Join Hands: An Open Letter From A Former Anti-Vaxxer

Total disclosure – I’m fully vaccinated, but whether I was or wasn’t had long been a contested point in my family. What wasn’t contested was my own view on vaccinations. I was indifferent to the subject, but leaned away from them.

For the longest time, I told anyone who asked that I intended to go out of this world as naturally as I came in. I still had my tonsils, my wisdom teeth, my appendix, my gall bladder, two lungs and two kidneys – you name it – and I was willing to take the risk of skipping vaccinations. That perspective, however, was with the luxury of making that decision in a time in my life when I was already beyond the scope. My parents had taken care of that decision for me many years prior, and I wasn’t about to change that anytime soon.

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More to the point, actually, my indifference took care of that decision for me, because my parents could never agree whether I’d been vaccinated as a child or not, and I knew I wasn’t about to do anything proactively to find out. My mother insisted I hadn’t been, and my father affirmed that I had. I was comfortable not thinking about it much and just assumed life would work itself out. After all, I was never one to live my life in fear.

It wasn’t until I had some bloodwork done in my mid 30s that I finally found out the truth – I was, indeed, vaccinated. My father was right, much to my mother’s chagrin.

See, my mother raised me almost exclusively on homeopathic medicine. When I’d get sick, I would go outside and pick pine needles to make tea. On nice days in the spring and summer, we’d stop along roadsides and harvest wild plants and flowers to dry and make tinctures. Once I got into an accident on my bicycle and tore half my face off on a gravel road, only to have my mother pack cayenne pepper into the wound in order to “eat away any infection.” It stung like hell, but it worked, and it saved my face from scarring by forming a near immediate scab.

All her remedies worked, and as embarrassed as I would be as a child whenever she would fight with the local Western medicine doctors on those rare occasions when we had to interact with one, I later came to understand why she did so, and I found myself equally combative with them as an adult once I had my own children. So often, doctors don’t listen, don’t take the time they should to consider the patient’s input into what is happening with their bodies. They have their text book, preconceived notions of what’s wrong and what’s to be done about it. They follow it like Southern Baptists follow the Bible.

Compound that with the suspect relation between the professional medical world and big-pharma, capitalistic realities, and it’s fairly easy to see why folks like my wife and I were quite wary and skeptical of Western medicine’s sincerity.

My oldest son, who is mildly on the Autism spectrum, has grown up with numerous allergies that have constantly affected his hearing. He was always getting sick and suffered from throat and sinus issues related to his ingestion of dairy products all through his earliest years. My wife and I did everything under the sun to help him. We changed his diet countless times to figure out what might be causing the issue, but hadn’t pinpointed anything conclusive, so we took him to a local ear, nose and throat specialist who literally never even looked at him. He didn’t even look his direction, much less examine him. All he said was, “He needs tubes.”

The doctor insisted our son needed tubes in his ears without examination, because that’s what the book says when patients describe the symptoms we’d described to him, but my wife and I were against it. We knew there had to be a better way, something less life-altering and permanent, so we told the doctor, “No thanks,” and left to seek out alternative care. That doctor, on our way out, told us arrogantly, “You’ll be back,” but we never did go back, because we found successful alternative care through a process called NAET, which is what eventually pinpointed and cured his food allergies causing his health problems, dairy included.

Of course, that doctor we left had not been willing even for a moment to consider, much less believe, that allergies might have been at the root of my son’s problems. His book didn’t state any such thing, so it couldn’t have possibly been true, right?

So my wife and I learned firsthand what I’d seen my mother go through for her own children when I was growing up. It reaffirmed everything she’d ever told me about Western medicine, and left me as skeptical as one could be. Suddenly, I understood my mother’s wars with all those doctors and realized she’d known more and taught me more than I could have ever realized, and I felt great pride and gratitude for the knowledge she’d given me. To this day, she is living in Gallup, N.M., getting by as a medicine woman for the nearby Navajo Nation Reservation.

I say all this to give some background as to why I was never, automatically, a run of the mill apple a day kind of guy. I maybe saw a doctor four times as a kid, as far as I can remember. Everything else, my mother knew how to take care of with a few plants and herbs.

