the smell of my desperation has become a stench

A word or two about vaccinations

A few weeks ago I taped some footage for a Momversation about vaccinations, and yesterday it went live:

Here I willingly admit to not understanding parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, an opinion that is now as controversial as refusing vaccinations used to be, and I will admit that this is a bit of a misleading and unfair statement, something I will further explain in a minute.

Thing is, I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, my opinion about the choice to vaccinate your child used to look much like my opinion about most other parenting decisions (breastfeeding, co-sleeping, homeschooling, etc) in that I think you have to figure out what works best for you and your children and ignore all the people who are screaming at you that you’re doing it wrong.

But let me back up a second… when Leta was born five years ago I had very few friends who were mothers and wasn’t participating in any sort of parenting communities online. All of the mothers I did know had vaccinated their children with no lasting side-effects, and my pediatrician, a man who had vaccinated all eight of his children, talked me through what it all meant and assured me it was in Leta’s best interest to have her vaccinated. I had heard stories about certain parents refusing vaccinations, but at the time their concerns were not about autism or side-effects but about fears of a government conspiracy, something I did not take seriously.

Things have dramatically changed in the last five years, and there is now so much more information available to parents about vaccinations, information and warnings and horror stories. And in these years I have listened to many women talk convincingly about how their children developed symptoms of autism in close proximity to the time they were administered certain vaccinations. And then there were the women whose children suffered terrible fevers and rashes and sometimes seizures. This naturally raised some questions for me, and for a time I could totally see why someone would choose not to vaccinate her chid.

I can still identify with these concerns.

However, the issue totally changed for me when news broke last year of a measles outbreak in Southern California that occurred because a seven-year-old boy who had not been vaccinated brought the disease back to the states from Switzerland:

The boy’s measles immunoglobulin M (IgM) positive laboratory test result was reported to the county health department on February 1, 2008. During January 31–February 19, a total of 11 additional measles cases in unvaccinated infants and children aged 10 months–9 years were identified. These 11 cases included both of the index patient’s siblings, five children in his school, and four additional children who had been in the pediatrician’s office on January 25 at the same time as the index patient. Among these latter four patients, three were infants aged <12 months. One of the three infants was hospitalized for 2 days for dehydration; another infant traveled by airplane to Hawaii on February 9 while infectious... ... Overall, approximately 70 children exposed to children with measles in the school, a day care center, the pediatrician's office, and other community settings were placed under voluntary home quarantine because their parents either declined measles vaccination or they were too young to be vaccinated.

And I put myself in the position of the mother of that ten-month-old baby who caught the disease because they happened to be at the doctor’s office at the same time as the infected boy. A ten-month-old baby whose immune system is such that there is a possibility of death. And I realized, I do not think that I would ever be able to forgive the parents of that infected boy. That is my raw, honest emotion toward that scenario.

That our children do not have to fear death from diseases like measles or polio or whooping cough is a miracle made possible by modern technology and science. And I guess the crux of this really complex problem for me is that as the number of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children increases so does the likelihood that these diseases will become a problem again. If you’ve decided that the risks are too great to vaccinate your child then you are counting on the rest of us who are willing to take those risks to decrease the chances that your child will be exposed to these diseases. You are counting on us. Maybe what I don’t understand (in reference to my statement in the video) is the act of and willingness to give up that control. The choice to refuse vaccinations just seems to me to be a first world luxury.

In some of the footage that got cut from the final video I talk about how the standard vaccination schedule can seem very aggressive, and I totally understand and support families who want to work with their doctors to modify that schedule (you can read one mother’s level-headed and articulate experience with that here). And I know of and support mothers who have had to change pediatricians who were unwilling to take their concerns about the schedule seriously. I understand that some children are allergic to certain ingredients in some vaccinations and this prevents them from receiving them. Which is why I think it’s crucial to maintain what I’ve heard referred to as herd immunity so that those who really have no choice, who cannot receive vaccinations, are protected by those of us who can.

