NPFP Guest Post: No Jabs, Please

Welcome to RMB’s Naked Pictures of Faceless People, a series of guest posts from diverse anonymous bloggers. (Read more about NPFP’s origins.) These are the posts that are jumping to get out of us, but for whatever reason — safety, embarrassment, conflict of interest, protection of loved ones’ reputations or feelings, or so on — we don’t or won’t or can’t post at our own blogs. Anyone is welcome to submit or discuss a potential post by emailing me at arwyn at raisingmyboychick dot com.

No Jabs, Please

Neither of my children have received any vaccinations. I am making this blog post anonymously because I am wary of the backlash I might receive just for saying I don’t vaccinate my kids.

My husband and I did not make this decision based on a belief that vaccines cause autism. I believe, and always have done, that the evidence for that is flimsy at best. We made the decision out of a distrust of the additives in vaccines, of large pharmaceutical companies and their ethics (rather, lack there of), of one size fits all healthcare and many other reasons.

We are just parents who care about our children and are trying to make the best decisions we can. We looked at the information we could find and made our own informed decision. Which is, ultimately, what most people do when deciding things for themselves and/or their children. We understand that some vaccines may be worth the risks depending on the situation and are open to the idea of selectively vaccinating the children in the future. At the same time, we don’t believe that every vaccine on the schedule is worth the risk. We believe in tailoring our healthcare decisions to our particular situation and lifestyle.

We (non-vaxxers in general) often get treated like we’re wearing tinfoil hats, worse even. Granted, some of us are alarmist and extreme. But then, so are some of the vehemently pro-vaccination camp. I have friends who once meant very much to me spouting the most vile vitriol against anyone and everyone who chooses not to vaccinate. They post things on Facebook accompanied by paragraphs long rants about how evil, stupid and not worth the air they breathe non-vaxxers are. They claim they have science behind them … well, last I checked, science was impartial and not so overtly hateful or hurtful. These things hurt. They hurt a lot.

My husband and I are both intelligent and educated. We can make our own informed decisions, and to attack our intelligence and/or our right to exist as human beings just because we make a different healthcare decision from you is both exceedingly arrogant and downright wrong. Not everyone who chooses not to vaccinate their children are extremists as not everyone who chooses to vaccinate are extremists.

My husband and I acknowledge that we may not have the right answer and that there likely isn’t one right answer. We only do what we feel is best for our children, ourselves and our family based on the circumstances and the information we have at the time. We have friends who fully vaccinate their children. We have friends who don’t vaccinate at all. We even have friends who partially vaccinate to a delayed schedule. Some of those friends (in all three groups) are even from a healthcare or medical background. We don’t judge any of them because we know that they all are doing the same as us: gathering information and trying to make the best decision they can for their situation. So, why do so many in the pro-vaccination camp feel they have the right to denigrate, ridicule and generally treat as dirt on their shoe those of us who simply made a different choice?

People need to step back, take a deep breath and do what is right for them without expecting everyone to come to the same conclusion. Alarmist propaganda is never ok and neither is demonizing an entire group of people for a personal decision. We trust parents to drive their children around in cars, to make other healthcare decisions, to guide their children’s dietary choices. This is no different.

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Please support the Naked Pictures of Faceless People project by commenting on the posts. Comments which attack or attempt to guess the identity or any aspect of the identity of the blogger will be deleted, however. Protect and respect this space as though it were your own work on display here, naked and faceless.

Anonymous comments are welcome on NPFP posts. Simply put “Anonymous” or any pseudonym in Name, and either your own or a fake email addresses (ex me@me.com) as the email. NOTE: If you have a Gravatar associated with your email address, it will show up even with an anonymous name, in which case please use a different or a fake email address.

NOTE: This is not a place to debate, defend, or attack vaccines, and this is definitely not a place to attack this naked and faceless poster for hir choices. Vaccines, and the decision to vaccinate fully or selectively or not at all, have public health consequences; this is not an excuse for incivility. PLEASE keep the focus on the subjective experience of making an unpopular decision.

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27 Responses to NPFP Guest Post: No Jabs, Please

  1. I had a friend who was attacked for not vaccinating her children. It was sad, because while I am pro-vax, I am against the way people thought it was okay to treat her. But, I don’t think I realized how people like her felt in her situation until then. It made me think about how easily I could have joined in the hate. I think I’d like to see fewer personal attacks and more honest dialog about the various aspects of the issue itself, rather than the people behind it.

  2. People always like to think they made the Right Decision for their children…so when your decision is different their knee-jerk instinct is to defend themselves, which often comes out as an attack. You see it with every major parenting decision: co-sleeping, formula/breastfeeding, sleep training, even things like rear-facing car seats. It happens even more often when the person who made the Different Decision is someone you like and trust and know to be a good parent…except for this ONE THING you are SURE they are wrong about. How could they not make the Right Decision? How could they be so foolish? Because if you don’t look at it that way, it means maybe YOU made the Wrong Decision…and no parent wants to think that.

