How 1 Anti-Vax Mom Really Screwed Up Her Daughter's Health

vaccineThere's no question vaccines are a hot parenting topic. Whether you're pro-vax or anti-vax (or somewhere in the middle), chances are you've thought long and hard about whether to get your baby immunized. But if you've been focusing all your research -- and your ultimate decision -- on vaccine safety, you're missing half the puzzle. What about all the diseases those vaccines prevent?

The very reason vaccines were invented was because the bulk of these diseases can be dangerous -- even life-threatening -- to your baby. The CDC estimates millions of lives have been saved by vaccines. If you still think they're no big deal, that millions of people lived through them and they're just fine, perhaps it's time to hear the story of Amy Parker, a 37-year-old mother of two who grew up with a "health nut" for a mother who refused to vaccinate her daughter.

Parker grew up unvaccinated, and as a result, she contracted not one, not two, but more than half a dozen vaccine-preventable diseases as a kid.

This despite being breastfed for a year, growing up on an all-organic diet, regularly playing outside in the fresh air, and, well, doing just about everything you'd expect the child of a "health nut" to do. All these good things weren't enough because Amy Parker's mom decided not to vaccinate. Here's what she had to say in an article for Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that promotes immunizing kids:

As healthy as my lifestyle seemed, I contracted measles, mumps, rubella, a type of viral meningitis, scarlatina, whooping cough, yearly tonsillitis, and chickenpox, some of which are vaccine preventable. In my twenties I got precancerous HPV and spent 6 months of my life wondering how I was going to tell my two children under the age of 7 that mummy might have cancer before it was safely removed ...

If you’ve never had these illnesses you don’t know how awful they are -- I do. Pain, discomfort, the inability to breathe or to eat or to swallow, fever and nightmares, itching all over your body so much that you can’t stand lying on bed sheets, losing so much weight you can’t walk properly, diarrhea that leaves you lying prostrate on the bathroom floor, the unpaid time off work for parents (and if you’re self employed that means NO INCOME), the quarantine, missing school, missing parties, the worry, the sleepless nights, the sweat, the tears and the blood, the midnight visits to A and E, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room on your own because no one will sit near you because they’re rightfully scared of those spots all over your kid's face.

Does any of that sound pleasant to you? Like something you want your kids to go through?

Parker lived, it's true, but she did not escape childhood unscathed. I wonder: if her parents had known all of that would happen, would they have made the simple choice to prevent their child's pain and suffering?

I can't see why not. I don't know any parent who willingly puts their child in harm's way.

This is the rub for parents facing the decision of whether to vaccinate or not. None of us -- on either side of the fence -- actually want our children to be hurt. But where non-vaccing parents say they're protecting their kids from what they consider to be "dangers" from the vaccines, they conveniently discount the very real danger of actually contracting any of the vaccine-preventable diseases.

One out of every 100 people who contracts pertussis (also known as whooping cough), for example, will die. One in four come down with pneumonia because of it, while one in 300 will see the disease spread to the brain.

And yet, all it takes is a series of shots, and you don't have to worry about this disease stealing your child ... or putting them in a hospital.

How can you argue with that?

As you may have already guessed, I do vaccinate my child. I too was vaccinated. Because I grew up before some vaccines became available, I remember going through at least some of the childhood diseases anyway. I am among the infinitesimally small group of people who actually contracted the chicken pox twice.

Although my memories of each bout with the disease are slim, the discomfort I recall -- and the knowledge that I'm at a heightened risk for the incredibly uncomfortable disease shingles down the road because I have had chicken pox -- made me surer than sure that my child would be vaccinated. The less suffering she goes through, the better.

Some on the anti-vax side may call people like me and Parker sheep for "blindly" following what the pediatricians suggest for our kids. The fact is, I have read extensively about the risks of vaccines. I did my due diligence. But I didn't stop there.

I also read about the risks to my child if she were to actually contract any of the countless diseases that vaccines prevent. Death. Loss of hearing. Loss of vision. Paralysis. Those are some of the truly scary ones, but I can't discount plain old misery and discomfort for days or even weeks at a time.

It behooves everyone who plans to vaccinate their children to read up on whether or not the shots themselves are safe, but your decision cannot be made on the shot alone. Read up on what happens when you don't give your kids their immunizations ... because, folks, Parker's story, scary as it sounds, is actually one of the better ones. The unvaccinated kids who die every year don't get to share their tales.

