If you’re looking for a blog post about whether or not you should vaccinate your child or yourself – this isn’t it. I’m writing a more personal story about how it feels to be on the receiving end of some really awful comments.
Vaccinations are a common medical intervention and as such, being a Canadian and all, we are given the opportunity to accept or decline them. Why would you decline them? For a multitude of reasons, many of which include:
Not wanting to experience any of the side effects
Preferring to be naturally immunized through disease exposure should it occur
Supporting the body’s system to be able to fight a natural encounter with disease
The desire for manufacturer and pharmaceutical transparency
Wanting a delayed schedule to reduce risks of adverse effects
Whatever the reason is – it’s yours to make. For Canadian students in public school, some vaccines are “mandatory” in that if a disease outbreak were to occur and you are not vaccinated for it you will be required to stay home for the duration of the outbreak. The same rule goes for healthcare workers and the like. But at the end of the day – that vaccine NEVER has to be administered to you. You have the choice to decline the procedure.
Now, why would you possibly get vaccinated? Again, there’s a variety of reasons:
You want to reduce your risk of contracting a disease
You want to protect others from getting sick
The desire to reduce the amount of sick days you take off from work
Great! So there’s two sides and an inbetween (delayed or selective vaccinations) side to the vaccine topic. Why the debate? Why is it that we get so caught up in what other people are choosing to do to their bodies? Whether or not you do, don’t, or choose which particular vaccines you’d like – the choice is yours to make. At the end of the day, it is not your doctors, it is not the government’s, it’s not your next door neighbor’s choice…it’s YOURS.
At least that’s how I saw it…I was on Facebook reading a post on vaccines and the comments I was reading were horrendous! Mothers and fathers attacking their neighbours for choosing something for their families that they didn’t! I had chimed in to try and quell the situation and reminded everyone that it is a choice and simply because someone makes a different one than us does not give us the right to blow up at them.
To which I got this: “I hope you don’t have children and I hope you never do. I would never want my child anywhere near YOUR unvaccinated child. You are the reason people are dying in this world. YOU!” and others that followed included: “Yeah well wait until your baby dies from a preventable disease, then you’ll wish differently” and “You shouldn’t be allowed to have kids if you choose not to vaccinate”.
Wow. Did that actually just happen?
I had never even posted my stance on vaccination since I don’t care about my neighbour’s opinions on my choices – what I did care about was how my community seemed to literally fall apart over a topic that is very personal. I replied simply to put that I had hoped that no one felt bullied to make a medical decision based on the words in this post and that I wish all moms and fathers and babies good health – not just those that are vaccinated. There is SO MUCH HATRED on this topic and I can’t quite wrap my head around it. Even in my school we are looking to moving towards mandated flu vaccines to enter clinic when research shows that there is actually no benefit (ie. no reduced viral transmission, no reduced mortality, etc) to vaccinated healthcare workers. Thankfully, the students that I’ve discussed my opinion on mandated flu vaccines have been more open minded to research than the people on Facebook (duh, I guess.)
It breaks my heart to see people separate like this – if my neighbour chooses to vaccinate, fantastic. If my neighbour chooses not to, fantastic. It is not up to me to make that decision for you. As a physician I will present the evidence as it stands but I have no qualms with presenting both sides. I respect the healthcare system too much to manipulate my patients with biased information. I can’t imagine the pain that some people feel when they read comments similar to the ones I received. I’m very confident in my choices and many people are not quite there yet. That’s okay. What we shouldn’t do is bully people or coerce them into medical decisions. Informed consent means presenting all options: what happens if I choose the procedure, what happens if I choose not to accept the procedure, what alternative procedures are there? All of this needs to be taken into account. ALL OF THIS.
To the women who told me they hope I never have kids – I can’t wait to have children. I will make choices for my family as I see fit. Whether that means vaccinating or not vaccinating or selectively vaccinating – I’m not sure yet. And to the mommas and poppas reading this – make choices as it fits your family, based on your evaluation of the information you have at hand. Educate yourself and if someone makes a different choice than you – you don’t have to hate them. Getting upset with someone else’s decision does not make your decision any better. Be confident in your choices and let other people make their own.