By Melissa Clark
As parents, we are faced with making many decisions. It can seem overwhelming. We are bombarded with information and advice from other parents, friends, the media, doctors—the list goes on. When I was pregnant with my first child three years ago, I knew I wanted the way I parented to fall somewhere on the attachment theory continuum. I hoped for a natural childbirth, planned to breastfeed, to use cloth diapers, to wear my baby, to co-sleep—you get the idea.
I thought one of the decisions I needed to make was whether or not to vaccinate my child. As a nurse, I understood the importance of vaccination, but as a soon-to-be new parent, I fell prey to the “toxins” argument. So I did what any well-intentioned parent would; I began to research vaccines. I turned to Dr. Sears’ Vaccine Book and decided that I would follow his delayed vaccination schedule. I knew that vaccines were important, but I thought there was a “safer” way to administer them to my child that would minimize her risk of exposure to toxins.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I am pregnant with my second child. One morning I saw a post on Facebook in regards to the flu vaccine. It claimed that the vaccine contained aborted fetal tissue. In my head I knew that didn’t sound right, and a simple internet search revealed that I was correct, vaccines do not contain aborted fetal cells.
It was at that moment I realized that if that article was false, what other beliefs about vaccines that I held to be true were actually false? My thinking started to shift. I began digging deeper into the issue of vaccines and found that, in fact, I had been duped by fear. I had bought into the scare tactics. I trusted the opinion of one man, instead of the scientific evidence proven by many.
I felt like a selfish jerk because I realized that not only was my decision to delay vaccinating my daughter arrogant, but even worse, that decision could have had deadly consequences for my daughter as well as other children. Never had I been told that my decision to alter the CDC vaccination schedule myself could cause harm to someone else’s child.
I also felt guilty for spewing the scare tactics and biased information to other parents, thus potentially influencing their decision to vaccinate. After that lightbulb moment, I knew that I would vaccinate future children on time, according to the CDC schedule; I also began getting my daughter caught up on the vaccines that she was missing.
As my attitude toward vaccines changed, the question came to mind “when did vaccines become a choice?” When did it become okay to purposely expose our children to vaccine-preventable diseases, like chickenpox? Why is the loud voice of the anti-vaccine movement often the only one parents hear when they turn to various media and social outlets for information?
I wish I had the answers. What I can tell you is that I know how easy it is for an educated, well-intentioned parent to be swayed by fear and misinformation. I can tell you how easy it is to see the fear- mongering for what it is once you are presented with scientific truth. Yes, as parents we are tasked with making many difficult decisions on behalf of our children; however, vaccinating is not one of those difficult decisions. The ramifications of not vaccinating your child are not contained within your family; they threaten the safety of public health. So, once you are confronted with the truth of science, what will you do?
Melissa Clark is wife to an amazing husband, and mom to two awesome kids. Her educational background is in nursing, and she is a doula and Lamaze childbirth educator. She enjoys coffee, the Internet, and a sparkling kitchen sink.