With the introduction of No Jab, No Play/No Jab , No Pay I keep seeing articles pop up about the “Psychology of the anti-vaxxer.” The problem is, they seem wildly inaccurate. I confess, I might be partly to blame.
Dear University Psychology Departments,
My name is Unicorn Sparklefart and I am one of the most hated people on the internet. I am THAT mother, you know the one that has too many children and does things differently. I am the worst. I have left my kids unvaccinated. See, you hate me already. You can see me in your minds eye in my tie-dyed hemp with my hairy legs and my selfish attitude. I am the one you struggle to understand, but I haven’t made it easy for you either.
You have tried to get to know me in your way. You have invited me to fill in your surveys about “The Psychology of an anti-vaxxer”. I have done my best to be honest in these, but the truth is every time I do I mess up your data. I muddy the waters and I am pretty sure I am not the only one.
The problem I have is you either ask the wrong questions or give me inappropriate or incomplete answers to choose from. Every questionnaire seems to be based on a pre-existing idea of who you THINK I am. Let’s put it this way, it sort of feels like going on a first date and being asked, “So, do you like your job at The Body Shop?” and being given the option to answer : NEVER, SOMETIMES, MOSTLY or ALWAYS. I can only answer NEVER because I don’t work at The Body Shop. But maybe the answer would be ALWAYS if you asked me about what I really did for a living. So, I have decided to write to you to talk about what you haven’t asked and I haven’t answered
1. Are you “anti-science”?
No. I am very pro-science but being pro-science means I also have a very healthy understanding of the flaws in scientific study. Pure Mathematics is the closest thing we have to true scientific study and the rest is at best a logical conclusion and at worst a stab in the dark with a bias instrument.
I understand the science. I have been in the industry. I mostly agree with the concept of vaccination, but totally disagree with the conclusions and recommendations.
2. Are you a conspiracy theorist?
I don’t believe that I am. I see doctors, nurses and immunisation providers as people who genuinely think they are doing what is best for their patients. I see researchers and scientists as those looking for answers to our health problems, but what I also see are some serious flaws in their premise of health and how we get it and keep it.
3. Was it because of Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McArthy that you choose not to vaccinate?
I was a non-vaxing parent before Andrew Wakefield published his study and had never heard of Jenny McArthy until someone “told” me that was where I got my information.
With Andrew Wakefield’s study on the MMR and Autism and all that ensued afterwards, there are a myriad of questions that are unanswered. Do we know that vaccine cause autism? See the answer to question 1.
People love to discredit Jenny by talking about her having been a Playboy bunny rather than look at how anecdote is not the singular of data. I don’t have problem with people arguing against her ideas, but how and with whom she has had sex in the past does not logically discredit her experience as a mother.
4. Are you “anti-vax”?
In short no. I think the decisions around vaccination are one of the most difficult for any parent to make. If it was an easy choice, you probably don’t know enough.
I am pro-choice. There is never a time that one person should be able to dictate to another what they can and can’t do with their body or their childrens, be it sexually or medically. I don’t want to enforce others to make the same decisions that I have. It is just as reasonable to make blood donation mandatory for the greater good as it is to make vaccination mandatory.
I am pro-honesty. Vaccines are not without side effects. Some are mild, some are severe. Some are acute and others are chronic. Why are we more honest about the potential side effects of paracetamol than we are of those caused by vaccines. People are not stupid, give them the real statistics on potential side effects and let them make an informed decision. I could even go so far as to say it would not affect overall vaccination rates because many people would put it down as an acceptable risk (and that is OK).
I am pro-acceptable-risk. I feel more equipped to deal with potential childhood illnesses for my children than to deal with a severe reaction. But not everyone feels the same way as me and that is still OK.
I am pro-flexiblity. I don’t believe there is enough leeway in the schedule. There are a number of people who would be far more open to vaccination if they could make an informed decision to selectively vaccinate, delay or spread out vaccination or some combination of these. The problem they encounter is that there are very few single disease vaccines available, so spreading them out or selecting which ones you choose is out of the question. For many parents the default becomes to not vaccinate at all.
I am pro-logic.
• A 1.5kg premmie ,4.5kg newborn and in fact anyone under the age of 20 years including an 80kg 17 year old receive exactly the same Hep B dose (Engerix-B pead. formulation). Every other medication is dosed by weight.
• Newborns generally don’t take intravenous drugs, have unprotected sex or fight in the UFC, so why do all of them need Hep B. Blood work, continuity of care and compassionate non-judgmental hospital care would be able to identify babies actually at risk.
