Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Why would you not vaccinate your children? I really want to know.

M had his first jabs today. It was surprisingly ok.  For both him and me.  My mother-in-law said to me, when L had her first jabs; "You've introduced pain into her world" and I of course remembered that again today.  But despite the crumpling of his face, and the indignant look he gave me, and the tearless wailing,  I can't feel guilty for doing something that I believe can only be of benefit to him.

But it made me think about something I read in Juno in the first few weeks after he was born.

Juno (which was very sweetly sent to me by its editor Saffia, of Motherhood and Anarchy) supports and reports on a natural approach to family life and in many ways it doesn't sound like it's aimed at me.  I didn't, and was never tempted to, eat any of my placentas, whether fried or encapsulated (who knew you could even do that?), my kids will go to school,  they eat meat and were born in hospital, I use disposables.  Our family life is often chaotic but not, in the parenting sense, always very natural.

But other people do do these things, and it is interesting to read about them.  As Saffia said in the editorial to the Spring edition, "there is no absolute right way to live... no parenting formula that will ensure you will raise 'perfect' children".  If I do something and others don't, that's fine.  We're all different.  We don't need to judge.

And I read that, and nodded, tolerantly and probably smugly.  And then I read this letter.  And I realised that I do judge.

I have not vaccinated my baby girl and I feel very much in the minority. With so much ignorance surrounding vaccines I feel as though I have to keep justifying my decision, or just keep quiet so as not to invite judgement and criticism...

Because if I met that woman I would judge.  I would want her to justify her decision.  I would criticise. Because I just don't get it.  More than that.  I think, and I know this will offend, but bear with me, that not vaccinating your children is verging on the criminal.  If I have my kids at home, or I don't send them to school, or I feed them meat I'm not harming anyone else. You might not agree with my decisions for my children, but they affect only ourselves.  I am not putting anyone else in danger.

But if I don't vaccinate my children and they get measles, and they pass that measles on to another child, that child could die.  He or she could be brain damaged.   Or wind up deaf or blind.

If I choose to put my child's life at risk, that is my choice. Whatever others might think of me and my attitude to parenting, it is only my child who is affected.  But if I make a choice that could potentially harm someone else's child, and I do it with disregard for the harm it could do to someone else's child, I honestly don't see how that is different from drink driving.  Honestly.  If drink drivers only ever killed themselves, would it be seen as such a heinous thing to do? I don't think so.

But before you lynch me for my outrageously blinkered judgementalism, read on. Because Saffia's right. We all parent in our own way, and we shouldn't judge others' choices.  And although I am judging at the moment, it is only through ignorance.   So can anyone explain it to me?  Why do people choose not to vaccinate their children?  Even if they still think, despite all the evidence, that MMR is bad for their children why would they also choose not to vaccinate against meningitis, or tetanus, or polio?  I honestly don't understand.  What are they afraid of?  What is it that they are choosing to protect their children from that is worth potentially exposing them to these hideous diseases?  I've never read or heard anything that has made me even question my decision to vaccinate my children, but maybe I should have done.  What is it that I don't know?

Please do tell me.  I don't promise to change my mind about what I have done for my children, but I do promise not to judge.  And if I understand, maybe I will be less likely to judge in future.


  1. It's something to do with the chemicals they make vaccines with and how they don't actually help anything anyway and cause more illness than they prevent.As a doula I read a lot of the natural health intiatives and most of them make my blood boil as they are based on non-scientific circumstantial evidence which are perpetuated by others to become fact. Big rant. I personally think this website is quite good for explaining it all: http://www.jennymccarthybodycount.com/Jenny_McCarthy_Body_Count/Home.html

    I might have just offended a lot of anti-vaxxers...

  2. we have not had Bob done, but he is allergic to many of the ingredients (if thats the right word) used in making them. From our point of view the more people that vaccinate the better for him, as if illnesses are going around he is more likely to catch them than others, which makes him vulnerable to complications and side effects.

  3. There are a number of medical reasons why some children can't be vaccinated including egg allergy but if these valid reasons do not exist then it is sheer selfishness not to vaccinate because of the dependency on herd protection to protect those that can't be. (bad grammer sorry it is late!) I have blogged about this a number of times as it is very close to home for me. The current measles epidemic in France is very serious. You are right to vaccinate.

  4. Your initial judgement is correct. They are irresponsible and in some countries there are legislative measures being taken to prevent this irresponsibility (children are not allowed to attend school without proof of having been vaccinated in some US states and I think in Australia...). Anyway. It's a pet rant for me and Mr T. I think you can probably imagine....;-)

  5. There are times when you can't help but judge - and this is one of them - you are right, we have a responsibility to protect whole generations of children and not spout pseudo-science quackery to satisfy the latest fashion in crunchy mummying that takes our fancy. I judge too. Bite me!

