I am pro-vaccine, we will go ahead and get that right out in the open. I believe they work and I believe that they save lives. I am also a school nurse, a parent, and a public speaker about health and wellness. My profession immerses me into this debate of whether or not to vaccinate. It can be very overwhelming when you look at the amount of information that both sides present. However, after a lot of reading, thinking, researching, and discussion with medical professionals, friends, and parents I had a question. What if the debate about vaccines is not really about vaccines? Perhaps it is about control. Allow me to explain.
Pro-vaxxers and Anti-vaxxers can engage in huge drawn out mud-slinging debates about who is right. One side presents scientific proof that vaccines are safe, and the opposing side presents their scientific proof that they are unsafe. Up until very recently I was all for mandatory vaccinations. I believed that everyone should be vaccinated unless they have a medical exclusion, period. Refusal would be met with strict and swift consequences. It wasn’t until another parent asked me if I owned my own body that I had to really question my position. “Duh,” I thought “Of course I do!” Then I had to stop and really consider what that meant. If I owned my body, then I was in control of what happens to it. That also meant that no one had the right to force me to put anything into my body. True. That also means it is true for every other person…
So how can I come to terms with parents not vaccinating? Or how can a non-vaxxer be ok with me vaccinating?
It all boils down to acceptable risk, and what risks we feel comfortable taking. There is inherent risk in everything we do. The transportation we choose, the food we eat, where we live, who we associate with. Each one of these thousand choices every day has the potential to cause harm to ourselves or others. The debate of vaccines is just one of many choices that we need to consider. Getting a vaccination has the risk of side effects, and if not effective I could transmit a disease that could hurt someone else. Not vaccinating has the risk of developing an illness and transmitting an illness that could harm someone else.
The MMR vaccine is the latest trendy topic, but in stark contrast thousands of people die every year from the flu, but that vaccine is not even required to attend school. In comparison, “unintentional injuries” is the fourth leading cause of death in our country, but we still have guns, drive cars, and allow kids to use scissors. Texting while driving has the risk that you might crash, and you still have the risk of injury even if you are wearing a seat belt. That veggie dog may be a healthier option, but there is still a risk that you could choke to death on it. No matter what we do, we are at risk of injuring ourselves and possibly someone else. This is where the control comes into play.
I can’t control what the person next to me is doing, even if my opinion is that they should be doing something differently. I CAN control what I do, and how I take care of my family. I am the one who has to live with the consequences if my choice hurts myself, my family, or someone else. I believe that most parents are doing what they believe in their hearts to be best for their children. I also believe that this vaccine debate will go nowhere. We can throw facts, figures, statistics, and studies at each other all day long and never sway the other side.
I want to own my body, I want a smaller government, and I want people to not only think of how their choices (all choices) affect themselves, but how they could potentially affect another person. We need to validate our feelings and honor the fact that at the center of this debate are our children, who we would easily lay down our own lives for.