Anti-vaxxers are kind of a joke but they're also kind of a very real threat to the human race.
They are also natural selection in action. Because of the bogus findings of one person that vaccines cause autism, people en masse have decided to make their children a danger to public health.
But not everybody is an anti-vaxxer for life. Some people eventually learn their lesson...but do they learn it the easy or the hard way?
Here were those answers.
My dad is an anti-vaxxer. His belief stems from my cousin passing away at 3 months old, shortly after her vaccinations. It was SIDS, so it never really got a cause. He believes it was the vaccinations.
I was only 22 when I got pregnant and having grown up with anti-vaxx beliefs being flung at me, it was natural for me to side with that because it was all I'd known. I was adamant that I didn't want any vaccinations for my daughter under 3 years old at least.
In my midwife appointment while I was pregnant, they explained to me the importance of vaccinations and gave me data about the decreased incidents of diseases since the introduction of routine vaccinations. I couldn't refute the evidence.
Then when I had her preemie, it was even more important that she was vaccinated because getting sick could've cost her her life.
I just had to be open minded and consider the affirmative side, despite what my upbringing had taught me.
How To Save A Life
I was a homeopathic medicine believing crunchy who grew up in the 70s. I believed vaccinations would diminish a person's immune system, and contracting an illness would help one develop resistance to the illnesses of the world. I know, stupid.
I ended up getting my kids vaccinated when one was 8 and the other 2. One day, it dawned on me that if my child caught a communicable disease like mumps or measles, he could inadvertently pass it to a fetus in utero if he was near a pregnant woman and the mother's resistance was low. And my thought process was that she could not get vaccinated to protect her baby if she was pregnant, but my child could.
Essentially, the whole notion of herd immunity smacked me upside the head, and I woke up.
Lucky You Survived That Long
My family was very into all things natural and holistic growing up, vaccines were "poisoning your body" and preventing your immune system from fighting off germs. I just believed what my family said, and never wanted to rock the boat. Then I went to medical school and learned real science.. and off to get all my vaccines I went.
Some of my family still doesn't know that I got them.
More Than One Issue
I was an anti-vaxxer because I have a terrible, extreme phobia of needles that result in full-on panic attacks and other unpleasantness. So you can imagine how extremely pleased I was to discover a way to legitimize my desire to avoid them at all costs, yes? Especially since I was raised among people who took the ideas behind anti-vaxx arguments seriously, but otherwise called me a wimp for being afraid.
So when I left for university and found myself among people who were super understanding of my fears but thought my anti-vaxx opinions were disgusting, things started to change. I came to terms with the fact that I don't think I ever really believed that vaccines were bad (as evidenced by the fact that I was never capable of properly articulating what was bad about them) and started dealing with my phobia properly.
I was anti-vax and yet had a kid with autism. I was so ignorant of the truth of vaccines, but also too ignorant about autism. It's not a death sentence, it's not to be feared. My kid with autism is a fantastic human and I often wish more people were like him.
So anyway, when I had my next kid, I vaxxed on-schedule, and he's pretty neurotypical, just a smidge of ADHD. So along with my own anecdotal experience, I did the research, read a lot, and learned that the Wakefield study was bullshit, and that vaccines don't cause autism or ADHD. But in defense of my ignorant self, when you're a new parent, you're vulnerable to fear-mongering. Thankfully I saw the light.
One Fad To Another
Sister was anti-vax. She is always into the newest soccer mom fad. I honestly think she has Munchausens by proxy. Her kids all have weird food allergies/illnesses but have never been diagnosed.
Anyway, she decided not to vaccinate her fourth child because her third has autism. Fourth had failure to thrive so she decided to get him vaccinated so he had less issues. She's moved on from anti-vax to keto and gluten free diets.
A Quick Ask
My daughter was born in 2001 before "the study" had been thoroughly debunked and proven willfully fraudulent.
So I did ask the pediatrician about it, and he immediately put my mind at ease.
Thus concluded any and all worries and concerns I ever had on the matter.
Saving My Own Life
I've never been anti Vax as such, but when I was pregnant with my son I did question whether the combined MMR was riskier than paying for them to be given separately. (I can't even remember my reasoning now)
Anyway, I spoke to my doctor, researched on the internet, listened to anti vaxxers and pro vaxxers, for me it was weighing up the pros and cons.
