My Sixth Sense On Vaccination

If you know me well, then you probably know the story of when I first moved to Upstate New York and found a bat in my bedroom. I’d been sleeping when suddenly something flew over my head, and an instant later my husband bolted up, turned on the light and said, “Oh my god, Jess, duck!” And I said, “There’s a duck in our bedroom??!!” And he said, “Jesus Christ, Jess! Duck! It’s a bat!” The following morning I called our cooperative extension because this bat seemed to be stuck in the ductwork and I needed someone to remove it. And after this woman gave me the info I needed, she asked if I wanted her to schedule our rabies vaccinations. I hadn’t even thought of that. “Oh yes,” she said. “You could very well have gotten bit in your sleep and not even have felt it.”

"Really?"

When the guy came to remove the bat, I asked for his opinion and he laughed in my face. “I’ll tell you what,” he said. “I’ve worked with bats all my life and you ain’t rolling over on one, that’s for dang sure.”

But then I called my primary care physician and he also agreed that I should get the shots. That he once saw a man die of rabies and that he bit his wife, and then bit her again.

I was in such a pickle.

Should I listen to my doctor who sips diet Coke in between patients, or to a guy who spends his entire life in attics with bats?

Long story short, we got the shots. Injected ourselves with chicken embryo. And my mother bawked at me for the following three days. But I somehow felt safer.

Fast forward to the birth of my son.

Yes, we skipped the Hep B shot because I’d heard in my Bradley Method birth class that it probably wasn’t necessary to inject a newborn with potentially toxic chemicals all to save him from what is predominatnely a sexually transmitted disease. Made sense to me. But we did get the standard fare at his two-month well visit. And then he had a reaction. One that scared me to my very core and then some.

Thank God, the symptoms he exhibited went away on their own two weeks later. But during those sleepless 14 or so nights, I began researching vaccine reactions, to see if anyone else had gone through what we were going through. And in the process, I began to learn about a population of people whose lives had been permanently altered after their child’s routine vaccinations. These people were very upset, not only because their children had been injured, but because their stories were being dismissed as coincidence by nearly everyone, including their pediatricians.

And this bothered me.

What they were told was that vaccines are safe. And that science says so. End of story.

And this bothered me.

How could all these poor parents be completely wrong? Didn’t their concerns warrant any more research to get to the bottom of things?

Well, according to what I’ve heard from these anguished parents, every time they voiced their concerns, they were told one thing and one thing only: There is no correlation between autism and vaccines. The study that made these claims has since been proved fraudulent, and the researcher has had his license revoked. And if they used the word regressive encephalopathy and then asked about the vaccine court where people have won huge settlements after their children have been injured by vaccines, they were told, “That’s only a tiny segment of the population.”

But so what if it’s only a small portion of the population?

What about No Child Left Behind?

The vendetta against these parents who have suffered so much as a consequence of what their doctors assured them was safe baffles me. Especially since so many of the people who dismiss them are intelligent and caring people, the same people who are so furious about the mistreatment of other victims in our society. And it makes me wonder, how it is that people can pick and choose which human-experiencing-hell deserves our compassion and which deserve to be discredited and humiliated via social media?

I think the real problem might have more to do with side-ism.

Our culture has always been obsessed with taking sides and with scorekeeping. Who is the best singer, which team is winning, what political candidate is winning. And instead of communicating with each other, we debate each, regurgitating what we’ve heard from the media, and hope it’s the other person who’s the idiot, and not us.

But being on one side or another presumes that reality is a finite object. And in my experience this is just not the case. Reality is constantly changing—which is why real science is always evolving and correcting itself when we run into new obstacles and start asking new questions.

If science is used to prevent questions from being asked, it’s not about progress, it’s about needing to be right and needing to make sure that others are wrong. And you can look at other parts of the world where that sort of mentality takes place. Substitute the word religion for science, or government for science.

Another problem with side-ist communication is that it challenges free speech. People become afraid to share potentially useful opinions, experiences, and ideas for fear of being publicly humiliated. And then what do you have? A culture of people who pick and choose which are the safest issues to stand behind. Where is the freedom here?

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about public health, but looking around, measles or no measles, I’m not seeing a lot of public health. I’m seeing a lot of sick people, a lot of unhappy people, and a lot of furious people. We live in an era where almost everyone is medicated for something, where the word government is practically synonymous with the word corruption, and everyday people are killing or wanting to kill each other. Our planet is polluted with the bi-products of greed, ignorance, and poor planning, and the same goes for our bodies. From what I'm seeing, this world I live in is not so healthy. And yet not many people are talking about all the common denominators. But how can they, when they are focused on one side or the other?

In my opinion, we cannot call our society civilized when people dismiss each other’s most primal concerns- the safety of our own children- as invalid. Dismissing the concerns of people should never happen in any democratic relationship. If you want to see the consequence of this, try it with your spouse or your partner or your child. It does not go over very well. Being dismissed unharnesses the kind of vitriol that makes people furious to be heard at any cost. The kind of vitriol that makes people want to humiliate the other side, shame the other side, and in some cases eliminate the other side altogether just to feel validated.

Everyone has a point. And in my opinion, every point is worthy of considering or at least worth understanding because behind every point is a human being. I want to live in a country where scientists come on the air and say: “As of now, mainstream studies have shown that vaccines are safe but because of deep concerns from a small segment of our population, we are going to put together a team of researchers and get to the bottom of this.” That this is laughable speaks loudly about the sort of mentality that governs our society.

Meanwhile, my pediatrician agreed that we should delay any further vaccines until my son is older. But now, I worry about this whole movement to make vaccinations mandatory. I certainly hope this never gets passed. After all, shouldn’t any medical procedure that involves any kind of risk, no matter how big or small, be voluntary, with informed consent? If I were in charge, I would instead mandate that the spokespeople from each side of this vaccination issue be put on house arrest together until they can truly understand each other’s point of view and come up with a new vaccine strategy that would be safe for all children.