When we were expecting our first child, my husband and I had The Vaccine Talk. It lasted all of about 4 seconds and went like this:
“We’re vaccinating the baby, right?”
Now, is there more to discuss? Sure! I could get up on my soapbox and defend vaccines for days on end. But I really shouldn’t have to.
The power of vaccinations is not a mystery or a secret. Pediatricians and science/fact-based parenting groups will tell you all the details you need to know. So will the CDC website and every other trusted medical resource in the country — and the world.
As Americans, we are fortunate enough to live in a time and place where life-saving vaccines exist. And to have access to them at little or no cost. What a miracle of modern medicine this is. I wish it was one more parents appreciated.
I’ll be honest — I had no idea how widespread this scary, dangerous anti-vaccination trend was until I was a few months into parenting and the topic started swirling in my local mummy groups. Talk of delaying or avoiding vaccinations altogether was coming up and I was absolutely floored.
Some mums cited the disproved theory about a link between vaccinations and autism as the reason they planned to avoid them (or “wing it” as my husband and I dark-joke). Others were concerned about the “chemicals” in the shots, most of which are found, too, in common baby foods and even breastmilk.
The laundry list of reasons the mums I met were self-identifying as Anti-Vaxxers was long and none of it based in science. We are talking about a group of parents who claim to be more expert than actual experts in a field of medicine most have learned about based on their own tainted googling. And, unlike other parenting choices like whether to breast or bottle-feed, or home- or public school, the one not to vaccinate can have deadly consequences.
Pregnant with my second baby last year, I stumbled across Facebook groups for expectant mothers all over the globe. With one main thing in common — August due dates — we were able to express our opinions, talk about our fears, and swap ideas and gripes in a safe space.
But things started feeling a lot less safe when scores of these mothers revealed they don’t plan to vaccinate their children. What I’d previously thought was a small pocket of crunchy mums hiding in corners of my small town, revealed itself to be an international epidemic of stupidity putting everyone’s kids at risk.
Here’s the deal. My stress over this trend turned to anger when I realised how widespread the “Anti-Vaxx” movement really is. And sadly, we don’t live in California where it’s significantly harder for parents to send their children school unvaccinated. Oftentimes, I wish we did.
It makes me physically sick to think about my children attending school with kids who aren’t vaccinated. I always find a way to work vaccines into the conversation casually before we have a playdate with a new family or hire a new teenaged babysitter. But still, I’m terrified.
Terrified and pissed off off.
Because by not vaccinating your child, you’re not just sending a message to them that you don’t give a crap about science nor do you believe it’s real. (What else are you going to tell them — Earth is flat? Climate change is BS, too?).
By not vaccinating your child, you are not just exposing them to preventable diseases. By not vaccinating your child, you are putting other people’s children at risk.
Families that don’t vaccinate might be relying on so-called herd immunity to keep their kids disease-free, but instead they should be contributing to it by vaccinating their kids. Because herds are stronger in numbers, and that deadly illness-blocking group of vaccinated children is what newborn babies, kids with compromised immune systems, and sick people who cannot be vaccinated rely upon to stay healthy and alive.
Also, vaccines are not 100% effective, so even my fully vaccinated children could fall ill thanks to the dangerous anti-vaccination trend. Because by not vaccinating your children, you’re helping diseases like polio and rubella that should have been eradicated or far decreased in incidence live on. (Thankfully, smallpox has been eradicated and polio should be next.)
Recently, there was a lot of buzz about a possible resurgence of measles cases, and while the CDC did say that the number of cases this year are typical for any given year in the US, the report also asserts two important things: 1) most cases of measles were in unvaccinated people (WHY ARE YOU SETTING YOUR CHILDREN UP FOR MEASLES?) and 2) “Measles can spread when it reaches a community in the U.S. where groups of people are unvaccinated.” (THANKS SO MUCH FOR MAKING THIS POSSIBLE FOR MY OWN KIDS, YOU IDIOTS).
So, it might seem irrational that I’m avoiding mum groups these days unless I’m close with all the parents therein. Yes, part of the motivation is to keep my children’s risk of being exposed as low as possible. But it goes deeper than that. This isn’t just about measles, it’s about the very real possibility that if it comes up in casual conversation that you choose not to vaccinate your children, I may lose my ever-loving sh*t on you and that’s a side of my personality I’d rather my kids not see.
Because “Anti-Vaxxers” bring out a special rage in me that I’ve never really known before. It’s something about the trifecta of: thinking science is BS, disrespecting other parents by leaving their kids susceptible, and apathy about their own children’s health that really just does things to me. It’s an aloof, I-Know-Better-Than-The-Medical-Community stance that I just can’t wrap my head around.
If your child was standing near the edge of a cliff with no climbing gear on, would you not reach out and grab him with every last ounce of your might, even knowing that you might leave a small, temporary bruise on his skin from the gesture, versus taking the chance that he could fall to his death? Of course you would choose the bruise.
I don’t want to seem like I think I know what’s best for everyone else’s kids. I don’t. In my home we quarter our grapes and use normal toothpaste, not organic. In my bed each night is a three-year-old with whom I never planned to bed-share. I drive a gas-guzzling mummy mobile but recycle everything I possibly can. We’re all a bit of a mess, us mums. None of us is perfect and there’s no way to do it right.
But for the love of all things that are good and true in this world, please educate yourself and vaccinate your dang kids. It’s 10 seconds of your time every few months or years that could mean countless lives saved, including the ones most precious to you. How in the world is that not worth it?