But I have been grappling with a lot of fear this year. When you choose to stop vaccinating your family there are many things to fear.
You fear losing friends and loved ones. One of my best friends in the world told me how angry they get when they think about this issue. This is not surprising. The (almost non-existent) dialog surrounding this topic is full of fear and anger. The person who inspired me to write this blog also later publicly stated his belief that parents who don't vaccinate should be jailed or die horrible deaths. This is actually quite a common sentiment, at least online. Do you agree with the statement below? If so, what is your justification?
I fear the loss of my right to choose what is the right path for my family's health. Many states are taking away parents' rights. In June parents in New York State lost the right to use religious exemptions, therefore losing their right to attend public schools. Many (most?) people view this as a good thing. But do most people also know that NY Supreme Court Judge ruled that the Amish cannot have a religious vaccine exemption to attend their own private Amish school of 24 Amish children? Do most people know that New York is also discussing mandating flu and HPV vaccines? HPV is not a contagious disease. The flu vaccine is known not to be very effective. This is just one state! You can spend all day reading about what is going on around our country and the world. Where do the mandates stop?
I fear our family will lose our income and insurance again if Mike ever lost his job over this issue. I fear we will have to move our family again, just as we are beginning to put down roots - especially if Virginia takes away religious exemptions. (In Virginia home-schoolers follow the same laws as public schools.)
These are not irrational fears, they are very much based in reality of things that are happening around the country. Real people that I know - in REAL life - are dealing with this very issues. I have a friend that pulled her children out of school to home school. She also thinks about needing to uproot her family and move to another state. I have another friend that was repeatedly denied an exemption for the flu shot and came very close to handing in her resignation before they fired her. In the end her boss found a way for her to stay employed, but she was facing the very real possibility of loss of salary, insurance and other benefits for her family of four.
Perhaps, you are thinking - "Well, at least you aren't fearing death." Because that is really want this comes down to, doesn't it? People who are for mandatory vaccination think that it is a justified practice because they are preventing the Worst Thing of All.
But those of us who choose a different path have addressed the fear of death and we came out stronger for it. I have addressed that fear in myself. I addressed it by listening and learning from those who knew a lot more than me about the history of infectious illnesses and vaccines. I addressed it by observing what I see occurring in my life and in the world around me. Does this mean I don't get scared? That I'm not worried when my kids are sick? Of course not! It means that I take responsibility for our health the best that I can and that I realize I can't control everything.
How many people vaccinate and then get sick anyway? How many people get sick and go to work anyway? How many people send sick children to school because they can't afford to keep their kids home? Should these all be punishable offenses? Are they not spreading as much or more illness than a family like ours? We stay home when we are sick much more often than the average American family.
The problem with believing that mandatory vaccines are justified is you have to completely turn away from reality. You have to deny the thousands of people who say they were harmed by vaccines and/or have gotten healthier since they stopped. You have to believe in your right to impose your will and belief system onto someone else. Sounds pretty Un-American and very totalitarian. Do you think I'm crazy to be more fearful of that than I am of the measles? Well, I am.
The irony? We are all going to die someday. So, the people who are trying to dictate how we all should live are fearing something that we cannot escape. They think that our fears of losing our health, homes, loved ones, jobs, insurance, education, ability to travel and move freely in the world are insignificant compared to what they fear. They think they have The Answer.
And here is the crux of the issue. We are coming from completely different paradigms and belief systems. People who want everyone vaccinated believe the following: vaccines are "safe and effective", and reactions are "1 in a million", or "mild and rare". I don't believe any of those things anymore. If you want to know why, I am happy to discuss it with you! It is a long discussion, but I'm ready to have it!
You can choose to ignore the information that is freely available to us all. But don't expect everyone to fall in line. It's only going to get uglier if more people don't start listening and speaking up. Does that scare me? Yes.
But I cannot live every day in fear. I need to be here for my kids. I need to appreciate all that I have NOW. So I acknowledge it all. And then I try to make today a great day. I choose to believe that Mr. Rogers is right and that most of us are inherently good. I choose to hope that The Good will prevail in the end. And I'm going to take every scrap of hope and faith I have to power me forward and create a path that will empower me, my children and - in my the happiest of futures - my grandchildren too.