Hepatitis B Outreach and Testing in Pierce and Snohomish Counties
Mapping the Connections that Make Families Healthy
Ultimately, this project involved two essential types of connections:
Musings on NIIW, Being a Mom and Immunizing My Children
Attending the 2013 National Infant Immunization Week event at Town Hall a few weeks ago with author of The Panic Virus Seth Mnookin and Seattle Mama Doc Wendy Sue Swanson stirred up old memories of making the decision to immunize my first child. With new parent vulnerability and emotions running high I got caught up in the immunization decision-making frenzy. This is my story….I was “that” mom–you know, the parent that I’m now trying to influence to make a reasonable, science-based decision to vaccinate their child. I wish I had a me back then who stuck up for vaccines, especially when I was exhausted from lack of sleep, barely bathing, and getting out of my house was a daily feat.After my son’s birth, I joined a local mom’s group to meet other parents in my neighborhood. What I didn’t know was how influential these other mothers would be on my health decisions, specifically vaccinating my son. I think it was the 2nd or 3rd session when vaccines came up. A mom asked me, “Are you going to vaccinate your son?” I had never thought twice about vaccinating my child up until that very moment. That question spurred a lengthy discussion, along with a whole host of concerns I had never considered. One mom added that she was using an “alternative [which I now refer to as delayed] schedule” by this pediatrician named Dr. Sears, and had I heard of this great book?
All of a sudden, I felt this alarm go off in my head and panic set in. I was taking my son in for his 2 month well-child visit NEXT WEEK, where he was supposed to get his first round of immunizations. At that moment it felt like a life or death decision that I was making. I was so emotionally wrought. What if my child was hurt by a vaccine? What if they were wrong about the vaccine-autism link and vaccines really did cause autism and my son would be the first causal link? What was I going to do? Well the first thing I did was march down to the bookstore and purchase myself a copy of that infamous Dr. Sears vaccine book. I read it front to back, highlighted passages, and shared sections with my husband. He was a believer now too! Luckily, I had a seasoned pediatrician who discussed and vetted my concerns with me and ultimately I relied on his expertise and experience and fully vaccinated my child. And, by the way, he was fine. He cried but it was fleeting, no fever, no lethargy, just my beautiful baby, except now he was protected.
Fast-forward to 2013: I am now the proud mother of two boys who are fully vaccinated. I work in the field of immunizations and ironically enough, I work on a campaign to empower parents to speak up about the importance of vaccines: that they are a smart, healthy decision, not only for the health of your child, but for the whole community. I wish other parents in my mom’s group had the guts or the knowledge to speak up and say that vaccines were safe, and that they were going to vaccinate their kids on the recommended schedule. Instead I heard from the minority, the vocal minority who scared the crap out of the sleep-deprived shell of who I am today. My reactions and emotions would have been so different 4 ½ years ago if just one mommy had stuck up for vaccines.
This is why campaigns like the Immunity Community and events like we hosted at Town Hall are so important. Social networks (as we are finding out) are such a key influence on us moms. We need pro-vaccine mommies to share the benefits of vaccines, so instead of fearing vaccines, we fear the diseases they protect against. Here are a few quotes and thoughts that resonated with me from the Town Hall event (which you can watch online), what resonates with you?
“Parents who delay or space out shots feel they have some control but in fact they are putting their children at risk; Dr. Bob Sears is preying on parent’s concerns.” -Seth Mnookin
“We put so much money and resources into vaccines so that we never see and experience the diseases they prevent but so little money goes into autism research and support yet we see or know people with autism every day.” -Seth Mnookin
“People feel smarter if they are outsmarting the consensus.” – Wendy Sue Swanson
“Delaying vaccines puts infants at risk when they are most vulnerable. It is not any safer.” -Wendy Sue Swanson
“How do you figure out what the truth is? Identify when you are making a decision based on emotion vs. science; ask yourself, am I having an emotional reaction?” – Seth Mnookin