I couldn’t talk about unpopular practices without broaching the most unpopular view on the most controversial subject in parenting – v*ccines. I have yet to find a more heated topic than v*ccinations. People draw a hard line and are quick to divide people into two polarized categories: pro-v*ccine and anti-v*ccine. Any parent who even questions the safety or efficacy of v*ccines risks harsh criticism and ridicule. We need to keep in mind that most parents are trying to make choices in the best interest of their children. We all want healthy children; no solicitous parent, whether for or against v*ccines, is trying to bring harm to their children. I, personally, will always defend the element of choice – specifically informed choice – when it comes to any pharmaceutical or other substance entering my body and the bodies of my children. So long as v*ccination is optional and not mandatory, we need to foster open dialogue and clear presentation of information to ensure parents can inform themselves and make the right decisions for their family.
V*ccine hesitancy is on the rise, meaning a large chunk of parents fall somewhere between the pro-v*ccine and the anti-v*ccine categories. Although it is true that misinformation is to blame for some of the reluctance, it doesn’t mean that these parents don’t have any valid concerns. Hesitant really means undecided; it means there is a desire to gather more information so that a decision can be made with confidence. V*ccine hesitancy might be better termed "thoughtful v*ccination", in that these parents want to assess the available information before making a decision and many will choose to v*ccinate after doing so. In my experience, asking questions and voicing mere hesitation is often met with intimidation, shaming and attacks on intelligence and intent. But, I will argue that calling hesitant parents idiots and baby-killers does little to sway them toward v*ccinating.
Current scientific consensus accepts v*ccination as both safe and effective. Why, then, might a reasonable, educated and competent caregiver still have concerns? Here are some questions that might come up from a hesitant parent:
Who profits from v*ccines? How closely involved are the manufacturers in the research being done to support and promote large-scale v*ccination schedules? What protections are in place to ensure research is not biased for those supplying the funding?
How up-to-date is the research? Does current data reflect the fact that recommended dosage has tripled since the 1980s?
It’s known that many safety studies have been done on v*ccines. What, specifically, is being cited in these studies? Can you point me to the most recent and most relevant studies, or summarize the findings of said studies? Does safe mean healthier outcomes in children, or does safe simply refer to minimal fatality and injury rates? Are there government studies in place to look at long term effects of multiple or “cocktail” v*ccines given at once? Are there studies comparing v*ccinated children to unv*ccinated children when it comes to ruling out correlations to conditions such as Sudden Infant Death Syndome, cancer, autoimmune conditions, seizure disorders, learning disorders, allergies, autism, asthma, eczema and gastrointestinal issues that are so prominent in children today?
Why are the ingredients and additives in v*ccines not told to parents expressly? It’s currently treated as available-upon-request, which can make it more disconcerting for a parent when they discover ingredients include aluminum, mercury-containing thimerosal, sorbitol, gelatin, formaldehyde and neomycin, and that the samples are cultured using animal, egg and aborted human fetal tissue.
What is the unsafe amount of aluminum, for example, in a baby’s system? How do the levels of the toxic additives in the vaccine compare to unsafe levels? Are these components integrated into the body differently when injected versus ingested?
Is it misleading to say ‘v*ccines are safe’ as a blanket statement, when possible risks vary greatly, from redness and swelling at the injection site for some v*ccines, to seizure and coma for others?
Why is fever considered an undesirable side effect? Isn’t a fever an appropriate immune reaction in response to the proteins in a v*ccine? Why do some kids get a fever and some don’t? If every healthy child reacts differently, how can we say it’s appropriate for every healthy child?
Where can I find an extensive list of all possible side effects and injuries incurred by v*ccines? Is it reasonable to assume adverse reactions are underreported? How long after a v*ccine does a given side effect remain linked to the v*ccine? For example, if a child has a seizure two days after a v*ccine, is it documented as a v*ccine reaction? What about after seven days or ten days? Do parents, doctors and nurses know how to recognize and report all adverse reactions? If so, why are there advocates calling for improvements in the reporting system?
Chances of death, injury and serious reaction from v*ccines are considered rare, but the same can be said for contracting certain communicable diseases, such as chicken pox. Is one risk considerably lower than the other? By how much?
Can I assess each v*ccine on an individual basis since not all diseases come with the same severity of risk? Not all are contagious and not all are highly fatal. Do I have the option to choose to get only one or two instead of the combination shots, if I wanted to v*ccinate against rubella but didn’t want to get the measles v*ccine, for example?
Where can I find reliable comparative statistical data such as the transmission rates, death rates and the serious risks of each v*ccine-preventable disease, before and after the introduction of the corresponding v*ccine? Do the risks remain the same relative to my demographic compared to global rates?
Why is it possible to contract a disease after receiving the v*ccination for it? Can a v*ccine ever cause infection or transmission of the disease it’s supposed to prevent? What reason would parents of v*ccinated children have to be concerned about their kids being around unv*ccinated children?
It appears that criticism, intimidation and character-assassination play a factor in deterring independent researchers who are willing to find and publish possible dangers of v*ccination. Can we truly say, and to what degree of confidence, that we have access to all of the relevant scientific information when researchers avoid the topic for fear of their job and reputation?
All truth should withstand scrutiny, so why is censorship necessary? So much effort is put in to removing counter arguments and discrediting the sources of every dissenting voice – why? Is there another side to the story?
What about anecdotal evidence? When a parent, nurse or pediatrician speaks out (and there are many of them) saying that a typically developing child significantly changed or regressed immediately after a v*ccine was administered, are those accounts being taken into account and investigated seriously? Can every one of those cases be explained as coincidental timing, change in diagnostics or pure lies?
I think it’s completely fair to expect health providers to answer all questions extensively before v*ccines are administered. Parents don’t want to and don’t deserve to be treated like they can’t think for themselves or couldn’t possibly understand such things. I don’t want to be spoken to like I’m a child, and I have felt this message of, “I’m the professional therefore I know what’s best for you.” Yes, we should always maintain a healthy respect for scientific research and expertise, but in no other industry is asking questions shamed so much, and that needs to change. When scientists report about climate change, we trust them and believe them, but we also expect all of the findings to be transparent and public. We trust our financial advisors to manage our money, but we still expect to be kept in the loop and consulted in the process. When it comes to healthcare and v*ccinations for our children, parents should be empowered with information, understanding, consultation and the final say. If a parent’s questions are not answered to satisfaction, or if the risk to themselves is moderate, unknown or unclear, they are under no obligation to proceed.
There is a vulnerable population that have fragile health conditions and often cannot receive v*ccinations themselves – pregnant women, immunocompromised kids, people on certain medications and undergoing certain treatments. They rely on the large majority of the population to be v*ccinated for greater protection. This is something hesitant parents must seriously consider before making a decision, even if they feel comfortable with the idea of their own children contracting a given infectious disease. Is your perceived personal risk from v*ccination worth the greater good? It is a personal, philosophical and moral decision. As long as body autonomy remains an enforced right, it is up to you to decide.