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by Esther Tolooei

I remember walking into my first OB-GYN appointment. I was about 2 months pregnant with my first baby.

The waiting room was cozy with soft light pouring in from one window, and several bountiful green plants sprouting on different side tables.

My doctor asked all the right questions

The doctor was the first woman doctor that I had seen since, well, ever, which was such a nice change. She did an overall health checkup, her fingers click-clacking over computer keys as she made notes.

Date of last period? First pregnancy? Check heart rate and blood pressure. Schedule first ultrasound. Check weight and height. Age? Medical history? Previous surgeries? Vaccinations?

Having moved from Ontario to Alberta just a year before, I had only recently found a family doctor who referred me to the Women’s clinic, and I didn’t have a record of my childhood vaccinations.

“I remember that my mom told me I’ve had all the childhood vaccines. And I remember having chickenpox when I was 4 and measles when I was 7.”

“You also said you are working. What job do you have?” she peered at me over her glasses.

“I’m a grade one teacher.”

“Okay, well to be sure that you have immunity, I’d like to do a blood test. Then we can see and make sure you’re protected, especially since you work with kids,” she said.

“Sure, no problem.”

My blood test results were a surprise

Here my memory is fuzzy. Did I go for blood work and then return for a second appointment? Or did she test my blood right then? I don’t know, but I do remember being in the doctor’s office again. What she said next was shocking.

“You don’t have any immunity for measles.”

“Really? It’s possible that I never got a vaccine as a kid, but I definitely had measles.” This didn’t make sense to me, but I couldn’t deny the results.

I remembered just the month before at school, how several students in my grade 1 class had received letters to be sent home to remind parents that their children needed one or more vaccinations. The parents were informed that their child needed these vaccinations in order to keep attending school. Some of them must have arranged for the school nurse to come to the school the next week, because I remember sending a few kids to the nurse’s office to get their shots. I didn’t see the letters, so I don’t know which vaccinations the students’ received.

My Province Stopped Requiring MMR

At the time of my pregnancy in 2008, we lived and worked in Alberta, where there was a mandatory vaccination policy in place for kids in school. In 2016, the government removed this requirement. Then because of the pandemic, routine vaccination for diseases like measles dipped to a new low.

Imagine if I was pregnant after 2016, teaching full time in my grade one class, and one of my students came to school infected with measles. My baby could die. Or could have been developmentally delayed or deaf.

I would be an innocent victim, doing my job, but not protected. I didn’t know that I was unprotected. I had done everything possible to keep myself and my baby safe.

Somehow in this pandemic, we have lost the plot. We keep saying, “only those with pre-existing conditions”, or “only the elderly”, or “only the immune compromised”. Somehow, our society never considered that the vulnerable deserve to live and deserve protections, too.

And maybe I am vulnerable and don’t know it. Or maybe you are.

Shouldn’t we try to protect everyone? Somehow, vaccine mandates have become an affront to our rights, when they should be a way for everyone to have the right to live, study, and work safely.

As a pregnant teacher, don’t I have the right to a safe work environment? Don’t we have the right to live free from infectious disease?

I’ve made sure my kids have had all their vaccinations. It’s the least I can do.

Esther Tolooei is a wife and teacher who has taught kids in Kuwait and Alberta, and now teaches adults in Sarnia, Ontario.  Her story, like all others on this blog, was a voluntary submission. If you want to help make a difference, submit your own post by emailing Noah at [email protected]. We depend on real people like you sharing experience to protect others from misinformation.

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