Published December 6, 2016
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a vaccine as a "biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease." The...
— William Wilberforce
They say it’s a woman’s prerogative. Making one decision and then, down the track, changing your mind. But everyone does it and it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Think about those words—changing your mind.
Taken literally, they may sound a bit strange. They conjure up a scene of someone—an artist, perhaps, carving out a brain from hard wood and then, deciding at the last minute that something’s gone wrong and it might need a little bit of work here or there. A few hits with the hammer and chisel, being careful not to break it and have to start again. That’s how my strange mind works and what I’ve visualized.
But changing your mind is one of the many, many idioms that make the English language so difficult for non-native speakers to learn. When it comes to vaccination, I started to change my mind 26 years ago.
Like many parents, I didn’t just decide blithely one day to stop vaccinating my son or my subsequent children. It wasn’t like taking my clothes out of the closet and deciding that the red top looked better with those pants than the blue one. I changed my mind because I saw that vaccines had hurt my child and, like most people who were trying to be the best parent they could, seeing that harm and having it confirmed by my doctor (who told me that he would leave out the whooping cough portion of my son’s next shot—something that isn’t even possible today!) made me start to search for more information about these shots I was giving my son.
And I didn’t change my mind that day or that month—or even that year. Trying to be a responsible parent, I couldn’t decide until I had enough information about what I was doing. In retrospect, I should have put off any further vaccines until I was fully informed, but the default position back in the late 1980s/early 1990s was to vaccinate so, I did.
It wasn’t until my son was hospitalized 10 days after his MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine (the most common time for certain reactions following that particular shot, as I found out later on through my research) that I decided enough was enough. And even then, I didn’t have enough information to stop vaccinating my children completely. My daughter received three DT (diphtheria and tetanus) and OPV (oral polio) vaccines and my next son got three OPVs.
My youngest child is the only one who is completely unvaccinated. By the time she came along, I had gathered together enough information and done enough research to completely ‘change my mind’ about vaccination. By then, my husband and I had both knowledge and confidence about our decision—it was a good place to be!
Many parents have stories that echo ours. Nearly everyone I know who started out totally committed to vaccinating (or just going along with it because it was the default position) but who stopped at some point, changed their mind because of either personal experience with vaccine reactions, reactions in a friend or family member or exposure to information that made them question and want to know more.
When I originally had my change of mind, the internet was not as easily accessible as it is today. I got my information the old fashioned way—I visited medical libraries, copied medical journal articles, took them home and sat with my highlighter pen and read them through. I went to the medical library in Princeton, New Jersey. I visited the Library of Congress for one amazing day of obsessive reading, photocopying and research. I remember being afraid that those articles would weigh so much, I wouldn’t be able to take them home with me to Australia!
How times have changed. What used to take me hours and a lot of money at 10 cents a page to photocopy, is now nearly instant and free. The AVN’s (Australian Vaccination Network) library contains hundreds of books and tens of thousands of journal articles dating back to the early part of the twentieth century—and even further back when it comes to the smallpox vaccine.
I, like most parents who have changed their minds about vaccination, nutrition and medical treatments, made my decision after a lot of thought and a lot of discussions with health professionals and natural therapists about these issues. I took my responsibility seriously. And yes, like the artist in my earlier thoughts who changed the direction of his carving in hard wood with great difficulty, it was not easy for me to change my path or for my husband to do the same. We were your classic ‘true believers’ like most of our generation.
A belief and trust in doctors was hard-wired into our consciousness through years of medical shows, government pronouncements and social conditioning. But once we were empowered through our own research to understand that we could change our minds, the veil was torn away and we were able to see this situation clearly for what it was—a mass delusion that was built on quicksand and that needed bullying and lies to shore it up and keep it from sinking away forever.
If you are like I was—a true believer in vaccine safety, effectiveness and necessity—challenge yourself to read a bit about the other side of this issue. You may never change your mind or your beliefs, but at least you will come to understand that those of us who stopped vaccinating made that choice with valid information and out of love for our children. Understanding can overcome fear and hatred and right now, there is way too much fear and hatred going around regarding the issue of vaccination.
Note: This article was reprinted with the author’s permission. It was originally published at nocompulsoryvaccination.