"When people you respect and admire feel confident in their parenting decisions we assume they are making the correct choices. I saw my values and my desires for my child aligning with theirs, so I devoured their anti-vax material. "
'The amount of NRL players and their partners who consciously choose NOT to vaccinate would seriously surprise you.’ - that was written on Instagram by wellness-blogger Taylor Winterstein, the wife of Manly Sea Eagles player Frank Winterstein.
Oh well, slap me silly because how can we argue with reasoning like that? The debate has been settled, if the lauded ultra-athletic males and their families decide not to vaccinate, then what else is left to be said? Push aside the years of research, the millions of lives saved by vaccines and entire diseases eradicated in some countries. Heaps of footy players don’t vaccinate their kids? Oh then just hold back on the jabs for mine then please.
With such a huge platform as influencers, surely they can’t just open their mouths a dish out such word vomit without consequence? Well as it turns out, they actually can and while we may choose not to listen, others may follow on. Unlike shilling the current social influencer product du jour – delivered meal boxes, this will eventually have a knock-on effect on the rest of society so it’s up to us to push back.
I don't judge those who fall for it, I've been there
I don’t judge those who dig a bit deeper into the world of anti-vaxxers and their equally vocal counterpart, reformed vaxxers.
Say "I love you" whenever you feel it, even if it's 743 times a day. You simply can not spoil a child with too many mushy words of affection and too many smooches. Not possible.
I ‘blindly followed’ the instructions of my doctor when I had my first born and followed the prescribed vaccination schedule. It wasn’t until round three at six months that I began to realise that there was a choice.
The postpartum hormones had left my body, giving me an increase in energy, the sense of responsibility I had for my new baby was overpowering and I struggled with a loss of purpose from having given up paid employment to become a mother. This dangerous cocktail combined with the power of google sparked the beginning of a quest for me to become the most empowered and knowledgeable mother I could be.
Living in Darwin, isolated from my friends and family, I found solace in my new mother's group. They were pro-breastfeeding, we loved babywearing and natural parenting and when the time came we all mostly chose baby led weaning. Yet, I had vaccinated my baby while they hadn’t. Was I missing something?
I believed what they believed, so was I doing something wrong? Picture: iStock
The stage had been set for me to head down the same path as them
When people you respect and admire feel confident in their parenting decisions we assume they are making the correct choices. I saw my values and my desires for my child aligning with theirs, so I devoured their anti-vax material. There is no woman more insecure than a new first-time mother. That’s why marketers get to flog so many expensive and near useless baby items, mothers want the best, safest, cleanest things for our children.
"What’s a good investment? Go home from work early and spend the afternoon throwing a ball around with your son." - Ben Stein on CNN
The warnings were there in plain view on the side of the vaccine packets and at the time Andrew Wakefield’s bogus report was yet to be widely discredited. Was ‘big pharma’ out to get us? So I dug and I dug.
I read reports of vaccine injured children and claims that some children developed autism soon after the MMR vaccine. It was scary, it gave me food for thought and I wondered if we should be questioning vaccinations. I thought perhaps it wasn’t worth the perceived risk. It was incredibly unlikely that my child would come into contact with someone who carried such diseases and if the ‘herd’ was immunised, then surely my child would be safe? That’s how this thing works? Right?
But that’s the problem
The more people who choose not to vaccinate because of the perceived risk to their individual child, the lower the number in the herd, until it eventually swings out of our favour.
The sad fact is that there is a very small number of our population for whom immunity isn’t possible, be they unable to be vaccinated or too young to have started their vaccination schedule. These are the small numbers of society that the rest of us have to protect. It’s no longer a choice, it’s a duty.
Remember: Kids will be kids. Kids will make mistakes using media. Try to handle errors with empathy and turn a mistake into a teachable moment. But some indiscretions, such as sexting, bullying, or posting self-harm images, may be a red flag that hints at trouble ahead. Parents must observe carefully their children's behaviors and, if needed, enlist supportive professional help, including the family pediatrician.
Autism concerns seem to be high on the agenda of the anti vaxxers. Is autism something we would choose for our children if we had the choice? Probably not, but hey guess what? You get what you get and nothing you can feed, do to or vaccinate your child with can do anything to change the genetic makeup of a person. Today’s schools are focussing on becoming better equipped to deal with the potential challenges that may arise with children on the autism spectrum. Do you hear what I’m saying? Autism isn’t unusual or something to be feared anymore. We have the education and support systems in place that we need and advancements are continually being made in the field. To worry that your child may develop autism from a vaccine is not only a long discredited notion, even if it were true, it is false equivalence at its finest.
Surely no sane parent can look at the choice of ‘potential autism’ and deem it less favourable than a preventable disease? ‘Oh I think I’ll take the small pox please’ said no one ever.
Those diseases aren't gone
While it might seem like scaremongering to talk of long gone diseases, the reality is that we are seeing a resurgence of illnesses that are both deadly and highly contagious. An un-vaxxed person coming in near proximity of someone carrying the measles virus has a 90% chance of catching it, not a risk I’d want for my child. When this WAG heads over to a developing country to espouse the virtues of ‘educating yourself’ on the topic of vaccinations, I hope this is one fact she takes to Samoa with her.
Read books together every day. Get started when he's a newborn; babies love listening to the sound of their parents' voices. Cuddling up with your child and a book is a great bonding experience that will set him up for a lifetime of reading.
So after questioning my doctor and learning about the issues for myself, I’m proud to say I’m following the vaccination schedule to the letter. I could mind my own business safe in the knowledge that my children are armed to deal with these preventable diseases if they make a comeback. I could, but I won’t because we have a duty to build up the herd again and undo the damage caused by those who listened to the so-called influencers that should have stayed in their lane.