Anti-Vaxxers: Sponsor a “Third World” Child for Vaccines

12 Jul

Here’s an idea to put some US excess to good use: All the anti-vaccine parents can send their kid’s share of vaccines to somebody who needs it in a foreign country! We could have TV campaigns, like those “for just a dollar a day, you can sponsor this little girl to go to school.” Except this could even be free, or close to it! “For just the use of your health insurance, plus shipping and handling, you could protect children like these from potentially deadly diseases” (cameras pan in on various-hued children from various countries).

Maybe I’m just slightly bitter about how hard it is to acquire this basic protection for my kids. Here we are in Mexico, scrambling and crossing our fingers to get vaccines for our kids in a timely enough manner for the vaccines to protect our kids, while a bunch of folks in the US are fighting to not use theirs. This post is totally not about hating on people for not getting vaccines, although honestly I don’t really understand it. I mean, why are people not vaccinating? Even if they believe the shabby excuse for science that claims vaccine can cause autism, isn’t autism preferable to possible preventable death? Don’t want to give your kid “unnatural” ingredients? Well I hope you’re not eating anything, either, because even food grown in your garden still likely has some dodgy substances from the soil, unless you live really far from all civilization. I mean, sure, it sounds gross that the polio vaccine has traces of baby cow blood serum*, but I’d rather have a shot of that than polio. But whatever. Don’t vaccinate your kid. It’s not my purpose to convince anybody today. Just pass along your vaccines instead.

Granted, this is Mexico, not, say, some country currently at war, or someplace where there’s no refrigeration for vaccines, etc. It shouldn’t be difficult here at all. Theoretically, all public health centers have them. So any hospital, Centro de Salud (health center), public insurance company (like my horrible insurance, IMSS, or the teachers’ company, ISSSTE), or other public health institution has them and gives them for free. All kids get a cartilla (a small booklet) where their vaccine records are documented. Most towns have one place where vaccines are available, or if it is too small a town you might have to travel a little bit. Additionally, a few private doctors carry them, but they are very expensive.

the cartilla

the cartilla

All in all, access to the places that provide vaccines isn’t bad, yet getting the vaccines is still easier said than done. The nurses who provide the vaccines have some different (outdated?) information than what exists in the U.S., for one, so they won’t give you a vaccine if they think they shouldn’t. For example, one time they wouldn’t give us I-don’t-remember-what combination of vaccines because they said they shouldn’t go together, so they gave Lucia one of them and told us to come back for the other in a couple weeks (at which point they were out of it, of course).

I spent the better part of this week trying to get Khalil his four-month vaccines, so far to no avail. I wanted to take him to the health center, and I had read that their strike was now over. However, when I asked around I found out that they’re still not providing most services, although their doors are open. So instead I went to ISSSTE, one of the insurance companies, on my lunch break. When the health center was first on strike back in May and it was time for Khalil’s two month vaccines, a doctor had told me that technically any public institution had to provide vaccines, even if the kid isn’t with the insurance company. So I went to ISSTE then and had no problems. This day, though, I had bad luck, since there was a professional development talk happening about some mosquito-born illness, and so they weren’t giving vaccines. Some nice employee told me to go back the next morning at 8 AM.

The whole family went back the next morning and stood outside the door of the preventative medicine room. Conan went and asked if they were giving vaccines or what, since we’d been standing there since 5 after 8 and 20 minutes later there was still no sign of life from the vaccine-giving nurses. The employee assured Conan that they’d surely be opening any minute now. Sure enough, about 8:30 a nurse walked out of the room and proceeded to ignore us, even though we’d been knocking on the door. Conan stopped her to ask if we could go in now. “What did you need?” she asked. “Vaccines for the baby,” I told her. “How old is he?” she asked. I told her, and she said, “No, come back in a week. We don’t have vaccines right now.” I assumed that they just didn’t have those particular vaccines, so I told her we were still missing the tuberculosis and the 2nd hepatitis B vaccine as well. “No,” she said, “we don’t have any right now. Try back next Thursday or Friday.”

So what was the point in asking how old Khalil is, if they didn’t have any vaccines of any type anyway? And why didn’t anyone tell us before that they didn’t have any vaccines? Neither the employee the afternoon before nor the one we asked that morning happened to mention that we were wasting our time because they’re out of all vaccines. Did they just not know? And why didn’t they know, if that was the case? I should know by now there’s no rationalizing the situation about health care around here, and yet I continue to wonder about these things.

