So I have been trying to keep my mommyhood and my expat commentaries separate here. I love being a mother and feel I have little to bitch about and I also love being an Argentina resident (very much by choice and forever) and I hoped that when I did feel like complaining, ne´er the two would meet.
Well, now its about my son´s health, more specifically, his vaccines or should I say lack thereof. I respect the mothers in the US who are concerned about links between vaccines and autism and don´t dispute their beliefs though I personally do not share them. I personally feel that with the right medical advice (that means a Dr. you trust and who shares your philosophy on medication, what is too much, not enough and just right) vaccines are one of the major scientific advances of the last century and that we should stamp out erradicable diseases by vaccinating our children. However, thanks to CFK (that´s my lovely lady president here), I am not able to.
How is that possible? Well, while many vaccines are produced locally by large international pharmaceutical companies with labs right here in Argentina (names like Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer, to name a few and according to this source there are over 200 such labs), many others seem to be imported (like my Hep. B vaccines which according to the sticker in his carnet de vacunas or record book seems to be from India).
Which brings me to today´s main concern. It seems that vaccines, like the cheese, tiles and God only knows what else that I have already mentioned are also subject to import restrictions. To make matters worse, as I voiced my complaint to a colleague at the office just now he answered “yes, its really terrible, all of those expired vaccines that had to be thrown away because they were stuck in here in Customs.” WHAT???????
It appears that not only is there a shortage of these (very very common vaccines, might I add, like Measles, Mumps and Rubella or DPT, Diptheria, Whooping Cough and Tetanus) shots, but they were at one point here, on our shores, in our port and because some politicians decided to save the economy by refusing to let inproducts that were not manufactured here in Argentina, these precious shots past their use by date, died and were thrown in the trash. THEREBY PUTTING THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN AT RISK.
Now my son is not necessarily one of those children in a high risk situation, our environment is clean and controlled and he comes into contact with few unknown individuals in the course of a day. But what about the poor children who live in Salta or Entre Rios, who are probably exposed to a lot more bacteria and sources of infection or virus in a day and REALLY REALLY NEED to be vaccinated. They too should wait till the rest of population gets fed up (highly unlikely here, we seem to have a high tolerance for political miscreants in this country) or a resurgence in a disease like the MUMPS (which I bet most Americans have never seen and many Argentines felt was erradicated here thanks to vaccines about 20 years ago) before someone does something. Really, in this day and age? I mean its 2012, folks, WTF??
Are we going to play with our childrens´health while we try and protect our economy? And what does this mean for me ? Do I go out on the black market and try and find the reserved stashes of these drugs? (because as a very astute and not very PC friend of mine likes to remind me, the laws of supply and demand are only reinforced in times of need and you can find anything, especially what is not on the shelves here for a price) or do I stick it out and wait till the system just magically comes back online, so to speak?
Perhaps the worst part of this is the incertainty that everyone seems prepared to live with. When my pediatrician wrote the script this morning he said there was no MMR, something that didn´t really register right then. And when I called the vaccine center where I take my son to get shots (yup, you go somewhere OTHER than the Dr´s office for this, just like you tote your own labwork around, get your own x-rays, etc. but that´s a conversation for another day) and asked if they knew when there might be stock of these missing shots, no one had an answer and seemed surprised that I should expect one.
What the hell is going on here? I mean, I´m onboard, for better or for worse, but things are rapidly getting a lot worse before they start to get better. And that basic fact has arrived at my home today with an inability to provide my child with medical treatment I know he needs and the State has decided he should forgoe for the time being because they are not manufactured locally. Again, common sense requires me to ask : if we can´t bring them in, why the hell isn´t someone making them here??? Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Bayer, none of you have local patents for basic children´s vaccines? Anyone trying to get one??
PS – I just hope my dad doesn´t read this, because he is going to be really pissed…