Immunization debate: Why we chose “not” to vaccinate our children

Physician with Hypodermic Needle
Physician with Hypodermic Needle

Guest Writer: Allison Lucas
August 27, 2015

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of WOTV 4 Women, its staff and/or contributors to this site.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) — My husband and I made the informed decision to NOT vaccinate our children. Be cool. The decision was not based on statements made by a Playboy Bunny. Our decision wasn’t because of a research paper (it wasn’t a study) written by “that guy” who is “a fraud” and whose name is actually Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Like many parents, our decision to withhold vaccines from our children came about over time and was based upon numerous factors.

Although reluctant to put my family in the spotlight, I decided to share our reasoning in this forum—not as a means to justify our own informed decisions—but to challenge the barrage of misinformation and misdirection force-fed to us by mainstream media. {Side note: I am grateful to WOTV 4 Women for having the journalistic integrity to share both sides of the vaccine issue.}

For us, the journey began eight years ago during my first pregnancy when I unceremoniously looked into vaccines. I had researched cribs, car seats, bottles, strollers, parenting styles, pacifiers, etc. It seemed like another item to tick off the list before the baby was born. I had every intention of vaccinating my first daughter but still felt obligated to “look into it.” I perused a couple of websites, read a couple of articles, ordered a book I never read, and I called it good.

Our First Pediatric Appointment

The only thing I could think to ask the good doctor was her opinion on the autism/vaccine link so I casually poised the benign question. The mood in the room shifted and her response was aggressive, inappropriate, and uninformed.
Jump ahead to baby girl’s first pediatric appointment. At that point, we knew little about vaccines other than they were the most important invention of all time. We were in the exam room discussing all things new baby and I felt obligated to ask something. The only thing I could think to ask the good doctor was her opinion on the autism/vaccine link so I casually poised the benign question. The mood in the room shifted and her response was aggressive, inappropriate, and uninformed. She immediately stated that Dr. Wakefield was a fraud (and I was like, “Dr. who?”). She made it clear that it was our duty to vaccinate our daughter.

That was the extent of information she provided on the topic. Although I was obviously seeking information, she never spoke about any risks of vaccination. At the end of the “discussion” I was weeping and made to feel stupid for having the nerve to ask such a stupid question. I was really knocked off balance by this encounter. I had spent the previous ten years working with surgeons in some of the biggest hospitals in the country. At that time I was a second-year law student. I wasn’t intimidated by physicians; yet, I wasn’t expecting that response. I mean, it’s not like I was expressing my intention to refuse life-saving medical treatment for my baby. I has simply asked a sincere question about a prophylactic medical procedure.

It was then that I began to feel uneasy about vaccination. The doctor hadn’t presented me with enough information to make an informed decision and it felt intentional on her part. And yet, she expected me to vaccinate my baby. At that point, I had spent my adult life working in hospitals and I bought into the idea of informed consent. But, at the same time I didn’t have the confidence in my role as a mother question the pediatrician on what was best for my new baby.

That was the beginning and the end of our discussion about vaccines with that pediatrician. Honestly, a large part of me was relieved! I was overwhelmed with the responsibility of being a new mother. I was grateful to defer to the “expert” and have this one decision of many made for me. My only condition? My husband had to take my daughter to her well visits. Not because I couldn’t stomach watching her get shots. It was because deep down, I felt guilty for allowing someone else make this decision for our child.

We avoided taking an active role in the decision to vaccine like the chicken pox (see what I did there?) and it was irresponsible of us as parents. In the back of my overwhelmed and confused mind, I hoped that if I lived in ignorance I could blame the doctor if anything bad happened; my hands would be clean.

Finding compromise and a new pediatrician

My daughter gets four pokes (I don’t even know how many vaccines she received total that day) and becomes a zombie. She wouldn’t engage me, her eyes were glassy, her personality was gone, and she slept three times as much as normal.
Fast forward about six months. My daughter gets four pokes (I don’t even know how many vaccines she received total that day) and becomes a zombie. She wouldn’t engage me, her eyes were glassy, her personality was gone, and she slept three times as much as normal.

