Tara Hills came out publicly for vaccinating after her 7 children all came down with whooping cough.
The Hills family pre-cough. (via The Scientific Parent)
If there's one thing I never expected, it's that vaccines would become controversial again in my lifetime. Sure, people weren't sold on them when they were new, but that was 200 years ago. Many of the most common vaccines we use today are close to 100 years old, and have decades of medical research supporting their effectiveness and safety. The anti-vaccination movement, however, is mainly based on one discredited study from 1998.
The overwhelming evidence and public opinion in support of vaccines often make anti-vaxxers feel persecuted, however, and cause them to become more resolute in their stance. One example is Tara Hills of Ottawa, Canada, who decided to stop vaccinating her seven kids due to distrust of the medical community. She wrote in a blog post on The Scientific Parent:
We had vaccinated our first three children on an alternative schedule and our youngest four weren't vaccinated at all. We stopped because we were scared and didn't know who to trust. Was the medical community just paid off puppets of a Big Pharma-Government-Media conspiracy?
The answer is "maybe, but you should still vaccinate." Hills and her husband started to change their mind when the Disneyland measles outbreak hit, and had a real epiphany when they saw a similar measles outbreak among anti-vaxxers they knew personally. They scheduled a catch-up vaccine schedule for their children, but the week it was supposed to start, all seven kids came down with a nasty cough.
When the kids didn't get better, they realized their fears had come true: all of the kids were infected with whooping cough. Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease that can be fatal in young children. An effective vaccine has existed since 1925.
Here's The Washington Post's recap of the story:
Hills wrote the aforementioned blog post while under quarantine with her kids. Since then, they've all recovered, and are back on a vaccination schedule. Hills says she wrote her post to reach out to two groups. She wants to reach out to anti-vaxxers and urge them to reconsider, for their children's sake and the public good. But interestingly, she also wants to reach out to passionate pro-vaxxers, and tell them to change their approach to the anti-vax community. Instead of attacking them or calling them ignorant, she wants us to take a compassionate approach, and extend an olive branch of mutual understanding. That way, they will be less defensive, and more likely to change their minds.
This is an important message. Vaccinations are not just important for the kids who receive them. A large number of unvaccinated children puts the health of everyone else at risk. When that's at stake, we shouldn't let our anger and self-righteousness dictate our decisions. We need to be nice to anti-vaxxers, for the greater good. Yes, even Jenny McCarthy.