The result is he has had all of his vaccines because when all the evidence is presented it's the right decision for most children (unless strong family history of reaction etc), the funny thing is, after his birth I developed Immuno suppression, if he hadn't have been vaccinated he could make me really ill.
Playing On My Insecurity
I realized that I was being manipulated due to my fears and the fact I was very ill at the time and didn't know why. I was told that the government was killing me (among other anti-vax stuff) with flouride and chemicals and that I was going to have a terrible quality of life by 'helpful' members of the anti-vax/alt health community and when I said something that didn't fit the narrative I was verbally attacked for being a corporate shill.
There are two parts to the entire community. One part is the people like me who are just scared and concerned due to the many different things we hear; maybe we're inexperienced parents, maybe we're sick, etc. but we're hearing so many different things due to the age we live in and we're generally scared/concerned/trying to do what's best. The other part is the predatory people who prey on the first group in order to accomplish some type of goal whether that's a following or money or idk a sense of satisfaction.
Too Close For ComfortGiphy
Not me - a work friend.
Her sister had nearly died after receiving a vaccine for HPV. She was literally the only anti-vaxxer I knew that knew a genuine real case of a vaccine going wrong.
The sister gets unwell again - the doctors verdict: "she wouldn't be at deaths door again if the people around her were vaccinated. She's got a very weak immune system she's relying on all of you to protect yourselves to protect her."
So now, my work friend is a huge advocate for vaccination.
So like most of the stories - it took someone nearly dying to change her views.
Abbey Clint recently took her 7-month-old to the doctor for her scheduled immunizations.
While there, she decided to snap a couple of photos of herself and her little ones and share them to Facebook.
Abbey shared an important message with the photos, along with an infographic debunking the supposed link between vaccines and autism.
"Madelyn got her shots today! 🥂💕🥰"
"I grew up unvaccinated before it was cool 😎"
"I've had to catch up on my inoculations with each pregnancy. Glad I didn't catch measles while pregnant! 🥳"
"Glad my babies don't need to suffer through preventable infectious diseases. Preventative maintenance saves co-pays and saves lives. Proud to vaccinate! 💃❤️"
Her post was largely positive and celebratory, but it apparently struck a nerve with someone, because it was shared in an anti-vaxx group.
This resulted in no small number of people showing up to comment on Clint's post, some even making some pretty wild assertions based only on a photograph.
But many on Facebook were supportive of Abbey's efforts to vaccinate herself and her kids. Because SCIENCE.
Some told stories of life before vaccines.
Katie Clint Simmons/Facebook
Others said that they plan to vaccinate their little ones too.
Some thanked Abbey for Educating herself on vaccines and disease, and using that knowledge to decide to keep her kids and those who cannot be vaccinated safe.
Others who grew up unvaccinated and caught up as adults chimed in with their experiences.
After Clint's post was shared to an anti-vaxx group, plenty of people showed up to dogpile on her for what they saw as an attack on their freedom to choose not to vaccinate their children.
Some even went as far as to claim that her children were already showing signs of "vaccine injury" in the snapshot of the family at the doctor's office.
People had Abbey's back, though.
Denise Marie Okeefe/Facebook
Linzi Gayle Jeleniowski/Facebook
One person brought up the uncomfortable truth about the "vaccines cause autism" line of thought.
People seem more afraid of their child developing autism from a vaccine (which doesn't happen, and the paper originally claiming the link has since been retracted over ethical concerns) than of them dying or killing others because of a preventable disease like measles.
Gina Todaro Freed/Facebook
Vaccination saves lives.
Anyone who was alive before vaccines for measles, rubella or even polio were available could tell you about the horrors of disease outbreaks.
Smallpox, a disease that is estimated to have killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone, has been officially eradicated worldwide thanks to vaccination.
Measles was eliminated in the United States in 2000, but declining vaccination rates have contributed to the disease being reintroduced and several significant outbreaks have occurred this year.
According to a CDC press release, these new cases of measles stand a chance of causing even greater harm.
"The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States."
Stories like Abbey's show that people can change their minds, and grow, when they educate themselves and come to truly understand a subject.
Misinformation is prevalent, and can be difficult to sift through when doing research.
Alex Azar, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, recently urged parents to vaccinate their children in a press release.
"The measles vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been firmly established over many years in some of the largest vaccine studies ever undertaken."
"With a safe and effective vaccine that protects against measles, the suffering we are seeing is avoidable."