Perhaps by phrasing my opinion as, “I don’t understand parents who don’t vaccinate their children,” I am misrepresenting my stance, and I will blame that on the fact that I had to film footage in the five minutes I could wedge into a packed SXSW schedule on a Monday afternoon a few weeks ago. Because what I’m really feeling is an unease, one that is directly proportional to the unease that causes certain parents to refuse vaccinations, an unease at what might logically happen if more and more parents refuse vaccinations, even if that refusal is well researched.

I know many of you disagree with me and that I risk some of you feeling alienated by even bringing up this topic. And I’d love to hear from you because I don’t think that any of the unease on either side can be addressed or alleviated until we start communicating with each other in a tone that suggests we really want the same thing: health and safety for all of our children.

  • Michelle

    2009/04/07 at 5:29 pm

    On this I agree with you completly! One of my daughters came down with Rubella at 8 weeks old from another child who’s mother decided not to vaccinate.

    This disease has an incubation rate before it manifests and I unwittingly exposed my pregnant sister in law to the infection which could have seriously harmed her unborn baby. As well, my daughter was so very sick for over a week.

    I could not and never will forgive this mother for the risk she willingly exposed my family to for what I considered supersitious ignorance.

  • Jen

    2009/04/07 at 5:26 pm

    I think you did well at elaborating. And you’re right about the information that is out there and how it can be hard to distinguish. I think sometimes there are trends that happen and unfortunately those trends can be dangerous.

  • Fe

    2009/04/07 at 5:25 pm

    I have not immunised my children…. and have strong opinions about live virus vaccinations which precluded me from doing so. They are now 10 and 12 and have had measles, chicken pox and even whooping cough after being exposed to immunised children who became ill. I took the responsibility of my choices seriously and quarantined them for their entire illnesses.

    I do, however, not judge anyone who chooses to immunise their own. I agree that it is a first world luxury to choose. And I’m grateful for that luxury.

    What I wanted to say to you, however, was that I appreciate how wonderfully worded your post was. I read no judgement and if more people were willing to have open discussions about controversial topics WITHOUT flaming, the world would be a better place!

  • Anonymous

    2009/04/07 at 5:30 pm

    I don’t have children, but I do have dogs and work at an animal hospital. I know it’ll piss some people off to compare their children to dogs, but Dooce’s arguments are applicable to animal vaccines, too. Diseases like rabies, distemper and parvo could be entirely eliminated if everyone vaccinated their animals. And while some pets do have reactions, even fatal ones, to these vaccines, it is such a small percentage that if everyone ELSE had the vaccines done, it would prevent the spread of disease among other animals. The point is, you’re vaccinating your pet or your child not only to protect him or her, but to protect others that he or she will come in contact with, as well.

  • Katherine

    2009/04/07 at 5:30 pm

    I live in an area that has recently had mass outbreaks of whooping cough. As a child when I got the vaccination I got really sick when I got the DPT shot. Since then, I haven’t been vaccinated with the “P” or pertussis part of the vaccine for fear that I will again have the same reaction. Every time I hear about another outbreak here in Minnesota, I fear that I will get sick. I wonder if the parents of children who haven’t had their children vaccinated fear the same thing?

    BTW, I completely agree with your thoughts on this one…


  • J. Bo

    2009/04/07 at 5:30 pm

    Thank you, Heather, for so clearly, intelligently, and sensibly explaining the logic and ethics of what has become a gigantically emotional subject in recent years.

  • Glyn

    2009/04/07 at 5:30 pm

    Heather, I am firmly with you on this. I think it is really important to be vaccinated and to prevent the old childhood diseases emerging again.

    I think I come from an interesting background, in that I was not vaccinated as a child (my mother was one of the “conspiracy” types I suppose) and I got ill with pretty much all of the childhood ilnesses – measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, whooping cough. Luckily I got over them with no long-term ill effects that I know of, but I would not want to go through them again.

    My brother wasn’t born when I had mumps, and has therefore never had them, leading to worries that if he gets them now he might become infertile.

