Mr. Vaccine needs a vaccine

I always took vaccines for granted. They were just part of life, something you did to keep your kids safe, like strapping them into a bike helmet or seatbelt. But when one of my twins, barely out of infancy, was diagnosed with a very rare pediatric lung disease and put on oxygen 24/7, it became clear just how vulnerable he was, and just how damaging an illness could be to his already compromised immune system. This fear was compounded by the fact that we had to postpone the MMR due to this underlying illness.

We worried what measles could do to our son.

Fun fact: our son was diagnosed with autism before getting the MMR. Take that, Andy Wakefield!

Anyway. Because I have an autistic son, and a lot of people like to demonize both autism and vaccines by saying the former is due to the latter, and the latter is worse than dying from a preventable childhood disease, I became stridently pro-vaccine. Yes, I know there are risks. But the societal benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh them. Hey, sometimes a seatbelt does more harm than good, but you’re still going to buckle your kid up, right?

U.S. measles cases by year. (Source: CDC)

Although mealses was declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, thanks to anti-vax misinformation campaigns, it’s making a healthy little comeback; as of this writing, the CDC reports 839 cases in 23 states. In Brooklyn where we live, there have been 466 cases so far this year; dozens of these cases resulted in hospitalizations, some in critical condition. (And don’t get me started on places like Madagascar, with over 118K measles cases and almost 1,700 deaths so far in 2019.)

So you can imagine my surprise when I learned last week that I needed to get the measles vaccine. Yup, Mr. Vaccine needs to get a childhood immunization.

How’d this happen? Unclear. I recently read that people born in the 60s and 70s should get their titers checked. Sometimes our parents forgot to get us immunized (damned latchkey generation); sometimes immunizations—particularly older ones—fail to confer lifelong immunity. Whatever the case, it seemed like good advice.

So, off to the doctor I went.

“I’m sure you’re fine,” she said, somewhat skeptically.

“Just to be safe,” I replied cheerily.

Blood was drawn, tests were performed.

Bing! went the notification from my healthcare provider’s app two days later. “The results of your recent blood test are back. You are not immune to measles and need to schedule a time to come in and get the vaccine.” And so I shall. After all, I gotta walk the walk, right?

With measles making a comeback, now’s a good time to get your titers checked, too. I hear there’s a lollipop after the shot.