This lasted for four horrible days. I was beside myself, wondering if she had been permanently damaged even though everyone told me her reaction was normal (really?!?!?). She eventually came out of her catatonic state—and so did I.

My husband and I decided that making informed medical decisions for our daughter was a non-delegable duty. Even as we began to educate ourselves on the topic and even after my daughter’s reaction, we still didn’t have enough confidence as parents to stop vaccines altogether.

We feared vaccines but we also feared vaccine-preventable diseases. In the meantime we found a new pediatrician and had another baby girl. We began to space our children’s vaccinations out over time and with only one jab at each visit. Back then, it seemed like a reasonable compromise to a difficult decision.

The last vaccine my two oldest children received was DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis). They both got the three-in-one on the same day. Both had reactions to the vaccinations and both were hospitalized for almost a week, exactly one week apart. In addition to the reactions for which they were hospitalized, today my oldest suffers from facial tics—a known reaction to the DTaP vaccine and one that was never discussed with us. Our second daughter suffers from several autoimmune disorders.

Your kids, your decision

Physician with Hypodermic NeedleI don’t know why anyone gives two whoops about our reasons for not vaccinating. If you are a parent that chooses not to vaccinate then you have your own reasons. If you are a parent that chooses to vaccinate then you probably think I am selfish and ignorant and don’t care about my reasons.

But since you’re a good sport and are still reading, I’ll give it to you. We did get our children vaccinated and we suffered alongside our children as they suffered from our decision to vaccinate.

Eventually, the more my husband and I learned about vaccines independently of mainstream media and health professionals the more we realized the magnitude of misinformation that was being pushed on us and how much relevant information was being kept at bay. After nine years of sincere research and four kids my husband and I have embraced our responsibility to make informed medical decisions for our children.

We no longer take default and socially acceptable positions when it comes to medical care. We no longer allow ourselves to be bullied into making decisions for our children. We know enough to rationally and intelligently make up our own minds on whether the risks of vaccination are greater than their benefits.

So many people that disagree with my stance on vaccination are quick to point out “that guy” who wrote “that study” was “a fraud.” To really drive the point home they often add that the autism-vaccine link has been “debunked.”

Vaccine studies in the media

doctor with patient

Whether Dr. Wakefield was a fraud isn’t relevant. What is relevant is that most people are unaware that reputable studies exist showing a possible association between vaccines and autism. Are vaccines associated with autism? That isn’t the question parents should be asking. Parents should be questioning why mainstream news sources aren’t reporting studies that show the possible association.

Then I realized that some studies showing no association between autism and vaccines (yes, those exist as well) are funded by pharmaceutical companies. But this is what gets my goat, when mainstream media creates headlines and articles based upon these findings those media sources fail to mention the conflict of interests. Does a conflict of interest negate a study? Maybe. Maybe not. What about when a conflict of interest is purposefully hidden? My point is that we aren’t given the opportunity to make our own determination. We are expected to trust pre-packaged and biased information without question.

After that, we noticed how many three-minute commercials for pharmaceutical drugs appear during the nightly news. Then we became aware that news stations run one-sided and highly misleading stories related to vaccination rates, safety, and efficacy. One simple example, they often use third-world statistics out of context. When looking through magazines I became aware how many three-page ads for pharmaceutical drugs I had to flip through.

And then I realized these same magazines print articles written by attractive physicians peddling the amazing benefits of vaccinations and the harm of not vaccinating; but these articles never discuss the known risks of vaccination. Then I noticed with each new baby we brought home, I would magically get a parenting magazine in the mail each month free of charge! These magazines were full of articles wherein some good-looking physician was urging me to get my child vaccinated fully and on time. It soon became clear to me who was paying for my free subscription. The sad reality is that a network or magazine executive would never allow a mainstream story to run that would in any way jeopardize pharmaceutical advertisement revenue.