We are leaving for Kentucky next Saturday, and I’d really, really like to have him up-to-date before we’re in international airports and the like. If they do have the vaccines on Friday, then we’re all good, but sometimes they tell you a date and it turns out they don’t get the shipment after all. I don’t really understand why there’s so often a shortage on vaccines down here, but it’s just another fact of life. So, against my better judgment, I decided to chance my luck at IMSS.

If you read my blog regularly you know that IMSS, my health insurance company, is pretty much my arch nemesis. It is a building full of incompetent, rude, and uncaring bureaucrats disguised as health professionals (maybe not everyone in the building is like this, but it’s certainly the majority). I haven’t signed up either of my children or my spouse to receive their services, because I care too much about my family to send them there. IMSS in the state of Chiapas is also the party responsible for the deaths of 2 infants and the illness of several others when some nasty bacteria somehow found its way into a batch of vaccines recently. (Note- this wasn’t because of the vaccine itself, it was negligence on someone’s part, and yet nobody around here started saying that we should stop giving our kids vaccines.) Still, I reasoned that the chances of something bad happening were slim and it was a worthwhile risk to get him protected from whooping cough and the likes.

There were 2 people in line for preventative medicine services when I arrived, plus someone inside. When the person in the office was finished, one of the nurses came out, and I stopped her to ask if they had vaccines, before I waited even longer in vain. “Is the baby insured here?” she asked me rudely, even though they are supposed to give vaccines to children regardless. I explained that I hadn’t signed him up yet (nor will I ever, I didn’t say) but that I am insured there. “You’re supposed to take him to the Centro de Salud if they don’t have insurance here,” she grumbled, and I told her that they aren’t giving vaccines right now. “Let me see the cartilla” she said, and I handed it over to her. She glanced at it and finally said that they only had 2 out of the 4 that we needed. I decided it was probably worth the wait to go ahead and get the half available, so I stayed.

When it was finally my turn, I went into the room and handed the other nurse Khalil’s cartilla. She looked at it and immediately said, “No. This is for the 18th of July.” She pointed at the dates that were written in pencil on his vaccine sheet. (They always write a tentative date in pencil for whatever dose you’ve got coming up.) Of course I knew that that was the date they’d written in, that being exactly two months from his first dose, but it was a one-week difference, and I thought that they would listen to reason. I should have known better. “No,” the nurse told me, still pointing like a teacher with a difficult student. “He got this dose on the 18th of May, so the 18th of July is two months later.” “Right,” I agreed, “but it doesn’t have to be exactly two months.” At least that had been my experience with Lucia in the U.S., what her pediatrician there had told me, what other agencies say**. This nurse, however, disagreed. So what was the point in the other nurse checking the cartilla, making me wait for nothing? Perhaps insurance companies make more money for longer wait times, for fewer services provided. It remains one of the great mysteries.

So we’re left to hope that vaccines will be in by Friday and that they’ll be able to give them to us (even though it will be one day before the 18th! gasp!!). Meanwhile, we’re now accepting donations from all non-vaccinating parents! Send your vaccines on down and sponsor poor Third World children like these.

Send these children vaccines from the First World! Or at least lesson the absurdity of acquiring vaccines here, please.

Send these children vaccines from the First World! Or at least lesson the absurdity of acquiring vaccines here, please.

*I read this in The Vaccine Book, by Dr. Robert W. Sears. I bought this book when Lucia was born to be informed about vaccines. I am totally about people making informed decisions. Further, in the U.S., people have the ability to get their vaccines on an alternate schedule, or to get certain brands instead of others. That’s fine and reasonable, since the U.S. is all about choices and such, and I used to feel like that too. Even here I use what little bit of choice I have about vaccines to delay the Heptatitis B vaccine until Khalil was 2 months old, based on what I know about risks and benefits. I get wanting to be informed and wanting to protect your kids. But I don’t get not vaccinating at all. I just don’t get it, sorry.
**According to the CDC, most of these vaccines can be separated by as little as 4 weeks, not a minimum of two months. FYI, Oaxaca.

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