    My mother has changed her mind nowadays and says she would vaccinate if she had to go through it again. When I have children they will be getting the standard schedule. When I travelled overseas I made sure I had all the vaccinations needed before I travelled.

    A good reference for information is, also some of the bloggers at

    Best wishes for the rest of the book tour and the birth of your second daughter!


  • Andi

    2009/04/07 at 5:31 pm

    I was also one of those people who believed that the choice to not vaccinate your children was really none of my business, much in the same way that I would never judge a mother for choosing to bottle feed vs. breastfeed. But as a pediatric oncology nurse, I have seen children go through a bone marrow transplant (which replaces your immune system, requiring vaccinations to be repeated) and before they are healthy enough to undergo their vaccinations again, they contract something that should have been eradicated decades ago, like measles or chickenpox. In many cases, those “simple childhood illnesses” have caused death to these children. I believe that it is ethically irresponsible to put other children at risk because you are afraid of autism or other “potential” side effects.

    Very well written post. I admire that you were willing to open this can of worms! 😉

  • Allison

    2009/04/07 at 5:32 pm

    Thank you. I think this was well put. And I agree.

  • Amanda

    2009/04/07 at 5:32 pm

    I am unsure why really no one has (as of yet) posted any comments… I imagine hundreds of people would have leapt at the opportunity to talk about this. As of yet, my opinion may not be considered valid by some because I don’t have any children. However, I plan on having a child in the next year or two, and because I am almost a graduated nurse, I read a lot of research. I have been particularly interested in the vaccination “dilemma” and keep up with current peer-reviewed research. As of now, all of the current, valid, peer-reviewed research (including meta analyses) has shown that vaccines are SAFE – even the old MMR vaccines with thimerisol showed no statistically significant results indicating causality or even correlation with autism or autism spectrum disorders. That’s my two cents… so in essence, I complete agree with you. It is absolutely unfair to the innocent kids who are too young or too ill to receive vaccines to get hit with a deadly disease because of someone else’s misinformed decision.

  • Mari

    2009/04/07 at 5:32 pm

    I vaccinated all 3 of my kids with no problems but that was years ago. Today I would ask for a less aggressive schedule of treatment because I suspect that may be a large part of the side effect issue. But I would always vaccinate. It is a calculated risk. But so is driving, flying in a plane or eating sushi. Sometimes we do those things that serve the whole even if our personal druthers would have us living happily free of any risk in a yurt in the middle of Montana.

  • Jacquie

    2009/04/07 at 5:32 pm

    I have immunized both of my children on a careful schedule. I am leery of new vaccines and sometimes opt out until I have all of the information I need to make an informed decision. I wish that unbiased information would be offered by our healthcare providers without pressure to comply. Too often I think parents feel bullied and rushed into doing what they are told and are made to feel stupid if they ask too many questions or express doubt. In many people this brings up an automatic defense mechanism that might lead to an emotional decision one way or the other.

  • Mary@Holy Mackerel

    2009/04/07 at 5:32 pm

    Well thought out and written. Thank you for clarifying what the real issue is. I too have vaccinated both my children, and agree with you wholeheartedly.

  • Brittany

    2009/04/07 at 5:33 pm

    Agree, agree, agree. I don’t understand why people don’t vaccinate at all. And the schedule IS aggressive. I also spaced the out CDC’s schedule so my daughter received only one at a time (which can still really be three at a time, ie MMR, DTaP, ect).

    I think it is difficult to make education decisions with the slew of information regarding vaccinations and especially when that information can come off so hot-headed. Your post was lovely!

  • Lex

    2009/04/07 at 5:33 pm

    I’m right there with you, Heather, without the empathy or understanding you display. I have never understood mothers who don’t vaccinate their kids.

    After dozens of elegant scientific studies with large sample sizes, there has been NO LINK shown between vaccines and autism.

    Over and over again, the scientific community tell us vaccines don’t cause autism! And if we don’t trust science – and let’s face it, even mothers who don’t vaccinate fly in planes, drive cars, use the internet and go to the ER when their kids are sick – ALL provided to us through scientific research – we’ve only got people’s gut feelings and empirical evidence to hold onto.

