Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dear Vaccine-Refusing Parents

By Karen Ernst

Dear Vaccine Refusing Parents,

I get it. Vaccine Advocates like me have put a lot of pressure on you. Refusing to vaccinate your child is not as popular as it used to be, and some of your peers consider you a pariah, fearing that your children will make them sick. So you’ve gone underground.

You’ve been encouraged to go underground by charlatans, like the anti-vaccine Dr. Bob Sears, who uses fear of vaccines to promote his brand. In his book, he told you not to share with your neighbors the fact that you have left your children vulnerable to disease, and to “hide in the herd.” He probably didn’t bank on the fact that the herd would thin out and your choices would leave us all vulnerable. He sold you two lies: one–that you should be afraid of vaccines, and two–that disease would never visit your children.

So you’ve decided to lie about not vaccinating your children. You’ve told ER doctors that your children are up-to-date on immunizations. You’ve told nurses that your children have allergies that they do not have so that you could avoid vaccinating. And you’ve rationalized it all with the falsehood that if your child ever did become ill, you would keep her at home and not expose others.

But your children, as they’ve grown, have not learned that last part. They have only learned, as you have stated time and again, that they only need to be concerned about their own well being and that they don’t owe anyone the truth or anything else.

It turns out that one of you brought your unvaccinated children to Disneyland while they were contagious with the measles. Because measles is so infectious–90% of those not immune can catch measles from a space where a contagious person had been for up to two hours after he leaves–other unvaccinated people caught it.

One woman went home to Pasadena and visited her unvaccinated sister, who is now refusing to be quarantined. Her mother defended her, saying "It's not nice when my daughter is threatened like this because she's not even sick.”

Of course she can pass along measles before becoming ill with it. Chances are she will. But you’ve been lied to. Someone told you that your children were special and they couldn’t get measles. Someone told you that your children were owed more than children like Ben, who had to be quarantined after a potential measles exposure because his chemotherapy had wiped out all his immunity to the disease.

Someone told you it was okay to lie and to hide from the consequences of your decision not to vaccinate. And now it is time for you to own the truth. Are your children unvaccinated? Be honest about it so ER doctors can treat them appropriately, so schools can exclude them during outbreaks (for their own protection), so your neighbors will know not to visit you and catch diseases we can easily and safely prevent.

I know I’ve been tough on you, and that you disagree with me and all the science showing vaccines are safe. But you still need to have some honesty about your vaccine refusal so that we have some choices about how to protect our children best.