I am a reformed anti-vaxxer. My older boys were vaccinated in the late 80s and early 90s, but when Oskar was born in 2002, our pediatrician discouraged us from vaccinating. He cited the increase in the number of vaccines as well as the danger of side effects, etc. and we went along with it. I also had my older sons circumcised (despite their mother’s protest), and by the time Oskar came around, I had come to see the error of my ways, so I probably considered my earlier attitude toward vaccination to be part of my caveman ways that needed to be reformed. I’m a smart guy, but I admit that I didn’t do my homework or even consider things like herd immunity.
Oskar got whooping cough last year when he started middle school and since then he’s been vaccinated for everything except HPV and meningitis. The meningitis vaccination comes in high school. I have done much more research and have come to realize that I was very wrong. It’s important to be able to admit your mistakes and change when you can, and it’s just as important to speak out when what each of us does can affect all of us.
I live in the heart of the anti-vax movement (Santa Monica), and our pediatrician, Jay Gordon, has been at the white hot center of the debate for years. But when I scheduled vaccinations with his office, they were very happy to provide them. They realize that the risks are high and real (though they probably don’t acknowledge their role in creating the risk through the years).
There are no intelligent arguments against vaccination for people with healthy immune systems. Zero. There is no point in pretending both sides of this argument have good points. They do not. Those who argue the science isn’t in on vaccine safety do not understand vaccines. Live virus/bacteria vaccines do not make you sick. They are attenuated, which means they are not virulent but they are alive. This allows your body to develop immune responses without having to get sick. Like anything else, there are potential side effects, but the common ones aren’t serious and the serious ones are statistically very rare.
Someone above posted that doctors came to her 24 hours after the birth of her child to vaccinate her baby. That doesn’t make sense, and I can understand why that would be extremely upsetting. Your baby is brand new in the world and is perfect. Babies also have their mother’s immune system for several weeks, so there’s no need to act that fast. I’m sympathetic to parents who want to protect their children and not just do every thing doctors say to do without questioning. I was like that and I still am to a degree, but not about this.
When Oskar got whooping cough, though, it was incredibly difficult to watch him suffer, knowing if we had vaccinated him, this wouldn’t have ever happened. Night after night, he woke up terrified and panicked, unable to breathe, making that awful ‘whoop whoop” sound that just breaks your heart. He missed weeks of school, he had a high fever, and even after the worst of it passed, he had a raspy, wet cough for more than three months. And if he had it as a baby or a toddler it could have killed him.
I’ve come to realize it is the height of irresponsibility bordering on criminality to not vaccinate our children. The state cannot and should not compel people to do it, but the problem with schools refusing to enroll unvaccinated children is that schools are not equipped to be public health police. They don’t have the resources. And that doesn’t address homeschool and private school students.
This is where it really does take a village to raise every child. Each child is important to all of us, and her welfare is in our best interest as well.