Myths About Non-Vaccinating Parents

**This post has been entered in Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!**

This post is a follow-up to the post I did a few weeks ago on Myths About Unvaccinated Kids.  It’s not intended to convince you one way or another on your vaccination decision, as I believe it is up to each parent to research the issue and choose what is right for them.  

However, that can’t happen in the current climate.  Most of the discussions I read, which usually start out with honest questions, quickly disintegrate to misinformation and name-calling — on both sides.  Lots of rumors fly around out there.  Non-vaccinating parents are told they’re “parasites” and much worse.  I can’t speak for the other side (though I know there’s plenty of misinformation about that, too).  But I believe by reacting this way we are only doing everyone a disservice.

So today, I’m hoping to clear up some of those myths about non-vaccinating parents.  And, please, remember: all parents want what is best for their children.  If you enter the debate with an open mind and that belief, everything will go a lot better.

Here are the myths I’ve heard:

1) Parents listen to the media/Dr. Wakefield study/Jenny McCarthy when choosing not to vax.

While this may be the first place parents heard about the issue, it’s definitely not the final word.  Parents who choose not to vaccinate don’t make this decision lightly.  They spend hours upon hours researching every aspect and angle they can find.  Even parents who initially make the decision often feel very uncertain about it, and end up seeking out even more research to verify their decisions.  For many, the media and “celebrities” play little to no role in their ultimate decision.

 

2) Parents are selfish, relying on those who DO vax for protection while skipping the risks for themselves.

It’s important to understand that most of the parents who choose not to vaccinate do not believe in herd immunity.  They also see some benefit to actually catching some of the childhood diseases.  Some actively seek out chicken pox and even mumps or measles!  They do not believe that their children need protection from vaccines, either directly or indirectly.  You will never hear a parent say, “It doesn’t matter if I vaccinate my kid since everyone else does it!”  No…parents have reasons that reach far, far beyond this — and again, don’t believe in herd immunity anyway.  (I, personally, wish that fewer people vaccinated…because I believe if we strengthened our children’s systems with good nutrition we wouldn’t need to, and I’m also concerned, somewhat, about the remote possibility of virus shedding.  I’m not saying anything about anyone’s decision, just pointing out that I definitely don’t rely on or care about whether or not others are vaccinated when I choose what to do for my family.)

 

3) Parents believe vaccines cause autism and that is their primary reason for not vaxing.

Do vaccines cause autism?  We don’t even know the answer to that question.  There are some parents who did stop vaccinating for that reason — 11 years ago, when the study initially came out.  But these days, families on both sides are well aware of the controversy.  It may be what initially sparks a parent’s interest in the topic, but it’s, again, not the last word.  Most of the families who’ve chosen not to vaccinate (at least the ones I’ve talked to) rate the autism at the very bottom of their “reasons not to vaccinate” list — if it makes the list at all.  There are many, many other concerns.

 

4) Parents don’t understand what these diseases are really like, or they would start vaxing.

On the contrary.  Most parents have carefully researched what might happen should their child catch any of these diseases.  They know what the usual course of the disease are, what complications are likely, symptoms to watch for, and so on.  They know what the true likelihood of complications is, and what causes them (for example, reading the WHO’s disease papers provides this information…and nutritional deficiencies are one of the primary causes of complications).  Parents then set out to boost their childrens’ immune systems naturally so that should they catch a disease, they’ll be highly unlikely to have any serious complications.  Though they are aware it could happen and they do accept that risk.  The thing is, parents don’t rely on the scare tactics and horror stories…they know what real statistics really say.

 

5) Parents’ reasons keep changing because they don’t really have any argument

In reality, parents’ reasons don’t change when they’ve done full research.  They have many reasons, but those reasons are always the same.  This is an argument primarily used in the vaccine-autism debate.  “First it was the MMR…then thimerosal…then the schedule as a whole…they don’t have an argument!”  Actually, all of these things play a role!  Parents aren’t shifting the blame so much as trying to investigate all possible causes.  If one particular element in and of itself doesn’t explain it, they move on to another to see if that may also play a role (something that the scientists should be doing, too…).

 

6) Parents don’t vaccinate because they are uneducated or hippie/earth-loving mothers

This is demonstrably untrue, and rather rude.  Every study of non-vaccinating parents shows that they are likely to be college-educated with “above average” salaries and steady jobs.  This, of course, mystifies authorities.  It doesn’t mystify me!  Parents in this category are most likely to do their research and make thoughtful parenting decisions, rather than relying on what someone else (friend, parent, doctor) tells them to do.  Many of these parents are not at all what you would consider a “hippie.”  And they haven’t made this decisions because they believe in “hippie ideals,” it’s because they have done careful research.  Parents who choose not to vaccinate may be very, very different in other ways (how they birth, how they eat, how they feed their babies, whether or not the mom works, etc.).  There is no “stereotypical” non-vaccinating parent.

