At the risk of stirring up a small but highly active internet hornet’s nest, let’s talk about vaccines. If the few online mom groups who haven't outright banned the topic are any indication, it seems there are certain things parents who vaccinate their kids know, that aren't yet common knowledge among all parents.
Now, I feel I should say up front that I have my granola tendencies here and there, so I can understand (to a certain point) why some people are skeptical of the ubiquity of artificial chemicals in our and our children’s lives. I personally don't believe that some vaguely-defined concept of “natural” is automatically better in all things, but I like to keep things simple. I don't like a lot of extra unpronounceable stuff in my food (mostly because cause it tastes bad), I wear my hair natural and use coconut oil for damn near everything (easier and cheaper), and I gave birth to my son at home, without medications, on purpose (though that was more about birthing with a provider I liked and protecting my future sex life, than any worries about what’s in an epidural). I'm just an, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it (and end up potentially breaking it in the process)” kinda lady.
However, and with that being said, you know what was really broken before someone came along and fixed it? Societies beset by horrific, often deadly childhood diseases.
There are lots of parenting issues that truly are a matter of style, with no one right answer or one-size-fits-all situation. It's not even worth debating them, so much as just sharing information so people can make the choice that's right for their family. It makes no difference in my life if another mom has an epidural, or if she uses a stroller rather than wearing her baby, or if she uses formula instead of breastfeeds. That kind of stuff sits clearly in "you do you" territory, and I'm all for supporting women's choices.
When it comes to vaccines, however, there’s a reason folks (myself included) get heated. With vaccination, we’re no longer in “mind your own business” parenting territory, because contagious diseases don't mind their own business. There’s room for debate on a lot of issues, even within the medical field, but few modern advances have been as extensively well-studied, and well-supported, as vaccines. Parents who vaccinate our kids understand this, as well as the following:
We Are Responsible For More Than Just Our Own Children
Vaccine-Preventable Childhood Diseases Are F*cking Scary
Before vaccines, children routinely lost limbs, senses, and even their lives to diseases that some contemporary folks barely understand, because we didn't grow up watching people be maimed or killed by them. While having a bout of whooping cough may seem like a nuisance to an adult (though there are some adults with whooping cough who might take issue with that characterization), these types of illnesses can be horribly painful and deadly, especially to newborns and others with compromised immune systems. That's nothing to mess with.
Vaccines Are Safe
The most common side effect of a vaccine is temporary soreness at the injection site and possibly a mild fever, if that. For an otherwise healthy child, trading soreness and a slightly higher temperature for protection from potentially deadly diseases, and the chance to protect more vulnerable people from those diseases, is a really good deal.
Science Is Real
No profession is perfect, made up entirely of infallible people with perfect knowledge. Researchers and scientists are not beyond question or reproach. The beauty of science, though, is that we don't have to just take any individual researcher’s word for it, and blindly assume their work is accurate just because they claim it is. Their peers review their work, and set out to see if their results can be repeated. There are built-in checks and balances that help mitigate against false claims. So, when we see something like vaccines, where the overwhelming weight of the scientific evidence, amassed over decades, shows that they are safe and work to prevent massive harm, we believe it.
The Risk Of Adverse Reactions Is Small…
It is rare for people to experience serious adverse reactions after getting a vaccine. With the exception of certain medically fragile people (the ones the rest of us are looking out for when we get our shots) it's far more likely that our kids will just be a bit sore, and maybe a little sleepy and cuddly, after their shots.
...But The Consequences Of Destroying Herd Immunity Are Huge
Diseases that had been all but eliminated have started making a comeback in certain communities because a critical mass of parents have decided not to vaccinate their children. Bringing back deadly diseases is not something to play around with. There are enough scary diseases already, we really don't need to open the floodgates to more.
It's Hard To Watch Your Baby’s First Shot…
When babies are brand new, it can be so hard to see them get their shots. They don't know what's going on, and then someone's jabbing them with a needle, and they're so upset about it. It's just a few of seconds in both of your lives, but those seconds really suck.
...But Watching Them Suffer Needlessly Would Be Way Harder
The first few times my son received his shots, before he decided they were no big deal, I would always remind him (and myself) that this would be quick, and way less painful than experiencing or even dying of a completely preventable disease. There are so many things beyond our control as parents, and so many times we won't be able to keep our children from suffering. Passing up that opportunity when it comes to a preventable illness is unfathomable.
Hypothetical Links Between Vaccines And Autism Have Been Debunked...
The most widely influential evidence against vaccines is a fraudulent paper authored by a disgraced former researcher, that claimed the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism. This claim has been reinvestigated multiple times, and no evidence for it has been found.
...But Even If They Hadn't, We Wouldn't Risk Any Child’s Life Over Ableism
But even if there was still some teeny chance that vaccinating our children might cause autism, we don't believe it makes sense to prioritize a child being neurotypical over a child being alive. We won’t let ableist assumptions about people on the autism spectrum scare us away from making an important and healthy choice for our children and our communities.