Me (center) advocating on Capitol Hill for Shot@Life, flanked by Legislative Aide to Senator Feinstein Megan Thompson (left), and author of The Thinking Person’s Guide To Autism Shannon Des Roches Rosa (right).
[I haven’t had a chance to tell you guys yet about my recent trip to D.C., what brought me there, or how revelatory it was for me, but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the big bad vaccine debate. I think this is what it must feel like in that moment after you’ve pulled the pin on a grenade, but before you release the trigger. Well… here goes…]
When I was pregnant in 2009, I think it’s safe to say that McCarthyism 2.0 (that’s Jenny, not Sen. Joseph) was sort of reaching it’s fever pitch. VACCINES ARE EVIL. VACCINES WILL HURT YOUR BABY.
And, well … as a new mom, LITERALLY THE LAST THING I wanted to do was let the bureaucracy inject evil into my sweet little girl. (Remember, this was before The Lancet retracted Andrew Wakefield’s now infamous essay erroneously claiming vaccines were linked to autism.) My concern didn’t come from a disregard for the health of others, or a desire to revive diseases long dormant in our country. My fear came from a deep, overwhelming, intense love for this creature I had brought to life. I believe it’s the same place most parents operate from when making those early choices for their first baby.
It may seem odd then, that I spent last week on Capitol Hill meeting with my representatives on behalf of Shot at Life, a group which fights and fundraises for vaccinations in third world countries. I did it because vaccines work, children are dying without them, and this world is a lot bigger than my privileged Los Angeles community where mosquito nets are thought of as a home decor item. It was an incredible experience, seeing how close we are to eradicating some of the world’s most deadly and destructive childhood diseases, and disheartening to simultaneously hear news reports of some of those very illnesses returning to the United States.
During my meetings with the UN Foundation, the issues of global vs. local vaccination were described as “apples and oranges” on the basis of choice itself. Here in the U.S., we have one, where as mothers in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria will often walk for hours with exhausted children for a chance at receiving the thirteen cent vaccine because their children will quite literally die without it. As a southern Californian with many around me who have maintained a strong stand against vaccination, I wanted to accept that answer, because socially it was a more comfortable choice. But as formerly “eradicated” diseases make their reappearances in this country, I can’t help but ignore the fact that we are a global community: Diseases that exist anywhere, exist everywhere, and the responsibility to squash them falls to each and every one of us. We don’t have the luxury of choice. Not until all of these diseases are gone from the planet.
In the wake of the Measles outbreak currently happening stateside, I’m hearing a lot of “anti-vaxxers” called “crazy” and “irrational”. It’s not crazy to ask questions about anything and everything when it comes to your babies. I may disagree with my contemporaries who have chosen not to vaccinate their children, but pointing fingers and name calling when they’re simply doing their best to protect their kids in the way they truly believe is right isn’t going to get us anywhere. …continue reading…