Let me write this at the very start of the day while I have some energy (although I must avoid false sympathy and say that after a very dark, difficult, and painful stretch, that this has been a far better week than the last few and I’m doing my best to enjoy it and make the most of it while it lasts).
When Nefarious was born, two things were going on in the medical world that I feel are relevant to what I’m going to admit. First, it was the height of the SARS scare, which, at least in rural Belleville, seemed like a huge over-reaction and fear-mongering blow-up. Second, it was when all the worries about vaccines potentially causing more problems than they solved were starting to be made noise about by various fringe figures that I was sympathetic to. As a result, I had a great deal of distrust of the vaccination system and for the first part of Nefarious’s life she was not vaccinated. Over time, a combination of feeling uncomfortable signing “religious exemption” forms and starting to understand the science (and seeing the anti-vax “science” being thoroughly debunked) left me with the understanding that I’d made a terrible — and embarrassing — anti-science mistake that needed correcting.
Unfortunately, even with the antivax science so debunked (and shown to be full-on evil) that all that’s left is a mix of lies and religion, I still have many dear friends who hold an anti-vaccine stance and are by their caring (and I think it’s important to recognize that people are antivax because they are trying to be the best parents they can be) but misinformed actions endangering their own children as well as other children around them. It’s hard to bring it up because people get really mad, to the point of ending friendships, when you question their parenting choices, but I think on this subject it’s worth the risk.
I’m not going to personally break down all the reasons why the antivax position is about as reasonable as creationism, flat-earth science, moon landing hoax claims, and other anti-science lunacy that stems from a weird mix of ignorance, conspiracy theories about “big pharma”, and religion, because there are a great deal of good resources out there that do it better than I could. For starters, Health Canada has a good page debunking various antivax arguments, and if you want to get more indepth — and really understand how the antivax movement is starting to willfully murder children, and the gargantuan health risk it represents — then you must keep an eye on the “Bad Astronomy” blog, which is a real beacon of light and works hard to make sure that science and reason is the voice that drives us, rather than blind fear of the night that we should have left behind in the Dark Ages. Anyway, their antivax posts are a must-read.
I’ve added both of these links to my sidebar. Like I said, seven years ago I started out with worries about vaccines, worries that were strong enough to avoid them at first. So I get how one could start there, but these are worries that I calmed with a little research. I came to understood the harm that I almost did my daughter and felt terrible about it, and, if you are in the same position I was then, please please please just read over the links above. That’s all I beg of you. Look at the sources for the various arguments and their qualifications to make the claims they’re making, make a real risk assessment (because even if the antivax fear-mongering about autism/etc wasn’t an outright lie, from a statistical point of view, you’re still monstrously safer with vaccines), and let the reasoning, conscious, and intelligent part of your mind make the decision, rather than your gut. This is pretty much the only subject on which I feel it’s worth butting ones nose into other people’s parenting, and I do feel bad doing that when I tell a friend I think they need to reconsider their stance, but I do feel that it’s important enough to take the risk.
Especially if you’re going to let your daughter in the lake…