What worries you most about the vaccine-preventable diseases?


Image via Army Medicine/Flickr

vaccines, baby health


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lalab... lalaboosh

I had to stop reading, this is just bs. Enjoy your anecdotes.

femal... femaleMIKE

I worry more about the babies who are not old enough to get the vaccine contracting something.  I know a few "healthnuts" from the Seventh day adventist church.  In their eyes, the vaccine will do more harm than the actual disease does.   There is no way to change their minds.

Claudia Castello

I remember back when I was a kid, they said hat it was a good thing for kids to get chickenpox. Me and my two brothers all got them. And I am aware that I am at a higher risk for shingles as an adult. I don't know if the chickenpox vaccine was available in 1984, but we were also vaccinated as children. My daughter has been receiving her vaccines,too, and will continue to. I can't imagine having my child go through stuff like that. Those people who don't vaccinate their children are being selfish. The benefits defiantly outweigh the cons.

nonmember avatar mm

A child in the 70s would only have had access to the DTP, MMR and POL(io) vaccines. She still would have likely gotten viral meningitis, scarlatina, tonsillitis, chickenpox and HPV and may have still even come down with the others since vaccination does not guarantee immunity. I think she is making a huge anecdotal leap in her reasoning. That said, I am very glad her children have been happy and healthy. I appreciate that we have access to a wider variety of vaccines these days, but moreover I appreciate that we have the ability to choose whether or not to utilize them for ourselves and our children.

nonmember avatar brandi

My husbands fsmily is very against vaccinations and it took a lot of time researching and making a decision. My husband was in afghanistan with the marine corps and didnt want our daughter vaccinated and as much as I wanted to make him happy I got her vaccinated anyways I didnt want to go through life worrying whether my child was going to get a disease that could have been preventable. My daughter and I stayed with his parents during the deployment and her first six months of life and his sister brought her non vaccinated kids over all the time and what do you know one of her children got the mumps and was rushed to the hospital. My daughter was a newborn if she would of contrcted it she would have easily died. Im thankful for the decision I made and I will stand by it.

NatAndCo NatAndCo

What's the problem with anecdotes, lalaboosh? They're good enough to support anti-vax arguments but not the pro ones?

Betha... BethanyCO6777

I am actually on both sides of the fence with this one. I think that vaccines are risky, and that drug companies DO NOT have enough accountability for the products they make and how they cuold harm people. I will not get a vaccine based on scare tactics (H1N1 anyone?), or vaccinate my kids against diseases that can be "prevented" (as much as any disease can be prevented, vaccnated kids still get measels and the flu) in other ways, such as making sure hands are washed, diets are good, and vitamins are regurally taken.

However, BOTH of my daughters get the recomended vaccines at every stage. (except the flu shot) Because as challenging and debilitating as autism is, I dont believe it is caused solely by vaccines (I think they contribute in succeptable individuals, but there is more to it than just shots) I would VASTLY prefer that than death, or paralysis, or the host of other serious complications that can happen to someone who gets one of these dieases. I had chicken pox as a kid. I had them in my mouth, on the bottom of my feet, everywhere. It was HORRIBLE. And really the only major illness I have ever had. Because my brother and I got all the other vaccines. (I dont think they really pushed the chicken pox vax until the 90's).

Anyway, you can never 100% protect your children. all you can do is your very best and hope your right.


miche... micheledo

A lot of her stuff sounds, off.

A mom who is as crunchy as she claims her mom was, usually doesn't give so many antibiotics.  As 'perfectly' crunchy as her mom was, I am curious why she was giving so many antibiotics.  

Also, like others states, not being vaccinated doesn't account for most of the diseases she got.

I also find it interesting that she thinks people don't vaccinate and think they won't get sick.  I don't know a single non-vaxer who doesn't expect to catch some/many of the illnesses.  They just expect their body to be able to recover just fine (which interestingly enough - this women's body DID just that!)

Railr... RailroadGirl

FemaleMike I am Seventh Day Adventist and while the religion as whole is not against some members may belief that because of the religions healthy lifestyle. My kids are all vaccinated and wouldve never put my kids in danger of getting one of those diseases.

Bruic... Bruickson

I also had the chicken pox twice and it was horrible. I ended up with an excruciating case of shingles when I was only 18 and it was about twenty times worse than chicken pox. My daughter is vaccinated and any future children I have will also be vaccinated.

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