I am feeling rather controversial today.
A friend of my husband’s posted an article about how people who do not have their children vaccinated are wrong on his Facebook time line today.
He commented that although he ‘disliked’ children to the extent that he never planned to have his own, he agreed with the article. He then went on to say that he thought that people who did not have their children vaccinated were ‘evil’.
My husband posted that ‘evil’ was perhaps too strong a word, and said that we had chosen not to have our children vaccinated.
This opened the floodgates.
Now, I had already seen this article about a week ago, posted by a lovely friend of mine on her Facebook time line. I didn’t comment. I didn’t mention our circumstances. Generally I don’t. I realise that we are in a minority. I also realise that our decision is wildly unpopular amongst the majority. I tend to steer clear of needless arguments, particularly with people I care about. I also respect other people’s right to hold different beliefs to me, and for those people not to be evil, and for me not to be evil either.
When someone basically calls my husband evil on a public forum however, I tend to forget about being diplomatic.
I went for it.
And as I am still feeling a little wrathful I thought I’d recap on here.
I won’t even go into the whole ‘disliking children’ thing. Nor will I go into how someone who chooses not to have children can put themselves in the situation of having to make a judgement call about their child’s welfare, particularly given their dislike of them. That’s a whole other ball game.
Firstly I totally approve of modern medicine. I am delighted to have been born in an era where advances in medicine mean a better quality of life for so many people, and so many lives are saved by procedures that we could not have dreamed possible in previous decades.
I am thrilled that many common diseases are now all but eradicated in Western society, and I appreciate that vaccines have had a lot to do with that.
I do not disapprove of vaccination at all.
I do not disapprove of people who choose to have their children vaccinated.
Had I had my children in a less affluent country where people are genuinely at risk from common diseases we shake off with impunity here, I would not have hesitated to have my children vaccinated. Nor if they had been born with weakened immune systems, or too early etc.
I would happily have the vaccinations required were I to take my children to a country where diseases are rife.
What I do have a problem with are the following:
Doing something just because someone says you ‘should’.
Doing something that you consider to be fairly important without doing your research first.
Doing something on behalf of my children, for whose health and safety I am responsible, without weighing up all my options and feeling that I have made an informed decision.
Doing something that may harm my children just to make other people feel better.
Doing something because someone wags their finger and says to me: ‘Well, if everyone thought like you, where would we be?’ Well, in general, given that my take on the world is quite, quite different to everyone else I know’s, it would be a surprising new world, but probably quite nice and I’d certainly be willing to give it a go. There would be a lot less poverty, a lot less inequality and a damn sight more cake for a start.
Anyway, when I got the letter through about vaccinations for Matilda, fifteen years ago, I did not blindly go to the GP’s surgery and stand in a line waiting for someone to stick some chemicals in my child’s arm just because they said I should.
I did some research.
At the time, what I found out did not reassure me that vaccinations were the best option for my child. I took my research and made an appointment with my GP, who strongly advised me to have the vaccinations, and I asked them a list of question about the vaccinations.I took my findings home, discussed them with my husband and we made a decision, given that our daughter was healthy and not immune compromised, not to have her vaccinated.
At that time polio vaccines were live, and it was found that they were mixed with cow by products which may have contained Variant CJD (mad cow disease) bacteria. Several children had died from Variant CJD and it was unclear whether it was from the vaccine or beef they had eaten.
The live polio vaccine was also found to be able to be transmitted through baby’s faecal matter and other bodily fluids. There was a risk your child could pass on polio to someone with a weakened immune system. I did not want this.
Nor did I want my child to be at risk from Variant CJD for which there is no cure. At this point she was too young to have ingested any beef products, and I wasn’t going to take the risk she might catch it.
This was at a time when the debate about whether the MMR vaccine caused autism was still raging. The Dr in question had not been discredited, and I met a dentist who had an autistic son who he swore had developed it directly as a result of the MMR vaccine being administered. His argument was fairly persuasive, and a dentist has to train alongside doctors for many years and then some, so his opinion seemed reasonably valid under the circumstances.
