Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why we waited to vaccinate

I have kept my mouth shut, I have bitten my tongue to near bleeding as I have watched all of the thrashing of parents who wait to vaccinate their child. I can't do it any longer though.Some of the articles and comments written on this subject are very well meaning and well intentioned, but many are sweeping, bullying, generalizations. Yes some parents aren't thinking through this clearly, and are just going on rumor, but there is a lot more to this. Beyond that, parenting is hard and scary at times. You want the absolute best for you kids, and it's not always easy to sift through everything in this world and the information overload, and decide what the best is. That is where we found ourselves when our kids were little, so the two of us, both college educated, well read, middle class professionals, decided to delay some of our kid's vaccinations.

It started honestly, with the autism link. During the period of 2000-2006 when we were having young children, the information on the link between autism and shots was not so clear. We knew a family, well educated, well meaning people, whose son didn't show any signs of autism, until after a big vaccination. We saw them struggling through therapies, and trying to bring back the son they had before. It may not have been the cause, but at the time the vaccinations looked very suspicious. We also had the makings of a genetic predisposition to autism, if such a thing existed. We had a family member on the spectrum. So it seemed to us, if autism was in our background and shots potentially turned something on inside some individuals that activated this in kids, we didn't want to take that risk.

We didn't just decide this for ourselves based on rumors, or feelings, we discussed our family history with some awesome pediatricians and they recommended a slow delayed plan of vaccines. Eventually our kids received all of their vaccines, but they were not complete until after our youngest turned three. This meant that for our oldest, we were filling out documents for daycare,preschool and kindergarten to exempt her from vaccines. The form said we were doing it for religious beliefs. As a Christian who is called to love others, I couldn't put my kids in what I thought was harms way. I also was aware that other children were vulnerable. We weighed the risks,and decided that delaying was the best option. At one point we were going on a trip and our doctor recommended the MMR before that trip, so we followed her advice and made sure we weren't giving any other injections at the time, so as not to overwhelm their systems. The vaccine we held out the longest on was the varicella otherwise known as the chicken pox shot. These decisions were not easy for us, I agonized over them, and it was embarrassing to have to fill out those forms, and to get exclusion letters from the school warning that they had to be turned in by a certain time.

And those statistics about the number of exemptions in each school, that you might be freaking out over, they probably aren't totally accurate. Our kids were fully vaccinated to the school's requirements five years ago, yet a few months ago we received a notice, saying we had to provide notice of vaccination or resign the form. It was a clerical error.

I share this all to say,  please stop shaming and judging these parents. You don't know them, you don't know the experiences they have had or the advice they have received. Don't lump them all in with the people that are being negligent and aren't doing their homework. Saying things like "is autism risk more important than risk of death", aren't fair. Calling these parents stupid is not okay. Better education is required, but just like with anything else, compassion is a better way to approach it than judgement and hate. Ultimately fear drives people to make this decision and bullying people is not going to help them overcome that fear.

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