• Acellular pertussis vaccine is not working. There is plenty of research out there to prove it. Some of the mothers who had the whole cellular vaccine as a kid might be able to provide some level of protection to their breastfed newborns, but as the women born in the 90’s start having babies that protection is going out the window. We will see more babies die of whooping cough even if vaccination rates are 98-100%
• Breastfed baby’s immune systems are suppressed to promote colonization of their microbiome. I have seen suggestions from pediatricians in the US to “delay breastfeeding” to help vaccines be more effective. Wouldn’t it make more sense to delay vaccination?
• The bodies ability to produce antibodies under the age of one year is impaired. The main benefit of having kids vaccinated at this age is to get parents into the habit of bringing them to the immunisation provider while they are younger and therefore more likely to make it a priority in the future.
• Never would there be a time when a 2 month old baby would come into contact with 8 serious diseases on the one day. This is a pretty big ask of any immune system, let alone one of a new baby.
I am not anti-vax because I would not want to take that choice away from other parents.
Are you selfish?
Yes. I am selfish because the people who would be most impacted by a health crisis with my children are the child in question, myself and my family. It is selfish to want the best for us. I am OK with that.
Is it selfish to ask someone else to vaccinate their kid for your peace of mind?
Is the question you really want to ask “Are you just an arsehole who doesn’t care about the greater community and the immune-compromised and just wants a “free ride” on the back of everyone else vaccinating their kids?”
Not at all. When my kids are unwell we stay home, for both their sake and that of the community. I don’t to the “Demazin dump” where you dose your kid up, drop them off at day-care and try and get as much work done in the time it takes for it to wear off and you get the phone call to pick them up. We stay home, we get rest and we leave the rest of the world to do its thing until we are completely better.
As for getting a “free-ride”, see my answer to the next question. But bear in mind if you are choosing to vaccinate your kids your primary concern is to keep your kid healthy and safe in a way that you see fit. You would not choose to do it differently to spite my kid and their vax status. You already feel it is safe enough, it does not cost you anything so you aren’t actually paying for my privilege. Not to mention no vaccine is 100% effective and some are quite ineffective like acellular pertussis.
5. Do you think childhood diseases are dangerous?
They can be. For example, encephalitis is a real risk when a child gets the measles. But the most severe symptoms in otherwise “healthy children” is also linked with Vitamin A deficiency.
As Louis Pasteur said on his death-bed, “The microbe is nothing, the soil is everything” You need to create “fertile soil” in which to grow the microbe. In the lab (for bacteria) this is done in plates of dead cells, agar, horse-blood agar, chocolate agar (it is not really made of chocolate so best if you don’t eat it) etc. These are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria because they contain the easy to access nutrients from all that dead stuff. It is near impossible to grow bacteria on well irrigated, nourished living tissue.
So, to look after my kids immune system and all their organs, tissues and cells I have looked after their microbiome and their nervous system. I have fed them healthy, varital, seasonal food. I have guided them in healthy relationships, how to deal with stress and emotions. I have encouraged them to get sunshine, fresh air and to love moving their bodies. In doing this, we are not scared of coming into contact with potentially serious diseases.
To be clear, I am not saying that Kale is going to save you, you are a much more complex being than that. It is a case of 1,000,000 microactions that either take you towards health or away from it and you get to choose most of them. I am also not saying that we will never experience having kids that come down with a disease that is on the schedule, but we can certainly minimise the symptoms they experience.
6. What would convince you to vaccinate your kids?
I would no doubt what so ever give my kid a tetanus shot in the case of a high-risk injury. Say, standing on a nail that was imbedded in a pile of wild horse poo. I would much prefer it to be only tetanus (which is not available), but would be resigned to DTPa if that was all that was available or push for ADT Booster if they are over 10 years old.
As for the others with our current living standard, availability of high quality food, understanding of hygiene and proper plumbing there is not much that would convince me that it is necessary for my kids.
7. Do you speak for all non-vaxxing parents?
Nope. We all have our belief systems and I am kind of at the mainstream end of the spectrum, but there are a lot of people like me.
I am sorry, I have messed up your data. I hope you can forgive me. Can we start again and this time ask and answer the questions in a more meaningful way.
I'm not anti-vax (but nor am I pro vax). I am pro choice and pro questioning and pro logic. My child has recently experienced an adverse reaction and I have serious concerns with the propaganda surrounding vaccination and childhood diseases.
I would give anything to be given a choice about which vaccines and when. Unfortunately I'm one of those parents who relies on the child care benefit in order to be able to send my children to daycare and therefore my choices for my children's health are based on financial rather than health factors.
I was also disgusted that we weren't asked to even give consent to the vaccinations!! We did not need to sign anything as parents giving consent.
The political environment around vaccination is insane.