    The signs of autism often first become obvious around 12 and 18 months, when vaccines are administered. These are sad and terrible coicidences, unfortunately.

  • mmc

    2009/04/07 at 5:34 pm

    I completely agree with your stance, Heather. I don’t understand why some parents would be willing to expose their children to diseases that are, for lack of a better word, archaic. If we are able to stop them from getting a disease, why on earth wouldn’t you take that option? I understand modifying the schedule, but to refuse the vaccinations altogether seems reckless.

  • Jennie

    2009/04/07 at 5:34 pm

    “If you’ve decided that the risks are too great to vaccinate your child then you are counting on the rest of us who are willing to take those risks to decrease the chances that your child will be exposed to these diseases. You are counting on us.”

    This is where I do have judgment about people who choose not to vaccinate. They are not weighing the risk of vaccinatng their children against the risk of their child catching whatever disease the vaccination is supposed to prevent. They are expecting other parents to bear that burden.

    I also have issues with parents who refuse to acknowledge the results of scientific studies on the subject. On the one hand, I realize that there are examples from history that make it difficult to trust the scientific community when they assure us that x is safe or that there is no connection between y and z. OTOH, people who choose to believe anecdotal “common sense” evidence over cold, hard, empirical facts make me nuts.

  • Martha

    2009/04/07 at 5:34 pm

    As the mother of a chronically sick child (long-term effects of RSV), I believe that vaccinations are absolutely necessary. My daughter’s immune system can barely tolerate a simple cold, let alone something more drastic. There was a mumps outbreak at my daughter’s daycare about two years ago, and most of the parents were absolutely furious, for the reason that you pointed out–some of the little ones couldn’t be vaccinated yet, and they were at the mercy of another parent’s decision not to have his/her child vaccinated and bring it into the daycare.

  • Tricia

    2009/04/07 at 5:35 pm

    I do think the number of vaccinations that children get these days does seem excessive and some of the things that they vaccinate for aren’t horribly dangerous to most kids (i.e. chicken pox) but that the big ones absolutely should be vaccinated for. Can these kids without immunizations go to school? Most of the people I know who refuse to immunize home school their kids or plan to.

    I know I had to get a new MMR to go to college because there was some question about the effectiveness of the vaccine I had in the early 70’s.

  • Katherine

    2009/04/07 at 5:35 pm

    I understand the passion and intellect of parents on both sides of this decision. As I have no plans to be a parent myself, I do not envy those of you who have to make this decision. I don’t know what I would choose.

  • Vanessa

    2009/04/07 at 5:35 pm

    I wish that the conversation among parents didn’t always have to be as black and white as Pro-Vaccination and Anti-Vaccination. I believe we can still be for vaccinating our children while ALSO being critical of an overly aggressive One Size Fits All vaccination schedule, of some ridiculously unnecessary vaccines that will probably hurt our children in the long run more than they will help (I’m talking the chicken pox vaccine mostly), of some of the sketchy cocktail ingredients and poor independent testing (or lack thereof) done, and of pharmaceutical power and intentions. We can still protect our children from some of history’s worst diseases while demanding improvement in the way it’s all done.

    And yes, the herd mentality to vaccination is part of the point, even if you know the chances of your kid contracting Hep B is minimal or you’re not afraid of what the measles looks like on your (non-immune compromised) child. I wish every parent the best of luck in sorting through all of the (mis)information and making the best decision not only for their child but for others as well…

    A helpful read for me was Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book, by the way.

  • Mary@Holy Mackerel

    2009/04/07 at 5:35 pm

    Oh, and I forgot to add that my son had cancer, and like Andi (#8) said, contracting chicken pox or measles, etc. when immune-depressed would have been a possible death sentence for him.

    And thank you for opening this up for discussion. It’s about time.

  • Sarah

    2009/04/07 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks Heather. It’s one of those areas where I’ve felt like I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I chose to vaccinate our daughter schedule though, and thankfully no regrets so far.

