I can’t remember which news story it was that I was listening to, but the line “…vaccines don’t cause autism…” was said. As if that wasn’t enough, the speaker made sure to add that the measles (MMR) vaccine most certainly does not cause autism either. Rolling my eyes, I turned the radio station.
Please, I thought to myself. Do yourself a favor and get some new lines. This “vaccines don’t cause autism” bit isn’t the sole reason young parents are questioning vaccines today. Other reasons exist, too.
Parents are concerned about vaccine ingredients like aluminum, formaldehyde, and human diploid cells. They are concerned about side effects like seizures, allergic reactions, and anaphylaxis. Some are also not too keen on how their doctor downplays and even dismisses their apprehension. Instead of addressing the valid concerns, doctors demand that parents follow the full vaccine schedule. If they don’t, or if they ask to delay the shots? They’re “fired”. No longer welcomed in the practice, the parent is forced to leave and left to find answers on their own.
Thankfully, with so many resources literally at their fingertips, someone who’s been dismissed by a doctor can educate themselves on vaccines elsewhere. They can look through medical books at the library, they can read about those worrisome vaccine ingredients online, they can seek help from another more open-minded provider, and they can join parenting message boards as well. The topics that come up the most on the message boards I’m on tend to be about children’s health and how to navigate vaccines. Since I have been open about my child’s vaccine injury, young mamas seek me out when vaccines come up in online conversations on those boards.
As a new parent, these young moms want to do the right thing. They want the best for the child. They want to know that they’ve made good choices. That can be hard to do when they hear similar messages like the one I heard on the radio. From their doctor, from the school nurse, and from mainstream news, it’s all from the same memo:
Silly parents, vaccines don’t cause autism. They save lives! Now go out and get them…all of them. You’ll be fine. Trust us.
As a young mom myself, I trusted. But not for the right reasons. It was only after my son fell sick did I think to invest my own time in the vaccination process. Sadly, I didn’t comprehend it fully until after I witnessed real-life events, like seizures, loss of gained skills and autism, all of which followed my son’s vaccinations. It had already started to diminish, but by then, the trust that I had for my doctor, for that school nurse, and for the media was completely broken.
Losing trust hurts, especially if parents have been kicked out of a practice for merely asking questions. But going rogue and educating oneself elsewhere will open one’s eyes and even doors to opportunity, opportunities that a young parent may not have yet realized existed.
As parents read and examine not just vaccines but the vaccine process – to include legislation, parents may learn that vaccines aren’t required in every state for school entry. They’ll hopefully realize that despite their former doctor downplaying reactions that yes, vaccines do come with side effects – from mild to severe to include death. And they’ll hopefully discover that vaccines consumers have no recourse should a reaction occur. The more they read, the more they’ll learn.
Understandably nervous, those young mamas look to seasoned parents for advice the more they learn. Not wanting to risk their child’s health by exposing them to potential disease, but also not wanting to risk their child’s health by introducing unnecessary vaccines, parents find themselves in a tough situation. If given the opportunity to talk to them about it, I tell them to look beyond the vaccine itself and to ask themselves one simple question:
What does your gut say?
If there’s one ounce of hesitation, that one small ounce should be enough. It should be enough to drive a parent to read more, to ask more, or to investigate more. Taking time to continue to read and to weigh the pros and cons will hopefully help them settle on a decision – be it to follow doctor’s orders and vaccinate or to confidently delay (or stop) vaccinating completely.
The decision, no matter which one is made, should be left solely up to the parent. For too long, though, parents have been told they are not part of the decision-making process. They’re told to ignore their intuition, to blindly trust, and to accept all that they’re being told about vaccines without question. That’s a dangerous way to sell a product, especially one that comes with risks – including but not limited to autism.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.