 

7) Parents are “abusing” or “neglecting” their children by not vaccinating, or they don’t love them

This one really makes me angry.  Please, before you even say such a thing, remember that all parents truly love and want what is best for their children!  No matter how much you vehemently disagree with a parent’s decision, you should never say something like this (and yes…I have had this said to me before).  Parents are very careful to research and think and pray hard before making any major decision.  Not vaccinating does not mean, under any circumstances, that a parent is abusing, neglecting, or failing to love their child.  Period.  To say so is inflammatory and just sick.

 

8) Parents don’t understand that vaccines save lives, they are too worried about rare side effects.

Parents, again, have done careful research.  Part of that research is into how effective vaccines are, when they were introduced, how disease rates fell before/after introduction, how disease rates fell in other countries that didn’t use those vaccines, reading the VAERS database, and so on.  They’re well aware of how vaccines work and how they’ve been used, as well as what side effects are likely and what serious ones may occur.  Some parents unfortunately choose not to vaccinate after they, or their children are seriously injured by a vaccine.  For them, the “rare” side effects are only too real.  These parents have carefully weighed the risks of the diseases and vaccines vs. the benefit of each…and have found that the risks of the vaccines outweigh the benefit.

What myths have you heard about non-vaccinating parents?

Comments

  1. Dani says

    Growing up, my father was a chiropractor, and believed that if we had proper nutrition, we would remain healthy (we even got raw milk from a patient of his). He signed off on all our school requirements for vaccinations and physicals to play school sports. How little did I appreciate it then, except that I don't remember ever getting poked with needles! However, when I was in college, I was threatened to be thrown out if I didn't get my MMR. Never was I given a choice to opt-out. So, I got the vax (along with tetanus and a hep b series at the same time)–and sadly, I've been in a slight brain fog ever since. Nobody can argue with MY story, because it's what happened to ME.
    My own stepdaughters are now teenagers, and of course, the big thing is to go get all girls the latest and greatest vax against HPV. I've heard some horror stories, and after discussing it with the girls (I believe that they should be informed so that when they're bombarded by culture, media, peer pressure, that they can make their own informed and wise decisions), they have decided to abstain from sexual relations (which is the only way they would get this dreaded HPV) because they are aware of the risks.
    Upon discussing this issue with my Dad, he wasted no time in sending me a book, "The Sanctity of Human Blood: Vaccination i$ Not Immunization," by Tim O'Shea. Because new information comes out so rapidly, the book is updated and completely re-written annually; I have the 13th edition (2009). Now, if you ever want to really delve into the history and success (or rather, the opposite of) early "vaccinations," then this book is a must-read. The cow-pox chapter is an especially horrific one wherein researchers confuse small-pox with what they think is a bovine version, and infect cows with a disease that they would never normally get, then they go on to "vaccinate" hundreds of thousands of people resulting in greatly multiplied DEATHS by the disease, as opposed to "immunizing" the general public.
    I have heard horror stories of some parents being sent intimidating letters by their doctors' offices regarding vaccinations–I guess we were lucky in that they had always gone to a pediatrician, and the ped doc must think that we took them to our regular family doc for the vaccinations–we've never heard a peep. We do live near Boulder, CO, and there is a lot of "alternative" medicine out here, so that may play an important factor in our not having been bullied (yet). My heart goes out to those on both sides of this very hot debate, and I thank you for a well-written post. Let's all remember that the others are real people with real hearts, and as you put it so well, the best intentions and love for our children!

  2. says

    Bravo! Thank you so much for this post! I am a critical care RN, so I do see the seriousness of diseases on the body. I am not uneducated in the matter. I have seen cases of H1N1 almost drag people to their ends. BUT, that, to me, is not a good enough reason to vaccinate. I have always maintained that it was a benefits vs. risk scenario. If you believe in the benefits of the vaccines, you are likely to vaccinate. If you are skeptical about it (along with all of the other garbage the FDA approves, endorses, etc…) then you are likely to be more careful about weighing your options. Well done!

  3. Anna D says

    Love this post, it is so true. We are very educated, I for instance read 5 books on it and loads of stuff on the internet including those of the real life situations coming from parents and the scientific stuff. So my decision to not vaccinate was based on a lot of research info.

