Ariane Zurcher

The Tdap vaccine protects against

Tetanus, Diphtheria, & Pertussis. 

Photo © 2012 Rene Najera

I recently spoke with my brother by phone. He was unable to travel. His voice was so raspy, his breathing slow and labored, had I not known it was my brother I was speaking to, I would not have been able to guess from the sound of his voice. He wasn’t able to complete a sentence without pausing to take a breath. It was clear listening to him that the act of talking was incredibly difficult and painful. When we said good bye to each other I was overcome with emotion.

My brother was very slowly recovering from pertussis, more familiarly known as whooping cough. Because so many parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children for fear that vaccinations cause autism, whooping cough is on the rise. I’m including some links: here and here for those of you who may not be aware of just how serious and deadly whooping cough is, not just to our children, but to teenagers and adults too.

This is the other side of not vaccinating, the side so many do not consider. People of all ages are getting sick and even dying of diseases most of us assumed had been eradicated long ago. Whooping cough, unheard of for so long, is now on the rise. In my brother’s case, his coughing was so extreme he would vomit, was unable to breathe, and speaking became impossible. Fortunately he slowly got better, but whooping cough can take more than three months to recover from, for those lucky enough to recover at all.

My children are vaccinated. I am vaccinated. I have had moments in the past when I wondered if there was a connection between vaccines and autism. I never believed vaccines caused autism, but I did wonder if it exacerbated pre-existing conditions.

I no longer wonder because I stopped fearing autism, stopped listening to those who would have us fear it, stopped fearing those who are Autistic. And it seems this is what it comes down to: When we fear ‘autism’ so much that we are willing to put our child’s life at risk because of those fears, we must, as a society, look at what we are saying and believing. Organizations intent on fueling those fears for monetary gain are being dishonest with themselves when they refuse to see that adults, teenagers, children and babies are dying from preventable diseases because of people’s fears regarding autism causation and vaccinations.

When a parent makes the decision to not vaccinate their child they are not just putting their own child at risk for developing life-threatening diseases, they are putting all of our lives at risk. It’s important that we are clear about this. None of us lives in a bubble no matter how careful we might believe ourselves to be. The decisions we make affect more than just ourselves and our families. The decisions we make affect everyone we come into contact with.

A version of this essay was previously published at