A Difficult Conversation

Speaking about vaccinations can get pretty charged. Like a time, before kids, when my wife and I were hanging out with our friend Nora. Gwen and Nora were both pregnant. So of course we were talking kids and diapers and sleeping and toys and vaccines. We all need to feel that our choices are best because we all want to do the best we can for our kids. So telling someone that their way is wrong does not go well.

Nora and I were talking vaccinations, the granddaddy of touchy topics. And at some point she said, “Well if it’s good enough for everyone else, it’s good enough for me and my baby.” She didn’t really mean that. She just meant that everyone needs to vaccinate for the vaccine to wipe out a disease — so that no one is a carrier. And she was frustrated with me.

Fair enough, right? Well, unfortunately, I was very upset — our debate had turned very heated, and I really am a fierce debater in the very rare occasions when I get into it. So, I might just have said, and I’m not proud of this, but I might just have said, “That’s the kind of thinking that got George W. Bush elected.”

End stop. This was 2005 and that was about the worst thing you could say to a liberal person. It was Northampton for motherfucker. I might as well have farted on her open mouth or dissed her recently deceased mother.

I’m pretty sure she growled at me.

Our friendship took a few years to recover and I do feel bad about all of that.

In researching for my new book, I’ve done a fair bit of reading on vaccines, and I will give you my two cents, which is this: I believe that the current aggressive vaccine schedule can indeed make babies sick. That giving multiple vaccines together at such a young age when the immune system is just organizing itself can, in very rare cases, cause neurological problems. Heck, the government has even set up the National Childhood Injury Act to pay parents who have had problems. And they have paid out more than two billion in damages.

But, I think many people, rightly or wrongly, believe that eradicating certain diseases outweighs the collateral damage. This, I think, is really the crux of the debate. It is not whether vaccines can, in very rare cases, make babies sick; it is whether this is an acceptable byproduct of eradicating the diseases.

If we speak of vaccinations, we must speak honestly and speak in these terms, painful and horrific as they are.



Brian Leaf

About Brian Leaf

Brian Leaf is author of forthcoming parenting memoir, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi: Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting as well as the yoga memoir Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness. You can find him online at www.misadventures-of-a-yogi.com.

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