  3. The knee-jerk reactions, blame and hatred that are flung around in this debate really help no one. I’ve had a blossoming friendship stomped on because of it… one member of our Mothers’ Group chose not to vaccinate for religious reasons but didn’t tell anyone (actually, actively tried to conceal that fact). Another friend fell pregnant, and was then exposed to german measles when the un-vaxed child contracted it — and only then did the fact that she was unvaxed come out. We’ve never seen that child or her mother at our group since: I think the fear of reprisals has kept her away. Initially I was quite angry that she had not been honest about her position on vaccines and that, given that position, she’d still brought a kid with the beginnings of a rash along! But as time goes on, I have more and more empathy for her – she was in difficult place, because if she had disclosed her child’s non-vaxed status, she may well have faced reprisals from the outset. I can understand why she would wish to avoid that, especially as she was in great need of a supportive Mothers’ Group given some other circumstances in her life at that time. I think it was understandable to be angry about her dishonesty but, reading your piece, I can even better empathise with her now. It’s scary to openly swim against ‘conventional wisdom’, especially on an emotive topic like this one.

    • Spilt Milk:

      I’m curious why your friend wasn’t vaccinated? Perhaps she got pregnant by mistake or didn’t get the right information from her doctor before becoming pregnant? I went to my doctor before getting pregnant and she did blood tests to check my levels to see if I needed another vaccine before conceiving.

      We are a vaccinating family, but I do not see it as other people’s responsibility to get vaccinated in order to protect us or even to disclose their vaccination status to us. Yes, they should keep sick kids away (that is a different issue), but I don’t think anyone else’s vaccination choices are any of my business.

  4. I’ve never heard an argument against vaccinating other than ’causes autism!’. In googling just now, all I see is ’causes autism!’. I’d like to be more informed. Can anyone suggest any decent articles/sites that explore this point of view (anti-vaccination for non-autism reasons) in more depth?
    (Just to be clear, I checked with Arwyn as to if it was ok to post this, and she approved. I’m just looking for links to info, not to cause a debate.)

    Moderator Note: Informational links, of any ideology, are welcomed: comments which attempt to promote or debunk the information in those links will be deleted.

  5. We are doing a very spaced out and very selective vaxing. C gets rashes and fevers after every vax, so we have been doing 1 illness at a time –and even separated the MMR. Autism never crossed my mind, just the fact that her little body does not react well to the vaxes. Also, there are some vax she wont be getting at all, like chicken pox, as 1) the odds of it going bad are SMALL, 2) and natural protection is more effective (if she hasn’t gotten chicken pox by 15 then I will have her vaxed for it). Most the the illnesses we vax for were childhood illnesses just 50 years ago. In Costa Rica getting the mumps meant 2 weeks off school and eating lots of jello, ice cream and apple sauce ;) –I never understood why I didn’t get the mumps (I had gotten the MMR in the States). Chicken pox were itchy, but I still love that calamine lotion

  6. I have to say, I find a lot of the vaccination discussion to be … unsettling. There is a lot of side-taking, and black-and-white rhetoric. This bothers me, because as a parent I live in a world that is all shades of gray. And every other colour, too. I can vaccinate reluctantly, or selectively, or not at all. I can see both sides of the argument. I can have mixed feelings.

    I suppose what I’m saying is that while I have made a different choice for my kids, I respect the choice you’ve made for yours. And I wish that we (as in, society at large) could have a more reasoned and respectful discussion on this subject, free from fear tactics and propaganda.

  7. Rosemary Cottage

    I’ve not known that many parents not to vax in the UK, although I think after the MMR scare it became a little more common, at least, to vax selectively or go against NHS-suggested schedule.

    But I think as with all very personal choices around children’s health, care and wellbeing, it can sometimes turn into a mud slinging match with people taking up “sides”.

    I think sometimes, particularly when your choice goes against the societal “norms” (e.g. breastfeeding, not vaxing, co-sleeping etc.) sometimes you can become militant about defending it to the point where you “attack” the other “camp” (I bet Arwyn is loving all this military imagery). And then this leads to counter-attacks.

    And many people seem to forget that real, human people make these choices and the majority of the time are acting out of what they perceive to be best for their children. I think people also forget that, as Amber says, it isn’t just “black and white”, there are all sorts of positions in between.

    It’s a shame, anon poster, that people can’t respect your decision as a personal one, and leave well-enough alone. At the same time, I think sometimes people in the “100% vaxing, 100% on schedule, or our children will die” camp are themselves reacting to a “never vax, big pharma is evil and breastfeeding will protect my child from every illness in the world” attitude from the other “camp”. Not to mention their fear that somehow your child will “infect” their (presumably vaxed!) child (never been able to figure that logic out).

