What would you do if you were told to do something you believed would harm your child? What if you were socially ostracized for resisting? What if you couldn’t talk about it out of fear you could have your children taken away from you?
This may sound like an extreme portrayal of the issue surrounding vaccination and parental rights currently playing itself out in Olympia, but for thousands of families in Washington, it’s their reality. Proponents of social health programs, many doctors, and some politicians loudly proclaim that everybody needs to be vaccinated, and that this social need overrules everything else. So great is the social pressure that many individuals and families who experience adverse reactions are silenced.
Our first child was born seven years ago. He experienced adverse reactions to his two, four, and six-month vaccines in the form of losing his pincer grasp, losing the ability to roll over, and in place of babbling began crying for up to sixteen hours a day. Even though each of these events occurred within hours of the administration of vaccines, we were told by our doctor that correlation does not equal causation and our concerns were summarily dismissed.
My wife and I, after observing this pattern of trauma made the decision to discontinue future vaccination since we felt our child was at an increased risk for future adverse reactions. Our doctor told us that vaccines were safe and leaving your child unvaccinated was irresponsible. We struggled with the decision, but ultimately concluded that we couldn’t subject our child to the same stimuli that previously triggered these significant reactions.
Socially, some listened to our story, but few believed us. Old friends distanced themselves. Others mercilessly shamed us on social media. People we had known for years were suddenly unavailable for play dates and birthday parties. We discovered painfully that we couldn’t be open with our story on vaccination due to fear of losing friends and alienating family. The entire topic became taboo and we carefully avoided vaccine conversations in person and online. We have discovered thousands of people like us who fear society’s hostility toward their decision and feel unable to share their story.
Our doctor told us that medical exemptions are extremely difficult to get; that a near death experience undeniably linked to vaccinations is the only way we could get our child a medical exemption. Our only option was to get a philosophical exemption, which required our doctor to teach us about the benefits and risks of vaccination beforehand. This legal protection is at risk this year due to HB1638, which removes philosophical exemptions for the MMR – a live virus vaccine which we feel poses a disproportionate risk of injury to him and his siblings.
While this debate around parental rights rages on, a U.S. warship with a fully vaccinated crew has been stranded at sea for months due to an outbreak of mumps. Evidence is emerging that the whooping cough vaccine is creating symptom-free carriers who don’t know they’re spreading the disease, and the recent outbreaks are in and between fully vaccinated people. Additionally, studies show that between people who don’t respond to the measles vaccine and those with waning immunity, there are far more fully-vaccinated non-immune people than there are children using any type of exemption to the MMR (just 2.9% in WA). I can’t help but wonder why the debate doesn’t focus on the efficacy of the products themselves, which at a minimum can be called into question.
It is self-evident that a child’s parent (primary care giver) is in the best position to observe their child’s behavior and make informed decisions for their health. Parents are the authorities on their children’s peculiarities, and they’ll know by observation if a child experiences an adverse reaction. Following any reactions, parents must be equipped with the legal tooling necessary to protect their children from future injury, which is why it’s important that HB1638 does not pass. Vaccinated or not—there is risk. For some, the risk of adverse reactions exceeds the benefits of vaccination. Parents must be equipped with information and trusted with this decision. Ultimately, they are responsible for their children and must live with their decisions one way or another.
Daniel Dawson is a University of Washington graduate and a software engineer in Redmond, Washington.
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