Whenever I send out a Moms Who Vax newsletter, I try to post it here as well. If you'd like to be added to the Moms Who Vax mailing list, contact us at momswhovax AT gmail.com
Anti-Vax Legislators--and How Pro-Vax Parents Can Play a Role in Stopping Them
Unfortunately, the Minnesota State Legislature has a handful of vocal anti-vaxxers in its ranks, including Rep. Mary Franson (R-11B), who represents folks in Todd and Douglas counties. From time to time these legislators try to tamper with state immunization statutes, and sometimes have been successful in seemingly small ways, like making sure information about how to opt-out from vaccines is in the same font as all other information on immunization paperwork. But during the Minnesota State Legislature's recess, Mary Franson introduced a bill that would make the notarization of the conscientious objection opt-out in Minnesota unnecessary. As an anti-vaccine advocate, she wants to take the only inconvenience a non-vaccinating parent has to face and throw it out the window. For anyone who is interested, the bill itself can be read here.
Myself, and other pro-vax parents I know, are committed to stepping up and making our voices heard in this debate. It's a debate that is usually dominated by a very vocal minority of anti-vax activists. But the overwhelming majority of us vaccinate, so we have a built-in advantage. The quandary we are facing as a movement is how to mobilize, how to make parents who vaccinate care about this. And that's why I turn to you. If you live in Minnesota and are willing to talk to or e-mail your representative about Franson's proposed legislation, please contact me. I can provide you with a template for a letter or e-mail, or notes for a phone call. It isn't about getting into a debate (chances are your representative vaccinates her own children); it's about telling the person who represents you at the State Capitol that you don't want your child, and other children, put at risk. If you don't live in Minnesota, we'd still love to hear from you if you have any ideas on strategy regarding this matter or about mobilizing vaccinating parents in general.
Safbaby.com, Lullaby Lane and Other Businesses
A few months ago, an article appeared on the website Safbaby.com. It can be read here. It was filled with misinformation and typical anti-vaccine talking points. I posted a comment and it was immediately followed up by more anti-vax nonsense from the Safbaby people, which made me realize that its usefulness as a source of information was nil (and I warn others from heading over there for information--there are far better sites on the internet for information on environmentally friendly, non-toxic baby products). Anyway, I noticed that the article was ringed by advertisements for various businesses, and I chose to contact a few of those businesses, including Lullaby Lane, to let them know about my concerns about their affiliation with the site, which apparently perpetuates misinformation and dangerous advice about vaccines. Only one of the shop owners replied, that to tell me that she also vaccinates her children--except on a delayed schedule. This may be extreme for some of you, but I am considering boycotting businesses who advertise on sites like Safbaby.com or Mothering, which promote anti-vax views. I was devastated to find Earth Mama Angel Baby advertising on Safbaby.com, and e-mailed them to say so. I never heard back. But this might be an avenue worth pursuing--joining together as a group and boycotting companies who advertise with these sites. I plan on continuing to contact Safbaby's advertisers myself and will report back.
Minnesota Monthly article
Some of you may have read Tim Gihring's article on the continuing vaccine-autism debate in Minnesota. I was interviewed for the piece, which came out in early December, and am only now getting over my disappointment and sadness about how that article was written. Instead of focusing on the pushback from pro-vax parents and public health officials to anti-vaxxers, the author chose to pit parents of autistic children whom the parents believe to have been "vaccine injured" against the "big bad public health authorities" and parents like me, who came across looking like an insensitive jerk. Despite the disappointment, I was heartened to discover that I received no angry hate mail after the article appeared--which makes me hopeful that the strategy of putting parents who vaccinate smack dab into the debate could be a game-changer. I begin to see, more and more often, that it's very difficult for an anti-vaxxer to convincingly dismiss another parent the way they dismiss doctors (Big Pharma "shills") and public health authorities. I know some of my pro-vax friends who are parents are still accused of being "pawns" of Big Pharma, whatever that means. But for the most part, I see that we could be a very formidable tool in this debate, and I encourage all of you to speak out regularly, in whatever way you can, in whatever context you can. The stories on my blog that receive the most hits are the stories written by parents and sent to me for posting. Individual parent stories--these move people.
That being said, if you are so inclined, please visit the online version of the article and post a comment. As expected, anti-vaxxers took over the comment thread fairly early, despite valiant efforts from some pro-vax friends (including my little sister, who said she vaccinated her daughter because she loves her; an anti-vaxxer responded that she didn't, in fact, love her daughter, otherwise she WOULDN'T vaccinate!). We could use more pro-vax voices on the comment thread: The Refusers, in Minnesota Monthly.
That brings me to a final point. I was only able to stomach reading a handful of the anti-vax comments on that story, but one thing struck me like a freight train. The level of defensiveness among parents who choose not to vaccinate is so intense that I think any psychotherapist would have a field day with it. Parents who vaccinate their children are generally so comfortable with the decision that they don't even think about it after the fact. But there is a tenor to the anti-vax comments--just take a look at the Minnesota Monthly comments--that suggest overcompensation, a way of justifying a dangerous decision. Anyone who can look a parent in the face--even virtually, as in the case of my sister--and tell them that they don't love their child because they choose to vaccinate, tells me that there are elements in the anti-vax movement who are deeply discomfited by their own decision not to vaccinate. I find it fascinating, if utterly depressing.