One of my kids shared that they’d overheard a vaccine conversation earlier in the day. They couldn’t figure out what sparked the discussion. But, at one point while the other people were still talking, one of them turned to my child and said, “Hey, your mom is anti-vax, right?” I guess according to the media’s definition, I am. But if you really know me, or care to dig a little deeper than believe a superficial label that the media brands me, I am more than just an “anti-vaxxer”. I wrote about that not too long ago.
Depending on who’s said it, being called “anti-vax” can be an insult. The way it was said toward my son most likely wasn’t. I know that my child’s peers didn’t mean any harm while referring to Mrs. Jameson as "anti-vaxxer". They were just repeating what the news says about moms like me. Most of my kids’ closest friends respect me. Some even think that I’m really nice! When they see me, they are respectful. When they see me with Ronan, they are even more courteous. They show only love toward Ronan.
Seeing him and asking about him as many times as they have over the years has opened their eyes about autism, about the ongoing struggles he faces, and about his medical history which includes a vaccine injury. Because of their curiosity, which I always welcome, they’ve come to know that based on our family’s personal experience, we believe differently than they do about a few things. That includes vaccines. Liability-free vaccines are not as safe, effective, or life-saving as they and their families may believe. Vaccine injury is not their reality, and I’m very grateful for that. I don’t begrudge them for not knowing as much as we know, but I will always hope that they will politely agree to disagree with me, and my kids, whenever the topic comes up.
Not too long ago, people were allowed to believe differently than their neighbors did without any drama. That practice doesn’t hold true today. Nowadays, when people disagree on a topic, it’s grab the knives and pitch forks! Go after them! Ruin their reputation! Drag their name through the mud! Repeat lies about them! That’s become especially true when people, like parents like me, speak out against liability-free vaccines. Needing someone to blame for the rise in vaccine hesitancy, we’re attacked by industry spokespeople every time a vaccine story hits the news wire.
It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s what I see going on. Like a spoiled child, the media and its backers want to blame someone else for something they can’t control. They can’t control parents who have become vaccine smart. Instead of finding fault in the US vaccine program (which is not perfect), in the US government (for their overreach), or in the vaccines themselves (which all come with risk), the media has chosen to blame all of the “anti-vaxxers” for all of the vaccine problems. Having the means and the platforms to build up communities, the media encourages the public to pit neighbors against neighbors, school children against school children, doctors against rightfully worried parents.
The “anti-vax” are the ones responsible for all outbreaks – even though some outbreaks have occurred in the vaccinated.
The “anti-vax” are the ones ruining the herd immunity concept – even though it’s just a concept and even though vaccination rates are high in several states.
The “anti-vax” mislead others – even though the government and those who financial benefit from liability-free vaccines have been caught actually doing that.
I get it. I used to want to blame someone all of the time for all of my son’s problems that started post-vaccination, too. Knowing it would get me nowhere, though, I knew I needed to change my mindset. Ronan still has a slew of challenges because of how he reacted to the liability-free vaccines he received, but instead of focusing on the negative, I started to search for the positives. What healing I felt in doing that! Ronan thrives when he’s surrounded by positive people and experiences, so I continue to practice that. I’ll emotionally fall down every now and then, as people naturally do in life, but I’ve become stronger over time. When my energy, my efforts and my focus is used to find useful resources, appropriate providers, and effective therapies for my son, it helps Ronan build skills. It also helps him to be happier. The longer he’s happy, the stronger I am as his mom. Being happy, or at least content and more accepting of our situation, creates moments of progress for both of us. The media and the medical community hasn’t learned that strategy, and it shows.
The media likes a good controversy. They also like concocting senseless fears while feeding into them. But that tactic won’t stop me or my children from defending what we know to be true. My son didn’t say I wasn’t “anti-vax” in that conversation a few days ago, but he was ready to say what I was. While those less informed and less aware call me and other moms like me “anti-vax”, we’re so many other things. We’re vaccine hesitant. But that’s because we’re vaccine-risk aware, and we’re vaccine smart, too. More versed on the topic than the average person tends to be, we’re knowledgeable rather than fearful of temporary illnesses that the news perseverates over. I've panicked about many things as a parent, but I refuse to panic just because the media keeps telling me to.
Poor reporting about liability-free vaccines and the encouragement of unnecessary vaccine mandates by the media have severed too many personal relationships while untouchable industries sit back and rake in the money. What a twisted world we’re living in at the moment. We may see some break in the 2019 measles mania now that most legislative sessions are over or are about to end. I’m curious about what will it be next. What typical, childhood illness will the public be talking about and be told to fear next – will it be chickenpox? Diphtheria? Hand foot and mouth disease? Last week, I saw chatter about a common cold vaccine in the works. My first reaction was, Lord, help us! Another vaccine?! My second was, I hope the public doesn’t fall for that one. They’ve got to be smarter than that, right? I can only hope that they will be.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.