    And I think until the more militant elements in both “sides” are able to discuss their decision sensibly (like the anon poster) without resorting to personal attacks or treating their ideology like the gospel truth, sadly, the anon poster’s experience will continue to be common.

  8. I have attended two very interesting programs recently on Conflict Resolution, or Getting Along. The most useful bit of advice is “Presume Goodwill from all Parties.” We can have a discussion if we presume that you are doing what you think is right and I am doing what I think is right. If I demonize you or presume ill will, then all we can have is an argument.

    I think Suzanne is right: there’s a tendency to believe that if you make a different decision, then one of us is wrong, and it can’t be me. I’ve noticed this a lot in circumcision, one of the examples S did not cite: a lot of guys can’t face that a “wrong” decision could have been made for them, so they persist in deciding it’s right.

    I have serious concerns about not vaccinating, because I have seen the (admittedly rare) serious complications that can develop: sterility from mumps, encephalitis and death (or worse) from measles, deafness and mental retardation from rubella at the wrong stage of pregnancy, even scars from chicken pox. I look at the even smaller risks from immunization and think that vaccination is worth it. Yet I don’t think I can or should make decisions for anyone else (even my grandchild) and I presume that everyone is making the best decision they can based on the information they have. I would like for there to be more discussions and fewer arguments.

    • Paige @ baby dust diaries

      I love this: “Presume Goodwill from all Parties.” what a different world we would have if everyone lived this way. It reminds me of what Rumi said, “out beyond ideas of right and wrong there is a field; I’ll meet you there.

      My blog certainly doesn’t leave any question as to my stance on vaccination. Ive never had any backlash (that I know of) as a result. I do find it frustrating that when I say I don’t vax people assume it is “the autism thing” which for me it is not.

  9. Check out Dr. Sears’ book “The Vaccine Book” – he’s got some good arguments (for either anti- or pro) and his website has some good excerpts.

    I’ve been lucky I guess that I haven’t experienced much from people who might judge our decision to not vaccinate much (dd only has had tetanus). Maybe it’s because many of our friends feel the same way, maybe it’s because I tend to not advertise her status… but I try and support or affirm others who have made the decision when I hear a conversation, to just let them know they’re not alone. It’s one thing to inquire and question with the intention of learning a different point of view. It’s another to question and then judge because someone’s not like you.

    I agree with Amber- this is all about shades of grey.

  10. Like Janelle and Amber, I think there are lots of shades of grey on this issue. I was surprised how much hatred I got from both camps on a post I wrote about the H1N1 vaccine discussing both sides of the argument. Some thought I was an idiot for even questioning the safety of the vaccine and others thought I was an idiot for even considering that the vaccine might be a good idea.

    • Maybe I was looking in all the wrong places, but I never could find the H1N1 vaccine available at a location open after my work hours. As a single mother, I wanted to make one choice, but was economically led to make another one. Definitely a frustrating position to be in.

  11. I thought maybe I’d written this article, though I actually did write much the same thing awhile back, but publicly. It always worries me to talk about vaccinations because (a) I don’t have answers, only unsettling and unsettled conclusions based on my research and (b) people are so divisive and emotional on the issue. I try not to let emotions guide my own decisions in regard to vaccinating or not, but it’s hard even to find impartial information.

    I second the Robert Sears book. I also read What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations, by Stephanie Cave, and Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide: How to Make Safe, Sensible Decisions about the Risks, Benefits, and Alternatives, by Aviva Jill Romm.

  12. I appreciate this article. I found/find the vaccine decision to be a difficult one for our family with no clear definitive answers.

    We personally err towards the view of the article’s author.

    I live in a community with a very high non-vaxing population and what concerns me is the utter lack of respect and knowledge of how to appropriately interact in community when non-vaxed. For example, when our 18 month old was exposed to chicken pox we stayed at home for over 3.5 weeks. We cancelled non-refundable plane tickets and a vacation we had been planning. It sucked, but it we felt it was our responsibility. The chicken pox recently went around our community and I was shocked to learn that people were having a hard time getting parents to keep their kids at home. I had a personal friend tell me that she had exposed her 1 year old, but “we’ll see what happens” as I sat next to them in their home. She had never asked me if I wanted to be exposed (or if it was even safe for me to be exposed as a pregnant woman.) She felt extremely bad after I explained to her the potential danger.

    If you choose to not vax–fine, but please be responsible community members about it!

    • Hillary:

      I have found that type of thing to be frustrating too. We had a vacation planned with friends once and their daughter, who was about 3 or 4 at the time, had contracted chicken pox. Our daughter was 15 months and hadn’t received the chicken pox vaccine yet (although our almost 4 year old had). Our friends called and asked us if we wanted them to stay home. Our answer was that no, they should come, and we could just keep their daughter away from our daughter. The important word in that sentence for me, was “WE”.

