As a self-professed sugar junkie you would think Halloween would be my favorite holiday, but the truth is I can’t stand it. As a kid I would beg my dad to take me to a haunted house. We would stand in a very long line for a very long time only for me to back out right before it was our turn to enter. I have never (and will never) see a true “slasher” film. It’s just not my thing. And based on my three-year-old son’s response to seeing everyone running around in bloody attire and “Scream” masks I think he might be on my team! When I think of Halloween I see gory, frightening images that I find unsettling and disturbing. I know it’s not real. These creatures that ring my doorbell once a year trolling for candy cannot hurt me, but it still makes me shutter.
But there are images in the world that we should be afraid to see. There are very real “monsters” that continue to pose a serious threat. What should people be afraid of? How about measles, pertussis, or polio? What about the human papilloma virus (HPV) that is linked to multiple forms of cancer? I don’t like to see disturbing images so I will not force any of you to unintentionally view pictures that might be considered upsetting, but if you are curious to know just how scary these vaccine-preventable diseases are simply search the internet. It is truly frightening to see the damaging toll these illnesses take on a human body. And it is all the more tragic knowing that there is an easy way to prevent them from happening in the first place. Far too many people think that certain vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles or polio are ghosts of the past; that no one actually contracts these illnesses anymore, but it’s just not true. Polio has not been eradicated and there are measles outbreaks every year. Others believe in the existence and power of vaccine-preventable diseases but cite a greater benefit from “natural infection” versus immunization. As Dr. Paul Offit of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia states, “The difference between vaccination and natural infection is the price paid for immunity.” He goes on to explain that both immunization with vaccines and immunity gained from natural infection induce long-lived immunity, but natural infection can be costly. Is the price of immunity through natural infection worth contracting pneumonia from chickenpox, mental retardation from Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), birth defects from rubella, or death from measles? Of course not.
If scary monsters and fictional chain saw wielding characters are your cup of tea then I hope you had a happy and safe Halloween, but never allow the frightful consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases to enter into your life. Vow to stop these preventable diseases in their tracks before they come ringing your doorbell looking for their next victim.