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Have You Ever Wondered What Kind of Idiot Doesn't Vaccinate Their Children?
Spoiler: It me.
Hello David’s beautiful babies! (I’ve met his actual baby and she’s now the most beautiful, sorry guys.)
So, I’m Becky and I am the oldest of Elisabeth’s1 three sisters. Of the three, I’m obviously David’s favorite sister-in-law, and I can say that with confidence knowing that the other two don’t read the Jackal.
When David asked me to write about my former status as an anti-vaxxer, I probably should have hesitated for a moment. I’m sure most people don’t enjoy looking foolish, but here I am. So, please enjoy the following ramble from an overtired Mom of four.
As a disclaimer, I feel compelled to point out that this is simply my experience; I know and love people who do not vaccinate their children, and they are good and loving parents. Most of us are just trying to do right by our kids, and we will all almost certainly completely screw it up along the way. But to the really crazy Facebook anti-vaxx Karens? We are all judging you; get your life right.
So you ask, what environment produces an anti-vaxxer? Well, for me, it was growing up in a house where fear and skepticism towards mainstream medicine commingled with a blind embrace of alternative medicine.
When I had my first child sixteen years ago it was barely a question; it was just assumed I wouldn’t be vaccinating.
I wasn’t a bad person. I just didn’t know any better.
For years my parents had frequented naturopathic and chiropractic “Doctors.” These practices are often awash in vaccine misinformation (more on that later), with the most common being that vaccines could cause autism and/or intestinal problems. This was largely based on a since discredited study by Andrew Wakefield in 1998. Unfortunately anti-vaxxers have made a martyr out of the former Doctor and see his downfall as proof that he was silenced by Big Pharma for trying to tell the truth. In reality, he was a financially motivated liar who has continued to peddle those falsehoods to a new generation.
But I didn’t know any of that. And since most of the diseases we vaccinate for had been “eradicated,” I felt it was safer to not vaccinate than roll the dice and harm my child. I also assumed herd immunity would largely protect her.
Fast forward a decade plus. What changed my mind? A few things.
For the last five years my family has had the same great Doctor. He’s always been super kind about my decision to not vaccinate. But he also always respectfully pushed back: He would talk to me at every checkup about how important vaccines were, how herd immunity only works if most people participate, and how they were now seeing “eradicated” diseases re-emerge. I always appreciated that he treated me with respect even though he vocally disagreed with my decision.
In addition to the good Doctor, before Covid hit I went to my local health department to pick up a vaccine exemption form for my second child’s venture into kindergarten. My experience until then had been a gruff nurse rolling her eyes while telling me I definitely should vaccinate my kids but sign here and you’re done. This time the nurse didn’t roll her eyes when I asked a question. She answered it, and kept answering. What was supposed to be a twenty minute appointment was over an hour while she gently educated me on every point (this is similar and fantastic information if you’re interested, and here’s even more information because knowledge is power).
But still I didn’t vaccinate.
Then came Covid, and we all watched the world fall apart. In between homeschooling (dear god, I still have nightmares) and selling our souls for a roll of toilet paper, we found out a vaccine could be on the horizon! Yay! Or nay?
I was never anti-vaxx about Covid. I was just waiting to see, like a lot of people. I couldn’t get the vaccine until all the older and/or more vulnerable people had, but still, they were the only ones dying right? I had gotten Covid at the beginning of the pandemic and I was fine now. Other than the persistent brain fog, memory loss, increasingly frequent migraines, chronic exhaustion and an inability to taste food, totally fine!
Then someone close to me (my age, perfectly healthy) got very sick, and was hospitalized. She was scared she’d never make it back to her kids. And she wished the vaccine had been fast enough to get to her. She did recover, but has permanent lung damage at 38.
To say that this shook my world is an understatement. For the first time since Covid started I felt a very real sense of my own mortality. Of course, I had always cared about keeping my older relatives safe, and had followed mask and social distancing rules for their sake. But I hadn’t really felt scared for myself and - in truth - I still wasn’t. However, I was fearful that my kids could end up motherless if something happened to me.
So, while waiting for the Covid vaccine to become available to my age group, I read as much as I could about it. I learned about mRNA technology, and how research that scientists have been accumulating for two decades while studying other coronaviruses like SARS was being utilized now. When the Covid vaccine became available in my area I signed up, and so did my oldest daughter. In fact, she said it was her 16th birthday present “to herself” (she’s a great kid and I’m wildly proud of her).
I cried after I got vaccinated. Knowing how many people around the world had died from Covid, and how many communities still had no access to the vaccine, I felt immensely privileged. Incidentally, most of my long haul Covid symptoms went away after my second shot (and apparently I’m not alone).
Unfortunately those silly chiropractors are still at it, and they’ve got plenty of help. I have definitely heard a multitude of excuses/conspiracies from family and acquaintances. And I’ve also heard from my friends and family in the medical field who, like many others, are exhausted and numb from two years of Covid, and tired of watching people die/be permanently damaged when there is a safe and effective vaccine.
On a personal note my faith has taught me that loving my neighbor is the ultimate expression of my love for Christ, second only to loving God in its importance. So, I’m profoundly disturbed by the callous and selfish way some Christians have claimed “religious” exemptions from the Covid vaccine. Our moral obligation to our neighbor is explicit. “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4.
Now we finish where we started. I have finally started vaccinating my children with all the “normal” vaccines, and I appreciate now more than ever the privilege I had that kept my children safe despite my decisions. The previous generations of parents choosing to vaccinate helped make the world safer for my kids and I’m now proud to do the same for both mine and someone else’s child.
Folks, that’s it for the guest writers, which means I (David) will be back in action next week. See you all then.
Editor’s Note: Elisabeth is (in Borat voice) MY WIFE.