  • Lori Cleghon

    2009/04/07 at 5:37 pm

    My mother had polio as a small child in the late 20s, an event that affected her health for her entire life. She made sure that my sister and I were ‘first in line’ for the polio vaccine in the early 50s. My own children received the recommended vaccinations in the 70s with no ill effects. I have great sympathy for parents whose children develop autism. But I wonder if it might be a coincidence that this condition close to the age that vaccines are normally administered.

  • Kate

    2009/04/07 at 5:38 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put so well. I cannot imagine the heartbreak of having a child develop autism. Nor can I fathom the pain of having a child die, much less of a preventable illness.

    The fact is, scientific evidence is overwhelming AGAINST vaccines causing autism. The fact that some children develop autism symptoms around the time of their vaccinations seems a matter of the fallacy of causation. Maybe that particular vaccine is given around the age symptoms commonly develop or become noticeable. It is even possible that after all the controversy surrounding vaccinations, parents and doctors come to note behaviors that were already present.

    What we know is that measles, polio, etc, can cause debilitating and sometimes deadly illnesses. Some people cannot be vaccinated, and it seems to me that allowing these illnesses to gain a foothold in the population again invites the risk of “new and improved” diseases developing for which we do NOT have adequate vaccines. Asking everyone to join a non-vaccinating family in assuming that risk is…shocking.

  • Erin

    2009/04/07 at 5:38 pm

    I feel like you, Heather, and try to stay out of other parents’ decisions or choices because what’s best for one is not always best for all. But vaccinations are different. I worry that my 1st grade son talks to much in school and makes it hard for other kids in his class to learn. Imagine how I’d feel if he was responsible for getting an entire class sick, especially a child with an otherwise compromised immune system.

    I worked on a terrific PBS program a few years back called Rx for Survival (narrated by Brad Pitt). The Web site lives on is a great resource on this and other global health subjects.

    p.s. you were great on Oprah yesterday!

  • Daddy Scratches

    2009/04/07 at 5:39 pm

    One lesson about parenting that I learned during my wife’s pregnancy is that, like it or not, you have to play the odds. At one point, we were advised that we could have an amniocentesis conducted to check for a certain chromosomal disorder … but, based on the figures provided to us, the odds of the amnio causing some kind of problem were greater than the odds of our unborn child being afflicted with the chromosomal disorder in question. Thus, we passed on getting the amnio.

    With regard to vaccination: we felt that the odds of our children developing a life-threatening illness if not vaccinated posed a greater risk than the odds of our children developing autism in the wake of their vaccinations. Thus, we got them vaccinated.

    Now, if they *had* developed symptoms of autism, I’m sure I’d be singing a much different tune, and therefore I have no quarrel with parents who, after being put in that unfortunate position, advocate not getting your child vaccinated.

    Short of any irrefutable evidence that vaccinations cause autism, however, I agree that the ability to vaccinate your child against illnesses that once killed people in large numbers is a medical advance worth taking advantage of.
    (FWIW: My wife has a master’s degree in social work and works as the clinical coordinator for a program that provides services to adolescents on the autism spectrum, so she is perhaps more tuned in than most people to the issues surrounding that community … and she had no hesitation about getting our kids vaccinated.)

  • Kris

    2009/04/07 at 5:39 pm

    This is an exceptionally well written post.

    It made me think about my neighbor’s daughter, too young to be vaccinated against meningitis (in Canada) and being exposed 1.5 weeks before she was eligible to receive the vaccine by an unvaccinated older child. She almost died. The extent to which her brain was damaged continues to unfold for her devastated family.

    I will be linking this post tomorrow at my blog. You have eloquently expressed exactly what has been in my brain for a long time…something I have never myself been able to write down or express effectively. Thank you.


  • Rhonda

    2009/04/07 at 5:40 pm

    I think the pros outweigh the cons. I rather take my chances with the vaccine than the illness.

    Thanks for the great read!