Through my mother’s upbringing and my own firsthand experiences dealing with local doctors and Western medicine, I was firmly rooted in my mother’s medicinal camp by the time I reached adulthood, despite my father’s skepticism and much more conventional belief that one goes to see a doctor when one has significant health trouble. No one on either side of my family ever went to doctors much, though, I should say, unless absolutely necessary. Perhaps that is because we were also quite poor.

Nonetheless, coming from that background, I faced a great decision when I started having children – to vaccinate or not to vaccinate.

Everything from my upbringing leaned toward not vaccinating my kids. I was always taught vaccines were filled with poison and odd, gross “ingredients,” such as mercury and fetal tissue. My attitude was, no harm, no foul. My kids wouldn’t harm anyone else by not being vaccinated, because if they got sick, what would it matter if the other kids were vaccinated?

Through that logic, I always marveled at how vaccinated folks threw so much fury at those who decided to remain natural, unvaccinated. The risk seemed entirely on those who chose to forego vaccination, which I viewed as a private right. And I wanted my kids, like I thought I was – natural, and free from the poisons of capitalistic Western medicine.

Again, I was never one to live in fear, and before I had kids, I always told myself that if some mysterious, archaic disease swept the country and kids started dropping like flies, that is just part of the nature of the world and that I would have to deal with it and accept it the way one would accept a tragic car accident. I had vague arguments about overpopulation to go with it. Anything could take a child’s life at any time, yet we live each day with hope and positive assumptions, so it didn’t seem any more reckless to go without vaccinations, and the child would not risk being pumped full of poisons for life that could allegedly, permanently alter his life unnaturally.

I also told myself that the likelihood of something like any of that mentioned above ever happening was highly unlikely, so I was able to dismiss it and not take the risk of it too seriously.

Again, the risk only seemed to be on the part of my family, and as I saw it, we had a right to choose what was best for us, and that was skipping vaccinations.

But then I had my first son, mentioned earlier, and the time came to make a real decision – no more abstract theory about it all. Suddenly I was dealing with a major life decision for my firstborn, and I had to make the right choice. My wife and I talked it over, and ultimately, I caved.

I don’t remember what my wife’s perspective was at the time. I believe she was worried, due to the articles we’d both read back then (more than a decade ago) about vaccinations allegedly instigating Autism in some kids, or giving them seizures for life, but that she still leaned very much toward vaccination. In the end, weighing my wife’s opinion, which I valued greatly, and trying to make the safest, smartest decision for my child, we decided to vaccinate.

And we did. My son was given a series of shots, and then suffered reactions from them that really alarmed us. Within a day after his shots, his eyes started rolling back in his head now and then and fluttering, like mini-seizures. That was what really started it all, what clued us in to being worried that what we’d read in those vaccination/Autism articles was true. It was a perfect storm – my upbringing, the research we did and those firsthand accounts. His personality soon changed after that, too, and he developed all those aversions to certain foods I mentioned above.

From then on my wife and I were extremely wary of vaccinations and really debated whether to go through with any more of them.

All the while, our pediatrician did his best to convince us the study relating Autism to vaccinations was proven to be faulty, but we didn’t hear it. Suddenly, we were behaving like the doctors we’d had such hard times with. Now, it was us who were not listening, because we knew what we saw, and the timing suggested we were right, and when you’re dealing with the fate of your child’s future, needless to say, you can suddenly become very afraid. You don’t want to muck anything up, and so a guy like me who never lived in fear suddenly felt an enormous amount of it for my child’s safety.

It was a tug of war from there, but over time, as we started to wrap our minds around the fact that our son was who he was from the start, from birth, not from the vaccinations, looking back and piecing the hindsight together, we slowly began to open our minds to the information our pediatrician was pushing on us so vehemently. And after feeling so confused and worried about it all for a number of years, we eventually began to listen and compromise.

We agreed to continue our son’s vaccinations, but at a slower rate. We didn’t want to bombard him with a number of shots at once, as he had experienced trouble with in the beginning, so we took it slow, and though he did end up having reactions again with future shots, they were much milder and nothing like that first round.

