Ask Amy About Intentionally Unvaccinated Kids at a Holiday Party

How do you avoid fighting with friends and family when you get together at the holidays?

Some say to talk about whatever you want, but just have empathy for others when you talk about controversial topics.

Other experts say to simply avoid talking about things like politics, religion, and sex.

Going that route, it is easy to imagine that the list of things that you can’t talk about can get pretty long in some families.

Topics Too Dangerous To Avoid

Are some topics too dangerous to avoid talking about?

I’m not talking about in the long-term, what’s going to happen to our world kind of dangerous, but short term dangers to your kids and the rest of your family.

For example, what if you instinctively think that you should avoid talking about guns when visiting your uncle’s house, because you remember seeing all of his Facebook posts about the NRA. But you want to make sure there aren’t any unsecured guns lying around the house that your toddler could find. Do you ASK about guns in the house?

Ask Amy About Intentionally Unvaccinated Kids

What about vaccines?

That’s another topic that’s too important to avoid talking about.

Ask Amy took on the issue of the risk of an intentionally unvaccinated child to the rest of the family.
Ask Amy takes on the risk of an intentionally unvaccinated child at a holiday party.

What’s the problem? Some family members don’t want to come to a family gathering if their sibling is going to bring their intentionally unvaccinated child.

And why is that a problem if they are all fully vaccinated (a common argument posed by anti-vaccine folks)?

It should be clear that they are not all fully vaccinated. At least one of the grandchildren is just 6-months-old, so is too young to be fully vaccinated. She will not get her first dose of MMR and chicken pox vaccine, for example, until she is at least 12 months old.

But she isn’t the only one at risk. The other children and adults could be at risk because no vaccine is 100% effective. Vaccines work and they work very well. They just aren’t perfect.

What Ask Amy Gets Right and Wrong

Ask Amy was smart to turn to a pediatrician for help on this question.

And Dr. Thoele is right, this intentionally unvaccinated child is getting away with hiding in herd (at least so far) and won’t get anyone else sick unless he is exposed first and gets sick himself.

“If you choose to delay some vaccines or reject some vaccines entirely, there can be risks. Please follow these steps to protect your child, your family, and others.”

CDC on If You Choose Not to Vaccinate Your Child, Understand the Risk and Responsibilities

Many of us would take exception to the part that it is “highly unlikely” that this child could get a vaccine-preventable disease though. There are usually one or more outbreaks of chicken pox, mumps, pertussis, and measles, etc., going on in different parts of the United States throughout the year. And because parents who don’t vaccinate their children often cluster together in groups, it increases the chances that their kids will catch something.

Have they traveled out of the country? Have they been exposed to someone who has? That increases their risk too.

And what about the flu?

“(Dr) Thoele and I both hope that everyone attends the family get-together and that all family members should try their best to be nice to one another. There is, fortunately, no vaccine preventing that.”

There is also nothing preventing those parents from vaccinating their child.

Unvaccinated Kids at a Holiday Party

So should this intentionally unvaccinated toddler come to the holiday party?

Should other kids come if the unvaccinated child will be there?

While no one wants a family to be split over such a matter or for grandparents to be put in the middle, it is a much more complicated issue than wishing that everyone play nice.

Not Vaccinated? No Kisses!
A billboard advocating that teens and adults get a Tdap booster.

Not surprisingly, pediatricians get asked about these kinds of situation all of the time:

  • Should new parents allow family members to visit if they won’t get a flu shot?
  • When can they allow a family member to see their new baby if they won’t get a Tdap booster?
  • What do they do about the family members who don’t get vaccinated and don’t even take their kids to the doctor for regular checkups?

And what’s the answer?

Understand that kids aren’t at least partially protected against:

  • pertussis until after the third dose of DTaP at six months
  • the flu until after getting a first flu shot at six months, keeping in mind that they are actually going to need a second flu shot for full protection, since it is the first time that they are being vaccinated against influenza
  • measles, mumps, and chicken pox until they get their first dose of MMR and the chicken pox vaccine when they are 12 months old

And that’s why many parents would not, if they had a choice, expose their children to an intentionally unvaccinated child until after they had at least had their 12 to 15 month vaccines. By this time, they have also gotten 3-4 doses of Hib and Prevnar, and have completed their rotavirus vaccines.

Of course, if the child, or any of the adults, had an immune system problem, were getting treated for cancer, or had any other condition that would put them at higher risk for getting a vaccine-preventable disease, then they would likely never voluntarily expose themselves to someone who was intentionally unvaccinated.

I say voluntarily, because we often don’t have a choice.

In most states, folks are allowed to send their intentionally unvaccinated kids to school and daycare. And those kids put us all at risk.

And yes, there are vaccines to prevent that.

What to Know About Unvaccinated Kids at a Holiday Party

Many parents would avoid voluntarily exposing their kids to an intentionally unvaccinated child until they have at least completed their primary series of vaccines, when they are 12 to 15 months old.

More on Unvaccinated Kids at a Holiday Party

One thought on “Ask Amy About Intentionally Unvaccinated Kids at a Holiday Party

  1. I am against teenage pregnancy, even if the girl is married. I am in favour of teenage sex permission, but only with condoms or monogamous relationships by couples with the Pill AND verified non-STD status.
    So no, I would not permit an unvaccinated two-year-old in the same room as a baby not yet old enough to have been vaccinated against what the two year old might be carrying.
    Likewise I want no Typhoid Mary types preparing my food.

    Like

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