The Most Dangerous Trend of All: Anti-Vaxxers

If you haven’t been able to tell already, my parenting philosophy leans towards the “Natural Parenting” and “Attachment Parenting” mindset. However, I do not like to label myself with either of these terms because I do not follow every principle that they encompass, nor do I believe or relate to all of them. I do what makes sense to me and feels right. If I were to label myself anything, I would classify my parenting style as “Instinctual Parenting”.  I do however, think it is a strange concept we classify our parenting styles at all. I’ll leave this topic with a quote and move on….for now…

 “Oftentimes I felt ridiculous giving my seal of approval to what was in reality such a natural thing to do, sort of like reinventing the wheel and extolling its virtues. Had parents’ intuition sunk so low that some strange man had to tell modern women that it was okay to sleep with their babies?”
― Dr. William Sears

I do like to parent as close to as nature intended because I believe it is the “right” way, it makes sense to me, and it is exactly what my instincts were telling me to do before I even entered the “natural parenting/attachment parenting” world or knew of its existence.

So this is the dilemma I face- I have not found one “Natural Parenting” website/blog/forum that isn’t anti-vaccination. Which disappoints me – how can my fellow mothers, the same mothers who believe in the parenting principles that I do, buy into this unfounded ideology?  Do you want to know what my instincts tell me to do the most- they tell me to protect my child, at all costs. To prevent sickness if I can, and to heal them when they are sick. So why is preventative medicine considered so much more “unnatural” than other medication? Would these same parents who believe in this “anti-vaccine” movement not treat their children with modern medicine to save their lives if say, they had a treatable form of cancer? Or what if they are dying from sepsis, would they not administer anti-biotics to save their child’s life because they are afraid of the very rare side effects that could occur? I just … don’t get it.

A little background about why I feel so strongly about this topic. I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Biology in 2008. My first job was with Merck & Co., a large and well-known pharmaceutical company. I was in the Vaccines division- I actually made vaccines! I have manufactured RotaTeq® (protection against Rotavirus, the most common cause of severe diarrhea among infants and young children.), VARIVAX® (Chicken Pox Vaccine) and ZOSTAVAX® (Shingles vaccine). After my 2 year stint of getting my foot in the door of the vaccine world, I took a position with a Contract Research Organization developing tests for vaccine clinical trials for major pharmaceutical companies. Working hand-in-hand with the FDA and global regulatory agents. I have worked on many different vaccination projects, starting with the influenza vaccine (seasonal flu shot), the Pneumoccoccal vaccine, to the Meningitis vaccines. I am no immunologist, but I feel I am well-versed in the vaccine world and have a great understanding of how they work, and why they are so important.

I explicitly remember in a general biology college course, we learned about how the discovery of vaccinations revolutionized the world. How scientists like Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur were non-fictional hero’s. And rightfully so; in the last 20 years alone more than 732,000 children’s lives have been saved due to routine vaccinations as well as 322 million prevented cases of childhood illnesses. Vaccination is still considered one of the greatest achievements of science today.

When I walk into my company or even more so- when I walked through the door to Merck’s welcome building, this pride is evident everywhere you look. There are no awards about how much profit  was made in such and such year. There are only awards and articles depicting how many lives were saved, how many vials were able to be donated to third world countries. You get a sense of the sheer magnitude of greatness vaccinations have offered to our society. The pharmaceutical industry in my experience is proud of what we do, we believe what we are doing is meaningful and for the greater good.  So I guess I am a little biased…

When new parents get wind of this movement, they want to be diligent parents and do research on vaccinations before they “choose” the path that they think is right for their family. What do you think they Google? I doubt “Why SHOULD I vaccinate” is what they are plugging into their search engine. It is easy to convince yourself of something (trust me: I am a Hypochondriac with a Google problem) and if you are looking for reasons why you SHOULDN’T vaccinate: that is exactly what you will find.

I have a couple of acquaintances and even one very close friend who are anti-vaxxers and I see the articles they post on social media about why vaccines are so dangerous. These articles, websites, etc. terrify me. Not because of their substance, but because they are capable of producing so much FEAR. The authors use big, scientific words that the average parent with  no scientific background would damn well be frightened by.  I understand why this movement has gained so many followers. Like I have said in many other posts, I  believe that for the vast majority of parents- they are only trying to do the best for their children. If I didn’t have a degree in science or a background in vaccines, I would be frightened by this fear-mongering propaganda too!

Do I think the propaganda that is out there is credible? Absolutely not. I have read more anti-vaccine posts than I count (I must be a masochist) and I can debunk them in minutes. From what I have seen, they are contrived of mostly opinions, conspiracy theories, and misconstrued evidence. Some are just downright ridiculous- evident that someone in their basement took 5 minutes to put it together, but the header will state in big bold letters: “Vaccines Gave My Child Brain Damage”.  A new parent only has to see something like that one time before this idea is planted. And this idea will grow and grow. I truly believe, once you start to doubt the safety of something, you never truly trust it again…And what we end up with is a very, very dangerous trend on our hands.

But one thing is clear… parents desperately need more posts about why we not only should, but NEED to be vaccinating. Please keep an eye out for more to come.

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