About a year ago, I chimed in on an online conversation. A man, who I assumed had a daughter because of the type of questions he was asking, was curious about vaccines. He was specifically curious about the HPV vaccine. He was especially curious if there were any risk factors associated with it.
Like all vaccines on the CDC’s schedule, the HPV vaccine does come with risks. Despite referencing that fact right from the CDC’s website, I, as well as a few other parents, were unable to fully convince this fellow that the HPV vaccine wasn’t all that great. Of course, it’s not our job to convince anyone to do anything, especially when it comes to making personal health care choices, but since this fellow was asking for further information, several of us took the opportunity to tell him what we knew.
Statistics from current data with references—many from mainstream sources – was shared. From the tone of the dialogue, it seemed like that information was appreciated. As far as online vaccine conversations go, I thought it was a great conversation.
He asked more questions. We supplied more answers. For awhile there, it felt like this guy was hanging onto our every word. He did that until some of us started to add personal information.
In the past, personal experience is inevitably woven into these sorts of conversations, and why wouldn’t it? Vaccine statistics are based on vaccines administered to everyday folk and their kids, but when some parents start sharing their firsthand observations about vaccines, including how our own typically healthy children ended up with documented medical issues post-vaccination, some people stop listening. The beginning of the conversation may have gotten off to a good start, but could tell it was starting to change. This guy had just about had his fill of our input.
I couldn’t blame him.
I know how far-fetched some of our stories sound – healthy child turns chronically sickly, or begins to lose skills, or goes from typically developing to having autism-like symptoms with the only change in routine being a “routine” round of vaccines. Believe me, I was an unbeliever when I heard those kinds of stories, too! The more hard-to-believe personal stories and reasons that were offered as to why parents like us were now vaccine hesitant, the less he listened. I wasn’t surprised that this guy, like other parents who are desperate for more information, began to turn us off soon after.
He, like lots of other people who begin to question vaccines, wanted only the “good” statistics. He wanted to get his hands on only unbiased scientific-based articles that focused on just the benefits and not on negatives that sadly do exist. I wanted to tell him, Good luck with finding all of that, buddy! but took a step back from the conversation for a few minutes instead.
Instead of being reassured from the vaccine “experts” in the field and being satisfied what they are publishing, his curiosity sparked an impromptu Q&A from just a couple of moms who knew more about vaccine negatives than positives. I’m sure that if he kept researching, he could narrow the search and find only the industry’s positive view side of things quite easily, but he asked other parents – parents of vaccine-injured children – for their input. The more the parents plied him with information, though, the quicker he dismissed that experience.
Who were we to add doubt or a word of caution? Well, we were former vaccine consumers willing to help a complete strangers.
Unfortunately, the more I stayed involved on the thread, the more I could tell that my input wasn’t helping. Not wanting to bow out of the convo yet, I lurked on the thread for a few minutes. Doing more reading than chiming in, I knew exactly when it was time for me to completely walk away. That happened when a question similar to this was asked: What is the vaccine death rate compared to how many end up with the disease?
Shocked, I broke my silence and asked, “How many deaths? Isn’t one vaccine-related death enough?”
Sadly, it was not.
Realizing that, I offered one more thought before I completely stepped away, “I hope whatever it is you’re looking for, you find it,” because it was clear that no matter how much information and no matter how much parental input I shared, it could not satisfy his quest for information. I don’t know who the guy was besides that he was a friend of a friend and that he was, for a moment, openly curious and willing to listen to my thoughts about a vaccine that scares the crud out of me.
The HPV vaccine may scare the crud out of me, but dismissing valuable parental input scares me even more. I have a bad feeling that the only way he will find out if it was a worthwhile shot to get is if he goes ahead and gets it. Like I said earlier, that’s his choice. I just pray he has more than enough information to make it an informed choice and that he’ll be absolutely satisfied with it.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.