      As it turned out, they didn’t do anything to attempt to keep their daughter away from ours. I was the only one who kept telling her “please don’t come near the baby, we don’t want her to get sick”. When we asked our friends to help, they said: “We can’t really tell her that she can’t play”, which is not what I was asking of them. I just wanted them to ask her to stay away from the baby. For the rest of that day, I wore my daughter on my back far away from the little girl. For the next few days, I opted out of the group activities that involved their daughter and stayed with my daughter.

      If she had contracted it, she would have had the chicken pox right at the time of our return flight home, which would have been horrendous for us (itchy baby on a 7 hour flight) and unfair to those around us who we might have been exposing.

      All that to say, I agree – “If you choose to not vax–fine, but please be responsible community members about it!”

  13. I think one reason why this debate is so highly charged is that it’s not just about you and your family… but can be viewed as a decision that you make that also affects the larger community. Every so often I hear stories of infants who were too young to be vaccinated, who get exposed to measles or another usually-vaccinated-against disease, and the baby getting very sick or even dying from it. It’s difficult not to have a visceral reaction to those types of stories.

    I have to say, it’s so, so nice to read a post from a non-vaxxer that’s this thoughtful and reasonable. We are a vaccinating family, and usually what I tend to see from the anti-vaxx side is vitriol about how vaccines are pure poison and that we’re horrible parents for subjecting our kids to them. I wish more of the debate around vaccines could be like this post and the comments above, instead of all the attacks and accusations that often come from both sides.

  14. Thank you for posting. As a non-vaxxer, I have definitely heard the hurtful words of others regarding our choice. For me, it’s a no-brainer because I actually had children with vaccine reactions, and over time with my involvement in support groups for my oldest son’s disease, etc, I met too many parents with children that were PERFECT the day they got vaccinated and AUTISTIC or EPILEPTIC the next.

    Maybe because I know these people in person and have seen it with my own eyes it is more believable. But I do know that there are dangers in the ingredients of vaccines, it is fact that there are known risks, and parents should be making informed decisions- whether that be to vaccinate, delay, selectively vax, or not vaccinate at all.

    Steph

    • Steph: I’m approving your comment, but I want to point out the problem of juxtaposing “perfect” and “autistic or epileptic” — please take a moment to consider what that says and how that feels to persons with autism or epilepsy. Are they no longer perfect? Are they less-than? Is my child, for being hypothyroid, another “imperfection”? Am I, for being bipolar?

      It is frightening when our children appear to change dramatically, seemingly overnight, and it’s understandable to grieve and process that change and the loss of the life we’d dreamed for them (as I did when I learned of the Boychick’s hypothyroidism), but we need to take care with what we say and what it means to the many, many of us who live with disabilities and atypicalities. It is emphatically not ok to present abled as the standard against which any deviation is seen as a devaluation. All people are persons, and are worthy of respect.

  15. Thanks for this. I have a square about both sides of the judgmental extremes on vaccines in my Mommy Wars Bingo.

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  17. Annie @PhD in Parenting: to clarify – my friend has been vaccinated but she is one of those people for whom the vaccine was ineffective, which she learned from pre- pregnancy testing. She did not contract Rubella, but was understandably upset by the exposure to it during pregnancy.

  18. I agree, it’s such a personal issue. And the vast majority of people do extensive research before making their decision. But at the end of the day, it comes down to what you can live with as a parent, and that’s no one else’s business.

    For me, that was vaccinating. And it has already (most likely) saved my daughter’s life. But my interpretation of events is entirely subjective. Another person, faced with the same set of circumstances could easily have interpreted it in a different way.

    It takes a big commitment to your decision to not vaccinate, when faced with the majority who do. And while I personally believe that the majority protects the minority, I am a passionate advocate of every parent’s right and need to choose what is right for them. Because in a worst case scenario, when a child is sick, there’s no majority, there’s just you and your family.

  19. And, sometimes, in rare cases, there are those who don’t vaccinate because of entirely other reasons – my siblings, all 5 of them, are unvaccinated. I’m only selectively and fairly recently anything near fully vaccinated (due to travel to places where it was necessary).

    Why? Because I had severe asthma attacks requiring hospitalization after most of my early jabs (as well as after some of my adult ones) and my next sister nearly died from her first MMR. Thus, doctors don’t *want* to vaccinate us, and suggest against it. When they do, it’s all done very carefully. Hasn’t stopped us from having to deal with lots of flak about it, lots of angry people, and lots of disbelief at the explanations.

    I have an auto-immune disease treated with drugs that cause immune suppression. This means I’m at a much higher risk of getting anything and of it being much worse for me. Doesn’t mean I don’t respect that vaccination, like any other health decision, if a personal choice. It must be treated as one. Thank you, posted, for saying this.

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