recommended by World Health Organization (WHO): 1.5 million annually.

Of those 1.5 million annual global deaths, the following are the number of children who have died from diseases we currently have vaccinations for in the U.S.:

  • Pneumococcal disease: 476,000
  • Rotavirus: 453,000
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib): 199,000
  • Pertussis: 195,000
  • Measles: 118,000
  • Neonatal tetanus: 59,000
  • Tetanus (non-neonatal): 2,000

Continued Struggle: Choosing to Vaccinate

As a mother, my heart breaks thinking about the number of families worldwide impacted by diseases we don’t tend to see on a large-scale in the U.S. But through my research, I also learned we are in a better place globally today than ever before. 

The simple truth of the matter: Immunization prevents disease and has decreased deaths by the millions over the past three decades. 

As parents, we make so many different decisions in the name of our children. And with that, comes uncertainty, doubt and anxiety. Are we making the right decisions each day? Is it in the best interest of our children? Will our decisions help them grow into strong, healthy and thriving adults? 

Choosing to immunize is one of those unknown factors in life. It doesn’t matter if all the data in the world demonstrates the effectiveness of getting your children vaccinated, if you have heard even one scary story about a negative impact stemming from immunizations, fear can take over. 

Each parents feels the great weight of the choices we make for our children each day and choosing to immunize is no different. For me, I have to put the choice in perspective. Not only am I making the choice for my child; I am making a choice that protects others in the community as well. 

In our lifetime, we have not seen the impact of communicable diseases in this country. But I look at the numbers worldwide and realize if I hadn’t been so lucky to be born in the U.S., and have the ability to raise my family here, I might face a very different reality. 

Even having vaccines available to accept or not is a very privileged problem to have.

Given all the data, the uncertainty and the unknown, I chose to control any fear I may have about immunizations and decided to immunize my newborn daughter and will continue to wholeheartedly immunize my other children.

Bethany Sexton familyAbout the Author
Bethany Sexton, wife and mother of three young children, joined Renown Health in 2014 and is vice president of strategic initiatives. She has been recognized by the Puget Sound Business Examiner as a 40 Under Forty honoree, has led her teams to be recognized nationally for high performance by the Healthcare Financial Management Association and completed the 2004 Ironman Canada with her brother. In her spare time, Bethany enjoys heading into the great outdoors, photography, painting and sketching, and watching her kids explore the world around them. In January 2013, Bethany’s brother was diagnosed with gastric cancer, which claimed his life nine months later. This experience, along with the birth of her second child that same year, caused her to re-examine many aspects of work, family life and her true passions. It was this process that lead her and her family back to Reno from Tacoma, Wash., to be close to her sister-in-law, niece and nephew. She feels compelled to share her new-found insights on seeking life passions and living an authentic life.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this very important article. As a new mother, I appreciate the emphasis on not only protecting the individual child but keeping others in our community safe. With a child less than 1 and not yet having certain vaccinations, those who don't vaccinate put her at risk every day.
  2. It is so important to immunize children. Friends of mine have torn the ingredient lists of vaccines apart and scoffed at some of the (miniscule amounts) of animal by-product ingredients etc., saying how terrible those ingredients are for their children. I feel that those tiny amounts of ingredients couldn't cause 1/10 of the harm that the diseases the vaccines are preventing cause.

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