  6. And don't get me started on homeopathy...

  7. I try not to judge people, but I am afraid that when it comes to vaccinations I do. I have had an imnosuppressed child and if he came into contact with measles, mumps or the such he could have died. It is not as simple as thinking about your own child, but of other peoples too. My great aunt is deaf due to measles.

  8. I choose to vacinate because I choose not to risk the effects of so-called childhood illnesses killing or disabling my child and because I am not so complacent as to rely on every other parent immunising to deliver herd immunity so I don't have to risk not immunising my own child

    I'm afraid that I believe that there are certain things we have to do as responsible members of society and immunisation is one of those

  9. Fear. Fear is the reason people don't vaccinate. Fear of doing something to your child, and finding out that he is the 1 in x hundred thousand who has an allergic reaction and becomes life-changingly ill or disabled. Fear that the government and NHS is lying. Fear, and complacency based on being part of a generation that hasn't seen children die in their thousands from diseases that used to be dreaded.

    I did vaccinate all mine, but was nervous. My brother had a reaction to a jab. My mum was told by the GP not to be silly and fuss. She insisted on seeing a specialist. He said that she had possibly saved my brother's life by refusing to let him have the second dose. Of course it's all "possibly" and a long time ago, but it did make me nervous. I DID want to pick and choose. I challenged the health visitor to explain to me why I should have my babies vaccinated against diphtheria (2 cases in Scotland in the past 50 years or some such statistic), and just wanted the whooping cough and tetanus parts of the DTP. But in the end had them all - just made it all rather complicated for the health visitor along the way, and next time round, stuck to the text book, which made life much easier.

    In the US, they vaccinate against chicken pox. Your child can't start school without the whole range of vaccinations, including that one. I found that very disempowering. I think most UK parents would think "it's only chicken pox, for heaven's sake!" but in the US, it's obviously considered serious enough to vaccinate against (presumably because it can lead to complications in a small number of cases). I'm not in favour of making vaccinations legally compulsory. I think good education of parents is preferable.

  10. My daughter had all her vaccinations. The only one I was really worried about was MMR - 11 years ago was the height of the controversy. She had it a bit late, but she had it.

    Having gone through the agony of that decision, I tend to look a bit more sympathetically on people who reach a different conclusion. For me, the evidence is clear that vaccination is the way to go, but there are those who are genuinely worried about future health being compromised.

    I think we need to accept that generally people are trying to do the best for their children. They may make decisions which we totally disagree with - for me, that would be people advocating sleep training or regime orientated parenting methods over responsive ones - but that has to be their choice.

    As regards the giving a disease to other kids, what about sending kids to the swimming pool too soon after vomiting and diaorrhea, or to school when they aren't 100%? People react in different ways to bugs, and what seems relatively harmless in one child could cause someone else to be really ill. Kids are generally bug infested little creatures. We can't stop them spreading infections - and immunisation is not necessarily a guarantee of not having it.

    I'm not one for compulsion on this - denying a child an education because of a decision made by its parent seems inherently wrong for a relatively small risk.

  11. Caron,
    I've never heard of any US school "denying a child an education" because he or she is not immunized. A parent needs to sign a waiver letting the school district and the Health Department know that they have chosen not to vaccinate their child either fully or partially due to medical restraints or religious/personal convictions. The child can still be enrolled and attend school.


  12. When your child's life is ruined by multiple vaccinations, when a sociable bubbly boy loses his ability to talk and regresses, when his behaviour becomes challenging, when he is often lost in the world of his own, he will never have a job, a relationship or a family of his own, then you question your decision to vaccinate and blame yourself for the rest of your lives. And live with a fear what will happen to him, once you are gone, he will be chucked into an institution, unloved and misunderstood. That is why I choose not to vaccinate our second child, to spare the life of misery.

  13. A simple question, surely?: How come many of the healthiest (measured and measurable) children in developed countries, such as the UK, have never been vaccinated.
    Examples of research into the above come from Italy, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, UK, Holland etc. etc.
    How can this be??

    Chris A.

  14. Nobody has to justify their choices for your sake. You say if you met the woman who did not vax her child, you would want her to justify her choice. What an odd choice of phrase.
    The child could easily get brain damaged if she is vaccinated.
    Visit the Autism file page on FB and ask parents about brain damage to vaccinated children, you will be astonished to discover just how many children are. Good luck with your choice.

  15. Chris A - How do you measure 'health' to come up with that statement? Show me the peer-reviewed randomised control trials which prove unvaccinated children are 'healthier'. Surely if that was a proven fact then vaccination wouldn't happen?

