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I Don't Vaccinate My Kids

I was recently called an idiot on Facebook for my decision to not vaccinate my children. Well, the person didn't call me an idiot directly, but she made a blanket statement: "If you don't vaccinate your kids, you're an idiot."

Four of my six children aren't vaccinated, so I guess this makes me an idiot by her standards. The immunization debate has reached epic proportions, and I believe most of this is fueled by the media. As you can imagine, I don't like to go around advertising our non-vaccinated status, even when the media wasn't in a feeding frenzy. No one but my husband and I truly understand the circumstances surrounding our decision (which was incredibly hard to reach, I might add), and I don't feel the need to explain these circumstances to each and every person I come across. I've agonized long and hard over the decision to not vaccinate my kids.

I made the choice to stop vaccinating my children 15 years ago. I was the mother of three little boys—two toddlers and a newborn—and a part-time mom to a 7-year-old stepson. My toddlers were vaccinated up to the age of 18 months, but I was still unsure about it all. My stepson had a severe reaction as a baby and developed seizures from it. He was put on anti-seizure medication for a short time after that. My first child had a strong reaction to his immunizations as well, and he was feverish and lethargic for hours after. It frightened me, but I pressed on, confident in what the CDC schedule decreed, and our pediatrician recommended. Doctors know everything, right?

Things started to shift once I gave birth to my third child. As I snuggled my brand new little boy in my arms, the thought of subjecting his healthy body to an onslaught of foreign antibodies and questionable chemicals brought tears to my eyes. I had just experienced my first homebirth and—after having such a natural entry into the world—opting out of vaccines was the logical direction for my family. He didn't get sick and the Earth kept spinning when we politely declined his immunizations at his well-visits with the pediatrician that first year. As I went on to give birth to three more children, I felt confident in my decision to not vaccinate. My kids are now ages 17, 16, 14, 12, 10 and 9, and they're healthy and happy.

I'm not worried about the measles outbreak at Disneyland. We'll still visit the "happiest place on Earth"—in fact, we visited the park just last week.

As the vaccination debate has reached a fevered pitch due to the recent measles outbreak, I still stand by my decision.

I'm not worried about the measles outbreak at Disneyland. We'll still visit the "happiest place on Earth"—in fact, we visited the park just last week. I don't have a cavalier attitude toward measles, which I know is a highly contagious, viral respiratory disease. It spreads through breathing, coughing and sneezing, and causes a hallmark rash and fever, among other symptoms. I know there can be rare complications that can result in death.

According to the California Department of Public Health, of the 59 cases of measles linked to exposure at Disneyland and the adjacent Disney California Adventure Park, six of those who contracted the virus had received the MMR vaccine—five of those people had received two or more doses of the MMR vaccine, and one person had received one dose. This is one of the main reasons why my family decided to opt out: Although the CDC says the rate of efficacy for one dose of the MMR vaccine is 95 percent, and two doses of the vaccine is more than 99 percent, I'm still not convinced this is a risk I should take with my children's health, especially given our experience with bad reactions in the past with my first-born and my stepson.

Still, I'm tired of being called an idiot.

I'm tired of people suggesting that I am uneducated on the subject of vaccines.

I'm tired of people trying to segregate non-vaccinated children in school.

I'm tired of people suggesting jail time for the decision to not vaccinate.

I'm tired of people crying out to sue for legal damages if we don't vaccinate our children.

I'm just plain tired.

All of this smacks of forced medical tyranny. I'm a big proponent of live and let live. It's not about the greater good. It's about freedom and the right, for each of us, to make the best decision for the health and well-being of our own children. Still, taking the non-vaccinating road is a tough one. It's not fun when people accuse you of putting your own children in danger and endangering their children as well.

The truth is, it's hard to make anyone understand your point of view. But you can't force someone to vaccinate their children—not if they are concerned about vaccine reactions and question their safety. All I can do is be thankful that my children have grown up healthy and strong, and that I stood by what I believed was best for my family.

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