  4. says

    What a brilliantly worded article. These are exactly the points that I try to make when I am challenged about my decision not to vaccinate my 2 children. Many think that autism is the only consideration and this is definitely not the case. I didn't know about the possible link until long after I made the decision not to vaccinate. My health visitor for my 2nd child tried the 'you don't know what the diseases are like' argument with me but, I do. My cousin is paralysed from Polio and my aunt died of tetanus but, this happened in a small village on a small island in the Med just after the war so, nutrition and hygiene more than likely played a large part. As for measles, mumps, german measles and chicken pox, when I was a child we ALL had them and were frequently sent to play with spotty or swollen children so that we'd catch whatever was going around.
    Thanks for this artlicle, I will be directing people here to read it :o)
    Annax

  5. LG says

    I can only say this:
    1.I DID TRUST vaccines. I did trust whoever was behind. ( CDC )
    2. NOW I discovered the LIE of vaccines, their risk, their inefficacy, and the BIG MONEY BUSINESS THEY ARE!!!

    Before:
    Healthy son

    AFTER:
    Unhealthy son

    NOW: out of the pocket expenses to pay for: Nathurapatic Dr, gluten free and caseine free products, therapists, lab test, expensive vitamins and supplements.

    Thank God my son IS ALMOST OUT OF IT!!! (out of his illness due to VACCINES!!!)

    Hopefully in the FUTURE I'll not be a mom in jail. Because I will not vaccinate my son ever again!!!!!

  6. says

    Thanks for the post. I don't vax and it's not because of ANY of the reasons above. I've been researching vaccines for years and probably wont ever stop researching. Not vaccinating just makes sense to me, when vaccinating does not. I've also heard people say we don't vax because we " don't want to hear our babies cry".

  7. Dan says

    Could you please post your source for point #6? I would like to read that study for myself for further information.

  8. says

    Thank you so much for this post. I write about my vaccination choices on my blog, and have been fortunate to have thoughtful discussions amongst my readers that leave most of them going out to get more information. It's rare to read something level-headed like this about vaccinations, with clear information that doesn't blame. I plan to share it in my Sunday Surf this week!

  9. says

    I found this through Mama Eve's Sunday Surf post – it is such an excellent article. I don't vax my 2 kids and you've given great reasons why not and how to deal with naysayers who question our decision as ignorant, arrogant and uninformed. In the future I'll be pointing them to read this post and save my energy!

  10. says

    As a non-vaxxing parent, I found this article very enjoyable and refreshing!

    As a very educated woman who works in the health care field, and one who has researched endlessly about vaccinations, I especially enjoyed myth #6.

    In my experiences, I have found that it is the vaccinating parents that are not fully educated about vaccinations. They blindly follow their doctors' orders or recommendations without question and doubt anyone who would dare question a doctor.

    Well, as a nurse, I have worked with numerous doctors throughout my career, and surprise surprise, they are human and doctors DO make mistakes. The sad part is, their mistakes usually get covered up quietly.

  11. Mara says

    The one about just following Jenny McCarthy really tickles me. You see, Jenny and I grew up in the same area, although she is a few years younger than me. We both went to local all girl's Catholic high schools. She went to one, I went to the good one. You see, my point is we were bitter rivals because of the side of town and schools we went to, so if Jenny said to do something it would be a good enough reason for me NOT to do it! As the mother of a vaccine injured child I started doing research and stopped getting him vaccinated. When my daughter was born we had the refusal form for the hep b, and still had 2 nurses come into our room to bully me into letting her get it. I simply informed them that my refusal form was a binding legal document and I have a very good attorney. At 22 months she is vaccine free, still breast fed, and has never had more than a slight cold.

  12. Steph says

    What a refreshing post about non-vaccinating parents! and hit the nail on the head- whatever decision parents make it's not taken lightly and it's only ever done in the best interest of our children. What's the greater risk… to vaccinate or not to vaccinate… again always such a personal choice and whatever decision parents do it in the best interest of the kids. x