Over time, we became more comfortable with vaccinations as nothing any more serious seemed to happen to our son’s health, and we felt good after each round that he had made it through, was protected and vaccinated, and hadn’t reacted poorly. When we had our second and third child, we didn’t even hesitate. We had them vaccinated as a matter of rote, but I can tell you we still held our breath a little after each round, fearful of the fluttering eyes our first son had exhibited years ago, so there was still a good portion of intellect in both my wife and I that still feared and remained skeptical of vaccines.

Funny enough, though, it was a conversation on Facebook that eventually sealed my belief about whether one should vaccinate or not.

I posed a public question in a status update, something along the lines of what I mentioned earlier, asking why vaccinated folks have so much ire for those who choose to remain unvaccinated if they are protected against the diseases that are cause for concern anyway. The response of one friend opened my eyes and helped me see the reason vaccinations are important.

That friend pointed out that there are some who, for whatever reason, are unable to get vaccinated, even if they would like to, due to allergies or other complications, so folks like that are put at risk involuntarily by anti-vaxxers. He also pointed out that it is a matter of social courtesy, obligation, and responsibility to do so if one chooses to live amongst society, and being very much community-minded, myself, I could not contest that point.

To live amongst society, we must be civil, and we face certain responsibilities to keep the public safety and civility, to maintain a certain order of peace and structure. Vaccinating to help maintain the public health is part of that. One is, after all, free to live apart from society if one is adamantly against vaccinations. And because some who would like to be vaccinated are not able to be, for whatever reason, that eliminates the private right argument because one loses that private right the moment it can cause harm to others against their will.

That was all it took for me to understand and accept vaccinations, even with the possible health risks they may pose.

It seemed to me there were risks either way – deadly disease one way and potential seizures or Autism the other – so why not side with the direction that will not only potentially keep your child safe, but the rest of society, as well. One choice puts risk on your child and family alone, and another puts risk on your child and the rest of the community. The right choice was suddenly clear to me.

However, I acknowledge that that was still a private choice, and I hold no resentment, irritation or anger toward those who still choose to abstain from vaccinations, because I understand where they are coming from, and why. Consequently, I encourage the rest of the pro-vaccination folks out there to ease off and consider doing the same. Here’s why, especially for my brothers, sisters, and those somewhere in between, on the Left:

We are cannibalizing our own.

There is a reason studies show those who lean away from vaccinations are typically highly intelligent and I submit that it is because, like my wife and I were well aware, those folks are intelligent enough to recognize the roles mega pharmaceutical companies (and their lobbyists) can play in influencing the professional medical world today through the pressure of sheer capitalism and economics.

Sure, there is that small percentage of religious zealots out there, but for the most part, these anti-vaxxers aren’t run of the mill GOP folks – they’re the remnants of the hippies, they’re new agers, they’re naturalists, they’re left wing intellectuals who understand that corporate personhood is, even here, muddying the waters so much that folks who actually read and think for themselves are becoming confused, unable to 100 percent discern between fact and fiction.

We must get big, corporate money out of politics and out of medicine in order for the public to find truth again, in order for people to make informed decisions and facts they can actually trust.

Until we do, we are going to have the kind of anarchy we are currently witnessing. It’s not hard to understand why. Everyone on all sides is trying to figure it out and do what’s best for their children, so let’s stop bullying and viciously attacking each other. Let’s understand the problem, and it’s not anti-vaxxers. No, once again, it’s largely corporate personhood.

After all, do you really want the government mandating compulsory vaccinations? I don’t know about you, but I am against the government forcing any substance into my body by law under the current curtain of corporate profit and capitalism, or ever, for any reason, for that matter. And accepting that position, I recognize willingly that there will always be those whose discretion opts against vaccinating their children for whatever reason – that’s just reality. I chalk that up to one of the costs of living in a free country, and frankly, that is a price I am willing to pay.

Rather than attacking anti-vaxxers, consider linking arms with them. They’re not lepers, and they’re not the idiots people make them out to be. They just read a lot in the age of corporate misinformation. Stop fighting and belittling each other. Instead, join hands and let’s focus our energy in the right direction against our common ailment – corporate personhood. With the big money influences out of the way, perhaps folks will be able to trust in science and medicine enough to make informed, responsible decisions for the best interest of all.

Click here if you’d like to read a bit more about my and Roald Dahl’s thoughts on vaccinations.

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