As our knowledge of the topic increased by reading books, studies, articles, blogs, and watching lectures and documentaries (not JUST Google) we realized that the local newspaper’s stories on vaccination were misleading to the point of lying. We began to understand that this newspaper was owned by a marketing company and had become an extension of special interest groups designed to prime readers for pending and upcoming legislation. Does a marketing company really care enough about public health to run a year-long blitz on the amazing benefits of vaccines—or does a marketing company care about advertisement revenue?

Another example, “cocooning” became a popular term a couple of years ago in relation to the Whooping Cough (Pertussis) vaccine. I still see ads everywhere urging people to get vaccinated before they visit the new baby. You’ve seen them, right? I love the one where Grandma is the big, bad wolf because she hasn’t gotten her Whooping Cough vaccine. What the ad doesn’t tell you is that the current Whooping Cough vaccine doesn’t prevent the spread of the disease. People who get vaccinated still harbor and spread the bacteria even though they have no symptoms. The FDA issued a press release on this in 2013; both Pediatric News (August, 2015) and Infectious Diseases in Children (August, 2015) ran articles on this issue. These ads are leading people to believe that by vaccinating themselves they are protecting the newborn baby and others from Whooping Cough and this isn’t true.

Our investigation into vaccines also led us to the realization that pharmaceutical companies have zero liability for injury caused by vaccines. ZERO. ZILTCH. NADA. We learned that the U.S. government created a “vaccine court” to handle cases of vaccine injury. This court has paid out around 3.2 BILLION dollars to vaccine-injured plaintiffs since its inception. Why wasn’t this told to us by our pediatrician? Why isn’t this information included in news articles touting the safety of vaccines? It certainly seems relevant to the conversation.

The evolving science and studies

Stethoscope and medical dataBut hey, the science is settled, right? Vaccines are safe and effective and they do not play a factor in autism, SIDS, or autoimmune disease. Here’s the thing. Science never settles; it evolves. When I was a kid, it was a scientific fact that Pluto was a planet. So my husband and I began to read this “settled science” by looking at vaccine safety studies. We realized that the placebo used when testing a new vaccine is not a “sugar pill” (or in this case, saline since a sugar pill cannot be injected). Nope, instead of the placebo being harmless, it is often another vaccine or a neurotoxin such as Aluminum.

I was horrified to learn that as long as the vaccine being tested doesn’t cause more reactions or adverse events than this “placebo” then the vaccine being tested is deemed “safe”. Let me say that again. The vaccine being tested in these studies is SAFE if as long as it doesn’t cause more injury than another vaccine or a neurotoxin. Think about this the next time a news story tells you that vaccines are proven safe and effective.

We realized the current vaccine schedule has never undergone safety studies even though the number of vaccines has increased from ten in 1983 to 69 doses of 16 vaccines by age 18.

And then my husband and I became cognizant of the million dollar fines recently paid out by numerous pharmaceutical companies because of fraud and malfeasance. These are the companies that are responsible for making safe and effective products that are injected into your child. The same companies that have zero liability and therefore zero motivation to produce safe and effective products. We learned of the CDC whistleblower that recently admitted CDC scientists destroyed information pertaining to safety of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.

We discovered that medical journals where vaccine safety and efficacy studies are published are rife with fraud; recently one of the world’s largest academic publishers retracted 64 articles from ten of its journals after discovering fraud in the peer-review process. Earlier this year another journal retracted 43 articles for the same reason. Yet, we as parents are expected to blindly trust the veracity of researchers and medical journals. These are the very medical journals physicians and pediatricians rely upon!

hospital workers

My husband and I learned that vaccines, when they do provide immunity, don’t do so in perpetuity. Immunity wanes. Every adult that hasn’t had a booster for every vaccine-preventable disease is essentially unvaccinated. Herd immunity is a theory only works when 95% of the country’s total population are 100% compliant with all vaccinations and all boosters. But fun fact, China has a vaccination rate of over 95% and it still has outbreaks of the vaccine-preventable diseases for which the population is vaccinated against. The media constantly pushes the idea that “herd immunity” only matters within the four walls of a school building and only matters in the childhood population. This makes no sense.