  13. Rita Marie says

    I am a Registered Nurse as well. I am also the parent of a child who was SERIOUSLY harmed by a childhood vaccine, and lives the rest of his life needing care for the brain injury that resulted from being vaccinated, with a "recalled" , "contaminated" vaccine in 1994. There were 26 other children injured as a result of that contaminated vaccine. We ARE the one in a million who experienced this. I am not further vaccinating him, or my other children. I no longer believe in Herd immunity. The same son, fully vaccinated for chicken pox, even had a booster….had a bad live case of the cpox(same year as the booster) Where is the immunity?
    ~As a Registered Nurse, I have seen most cases of Flu or Pneu coming into the hospital people fully vaxed for these things. I have seen parents carry babies into the ER non responsive, or screaming, only to report the child's demeanor changed right after vaccination. I can not….in good faith, say that vaccination is for "the greater good", as I care about those who have been injured by these things.
    ~There is not one diagnostic test to determine vaccine injury.not one blood test, not one brain scan….NOTHING! So it is often not diagnosed. The diagnosis is made by a doctor who's opinion may or may not be thinking "vaccine injury"….but for that doctor to call out the Pharmaceutical industry….is not good, not at all for his career, or his other forms of compensation(like the kick backs for vaccine compliance, or speaking or ghost writing)….
    ~VACCINE INJURY IS SOOOOOOOO UNDER-DIAGNOSED BECAUSE THERE IS NOT ONE DIAGNOSTIC TEST TO DETERMINE IT!……. PERIOD!

  14. Sandy L says

    Herd immunity: We are often confronted with the argument that we should vaccinate to protect the population at large. The problem is that herd immunity relates to the fact that natural diseases normally confer immunity which lasts for a lifetime, but this does not apply to vaccines.

    Vaccine induced immunity normally lasts from 2 – 10 years. Boosters are then suggested and they often last for 2 years or less. This is why we are now seeing mandates, but they are not justified because the issue of vaccine induced herd immunity is a myth.

  15. ModernAMama says

    Sandy L — You are correct. In actuality, 'herd immunity' refers to (originally) the percentage of people in a given population who needed to be immune, via natural infection or non-susceptibility to a particular disease for it not to cause an epidemic, or stop an epidemic. The original research on this issue, completed in the late 1800s or early 1900s, indicated that the number was 66%, or about 2/3 of the population. It is a completely valid theory in this case. However, it was later appropriated for use as an argument for vaccination and the number 90% or 95% was pulled basically out of thin air, likely higher to account for those who couldn't be vaccinated, for whom it didn't work, whose immunity waned and weren't given boosters, etc. But there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the theory even applies to vaccine-induced "immunity," only natural immunity. This is the way much of the pro-vaccine argument goes, though; largely unrelated theories that do apply to natural infection are used to promote vaccination even though they do not work the same way.

  16. Amber says

    Thank you so much for this post love how you put it all into words. I have heard several of these comments as a Non Vaccinating Mother. I feel confident with the choice my husband and I have made for our girls but continue to do research as well. You do what you feel is best for your children and it's reassuring to see other Mom's and Dad's feeling passionate about it as well. Thank you again!!

  17. Kayce says

    Thank you so much for such a wonderful and thoughtful piece! I am a non-vaxer, though I don't have children yet. When I do, I will have every exemption possible signed and will not be getting them vaccinated. I have had heated debates with my family over this issue because my grandma got Polio when she was a child, and she was one of the few children in the pool who were not vaccinated. She firmly believes that vaccination would have saved her, so we always butt heads when this topic comes up. She has even told my mom that she (my mom) should not hope for grandchildren since they will be unvaccinated. It is sad when not even my own family can be open-minded enough to just accept my decisions and they have to vilify me to everyone.

    I have a question, too. For the RN's out there, were you able to exempt yourself from vaccination during school and at work, or did you take the needle in order to enter the career you wanted? I am pre-Nursing, but I know my school wants me to get titers and vaccinations before being accepted. I'm wondering if I have any ground to exempt myself or if I have to do it in order to be a nurse. I know it varies from state-to-state, but any advice would be helpful. I live in Missouri. Thanks. :)

  18. Rebecca says

    I chose to give my daughter the vaccines, she was dignised with an immunodeficiency and they didn't take, so we gave her boosters and that still didn't work. Her immunologist said she will have to depend on the people around her being immunized to keep her safe. It scares me to death that a not immunized child could be in her class at school, or that she could catch something from someone who chose not to vaccinate their child….
    I work as a rn in a pediatric icu and last night watched a two year old die of pertussis, it is a horrible and tragic way to die. The parents were devastated not only because they just list their beautiful child, but they had chosen not to vaccinate him. Thus causing his death. They did not travel outside of the country, there wasn't an "outbreak" the just caught it because he was unprotected.
    So in making your decision are you willing to put my child at risk… Or your own child…

  19. ModernAMama says

    Hi Rebecca,

    When parents choose not to vaccinate their children, they take responsibility for their child's health. This means they need to protect their child's health in other ways — by feeding an excellent, nutrient-dense diet, extended breastfeeding, using herbs or other alternative medicine when necessary, etc. Some parents do choose not to vaccinate and don't take these steps. Most, however, take this responsibility very seriously. Children can and will still catch illnesses, but they won't be at risk for serious complications. Complications aren't magical; they don't just occur "just because." They occur because a child's health isn't optimal, usually because they are deficient in fat-soluble vitamins or have poor gut health. This is why parents who take care to prevent these deficiencies and feed their children well do not have to worry that their children will suffer anything serious.