    Anonymous - I'm sorry this happened to your child, but did you prove the vaccines did it? A lot of disorders become apparent at the same age as routine vaccinations. Also some children *are* allergic to vaccines (as Supergran said) and so if proven, you were sensible not to vaccinate no.2 BUT you become reliant on others still continuing to vaccinate.

    Other anonymous - Are you suggesting Autistic children are brain damaged? That's fairly emotive in itself!

  16. Hi, LinzW, we never pursued anything to prove what has caused the regression into autism with our child. I only know that he did not have it. I believe there is a genetic autism and an acquired one. With the genetic one it can be pretty obvious from very early days that the child is "different".
    In our case, yes, I can say our child was brain damaged, it felt like the wires in his brain got entangled and disconnected. If you want a comparison, it is like all the index cards in the library became shuffled, and it is impossible to find a book you are looking for. A boy who was an early talker is completely non verbal now.
    Ours is not the worst case.
    Have you read "I am Josh. A boy after his MMR", if you google, you can find the file, I cannot do the link on my ipad.
    Apologies for signing as Anon, but I do not want any visitors to my blog, as It is very personal. But I am a real person, a mother with two children.

  17. Very sad and actually a bit obnoxious to compare parents who do not vaccinate their children with drink-driving. May I suggest you read a bit on the subject before you post about it. Ignorance of the subject is not an excuse to be offensive en passant to those who beg to differ.
    Perhaps if your life has been changed irreparably by the vaccinations, you would change your opinion.

  18. I'm with you. Vaccines are too important. People used to die of horrible diseases and now they don't. That says enough to me. We have autism in the family, and because of the MMR hullabaloo I did look up which preservative is used over here (I was considering separate vaccines), but my children get almost all their vaccines. They're too important. The only one I don't give them is rota. It's a new vaccine (my first was never offered it, he got rota, he was fine) and I asked the doctor if it was an important one, and he didn't seem to think so. There is no herd vaccination argument with it, because no adults have been vaccinated, and not all children are, and I was assured it wouldn't be very dangerous for my children to contract. I was also told it was more of an "economic vaccine" - parents don't want to take the time off when their kid gets sick. All the other ones, they get.

  19. I would never judge a parent on when or if they get that child vaccinated. But that said, when you hear about measles starting to make a resurgence because fewer parents are opting for the MMR then that doesn't seem right. Children in other countries die because they can't get vaccinated against preventable diseases. It seems silly in this country to turn down vaccination when it's offered to us. That said, every parent has a choice and maybe if parents choose not to vaccinate then I think they should inform their child they haven't done so when that child is old enough to make a choice for themselves. This reminds me I'm about 9 months late with my daughter's MMR and booster jabs.... I get my children vaccinated just not always on time.

  20. First, a note to myself... Don't write a somewhat provocative post and then go off-line for six weeks without warning...

    I am so sorry. People took the time to comment, whether in agreement or not, and I apologise that it appeared that I was not interested and/or didn't appreciate it. I did and I read all the comments with interest. I just never got to a computer to reply. That was poor, particularly when several new people came across to comment, whether anonymously or not, so thank you to you too.

    I should perhaps also have specifically made my question about vaccinations other than the MMR. I do understand (though I don't agree) why people choose not to have the MMR. And,while I don't agree, I also know that I can't possibly appreciate how it feels to go through an experience like the first Anonymous, and how much that would change one's attitudes to all sorts of things.

    So I should have excluded the MMR, and just asked why others, to use Galina's phrase "beg to differ" on vaccinations against polio, or meningitis, and Iota has summed that up in one word, hasn't she? Fear.

    So thank you once again for all comments. It feels a bit late to start a debate on individual points, but if anyone wants to you know where I am.

  21. I know it is an old post, and not sure if you are interested, but here is a link to a serious account of children damaged by vaccines.
    Devastating stories of lives ruined by vaccines make a very sober reading.

  22. If you vaccinate your child with the trusting MMR and whatever else you slowly destroy your child's immune system with, then why be so worried about your child catching measles or anything else...if they're vaccinated then they should be protected...right???

    1. Not if they're too young to have been vaccinated - which again I should have made clear in the post, but that was my point. We had a measles scare at a nursery my children were at some years ago, our lot were fine because they had been jabbed; but there were babies there, under the 13 months you normally are in this country for the jab, who might not have been. As it turned out, it wasn't measles and so there was no risk, but what happened in Wales in the early part of this year (to name but one example) shows how quickly, and with what terrifying consequences, these diseases can spread if the herd immunity is lost.


I know. I'm sorry. I hate these word recognition, are you a robot, guff things too, but having just got rid of a large number of ungrammatical and poorly spelt adverts for all sorts of things I don't want, and especially don't want on my blog, I'm hoping that this will mean that only lovely people, of the actually a person variety, will comment.

So please do. Comments are great...