This article hits really close to home for me. Living in the Bay Area, where outbreaks of preventable diseases amongst unvaccinated children is becoming a regular occurrence, one of my biggest fears is that Eleanor will come down with a horrible and potentially life threatening disease by having contact with unvaccinated children. The more rounds of her shots that she gets, the less I worry, but she won’t be fully immunized until she is over a year old, and infants are at the greatest risk of contracting such diseases.
I mentioned before I how I was signing up for some local meet-up groups. I really wanted to join one called “Natural Parenting.” The group describes itself with buzzwords like attachment parenting, co-sleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding, natural birth. I was getting excited reading all of them, thinking this could be a perfect group for me, and then I read the last buzzword: vaccine free. Nope. I’m not going to go to a group where I know for a fact several of the children are not vaccinated. But these same kids could be at our local park. They could be at the grocery store. They could be in Eleanor’s preschool class. I really want to send her to a Montessori school, but I worry she could come home with measles. Even though she will be fully vaccinated by then, there is still a small chance she could catch the disease if it is going around.
At the same time, I want to say that I respect each parent’s decision regarding vaccination. I want to, but it’s difficult when their personal decision might impact my own child. Suddenly it doesn’t seem so personal anymore. This is a social issue with wide reaching ramifications, and it isn’t appropriate to simply say “to each his own” in this case.
[A]s strongly as I feel about it, I have never, ever, once argued this directly to the face of a friend who I know didn’t vaccinate. Never once said, when one of my kids was too young or too newly adopted to have been vaccinated, that I want them to vaccinate their kids to protect mine, and others. Never once applied peer pressure to support what I believe is right. No, I’ve been too busy “respecting other parenting choices.” […]
When did vaccination become something we can talk about only with people we agree with? “Respecting” others’ decisions can be read as endorsement or at the very least acquiescence, and for non-vaccination, I feel neither. By kindergarten, too, many of the “arguments” against vaccinating very young children have passed their expiration date. Those parents are due for a re-think. Even it if means some awkward conversations around the vegan, locally sourced stewpot, I’m feeling like it’s worth some discomfort to speak up.
I’ve also had to choose isolation at times to protect Alice from potential exposure to “vaccine free” kids and it sucks. Postnatal yoga class? I’d love to, but I know from the prenatal classes that there will be unvaccinated babies. Breastfeeding drop-in center? Same thing. I’d love to connect with some local, (otherwise) like-minded parents, but it’s so risky. And it’s true that there is this taboo against expressing disagreement with the people who are putting my baby at risk.
After the agony of having our daughter in the NICU for her first week of life, there is absolutely no way I will risk her health for my social life. It doesn’t really seem fair that other people have essentially made this choice for us…