  • ellebee

    2009/04/07 at 5:41 pm

    Hi Dooce,
    LONG time reader, first time commenter. I just wanted to say thanks for your post. I am one of the few (it seems like) who agree with you. I am a person who is allergic to certain vaccines, and there is always a little part of me who is terrified to go out and about into the world for fear that someone is going to give me a horrible disease because they didn’t get vaccinated. If I have a child who is also allergic to vaccines, and they get a deadly disease because they CAN’T have a vaccine, I’d never be able to forgive those parent either. I am a student physical therapist, and in our pediatrics class, we had a vaccination “debate” during the autism lecture, and I could not believe how many were against vaccines. Thanks for stating your opinion, and you’re not the only one out there!

  • amy j.

    2009/04/07 at 5:41 pm

    As the wife of a physician, I never even considered not vaccinating my children. As he went through med school and learned of the ravages of certain very…once upon a time…common illnesses it made no sense to me why anyone would risk it.

    Then my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was three. Now common things such as the flu or chicken pox etc pose huge risks for her. When she is sick, even with a cold, her blood sugar is hard to control…she becomes at risk with every virus she gets. I am beyond thankful she has protection from these diseases which, if they didn’t kill her themselves, would surely make her diabetes a very dangerous thing.

    People should be aware that herd immunity makes things dangerous for us all. If these diseases get out into communities once again in large numbers they can mutate and become resistent to current modern vaccines. That is my biggest fear. Case in point…whooping cough outbreaks that appear to be infecting adults long vaccinated. They are now thinking there might be need for booster shots for adults who’ve already been vaccinated because the “new” strains seem to be more infectious to adults than they once were.

    Very scary. There’s enough to be fearful of for our children. I think we can all agree on that.

  • Raeann

    2009/04/07 at 5:41 pm

    I believe that the reason you aren’t getting any flame on this post is because you didn’t make the statement “vaccinations do not cause autism.”

    It seems to me that the big war is between people like you, who want the herd vaccinated for everyone’s sake, and people who believe that vaccinations irrevocably changed their children. Parents of children with special needs experience hardships and have emotional triggers that other parents simply don’t.

  • jennie

    2009/04/07 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you for this, Heather!

    What i would like to see is a conversation about changing the vaccine schedule – i think many people have problems with giving children 7 vaccines at one time (that is my pediatrician’s current recommendation for 2, 4 and 6 month shots), but the argument gets blanketed to giving no vaccines at all.

    What about spreading it out a bit? No more than one or two vaccines at a time?

    My child will have all of his vaccines before he is 4 years old, but after his adverse reactions to his 2 and 4 month shots, we decided to split them up. Yes, it means more actual needle sticks for him, but i don’t worry about the potential danger of taxing his immune system with too much at one time.

    Thank you for a civil discussion, we need more of these when it comes to vaccines in our country.

  • Amanda

    2009/04/07 at 5:43 pm

    Heather….thank you for your extremely thoughtful and sincere words on a VERY loaded subject.

    I was not immunized until I was 13 years old…and had an amazingly healthy childhood – that being said, when I entered the pediatrician’s office with my infant son for the first round of shots – I had a total and completely hysterical breakdown, and couldn’t go through with it. I was SCARED SHITLESS to put any form of disease into my child.
    After much research, thought and frankly, prayer…my husband and I decided to choose a delayed/modified immunization schedule – and our son never had multiple vaccines at once – we had a fabulous pediatrician who assured us that WE WERE THE PARENTS – to trust our own intuition and do what felt right to us. By breaking it up into smaller components/doses, I really do think it was easier for his body to efficiently use the antigens.
    we have friends we were not so lucky…and after a “multiple vaccination” visit to the Ped…their beautiful little 18 month old son emerged from a high fever as a different child, and was quickly diagnosed with autism. Before the shots, he was a TYPICALLY DEVELOPING CHILD. This devastated the family, and the parents feel such huge guilt….and even though there are some studies out there claiming there is not direct link…I just don’t buy it.

    There is risk if you DO, and there is risk if you DON’T.

