The Hot Button Hits Home.


I don’t really care to get involved in discussions of “hot button” issues, in general but there are two for which I’ll stick my neck out and risk pissing people off or, you know, just annoying them with my broken record. The first is Wal-Mart. In fact, let’s not even get started on Wal-Mart, okay? Because what I really want to talk about is the second issue, which is vaccines.

Yeah, you heard me. I said it: VACCINES. I’m going there. Just know this: I am adamantly pro-vaccine. I don’t care if your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s best friend had a really mild case of polio and he’s totally fine now.  If you are friends with me on Facebook, you already know this since I am forever posting and reposting stories about outbreaks and so on and so forth, with a simple comment appended: Vaccinate. (Sometimes I add, for the love of God when I’m particularly irked.)

{But also know this, by way of disclaimer: my children were on a delayed vaccination schedule until they were 18 months old, when they got all caught up on their vaccination schedule, with the blessing of our pediatrician at the time. I just didn’t think it was necessary for a tiny little baby to be pumped full of so much aluminum all at once; that the process of trying to rid the body of toxins would tax the liver and kidneys too much. Anyway… }

This is not even really a story about vaccines. It started with vaccines but it’s gone to the idea of principles being tested. At the risk of jinxing myself (ptoo, ptoo) I’ve had a pretty drama-free life so far and I’ve enjoyed the luxury of being able to hold onto principles in a most abstract fashion. I know what I think I would do, but I don’t know necessarily know what I would do in reality, if I came face-to-face with the vaccine issue. I won’t lie: Scorn is the only way to describe my feelings towards people that don’t vaccinate.

But here’s the thing: I don’t actually know anyone who doesn’t vaccinate. At least… I don’t I think I do. But what happens when all of a sudden, you do know someone? Because that happened to me. This very week. How am I supposed to have scorn for someone that I’m friendly with, someone that I have plenty in common with? Someone whose child is a friend of my own child? I just can’t. It just so happens that she has a very valid, medical reason for her child not having this particular vaccine, but  unfortunately, her child was exposed and developed the virus, and unwittingly exposed my unvaccinated infant, and my partially vaccinated four year old (ironically, Stella got her booster the same day she was exposed).

The school sent out a letter alerting parents to the presence of the virus, and of course, I took to the FB airwaves to wag my finger and proclaim my disdain. Pretty much everyone that commented was on my side, save for one acquaintance whom I rarely see. It was really easy at the time to be indignant. Too easy.

Then, my friend, whose child was the “culprit,” as it were, sent me a message on Facebook. She’d seen my thread and the comments, and had agonized over telling me, afraid of my reaction. I mean, first of all, no matter how I feel about something, I would never want a friend to feel afraid to share something with me honestly. Second of all, her reaction to my reaction really humanized the issue for me– it is such a contentious issue that even when people have valid reasons for not vaccinating, they keep it on the down low. But I was honest with her in return. She couldn’t believe I wasn’t upset; like I told her, I was really more annoyed than anything else and in this case, I could afford to be just annoyed, since her child had a mild case and my children, despite being exposed, appear thus far to be just fine. Also, the thing was done. What would getting mad do? Nothing. I learned a lesson– something that you think only happens to other people might one day happen to you. It could be anything– being wrongfully arrested, having to decide whether to abort a pregnancy, taking the keys away from a drunk driver, or any number of hot button issues that always seem to happen to someone else but not me. The point is, you don’t know what you are going to do until you have to do it. So, yeah, in theory, I should’ve been mad, and before this happened, I’m sure I knew I’d be pissed. Maybe if she wasn’t my friend, I would’ve been mad but who knows? 

There was another  Facebook post about this, on a Facebook page for the elementary school parents. One of the commenters demanded to know who it was. If I didn’t know who it was, I would’ve been right in there, stoking that fire. But knowing makes all the difference– my first reaction was to rush to my friend’s defense. My second was that I better not even get involved, and maybe this thing will just die a (hopefully) fast death. The issue of vaccinations has been presented as black and white; vaccinate=good, no vaccination=completely immoral and irresponsible, and sometimes, someone mentions herd immunity. In all the hubbub, we forget the whole point of herd immunity: to protect people like my friend’s children. It’s a social good–it benefits each of us personally while also benefitting others.

So, yeah, I’m still very pro-vaccine and anti-anti-vax but I will also take care to remember unvaccinated does not mean anti-vax, and my vaccination status and yours as well serves to protect the vulnerable among us–it’s just a shame that the anti-vax crowd has decided to abuse the privilege of herd immunity, and make it riskier for those of us with genuine allergies to forgo vaccines.

{Also, remember when I said I would try to be braver in my writing? I’m kind of bracing myself here for hate mail–from both sides!! Hold me, mama.}

6 thoughts on “The Hot Button Hits Home.”

  1. No hate mail here:) This story reminds me of how complex life is… and we can certainly have a position on an issue, while being compassion and flexible as things play out in daily life. Being willing to listen is important.

  2. Hmm, this was very eye opening. I often get too passionate about a subject and forget that the opposite side might not be opposite for obvious reasons. For the record, I don't get not vaccinating…these are our children. Modern medicine exists for a reason 🙂

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