And then my husband and I learned about shedding wherein the vaccinated spread disease. No one tells a parent that live virus vaccines shed and can infect others with the disease for which the child was vaccinated against. In fact, those recently vaccinated with live-virus vaccines are advised to refrain from interacting with immunocompromised individuals for this very reason. But you will never read this in a newspaper article because it doesn’t promote vaccination. And there’s no money in not promoting vaccination.

Something else that blows my mind: school officials across the state tell parents that their child cannot attend school unless the child is up-to-date on vaccinations. This isn’t true because Michigan offers three exemptions to the mandatory vaccination statute. Do you think school officials lie to parents because they are concerned about public health? Or do you think school officials lie to parents because they get funding for high vaccine compliance? Either way, is it OK for a school official to knowingly lie to a parent in order to coerce a medical procedure?

Sadly, we live in a world where it is okay for a parent to research a car seat, a stroller, a fruit snack, a mechanic, or a child-care provider. But it is socially unacceptable for a parent to question a preventative medical procedure. A procedure that isn’t necessary in order for a child to live a long and healthy life. In our society, every medical professional that doesn’t fully support vaccination is called a quack.

Why? Because mainstream media and special interest groups overwhelm us with information that constantly reinforces the idea that good and responsible parents hold these values. The mainstream media vilifies parents that value informed consent and the media uses social media to peer pressure and ostracize these parents. And they are really, really effective at what they do.

Emotions run high when the health of a child is at stake. I get that. If I thought another parent was putting my child at risk I would be spitting mad. But instead of buying into the fabricated hype meant to illicit an emotional response, we should all be questioning why reliable and honest information about the safety and efficacy of vaccines is so hard to ascertain. We should be appalled that mainstream media and pharmaceutical advertisements mislead.

We should be aware that pharmaceutical companies use astroturfing techniques to pit one parent against another. (And we should be enraged that the term astroturfing was coined to describe the despicable actions of people trying to fool us. If you aren’t familiar with the term watch Sharyl Attiksson’s TEDx video on the subject.) As parents, we should be more focused on why our children are chronically sick, have childhood cancer, and skyrocketing rates of autism and less focused on inflated and misleading stories created by vaccine stake-holders.

There a couple reasons why a parent would chose to not vaccinate their child. One, we are crazed conspiracy-theorists and are insanely ignorant and selfish. Two, our children have suffered a vaccine injury and/or we’ve become aware of the deception and have fully bought into the idea that we are capable of making informed medical choices for our children. If you think we are crazed conspiracy-theorist that are insanely ignorant and selfish then wouldn’t it feel good to prove it to yourself? Put us to the test.

Become aware. Do your own fact-checking. If you’ve already done your own sincere investigation and have made a well-educated decision to have your child vaccinated—then good for you. Informed consent is a beautiful thing.

Are my husband and I vaccine/ immunologist/ virologist/pediatrician experts? Of course not. We don’t pretend to be anything but simple parents trying to do the best we can for our kids. We fully appreciate that vaccine-preventable diseases suck. We understand there are risks to our children by not vaccinating.

And we’ve measured and weighed those risks. Are vaccines the best invention of all time? We have no idea. But we do know that if vaccines were as safe and effective as mainstream media and medical professionals purport them to be then we wouldn’t be constantly misled with misinformation and red herrings designed to create parent wars. We wouldn’t be fear-mongered into compliance.

If vaccines were as safe and effective as we are led to believe then the government wouldn’t have to mandate them for our children. If vaccines were safe and effective we would be presented with ALL of the facts and we would be allowed as parents to give informed consent without fear of shame or ridicule.

My husband and I vaccinated our children and they suffered from vaccine injury, so we stopped. That unfortunate event led us to engage in earnest, independent, and in-depth investigation and I’ve shared just a bit of what we’ve learned in this post. As a result, we have decided that the real risks of vaccination outweigh their benefit. That is why we don’t vaccinate.

About the author:

Allison lives in Western Michigan with her husband, four daughters, four hens, guinea pig and puppy. She is an attorney and grant writer and is actively involved in the organization Michigan Opposing Mandatory Vaccines.