When Tallulah was born, eleven years ago, we looked again at our choices. At this point the MMR question was still being debated. It was also at this point that we had a huge meningitis outbreak, similar to the measles epidemic of recent months. The government rolled out a mass meningitis vaccination programme in haste. I did my research.
Firstly, the vaccine was for a type of meningitis other than the one that was killing people. It seemed to me that the government was using it as a sop to stop people from panicking when the truth was that if you caught the meningitis that was killing people, the vaccine would not benefit you one iota.
Secondly, a friend of mine took her baby to be vaccinated. The baby was taken very ill and she rushed back to the GP. He told her that it was an adverse reaction to the vaccine and that it was hard to tell what the vaccine would do, as it hadn’t been properly tested yet. He told her that this mass vaccination programme was being looked upon by health professionals as a huge, clinical trial.
I did not want my child to be part of a huge clinical trial, and I did not want my child given vaccines needlessly.
We chose not to have Tallulah vaccinated.
When Oscar was born we went through the same discussion. By this time the polio vaccine was no longer live, and beef products were not used in vaccine preparation. The MMR question had been resolved and it was no longer thought that it caused autism.
This time there was a huge campaign on behalf of the government and NHS to encourage people to vaccinate their children as there were concerns that so many people were opting out that the ‘herd’ immunity would be compromised and we would have epidemics of diseases we had eradicated again. I had read in a newspaper that the whole campaign had been paid for and sponsored by the drug company responsible for the majority of the vaccines administered in the UK at the time, which made me question much of what was being published as being ‘good for me’.
I went to see my GP, and asked a lot of questions. He could not answer them satisfactorily. We decided against Oscar being vaccinated.
During the life time of my three children we went from triple vaccine to quintuple vaccine to seven vaccines rolled into one when Oscar was ready to be vaccinated. I repeatedly asked if it were possible for me to have my children vaccinated with a single vaccine programme. I was refused, not because there wasn’t the option, but because it was too expensive. If there had been single vaccines available I would have happily gone ahead with some of the vaccinations.
When Tilly was due to have her cervical cancer jab a couple of years ago, we had the choice to opt out. We did our research, we talked to Tilly. Despite the face that there was a furore in the national papers about the fact that the vaccine the government had opted for was the cheapest, and not the most effective on the market, we decided on balance that she would be better off having the vaccination, so she had it.
We are now in the process of getting single vaccines administered through a private health care provider for all of our children. It will take a while because I will be asking all the same questions I asked my GP to this Doctor, and if I am not satisfied, we will keep plugging away at things until we are.
I do not see how these actions can be considered ‘evil’ by anyone.
Is it evil to take the time and effort to do your research, consider your child’s individual welfare, seek advice from professionals and then act on the best information you have to hand at the time?
Die hards will tell me that I am evil because I am compromising herd immunity and that my thoughtlessness now will cause mass, devastating epidemics in the future.
I am very sorry if that is the case, but my feeling is that I am actually not responsible for the entire future of the nation’s health. I am responsible for the health of my three, beautiful, hard won children, and I will not compromise their welfare for one second.
Plus herd immunity is the least of our worries given that our environment is down the pan, our economy is fecked, our education system is in parlous ruin and we have people queuing at food banks because they can’t afford to eat.
I know that my children might well have caught all sorts of terrible things, and possibly died from preventable diseases. But they did not. And if they had it was me that would have lived with the guilt, and still be living with it, and I did think about that a lot, believe me. As a loving parent of a precious child you cannot help but think that.
But if you actually look at the figures of the numbers of people who die from or who are otherwise devastated by such diseases year on year, they are infinitesimally small. And no, it cannot all be put down to mass immunisation, because the start of mass immunisation coincided with things like the free health service, better nutrition, milk in schools, and a whole host of other social initiatives that meant that we as a nation were healthier, stronger and more able to fight disease, and nobody can categorically say that it is entirely down to a successful vaccine programme alone. Not that I am denying that it would have made a huge difference.
