Lately, I've been shocked and dismayed by the
vitriol that seems to have consumed our nation on the topic of vaccines. By how polarized
we've allowed ourselves to become, or to appear. I've felt torn about
whether to jump into the fray. But I feel I should speak up.
This could be a much saner, more nuanced conversation, and, for
the sake of our kids, it should be. Whatever your stance on the topic, know that I really respect that
you feel strongly about vaccination. At the same time, I urge you to recognize
how much the media has served to stir up this controversy, and how extreme
an opinion in favor of a vaccine mandate is. We're talking about potentially
denying people the right to determine what does or does not enter their own,
and their children's, bodies. And we're talking about something that would kill
My son is vaccine injured. Vaccinating created a hyperactive immune response in my son, and our doctors support this understanding. His immune system is damaged; his
food allergies are numerous and life-threatening. His environmental allergies
are so severe that we had to relocate last year because our home city in Texas
overwhelmed his system to a point that precluded his attendance in preschool or
even his playing safely outside. So I have a hard time just respectfully
agreeing to disagree when the disagreement is, fundamentally, over whether what
our family has been through (hell) for the past five years is real. Whether
what I have seen with my own eyes is real.
Most children don't end up vaccine injured, but the current CDC schedule doesn't allow health care providers, or parents, the time and space to evaluate which babies might be.
Also at issue is whether I'll be able to advocate for and
protect my kid while navigating the misunderstood epidemic of anaphylactic food
allergies. It dictates every waking moment of our lives in a way that even our
closet friends and family cannot fathom. After years of research and numerous
doctor consultations we are certain his condition was a genetic predisposition
to allergy that was triggered by childhood antibiotics and vaccinations. What we saw
were escalating vaccine reactions and then finally, at nine months, a reaction
so severe even his run-of-the-mill, here-have-a-prescription pediatrician at
the time said we should STOP. And I can tell you with confidence that I would
readily trade a case of the measles in exchange for what my child has lived
through since he was a baby. Because if you think a small handful of kids
nationwide with the measles is scary, you should try parenting a kid amidst a
planet full of otherwise edible food that could kill him before an ambulance
Well-meaning friends sometimes say that they vaccinate their kids
because of kids like mine—to protect kids like mine, kids who shouldn't be vaccinated. But these people just got lucky. These people didn't know that when their babies received shots, any more than we knew when our
son did, that their children would be fine. Most children don't end up
vaccine injured, but the current CDC schedule doesn't allow health care
providers, or parents, the time and space to evaluate which babies might be. Pediatricians aren't trained in any protocol for identifying the children who are
most at-risk for vaccine injury. My son had terrible eczema, which was worsened by vaccines yet it was never
suggested to me that this symptom of an overreactive immune system
might be cause for, at the very least, waiting a little while before beginning
the typical—and ever-increasing—number of shots.
This isn't about whether vaccines have or haven't all but wiped out certain deadly diseases; it's about whether vaccines, in the manner we administer them, are in fact safe for all children.
Our well-meaning friends also aren't 'protecting' my son, or other immune-compromised individuals, by getting vaccinated; the MMR vaccine contains three live viruses that shed. For this reason, the Johns Hopkins guidelines for "Care at Home for the Immunocompromised Patient" specifically advise people undergoing chemo to tell recently-vaccinated friends not to visit. There is no reason why healthy unvaccinated children shouldn't be allowed in public school classrooms; they pose no threat to their classmates. If anything, it's the other way around.
This isn't about whether vaccines have or haven't all but wiped
out certain deadly diseases; it's about whether vaccines, in the manner we
administer them, are in fact safe for all
children. Given that they're not, how could we even question whether a parent
should have the right to opt-out?
Do you really think this one-size-fits-all approach is safe for all
babies? Don't you think we should create a path to herd immunity that is? Do
you think that's possible in a climate that won't even talk about it? It is possible to be pro-vaccination and
also advocate for safer vaccinations, for fewer vaccinations, for a revisiting of the schedule. Countless medications
turn out to have disastrous side effects. (Acutane? Tamiflu? Xolair? Delusional
disorder-inducing sleeping pills?) Opinions change.
Research changes things. But only asking questions—and the freedom to do so—fuels research.
I don't think we should have to sacrifice any babies for the sake of the herd. Babies don't get to opt-in. They rely upon us to make the decisions that will protect them best and right now legislation
is pending in 10 states that would remove parental rights around vaccination. We must protect our rights,
as parents, to make medical decisions for our children.
If you think the measles
poses a threat, I promise you that allowing this polarized thinking to persist,
and permitting this legislation to go through, represents a much larger one.