Almost 8 years ago, we had a child. We never thought of ourselves as “earthy-crunchy.” We didn’t intend to go all natural, attachment, or organic. As parents, we just listened to our instincts and read a good deal of parenting books.
Our pediatrician equally loathed and looked forward to our visits. We always had a long list of questions. We pestered him with our fears, our joys, and “Our child can now say….She must be a genius!” We were lucky to have such a patient doctor, we were lucky he didn’t throw us out the first time we refused to vaccinate our daughter.
Just to clarify, it wasn’t Jenny McCarthy’s numerous talk show appearances proclaiming the evils of vaccines that made us wary. It wasn’t Oprah’s divine wisdom on raising a child (even though she is childless) that made us fearful. It was that idea that in our need to protect our child from disease, we might actually harm her.
In a way, it was like that thought that runs through my head whenever I get on a plane. Billions of people make it to their destinations every day, but what if I am the exception. What if an MMR shot, once in awhile, harms the child it is supposed to protect?
Like I said, our Pediatrician was lovely and patient. He explained the risks and did not discount any of what was being said in the media. We read the Vaccination book by Sears, which was fairly balanced. It too explained the dangers that could be associated with vaccines, but also impressed the grave danger we put our communities in when we decide not to vaccinate.
Ultimately, we vaccinated our daughter. We didn’t always get them on their specified recommended dates. And sometimes we went the unconventional route. We asked for some vaccines to be split up, as we were leery of new boosters that contained five vaccines in one shot.
I understand the fears that people have toward vaccinations. I can’t imagine the anguish that must be felt when your child, who is developing normally, all of a sudden is no longer “normal.” But I also can’t imagine my child suffering from or dying from a preventable disease because another parent made the choice to not vaccinate their child.
I have read a lot of hate lately aimed at those who choose not to vaccinate. I have read the status updates of my highly educated friends ranting about the imbeciles who choose to put the world at risk. “How can these people put their trust in a B-list celebrity like Jenny McCarthy? She’s not a doctor!” Or, “Did these people fail science class? Don’t they know that no study has ever linked vaccines to Autism?”
Hating the Anti-vaxer isn’t going to solve the problem. Calling the Anti-vaxer an imbecile is also not going to solve the problem. Anti-vaxers are usually privileged with college degrees. They are not stupid. They are just scared.
I’ll admit it. Being a parent means that sometimes you are a little irrational. When your child first sleeps through the night, you swear she must be dead, because there is no other rational reason that your child just slept 7 hours straight. When your child is two and she goes missing in the house (for 5 seconds) you assume your child is dead. She must have choked on a toy because there is no other rational reason why she is not responding to your calls.
Our brains are hard wired to fear for our children. And that primal fear is what we use to try to keep our children safe. At times, parents can go a little overboard. And this time, Anti-vax parents have gone really overboard.
So for my sake, please stop calling these people stupid. Start seeing them as parents who just let their primal fears take over. Maybe your support might just be the thing that helps them see that vaccinations are a good thing….for everyone.
Where are you on the vaccination spectrum? Did you consider not vaccinating your child?
**Over 95% of all Germans are vaccinated. This is a choice, not a requirement. Those who get measles in Germany are typically adults from immigrant populations. These people tend to vaccinate their children once they are part of the German health care system, but these adults tend not to get vaccinated themselves.
Here is a great post by an adult on the Autism spectrum. Her perspective on the whole Anti-vax debate is excellent.