As for herd immunity. I will not have the finger of blame pointed at me when diseases like TB are on the rise, not because of a lack of immunisations, but because of people’s over reliance on antibiotics and their failure to finish courses of treatments which lead to bacterial mutation and immunity to the drugs that were once so successful in fighting them. There is no longer a TB immunisation scheme by the way, because TB is no longer treatable, so there is no point. And no, people like me did not cause it. TB immunisation doesn’t happen until you are eleven, and when that time came we would have researched it, and I suspect, probably chosen for our children to have it, were it possible – but it isn’t.
My children are disgustingly healthy, before you ask, rarely go to the Dr, rarely have time away from school for illnesses, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times they have had to have antibiotics in their lives, all three of them, on one hand. And they’ve always finished the course. I know that we are lucky, but I do sometimes wonder how much of their healthiness is down to the fact that I do not whip them down to the Dr every three seconds for every little ailment.
What I say to those of you who think I am a terrible person. When you went to your GP to take your child to be immunised, did you think about what they were putting into your child’s arm? Did you do your research? Did you ask questions? Did you think about whether what you were doing was necessary? Or did you just go, because it’s what you do, and you don’t think about it do you, because everyone else does it, so it must be ok?
I don’t have a problem with that, unless you have a problem with me.
What I say to those of you who think I am a terrible person. Have you ever had a needless course of treatment from a Dr? Have you ever failed to finish a course of antibiotics? Are you first in the queue at the Dr’s, always taking something, never thinking about what it might be doing to our herd immunity or the long term health of your child?
I don’t have a problem with that, unless you have a problem with me.
Do you still think it is acceptable to treat syphilis with injections of mercury? Do you still think we should treat respiratory diseases with a prescribed course of cigarettes endorsed by the GP? Do you still think we should treat mental patients and trauma patients by dosing them with LSD? Do you still think we should treat homosexuality as a disease that can be cured?
I hope not. Yet all these things have happened in the last few decades, as prescribed by the health professionals as being right, and good for you and acceptable, until someone found out that they weren’t, because someone uncomfortable and prickly and a bit aggressive like me went along and asked too many difficult questions and wouldn’t accept a panacea, and people actually had to think about what they were doing.
I worked for a drug company. Seven years worth of work and cold hard cash goes into every drug that hits your pharmacy shelves. Millions and millions of pounds are spent developing drugs. If one makes it through the trials, of course they’re going to tell you it’s good for you. They can’t afford not to. It’s got nothing to do with your welfare, and everything to do with the multi million pound drug market. Some drugs are great. Some drugs aren’t. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which ones are and which ones aren’t until they’re in mass circulation. Sometimes drugs have to be withdrawn from circulation. It happens more than you think. Even the good ones can have tremendous side effects. I would no sooner thoughtlessly administer medicine to my child without reading up on it than fly to the moon, just like I wouldn’t accept that vaccination is always for the best.
Most of the time it probably is. Some of the time it might not be.
Someone said to me that ‘you can’t argue with science.’ That’s utter crap. Science in its truest sense is people asking question after question and finding out new information that disproves old information.
Surely, nobody believes that the medicine of today is so good, and so flawless and so right for us that it won’t be bettered by the medicine of tomorrow? Yet if you accept what is given to you without question, and never complain, and swallow it down because you believe that someone else knows better than you and it must be brilliant that is basically what you’re buying into.
Well I don’t.
And that’s an incredibly long winded way of saying that we are not evil people. Nor as some slightly more generous soul decided, are we misguided. We are just different than you, and in a democracy, which is what we live in, we are allowed to be. I don’t approve of your choices maybe, but it is your right to make them, and I would never say you were evil because what you choose is different from what I choose, and believe me, nine times out of ten you are going to choose differently to me.
I’m sure that will set the cat amongst the pigeons nicely.
I shall refrain from discussing the reasons I don’t vote (another thing I’ve been told I am ignorant and evil about) until a later date.