My Son Has Immune System Problems, so Please Get Your Kid the Flu Shot

Kids get sick. There's no way around it. And while I completely understand that it's your decision as a parent to not get your child their flu shot, what if I told you that that decision puts mine at risk of being hospitalized? I send my son into multiple different environments daily knowing he may be exposed to kids who haven't gotten their flu vaccine, and to be honest, it's frustrating, heartbreaking, and downright scary.

My son has epilepsy. And as scary as it can be for me, he needs to go to school and therapy. More than that, he deserves to live a normal life like every other child. Sometimes that means being exposed to a group of peers who aren't up to date on their vaccines. And as much as I would like to, I can't put him in a bubble, but I can hope that you'll hear me out.

I know it's not your problem that my son has epilepsy. And I understand you might feel you shouldn't have to sacrifice your beliefs for your child because it might affect mine. But how would you feel if it was your kid?

I've accepted the fact that he'll come in contact with a multitude of germs as he navigates his daily routine. But the fact is, if he gets sick, he faces a much bigger dilemma. We all do. With his easily compromised immune system, we actually have emergency plans set in place if he so much as gets the sniffles. That's because any type of illness puts him at risk for breakthrough seizures. His little body doesn't have enough strength to fight an additional illness while it's already working hard to combat a seizure disorder. So when his immune system is compromised, he physically can't handle the daunting task of fighting an invading illness while simultaneously keeping his seizures at bay.

What does this mean for our family? Ambulance rides, hospital stays, needles, IVs, a heavy cocktail of additional medications, extended periods of missed school, therapy, and work, expensive medical bills, and a little boy who suffers. I know it's not your problem that my son has epilepsy. And I understand you might feel you shouldn't have to sacrifice your beliefs for your child because it might affect mine. But put yourself in my shoes. How would you feel if it was your kid? How would you feel if my child didn't get the flu shot and yours was forced to take on a roller coaster of medical complications?

School policies are set in place to protect the majority of kids, but loopholes allow parents to bypass these policies, regardless of how it may affect other students. Children in our school system have allergies. As a result, we aren't allowed to send food products with peanuts. We follow that rule, don't we? Why do children who have allergies have rights that don't allow for exceptions, but children with immune problems aren't protected?

I know there are concerns about the flu shot, but I also know experts and medical professionals have repeatedly shut down these myths, which include parents thinking their child will get the flu just by getting the shot and that the flu shot can cause autism. Since 180 children died from the flu last year, 80 percent of which didn't receive the shot, isn't that enough to change your mind?

Regardless of whether or not I agree with your choices, I respect you as a parent. I know we're all just trying to do what's right for our children. Parenting is hard! I'm not shaming you. More than anything, this is a plea. Heck, as I think about it, I'm begging you. Please get your kid their flu shot, so mine and every other child with a weakened immune system isn't put at risk.

When I hear that your kid didn't get their flu vaccine, it's a red flag for me. It's fear-inflicting. It sounds my alarms. I enter into a state of panic, and my heart starts racing at a speed that is sure to only lead to spontaneous combustion. But, I'm stuck. I'm forced to sit there and not say a word because it's your right as a parent to choose not to vaccinate your child.

This might not change your mind, but I hope it'll make you think. Just like we keep our schools peanut-free zones, I think we should protect the kids whose immune system problems leave them at risk when they're exposed to nonvaccinated children. How do we do that? We stick to the school policies and get our kids their flu shots. We do what it takes to avoid putting any other child at risk.