  • Anonymous

    2009/04/07 at 5:43 pm

    Seriously, So many new mothers of this generation are so caught up in being the expert – that they are too blind to see when they should defer to the real experts. Vaccinate your kids, that’s what we do when we live in a civilized 1st world society. You don’t want to? Then remove yourself. Don’t put me, mine and her’s at risk. It is the epitome of selfishness.

  • Laura

    2009/04/07 at 5:43 pm

    My brother and his wife had a son in September. They chose an at home birth with a midwife and have also chosen, at least for the time being not to get him vaccinated. My sister in law has done so much research, but I feel like she has only really searched for information that will support whatever decision she has already made. I don’t know for sure- they could just be adjusting the number and rate at which my nephew will get his vaccinations, but as of right now he hasn’t had any. I get their decision, but I would have to think that they are abusing a privilege. They have only taken into consideration the effect it MIGHT have on them, and that’s all. They are in their own world, and I feel like sometimes people just need to be reintroduced to the big picture.

  • millie

    2009/04/07 at 5:43 pm

    My wonderful doctor will not allow families into her practice who don’t vaccinate for exactly that reason.

    One of the reasons why I love her is because not only is she tops in her field when it comes to western medicine, but she’s also willing to suggest alternative medicine when appropriate. But she won’t budge when it comes to vaccines.
    For me that’s very telling.

  • Elena

    2009/04/07 at 5:43 pm

    It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that vaccines are a ‘bad’ thing. I grew up hearing about my great-uncle who contracted polio during WWII and the aunt I would have had only she died ‘in her second summer’ from whooping cough. I have many friends who don’t vaccinate, but I wonder how their opinions would change if their families were directly affected. If they were parents 50 years ago and knew of the affects of these diseases first hand, I wonder how they would feel about it now.

  • Wild Dingo

    2009/04/07 at 5:44 pm

    I go through this struggle with my “DOGS”… I don’t know how in the world a parent can deal with it for kids. There are issues with over vaccination with animals as well. Yet, i still want to take my dogs to public places where they will likely drink from bowls that have been drunk from by other dogs. So I have to weigh what’s more important, not receiving vaccinations for fear of side effects (and death can be one side effect), but then isolating my dogs from the rest of the world, or opting for the vaccinations so I can live w/o fear of silly stuff like kennel cough or parvo, etc. I opt for vaccination but carefully don’t overdo it before it’s really time.

    It seems globalization has its pro’s and cons. More exposure to other cultures/lifestyles is great education, however, just traveling in a plane exposes you to every little airborn possiblity of the same people on that plane. I see the point of vaccinatons. Those who don’t choose to vaccinate, would have to be almost isolationist in order to keep their child healthy. On this stuff…you just “never know” because you can’t see it.

    as an adult (as opposed to a kid who doesn’t have a fully developed immune system)…i avoid the flu shot though as I don’t believe in them if the immune system is in good shape. Instead, I wash my hands and everything touch very diligently, especially during flu season. haven’t had a flu in 10 years.

    talk about a can of worms.

  • Laura Lee

    2009/04/07 at 5:44 pm

    Wow Heather. Thank you for this very articulate post. I agree with you, and want to thank you for clearly laying out your position and opinion (which I share). It does give me an uneasy feeling. We have to work together as a community to prevent epidemics, right? Everyperson for Themselves and To Each His Own — these ideas don’t really jive with health and safety for the masses. Heck, they don’t really jive for the health and safety of a small doctor’s office lobby full of patients.

  • Kerri

    2009/04/07 at 5:44 pm

    The key to making wise decisions for your children is education for yourself. When I had my son immunized, it was a terrible experience. The pediatrician’s nurse did all of the immunizations, filled out all the paperwork wrong, and gave me NOTHING CORRECT to tell me exactly what my son had just received. Basically, I was sent home with a “if he gets a fever, call us” and a wave out the door.

