The Vaccine Debate: Making Informed Decisions

Let me preface this by saying I am not here to debate whether or not people should be vaccinating their children. I don’t need to know where your family stands on the issue. If you want to debate one another on the merits of vaccinating versus not vaccinating, feel free to take it somewhere else. I won’t even mention our family’s own position. No, what I want to address is the debate, aka fighting and name calling, that tends to go on whenever the subject of vaccines is brought up.

  • Do your research! Others are making money off of this industry from both sides. The American Academy of Pediatrics is a trade organization whose purpose is to protect the interests of pediatricians. Big pharma makes money off of the sale of vaccines. Even those books written by anti-vaccination advocates are profiting the authors. If you are gathering your information from someone, anyone, who stands to make some sort of profit, I beg you to reconsider. Even if you are gathering your information from someone who doesn’t stand to profit, you don’t know where they got their information. Do your own research. Before we had kids, and periodically since then to refresh, I dug through the medical literature. I wanted to know the truth and not rely on anyone else’s interpretation of the studies. I’ve been ripping apart journal articles and doing research for a very long time, so I have some experience extracting factual information from opinion and good research from poor research. Even if you don’t have that experience or capability, don’t just blindly follow someone else. Do your best to gather as much information as you can in order to make an informed choice.
  • Stating your profession does not make you a subject matter expert. You are a chemist? A biologist?  A nurse, a doctor (we’ll revisit that in a moment)? Great! Good for you! I hope you enjoy your profession. However, that does not make you an expert in any way shape or form about the matter of vaccines. Stating your profession, regardless of your stance, does not an expert make. Sure, you are attempting to establish yourself as the infallible expert, but that isn’t the case. My husband and I could point you to all manner of scientists on both sides of the debate. We could also point you to scientists who know how to read journal articles and determine their accuracy and plenty who have no flipping clue. We could even include ourselves. Don’t blindly follow someone.
  • Saying, “I’m a doctor,” is not evidence. Again, regardless of your stance, your profession does not make you a subject matter expert, and most doctors, just like most people, tend to believe what they are told and have not been digging into the actual studies. You can also find doctors on both sides of the debate, so stating that no doctor would ever recommend against your advice is untrue. Doctors can prove a very valuable service in our community when they work with us, but the bottom line is, you are responsible for your child. Whether I am pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine, or somewhere in the middle, if a doctor states that either there are no benefits to vaccines or that there are no negative aspects to vaccines, I am walking out the door with my children. Everything in life has positive and negative aspects. To ignore that fact is either blatant ignorance or purposeful manipulation. Patients, and the parents of patients, need accurate information in order to make informed choices. Withholding information does not allow for that. Repeating the phrase “I am a doctor,” or having your mother chime in with, “Thank you, Dr. So and So,” still doesn’t give you any more credence. Not being willing to listen to your patient shows a lack of caring and humanity.
  • Most of us want the best for our kids. Sure, I know people who don’t vaccinate without having fully researched the topic, just as I know plenty of people who do vaccinate without having fully researched the subject. For the most part, though, most parents are just trying to do what they think is best for their children. I would hope that regardless of their decision, they have spent some time researching to make the best informed choice they can. However, even if they haven’t and are blindly following someone else, chances are they are still trying to do what they believe is best for their kids, even if it doesn’t coincide with what you would choose. The whole name calling thing? It isn’t helpful. If you are trying to convince someone of your position, you have just lost them. If you believe in making informed choices, you have just shut down communication, and you have just fueled the debate – not the debate looking at hard evidence of positives and negatives of whichever side, but the one that fuels violence and mommy (and daddy) wars.
You don’t have to agree with someone to be respectful. You don’t have to agree with someone to understand that while you may be coming at a topic from different view points, you still are both trying to do what you, based on the information you each have, believe is best for your child. You don’t have to agree with someone else to act in what you believe is your child’s best medical interest.You don’t have to agree, but it would be nice if everyone would try to show some compassion and understanding for other parants.

photo credit: pikimota via photopin cc

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