On some level, I understand mothers who don't vaccinate. I know what it's like to be petrified of making the wrong choice for your baby. I get it. There's so much conflicting information on the internet, so many rumors, and so many half-truths. The vaccination debate has dominated parenting forums. Parents are vehemently defending their choices, citing research, retelling anecdotes, and relying on urban legends. Vaccinating my kids was not a choice, though. It was a necessity. So, if you're anything like me, you many need some ways to respond to moms who shame you for vaccinating.
If you're unfamiliar with the vaccination debate you probably don't have kids. If you are a parent, you would have definitely heard about the pros and cons of vaccination. Vaccination debates tend to happen most in online forums, since people feel comfortable enough to speak their minds while behind a computer screen. As a result, the anti-vaxx movement is strong and is gaining more support.
Honestly, I don't feel shamed by other moms for vaccinating my children and I know I am doing what is right for my children and my community. But if you come under fire for vaccinating your kids, maybe these talking points will help. Remember, though, facts don't always help in debates where emotions and children are involved. The best way to get someone to see your side of a debate is to emphasize with them first, then offer your point of view without judgement or criticism. Sometimes, the more you push the more resistant people are to listen to your opinions (even if those opinions are supported by facts).
"I Know The Benefits Outweigh Any Risk"
It is my true belief many parents do not even recognize how potentially dangerous these preventable diseases can be. So any time a mom mentions that she wants her child to develop a "natural immunity" to one of these preventable, infectious diseases, you can remind or inform her of the actual symptoms of each disease.
- Let her know that diphtheria is a potentially life-threatening throat infection that can spread through the bloodstream and affect the heart and kidneys, and can cause nerve damage and paralysis.
- Remind her that pertussis, or whooping cough, causes severe coughing spells that can last over a minute, during which the children may stop breathing for a short period of time and turn purple due to lack of air.
- Tell her that tetanus affects muscles and nerves, can cause muscle spasms, and can be fatal.
- Explain to her that polio is a debilitating disease that can cause meningitis and paralysis, and has no effective treatment.
- Finally, describe to her the rashes, high fevers, and swelling that result from measles and mumps, and inform her that measles can cause inflammation and swelling of the brain and the spinal cord.
When she brings up the potential side effects of vaccines (because she will), explain to her that the side effects are typically mild and include redness and tenderness in the area of the shot, crankiness, fever, and loss of appetite. And although some vaccines can potentially have more significant adverse effects, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those are extremely rare. Like, 1 in a million, rare.
As Dr. Sanjay Gupta says, "You are 100 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine that protects you against measles. It is worth pointing out that 12 out of 10,000 people who take an aspirin are at risk of bleeding in the brain."
"I Know Young Children Are Most Vulnerable"
We know that newborns and infants are more susceptible to all sorts of nasty bugs. Some pediatricians recommend avoiding closed public spaces with a newborn, specially for babies born in winter, since so many viral illnesses circulate that time of the year. After the first two months, the antibodies passed from the mom hit a low point and the newborn becomes much susceptible to the germs around them. So, while they are still too young to vaccinate, our society depends on the "herd immunity" to keep our newborns safe.
According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's website, 1.5 million children under 5 still die from preventable diseases worldwide. Two of those diseases are measles and meningitis.
"I Know Herd Immunity Is Vital"
Herd immunity, or community immunity, works when a large percentage of the population is vaccinated. This community immunity protects those people who cannot be vaccinated, including infants, pregnant women, and those with certain medical conditions. According to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, vaccination rates must be as high as 90 percent in order for the herd immunity to work. Once less and less people stop vaccinating, our community immunity is weakened and vulnerable groups of people become more at risk.
"I Don't Forget The Past"
Today most doctors have never seen a case of measles, whereas before vaccinations, most Americans suffered from its symptoms. According to the CDC, 15,000 Americans died from diphtheria in 1921 and rubella killed 2,000 babies and caused 11,000 miscarriages between 1964-65. That's one year.
And still, because we haven't seen these devastating effects of no vaccination, we are now having lively debates about a topic that probably should not be debatable.
"I Know Vaccines Are Effective"
According to World Health Organization (WHO), vaccines prevent 6,000,000 deaths worldwide every year. That is a big deal. Vaccines have completely eradicated smallpox. Scientists and researchers alike agree that vaccines are the greatest medical advancement of modern time. Vaccines protect us and our children.
"I Know And Understand What's In The Vaccines"
I know many parents are concerned about the additives in the vaccines, but allow me to reiterate once again how safe vaccines are. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services vaccines are mostly water with antigens. However, many are worried about the few stabilizers added to vaccines. Thimerosal, for example, was removed from vaccines in 2001 as a precaution, even though the body can easily eliminate it from its system.
Aluminum salts make vaccines more effective and are found more in breast milk or formula than in vaccines. As far as formaldehyde is concerned, you get hundreds of times more amounts of it from fruit than from a vaccine. It's also produced naturally by the human body.
So it all seems rather harmless and most of these ingredients have been a part of vaccines since their initial development. To say that they all of a sudden pose a risk to us seems misguided.
"I Listen To Professionals"
I don't try to fix my own car. I don't attempt to open up the water pipes that run under my house and do my own plumbing. I don't operate on myself. I am not an expert in most things. I know a lot about a few things and very little about most things.
As a result, I rely on the knowledge and proficiency of experts. When it comes to vaccinating, I rely on scientists who have way more training and knowledge than I could ever have. I rely on doctors who have spent nearly a decade learning biology and pharmacology and other sciences. I rely on these people because no matter how much Googling I am able to do, I will never be close to having any sort of actual scientific knowledge. Moreover, I will tell you this: if you do not trust your medical provider, switch medical providers. It's rather simple.
"I Know Anti-Vaccination 'Evidence' Is Anecdotal"
Show me actual verifiable, scientific studies that prove vaccines are harmful and I will pay attention. Show me evidence besides some "doctor" who tells you vaccines are harmful and then tries to sell his own vitamins. Show me something that is legitimate evidence and I promise I will listen.
Until then, please know the "underground" sources cannot be proved, many stories are just urban legends, and there have been far more parents who saw the harmful effects of not vaccinating than those who claim vaccinations hurt their children.
"I Care About The Health Of My Child"
I care about my child, just like you care about yours. I will put my own life on the line rather than harm my kid in any way. This is why I rely on professionals. I rely on doctors and scientists and researchers who know way more than a blogger on Google. I rely on actual data and statistics, not anecdotes. Do I think that vaccines pose a risk? Possibly, just like anything else. Nothing is 100 percent safe. However, I am also putting my kids at risk every time we get in the car, every time we go to a public place, every time we fly, and every time we go outside. Yet, we don't think twice about doing those things because they are just a part of our daily lives.
I will continue vaccinating my children and following actual professional medical advice, and I refuse to be shamed for believing in science.