Let me preface this by saying that I am fairly liberal. I am pro-choice. I voted for Obama. I am a firm supporter of same-sex marriages. I believe that everyone should have access to affordable health care. But what I don’t and won’t accept is the anti-vaccination movement.
I have been a parent of an autistic child for 17 years. During those 17 years I have had the anti-vaxxer movement shoved down my throat. From well meaning friends to militant, uneducated strangers…I’ve heard that vaccines probably caused my daughter’s autism, which is blatantly untrue. There are volumes and volumes of information regarding vaccines causing or not causing ASD, and I have read them all.
A discredited study released by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in 1998 began the debate of fear vs. facts. At that time Hallee was barely a year old and already exhibiting ASD red flags, long before her MMR vaccine was given at 15 months. Vaccines have never been to blame, in my own mind as a parent or as an educated adult who has made it her business to know the facts. Never, ever have I felt concern over fully vaccinating my two children.
Regardless of said facts, we are now paying for the choices made by those who chose not to vaccinate their children with the worst measles outbreak in decades. Social media has FINALLY lit a fire under the anti-vax movement and people are opening their eyes to the dangers involved in not vaccinating our own children as well as the dangers to others. Measles was virtually eradicated 15 years ago and is now roaring back to life right here in the USA. What’s next, polio? Boy, those iron lungs are going to be a bitch to drag around the playground.
We were recently at our (former) pediatrician’s office here in Bangor and as the assistant was going over our personal information in the exam room, she said, “Now let me take a look here, your girls are vaccines or no vaccines?”. I said yes, they’re vaccinated..were there very many families at our practice that weren’t? Her answer was, “Oh, you wouldn’t believe how many.”
This had me floored. Our practice doesn’t have a sick area and a well area in the waiting room. Your healthy kid is sitting next to a kid who has a green, running nose and a fever of 103. Shared bathroom, shared seating..I’ve always been wigged out going in there and even asked if we could wait ANYWHERE else, our car, an empty exam room, janitor’s closet…I didn’t care where, but we didn’t have a choice. We left that practice, by the way. Here is a great piece my sister sent me today by Azeen Ghorayashi about doctors who are now banning unvaccinated patients from their offices.
As more and more heat is being put on anti-vaxxers, it will be interesting to see what vaccine “opt out” provisions change in our communities. These are the provisions that say a parent doesn’t have to vaccinate their child due to personal beliefs. What I will continue to believe? Emily Flake’s cartoon for New Yorker Magazine sums it up perfectly.