Sick of Hearing Talk about Vaccines

It’s enough already.

Facebook is lighting up madly with arguments on both sides of the vaccine debate. Friends in PR were interviewed on TV today about whether unvaccinated children should be allowed to attend public school.

I am sick of everyone telling everyone else what to do.

Here’s the deal: what you eat, what medicines you take, what philosophy you follow, what religion you observe, and everything else, IS A PERSONAL DECISION.

I understand that there is a social contract of living in society that we have to consider. I have my friend Katie to thank for showing me that side of the vaccine debate. It had never honestly occurred to me that I would vaccinate myself or my children to protect others – elderly citizens, newborn babies, immuno-compromised individuals.

I can sign on to that argument.

What I cannot abide is everyone telling everyone else what to do. I hated it when I was in the religious world, and I hate it when it comes to food and medicine.

My choice is simply none of your business. And vice versa.

I’m going to be honest here: I vaccinate my kids. There are only 1 or 2 that I have not done, and it’s not because I don’t believe in them. It’s because, in conversation with my doctor, I’ve decided that the timing was better at a different age than what most people do.

There are a few vaccines that, big surprise, were taken off the market due to unforeseen complications. Too often, medicines and vaccines are rushed into the marketplace so Big Pharma makes its money, without really knowing the long-term effect on the populace. I’m not willing to use my kids (or myself) as guinea pigs, so I remain cautious and educate myself before making medical decisions.

Last year, I traveled all the way around the globe to India for two weeks, and to do so, I endured months of shots to make sure I did not get, well, anything. I even renewed my childhood vaccines because it had been so long and I did not want to run the risk of contracting Polio or Measles or worse.

I am someone who lives holistically. I practice yoga, I eat healthfully, I try not to take medicine whenever possible, I meditate, and I believe emotional and physical health go hand in hand.

That said, I took a Z-pack of antibiotics with me to India just in case. I took Emergen-C packets and electrolyte powder and other stuff to protect my health.

Even still, once there I made the mistake of drinking lassi, a watered-down yogurt drink native to India, and while it was delicious, it brought me down with fever and chills and upset stomach. Z-pack out, lassi gone, I reverted to the Western-conscious style of eating only cooked foods for the rest of the trip.

Yes, you can’t be too careful. I stayed up the entire night before my first child had his MMR shot because I’d read too much about alleged links to autism outbreaks. (I know they’ve been refuted, and I also know people whose children have had immediate autistic diagnoses after having this shot.)

I gave it to him, though. I wasn’t willing to risk the illness, and yet I still feared dreaded side effects.

As a parent, I believe it is my right and my role to determine what is best for each of my children. And that includes when and whether to vaccinate. As I said, I do vaccinate, but I do it on my own schedule – some in alignment with the health department, some delayed, all in consultation with my doctor.

I don’t make shit up. I don’t profess to be an expert. But I also don’t believe that a doctor knows better than I do. In the medical world and in every situation, we only know what we know today. Doctors are not God. They are human, just like I am, and I am smart enough to do research, ask questions, consider sources, and compare arguments. I turn to experts for my information, but I trust myself to make choices.

We know enough to prevent deadly diseases and yes, the current measles outbreak is stunningly scary. I know someone who was diagnosed with Pertussis recently – someone who was vaccinated within the last decade! She was told by her doctor that people come down with Whooping Cough all the time and those who do were, in fact, vaccinated.

As well, she was told that the Pertussis vaccine wears off in three years. And most of us do not get boosters.

In fact, most of us don’t get vaccines past adolescence. When was the last time you had a booster?

I can tell you that, before my India trip, because I scrutinized this vaccine question so acutely, I became aware of the importance of myself as an adult making sure I have my boosters. My children’s doctor gave me a TDaP (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine for just that reason, and you can bet I will keep up on it from now on.

I wish those who preach about vaccines would be equally vocal about, say, breastfeeding – did you know that is one of the best medical choices you can make for yourself and your child?

But I’m not judging those who don’t. It is a personal choice. I know where I stand and that is enough; I don’t need to insist that you stand there with me.

We live in a free society that was once free of certain diseases and no longer is because people are exercising their right to make decisions for themselves to not vaccinate. I understand the social contract; I understand the implications of breaking that contract.

I also understand the power of the masses to push you into doing something you don’t want to do just to be accepted.

We do not live in a totalitarian society. It is a slippery slope; once you start telling people they are excluded from school because they choose not to vaccinate, where does it stop?

Not every vaccine prevents a life-threatening illness. Not every vaccine prevents illness, actually. And not every loud-mouth out there taunting others to vaccinate, or be chased out of their community if they don’t, knows of which they speak.

Let’s stop judging others and make choices that we can live with. Let’s take others into consideration but not let the opinions of others determine what we do.

Let’s trust our instincts and rely on common sense, while respecting the rights of those around us to do the same. Only when we hold each other in highest regard can we stop preaching and start modeling.

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