When I had my first child over a decade ago, the idea of not vaccinating was one I was wholly unfamiliar with. I followed all of the suggestions of the doctor in regards to care for my baby and didn’t question whether the guidelines I followed were best practice or not.
When my toddler had a reaction after her one-year shots, all of that came screeching to a halt.
Getting online to connect with other parents with similar concerns was a frightening experience. All of a sudden there was a ton of information about vaccinations and none of it felt terribly positive.
I stopped vaccinating. I was afraid more of the shots hurting my child than I was of the diseases the shots are designed to prevent. I didn’t vaccinate my other children at all when I had them and became a part of an online community that supported “natural health” and healing.
I spent many years never questioning this choice. There are so many things that really make vaccinations terrifying online—the idea of doing something that can injure or kill your child while trying to avoid minor diseases seemed simple and clear.
Slowly things started to change. The news started covering more outbreaks of diseases that were previously rare. Weighing out the odds of catching a disease vs. having a reaction seems very different when diseases are no longer mostly eradicated.
Information about the shady dealings of Wakefield about the tie between the MMR vaccine and autism came to light.
I changed where I was reading online at this point, as well. I really found the Red Wine and Applesauce blog to be a source of comforting and factual information.
I talked to other families that had previously not vaccinated and now were. My husband read with me and talked to other families. We talked to our pediatrician about why we had made our previous choices as well as why we were considering changing and listened.
Finally, we decided to try a single shot. We picked DTaP because of pertussis in the area, and vaccinated all the kids.
We then closely watched all of them for something terrible to happen. The hours and then days following that first shot were frightening—despite all that we had read about the low chances of side effects there was still years of seeing people blame vaccines for tons of injuries in children.
Nothing bad happened. Everyone ran a slight fever and then they were fine. The next time we went back we started to use the CDC’s catch-up schedule.
I do not regret catching the kids up on their shots. Talking to vaccine-hesitant people is productive and we can all work together to protect our kids—all of them.
The author chose to remain anonymous due to differences of opinion with members of her extended family.