    If I had known about scheduling immunizations, I think it would have saved a lot of heartbreak and anxiety. I have a few “green” friends who do not vaccinate their children, home-school, etc., and while I understand my friends’ choice, I’m kind of scared for the kids. It seems like they won’t have any sort of immunity built up to common diseases, and the first time they go to a kids play place or perhaps a community pool, they’re going to get levelled. It’s a terrible feeling! No one wants to see a child get sick! Especially with something that can be prevented!

  • impy

    2009/04/07 at 5:44 pm

    Sigh. I don’t expect other parents to bear the burden. Other parents make the choice to see to the safety of their own children. If your child is vaccinated, they will be safe. If your child is not vaccinated, then you expect the risk. If you vaccinate you expect certain risks as well. It’s an individual choice, than can have public consequences. I certainly don’t view this as a case of expecting all the other parents to keep my child safe. I view this as a case of keeping my own child safe. Even if that means safe from potential harm from the vaccine itself.

  • Angie

    2009/04/07 at 5:44 pm

    I admire you for posting such controversial issues, even when you know you’ll stir people’s opinions.
    I agree with you, but I also fear a bit that if I decide to vaccinate my kids, there will be a problem. But I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if my kid (or someone else’s) was in danger because I didn’t vaccinate him.
    It’s not an issue of who is right or who is wrong, I think.
    Nice post.

  • Abby

    2009/04/07 at 5:45 pm

    I have never comment on your page before, but as a pediatric nurse practitioner student who has just started to have these discussions with parents in clinic, I just wanted to say how wonderfully you articulated the issues. It is amazing the immigrants we see in clinic that check over and over to make sure we have given their children every vaccine possible, because they have lost other children to these diseases when vaccines were not available to them in their country. Something others take for granted in the U.S. Thanks for a well rounded view on this controversial topic.

  • Jen

    2009/04/07 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks for that elaboration, Heather. Depending on herd immunity is unethical. If everyone chose not to immunize, the whole society would suffer. These diseases are not eradicated. I come from a country where these diseases are not rare, and agree that an attitude that would turn its back on basic public health measures all together is one of luxury and, unfortunately, fear. Tweaking a schedule might be a good compromise, but cutting your nose off to spite your face isn’t a sustainable solution.

  • Laura Senecal

    2009/04/07 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks for your honesty, Heather. I think this is something we as Mothers should be able to talk about openly, and I appreciate every word.

  • Dee

    2009/04/07 at 5:46 pm

    I’m 39 years old and grew up in Europe. When was 9 I got the measles and almost died. It took me 4 months to recover. When I had my son I did not have to think too much about vaccinating or not.
    I’m with you on this, I hope we will not get in trouble one day because so many people now choose to not vaccinate.
    Thanks for opening this for discussion.

  • Ryan

    2009/04/07 at 5:46 pm

    Heather, I’m a little late in joining the group of people who comment on your blog, but I have been enjoying the life and adventures of the Armstrongs for a few years now. Your outlook on life is essentially positive, and you always make me laugh and look at the irritating crap in a more humorous light…in any case, I nominate you for a Lemonade Award. It’s not quite as prestigious as many of things you have done in your life, but I want to recognize your ability to touch so many people’s lives through your, well, keyboard. (If you want the rules, you can visit my blog to see them.)

  • Katie

    2009/04/07 at 5:47 pm

    I completely agree! This issue is more than an individual parent’s choice that affects only that individual’s child(ren). If NO ONE vaccinated, we would all be back in the days of devastating epidemics (measles, etc). The only reason that some individuals can manage to avoid vaccinating is because the rest of society takes on the burden of providing herd immunity, which is not fair. I agree that there are risks associated with vaccinations, but these are risk that we must take on as a group to improve our collective public health.

  • Stimey

    2009/04/07 at 5:48 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I have a child with autism. Vaccines did not cause it. I’m not concerned about vaccines. (Other than making sure my kids are around other vaccinated children—we don’t want measles or polio, thanks!) What I’m concerned about it treatment, therapy, insurance coverage, and how to pay for it all.

    It’s a big deal that someone who gets as many eyes and ears as you says this. Thank you.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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