    As for other peoples' children, it is sad that some are immuno-compromised. But it is up to those children's parents to protect them appropriately, just as it is my job to protect my children. I don't make decisions for my children's health based on what might happen to other people. There is no possible way to erase the possibility that my children — vaccinated or not — might catch an illness and pass it to someone else. There is no possible way that any decision I make (in any area) might have some effect on others. But my responsibility remains, first and foremost, to my own children. I will not do something I believe could harm them on the tiny, tiny chance that they could make someone else sick someday. No one should ask me to do so, either. I wouldn't ask other parents to vaccinate — or not — or make any other particular decision they felt was wrong, just for my peace of mind or my child's safety, because their children come first to them. As do mine to me.

    So I'm very sorry that this makes you uncomfortable, but I believe I have made the safest and best decision for my children and I will not change my mind "for the sake of others." How would someone who asked me to vaccinate my child feel if I did so…and my child were then permanently injured or damaged somehow? But of course they would not be the ones who had to live it it…I would. And so…respectfully, I say, we all must make the decisions we feel are best for our own children, period.

    • says

      ModernAmoma, I just wanted to say love your response Rebecca. It is exactly how *I* too feel. And I could not have put how I feel and think about this whole issue, into words as good as you did.

  20. Carol Ann says

    Rebecca –

    I would be more worried about allowing freshly vaccinated children around your child than an unvaccinated child. Just because a child is unvaccinated does not make them a walking Typhoid Mary of disease. Just the opposite in fact. Children who are freshly vaccinated with live virus vaccines can actually spread the disease to others through shedding. The powers that be say that shedding has a relatively low risk, but they also say that adverse reactions to vaccines are low and we know that only about 1 to 2% (their figure, not mine) of adverse events get reported properly.

  21. Carol Ann says

    Rebecca –

    Also look at the percentages of fully vaccinated people contracting these illnesses during the ‘outbreaks.’ Getting vaccinated does not mean you will not contract the disease.

  22. says

    Rebecca,
    I too am an RN have worked many different areas. I have seen cases of pertussis however, the cases I have seen have been in vaccinated patients only (maybe because where I live there are not a lot of people do not vaccinate). It is very sad to think of a child dying of pertussis but to say the parents caused the death is harsh (would they be to blame for a vaccine injury as well?) And then I think of how bad say RSV can be yet there is no vaccine and it is highly contagious……

  23. Jamie Woodside says

    Rebecca –
    Please forgive my ignorance, but how does a doctor know if a vaccine “took” or not? I’ve never heard of such a thing before, and I have an immunodeficiency as well.

  24. says

    This article is great!! Thank you SO much for writing such a well thought out article. Often times people make assumptions about me after reading my blog- they assume I am some uneducated, tree-hugging, hippie freak (not that there is anything wrong with hugging trees). I hope that by reading this people will start to understand that those who choose not to vaccinate have made thorough, educated decisions!

  25. Sandi says

    Rebecca was simply stating her opinion just as everyone else was…she is the only one responding who tried to vaccinate her child. Maybe give her some respect instead of attacking her point of view.

    • Kate Tietje says

      I don’t think anyone needs to be attacked, but I also don’t think that anyone deserves respect just because they chose to vaccinate. All parents make the decision they feel is best for their children.

  26. says

    Hello Kate,

    I love this. I am wondering – Would it be ok to share this whole post on my website, with acknowledgement AND a link to your website… or would I only be allowed to share a link (without the full post)? I have been trying to figure out how to best address this issue without offending people or causing a horrible eruption of angry comments, & I think this & a couple of your other posts may be just what I’m looking for. I’ve been writing blogs/websites for about 5 years & finally implemented all those over to my new all-in-one website several months ago. So I’m really trying to be very well rounded! Thanks SO much for this. I’ve been following a lot of natural/alternative & real food blogs/sites this past few years, (as that is exactly what my website is), & yours is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I love kindred spirits! :)

    • Kate Tietje says

      Hi Jennifer,

      I would prefer that you share the first couple paragraphs, some kind of excerpt, with a link back saying “to read the rest.” You could also insert your own comments at the beginning, explaining why it’s something you’d like them to read, etc. I hope that works for you! Thanks for reading. :)



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