I have never considered myself to be too far off the deep end where natural health is concerned, although to many I might seem so. I rarely take anything stronger than Tylenol, I have a fairly large pharmacopeia of herbal tinctures and homeopathic remedies, and when my kids have a cough they drink tea and take elderberry syrup. I am among those for whom the jury is still out on the vaccine safety question; there are enough fairly intelligent arguments on both sides of the issue that I don't believe it has been truly settled yet.
What I become more and more frustrated over, however, is the fact that it's become such a polarizing issue that it is difficult to have reasonable conversations about it. And that there are so many legal hoops to jump through where vaccinations are concerned, and that those hoops usually do not come with intelligent conversation and common sense, and that they do come with considerable financial or other incentives to keep them in place. Frustrated when even broaching the question degenerates into "OMG how dare you even mention that, you'll endanger my kid" and "Oh good heavens you're one of those anti-vaccine idiots"--even mentioning the question of safety, whether one comes down on one side or the other, brings out these tirades. It's nuts.
I've had two vaccine encounters recently, both fairly minor but illustrating the point in a small way: my daughter, last year, started kindergarten. She had at the same time been diagnosed with some sensory perception issues, so I was a little leery of subjecting her body's system to anything that could disrupt it. I “get” the whole herd immunity thing, and so with most of the vaccinations I'd kept her on a drawn-out but meets-the-letter-of-the-law schedule. However, she had never been vaccinated for chicken pox. And I didn't see any reason why she should—it is not a life-threatening illness, and the risk-factor seemed to favor just leaving it quietly alone. In order to let her remain unvaccinated for this fairly minor disease I had to jump through lots of hoops and eventually obtain a “religious exemption” for it. Which was successful, and she remains unvaccinated. Another kindergartener (a vaccinated one, I might add) came down with the disease later that year, so my kid was apparently exposed to it at that point. She never got sick. I will have her titered when she's a little older to make sure she's indeed immune and that point revisit the question of vaccinating her, but in that moment it seemed like the wiser choice, and I stand by it. Other parents might have made different choices, but I stand by mine. The point of the story isn't really the choice itself, it's the fact that a parent has no real recourse or ability to get solid information on either side of the issue without facing a lot of pressure and even bullying from the school/legal system to do it their way.
A second example, also fairly minor: I started graduate school this fall. I no longer have my childhood vaccination records following me around, so I needed to get a blood titer to check my immunity. I knew what it would show: immunity to mumps and rubella, no immunity to measles. This has been the case in the past; measles vaccinations for me just don't take. Was there any way to address this? No. I had to be vaccinated again for measles, twice. And by the way, measles vaccines don't come separate from mumps and rubella, so I had to be vaccinated for all three. Twice. At $63 each time. There is no room for common sense, conversation, individual cases—everything is regimented and official, and there is pretty much no way to be part of society without entering the Machine and becoming one of its cogs.
And don't even get me started on the proposals for mandatory HPV vaccines for middle school girls—I find that one absolutely appalling, and the very concept to be a complete violation of my parental rights.
I'm not saying all vaccinations are bad. I'm not even saying for sure that any are—I lack the data. But so do a lot of people, many of them medical professionals, who spout absolute truths about them day in and day out. Where does one go to find real answers? Are there any? And we keep getting shots while we wait for those answers.
I'm just not sure about any of it. I don't have the answers. I just wish we could ask the questions and have some hope for getting stuff out onto the table.
(Okay, y'all, please don't fill the “comments” section with “OMG it's proven there is no danger in vaccines!” or “OMG it's proven that vaccines are dangerous” arguments—there's a lot of data out there for both sides of the issue, and every parent and individual has to make their own choice. And the opinions expressed in this post are from the author not the Green Phone Booth at large, etc. and so forth disclaimer stuff.)
--Jenn the Greenmom