Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pro-vax parents fighting back...

This blog was mentioned in an article in Minnesota Monthly recently, which tackled the problem of parents in Minnesota who refuse to vaccinate their children due to their belief that vaccines somehow caused their children's autism. As you probably know, there is no study that has ever suggested a link between autism and vaccines (the only study to suggest this link, by Andrew Wakefield, was not just withdrawn from the journal in which it appeared; it was deemed fraudulent). In that article, the author suggests that pro-vax parents are filling in the gaps between the public health authorities and pediatricians, who are often put in a position where they cannot be as frank about the importance of vaccines as they'd like to be. That's where we, as parents, come in.

Predictably, the comments section in this article has become an anti-vax propaganda machine because most parents who vaccinate their children aren't as motivated to advocate for vaccines as those who are anti-vaccine are to advocate against them. Another telling aspect of the anti-vaccine movement is the sheer hyperbole and hysteria of their talking points--it betrays a defensiveness that is not present in the science-backed pro-vaccine movement. Such defensiveness is often symptomatic of a person who knows, at their very core, that their beliefs are based on falsehoods.

If you are a new parent or even a vaccine-hesitant parent, I typically do not suggest that you visit anti-vax websites, because the "science" is not science and startling and frightening claims are made but never backed up with science, but I think a visit to the comments page of this article would actually help to let a new parent understand the milieu of the anti-vax movement.

If a new parent chooses not to vaccinate, she should understand that the individuals posting on this article will be her peers. The people she runs with. The ones she will begin advocating for. After reading these comments--the ones promoting exposing one's child to measles rather than getting the vaccine, choosing substantial risk of death for their child over one of the safest medications known to man--you can come to your own conclusion. But know that the misrepresentation of science, the complete misunderstanding of the way vaccine components work in the human body, and, most clearly, emotions dominate their side of the debate. Are you comfortable with this? As I've mentioned before on this blog, as a cautious new parent, I was taken in by this emotional appeal, until I realized that I had been duped and had needlessly put my son's life at risk by delaying a critical vaccine.

One parent did speak up, and I encourage anyone who has chosen to vaccinate and would like to make that fact known to visit the article site and make a comment. In the meantime, here is the lone pro-vax comment from the article. The "deadly consequences" the writer refers to is in response to an anti-vaxxer claiming the story's subtitle about the deadly consequences of vaccine refusal was yellow journalism because there are no deadly consequences to not vaccinating.

Update 12/22/11: It looks like some pro-vax parents are weighing in. Thank you so much to those of you who have taken the time to post in favor of immunization!

Ah, the "deadly consequences" might refer to the fact that unvaccinated
children die from vaccine-preventable diseases on a regular basis, and pass
on those diseases to helpless infants. Ten infants died of pertussis in
California from an outbreak caused by an unvaccinated child in a waiting
room. Those are your deadly consequences. And to promote contracting measles
as a better way to acquire immunity than the vaccine itself makes me pray to
God you are not a parent. If so, you ought to be arrested. Any parent who
willingly exposes a child to a deadly disease is unfit. Period. Your comment
betrays the danger, selfishness, and downright scientific illiteracy of this
anti-vaccine movement.

Why does your opinion matter on vaccines but another parent's not matter?
Would it be worthy of a magazine quote if one of the many heartbroken
parents whose child died from a vaccine-preventable disease acquired from an
unvaccinated child wanted to speak? Shelby is a voice right now for
thousands of parents whose children have been injured or killed by
unvaccinated children (more accurately--their parents) because she is a good
communicator and they ask her to speak for them. Her platform, judging from
her blog, comes from the stories of other parents. Other parents. That's who
you'll be going toe to toe with next, not the "big bad public health
authorities." We are fighting back, because our children's lives matter too.

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