Injecting compassion into the vaccine debate is what we hope to see more of.


As more states continue to mandate vaccines and remove parental consent and medical/religious exemption waivers, the vaccine debate rages on.

We're pretty sure there's not a much more divisive issue among parents, but knowing this, we're hoping that injecting compassion into the vaccine debate will allow parents to look at each other's perspective. Doing so, and realizing that most parents want to do what they believe is right for their child and their family could go a long way in this very heated topic discussion.

From The Author in 2014:

There is no more divisive issue in parenting than whether or not to vaccinate. Since measles was reported in California, my social media feeds have been overtaken by inflammatory posts about parents who choose not to vaccinate their children.

The articles accompanying these posts urge that parents who opt out of vaccinating should be sued or jailed, and that vaccination should be absolutely mandatory, taking away the right of parents to make informed medical decisions for their families. So-called "anti-vaccine parents" are made to look like fools with no valid basis for questioning vaccine safety and efficacy. A recent article suggested that parents who choose not to vaccinate their children do so only to "defy authority" and "feel empowered."

This so-called debate-'so-called' because there's very little reasoned discussion actually happening-takes place almost entirely on social media. We need not look our 'friends' in the eyes as we demonize them for making different decisions than our own. We feel entitled to judge without bothering to understand why others might have a different point of view. We're so staunchly entrenched in our own beliefs that we're unwilling to even consider a different opinion.

Related: Study: Possible Link Found Between Flu Vaccine and Miscarriage

Parents now seem to be divided into two camps-the "pro-vaccine" and the "anti-vaccine." But these are false categories that fail to acknowledge the range of difficult decisions that parents make regarding vaccination. The choice isn't simply to vaccinate or not. Many parents, concerned with how aggressive the recommended vaccination schedule has become, decide to delay vaccines, determine an alternate schedule with their doctors, or partially vaccinate their children. They're not "against" vaccines.

But acknowledging that parents make a wide range of decisions regarding vaccination-and that "anti-vaccine parents" might thoughtfully consider whether and when to vaccinate their children-makes it more much difficult to summarily dismiss those who "don't vaccinate" as uneducated fools. Admitting that "pro-vaccine" and "anti-vaccine" is a false dichotomy means we can no longer assume that parents who make complicated decisions about vaccinations have no real basis for their concerns, that they're simply "against" vaccination.

Also missing from this discussion is the fact that, despite our disagreements, we're all trying to make the best decisions for our children. And that we're all terrified of making the "wrong" decision. Measles is real. Some children are more vulnerable to communicable illnesses, and their parents understandably fear that their children could become ill. But vaccine injuries are also real. And research shows that some children are more susceptible to severe, even life-threatening, injuries from vaccination. Their fears are also valid.

Vaccinations can play an important role in protecting public health, and there are clearly valid reasons to vaccinate. But parents who choose not to vaccinate, or to delay vaccinations, or to partially vaccinate may also have legitimate concerns. The judgment and shaming of so-called "anti-vaccine parents" does nothing to protect our children. (Even if this judgment is an attempt to increase vaccination rates, it's unlikely that someone's mind will be changed by being called an idiot.) Nor does it help parents make what, for many, is one of our most difficult parenting decisions.

It's time that we have compassion for one another, seeking to understand choices different from our own rather than simply dismissing them as foolish or selfish. The inflammatory rhetoric of vaccination is serving none of us.

When the author originally shared her thoughts, California hadn't even begun to work on mandatory vaccination, nor had the many other states (and countries) that now have removed exemptions and mandated vaccines in 2020.

Related: Opinion: Trump's Vaccine Panel Should Rely on Science, Not Conspiracy Theories

In fact, the 'debate' has only grown stronger and more venomous, and parents on both sides of issue feel unheard, ridiculed and terrified of the consequences from the other's position.

Our goal with the running of this article is not to tell one set of parents they're right or wrong. Let's be really honest; no one has such strong opinions on vaccines because they hate children or hate mothers. In fact, the intense opinions are most likely because we love our children. We love them and mother them the best we can.

Reports may indicate that for every 1 million doses of vaccines distributed, one person was compensated for vaccine injury. In fact, the same reports claim that since 1988, total compensation from the vaccine injury fund program is about $4.2 billion, with 7,090 cases of injury determined to be compensable.

Sure. Over the course of 30 years, and 7,000,000,000 vaccines being distributed, 7,090 may seem like a small number. Some may even claim it to be an insignificant number in light of the incredible benefit to the approximate 699,9992,900 protected.

But to the 7090 mothers who watched their children's lives turn into something they never dreamed would happen? It's the most significant number in the world. To the approximate 1290 mothers who buried their children as a result of a legally determined vaccine injury? There's no immunity, herd or not, that was worth their child dying.

For many, mandated vaccines isn't even an issue of the vaccine itself, as much as it's an issue of parental authority and control being stolen from parents. And, while it's understandable that doctors in charge of protecting as many as they can may feel that the lives of many are worth the lives of one or two, the parents of those random one or two simply do not feel the same way.

Which is where we again want to emphasize that our point in this piece is not to advocate for or against vaccinations, as we believe those are incredibly personal choices parents make as the primary advocates for their children. Our point is to gently remind anyone reading that whatever you're choosing for your child, keeping COMPASSION for others who may not be choosing the same is pivotal.

Whatever you believe, there's no room for hate in the disagreement. There won't be any mind-changing, and you may even just make someone firmer in their differing stance out of sheer spite. This is not a one-answer-solves-all issue because it involves individual humans. And, as mothers, it's OUR individual humans that at the core, we're most concerned with. Do we want to contribute to humanity's good? Of course we do.

But when we weigh risks and benefits, we look first and foremost at the risks and benefits to our individual children. It's how we're wired, and why it's vital that we remember that no mother wants to harm any children, much less her own.

Compassion is what makes the world go around, and injecting compassion into the vaccine debate could make it one where we are able to honestly and openly share fears, concerns, benefits and triumphs with each other without fear of judgment. Next time you feel like you absolutely must respond to someone on either side of the issue? Put the keyboard courage aside, and soften your response with compassion first. Remember we all love our children more than breath, and just because we have differing opinions, we're not necessarily wrong or right. We're just doing the best we can for our families.

 

Editor's Note: Open discussion is welcome on Mothering.com, hate is not. Please respond thoughtfully and respectfully or your comment may be removed.

 

Photo: CNK02/Shutterstock