Dear Anti-Vaccination Parents:
I want to introduce you to someone who is very special to me. His name is Gabriel and he’s 10 years old. He’s a huge fan of the San Jose Sharks and the Denver Broncos, and he loves to read. Gabriel is just finishing fourth grade, and is a kind, gentle boy. He has a younger sister named Eden who he adores. He has two dogs and he favors the little one, Jubilee. He carries her around like a baby sometimes and, whenever he sits down, she curls up in his lap or right next to him. I’m telling you about Gabriel because I want you to keep him in mind as I go on.
Gabriel is my son. He’s also a heart transplant recipient who is on immune suppressing medications that help keep him alive. He is unable to get the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine and other live vaccinations because of his immunocompromised status, so he is especially vulnerable to measles and other diseases. In order to keep him alive, he must have a reduced ability to fight off infections as his immune system will fight his new heart if he isn’t on the medications.
I want to talk to you about this from one parent to another. I know that most of the time, when you share your anti-vaccination views, you are attacked. At the very least, you feel attacked. It is hard to see another person’s perspective when you are on guard so I hope that you can let your guard down and hear what I’m saying here.
People like Gabriel, and there are hundreds of thousands of them, have to rely on people who are healthy to keep them safe. They rely on the healthy people of this world to keep making choices that will help keep them safe. Because they are vulnerable, and can’t not be vulnerable, they must rely on others to take measures to protect themselves, which, in turn, protects them.
See, I get that you fear for your child. You’ve heard the stories of the horrors of vaccination and you believe that somehow Big Pharma is benefiting from the vaccine industry. You think there is harmful mercury in vaccines (there’s not) and that perhaps there is a link between vaccines and autism (also not true). Your child may have had an adverse reaction to vaccines, and I’m terribly sorry for that. The hard part is that even things that are intended to be good for us can sometimes have bad side effects. Those effects are real and harmful, and I will never try to dismiss your reality.
I don’t trust the government or Big Pharma, but I do trust the medical professionals who I’ve handed my son over to many times. I believe that if vaccinations caused more harm than good, they would warn me. I believe that most physicians, when they took the Hippocratic Oath to “first, do no harm,” meant it.
I believe the science because there have been countless studies done by organizations who have nothing to do with the CDC that have found the same results. I’m not going to try to convince you to come to my side; I know you’ve done your own research and feel solid in your conclusions. If the established science will not convince you and if you can’t trust your pediatrician, I’m quite sure me reiterating the facts you’ve already heard will not change your mind. Quite honestly, that’s not my aim here. I simply want to ask you to consider the other side of this.
I understand fearing for your child. Believe me, I do. I handed my son over to a cardiac surgeon when he was 13 days old, knowing that I might never see him again. I’ve literally seen my son’s heart beating in his chest so please know that I get the fear you feel. I agonized over every choice I made, wondering if it was the right thing to do.
I’ll never tell you that you’re wrong for what you’ve chosen, even if I disagree with it. What I will ask you to do is consider the implications of your choice for the most vulnerable of our human family—people just like Gabriel. If you choose to not vaccinate your child, and then send them out into public spaces, you are playing Russian roulette with people who have no choice and minimal defenses against the viruses that your child could be carrying.
I believe in freedom and that you have a right to choose. I also believe that with freedom comes equal responsibility. If you choose to exercise your freedom to not vaccinate, please be responsible with your choices and take measures to minimize the spread of disease. Just like you don’t want people forcing you to make choices about your child’s healthcare, I don’t want your choices to either force my family into undesirable positions at best and, at worst, to harm or even kill my son or the millions of people like him.
Please, from one parent to another—let’s keep all our loved ones safe. One death by preventable disease is one too many.
Author: Lisa Vallejos, PhD
Image: Author’s Own; Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Leah Sugerman