“Cool free-thinkers in Texas are doing their part to “keep Austin weird” by promoting conditions that could lead to deadly outbreaks of funky retro diseases.”
Ho-hum, here we go again. Slate contributor Ruth Graham took a turn with the same tired euphemisms to attack parents who have made a thoughtful decision to selectively, delay, or decline vaccines in the state of Texas. Whimsical beliefs, wrong-thinking parents, Andy Wakefield zealots, herd-immunity killers. It’s the same tired story, written by a “journalist” who does not seem to be a “free-thinker” herself. If she were, she would have taken time to interview parents of vaccine-injured children and those who proactively choose not to vaccinate; to watch the movie Vaxxed which she ridicules; and brush up on the CDC’s latest contraindication list since most vaccines are indeed indicated for those with cancer. If she had, then perhaps Ms. Graham would have written a very different piece.
Since journalistic objectivity doesn’t seem to be in her bailiwick, we’ll take a few moments to set the record straight. I am hoping that Ms. Graham would not be so bold as to invoke the “herd immunity” claim if she isn’t herself part of the herd. The same applies to all of the parents who are slandering others in the all-too-often ugly conversation around vaccines – if you are not up to date then, before bothering to finish this article, head down to your 24-hour CVS and get a DTAP, an MMR booster, a Varicella booster, plus Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, two meningitis, two pneumonia and a Haemophilus Influenzae (HiB) shots. They are all on the CDC adult vaccine schedule. Don’t think you need these? Not at risk? Doesn’t matter. Do it for the sake of the herd.
The real bummer for Ms. Graham with the “herd-immunity” argument is not only that she herself is likely not part of the herd, but that herd-immunity is based on a hypothesis regarding naturally-acquired, lifelong immunity, as opposed to short-term, vaccine-induced immunity. The math does not work. Our country’s population is nowhere near herd-immunity levels on any of the diseases in the CDC schedule. Children make up about 40% of the population, and most of the adult population has little to no vaccine coverage. It’s simple math. Even us Austin parents of children in these “free-thinking” private schools can calculate the percentages. But for the sake of hypocrisy, Ms. Graham, please do share your shot record once you’re fully up to date.
Moving on, to add much-needed clarity and context to the Slate piece – yes, in the last 13 years more parents are seeking exemptions from the standard CDC vaccine schedule. Not only is the number of exemptions rising, but also is the number of recommended vaccines. A parent may choose to opt out of a single vaccine, such as the Hep B vaccine (a disease passsed primarily through unprotected sex and the sharing of dirty needles), and still be required to file the exemption form. The number of exemptions does not tell a complete picture of what medical procedures parents are opting against for their children. Yes, vaccines are medical procedures – ones that carry risk of injury or death. The Austin Waldorf School (AWS) is specifically mentioned because up to 40% of students are not fully vaccinated. Since the Texas Department of State Health Services has been reporting on this data, the exemption rate has been between 35-40%. Based on what public health experts say, surely AWS has been the epicenter of deadly disease outbreaks. Yet there have been no outbreaks, no deaths, simply a private school focused on raising well-rounded thinkers who grow up learning how to think, not what to think. This is very scary for pharmaceutical companies.
In the childhood vaccine debate, it’s important to remember we all want the same thing – healthy children that thrive and reach their full potential. It’s when parents start digging into the related questions like immunity at what cost, and what is the evidence, that the disagreement ensues. I find it amusing that health experts and pseudo-journalists alike are baffled that vaccine exemption rates are higher in wealthy, highly educated communities. It is very difficult to marry the narrative that those with high incomes and college degrees are the same parents who are duped by “Playboy bunnies” and a “disgraced” British doctor. Instead, the profile of the vaccine-questioning parent should beg the question – what do these parents know or what have they experienced that leads them to their beliefs?
Ms. Graham calls this very belief system “whimsical.” Perhaps she should ask a parent of a child who suffers from lifelong vaccine injury if it feels playfully fanciful to drive their child to therapy, or watch their child suffer seizures, or spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to undo the damage that came as a result of trusting their doctor’s recommendation to vaccinate. Other parents who are choosing to delay or selectively vaccinate are doing so because they have watched what has happened to other children; or they have tried to dig into the vaccine safety research only to find out that there is no single safety study on the complete vaccine schedule; or that the CDC is full of fraud, corruption and pharmaceutical influence, and thankfully now a whistleblower. There are countless other reasons parents file vaccine waivers, and they’re private. They are between the parents and, when appropriate, the doctors caring for their children. The parents opting out of vaccines are not “free-thinking” or “wrong-thinking” as Ms. Graham states, but rather, much more simply, they are thinking parents.
Texans for Vaccine Choice does not offer medical advice or recommendations for or against vaccines. Instead, we make information available to parents regarding their legal rights to make vaccine choices for their children. We empower and educate parents on state vaccine policy. So if Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine is correct in saying we are to blame for rising exemptions in Texas, it is through clarifying misinformation coming from schools across the state – and we are thrilled with the credit.
Haven’t we reached the tipping point in America where we can have a respectful, authentic conversation about why our children have rates of chronic illness and neuro-developmental disorders never before seen? It’s bears repeating – we all want the same thing of healthy, thriving children.
Ms. Graham, rather than broad-stroking parents as “wrong-thinking,” please put on your journalist hat and spend some time understanding the other side, not lambasting it. I’m happy to put you in touch with parents who watched their children regress or suffer catastrophic illness in the days following vaccines. I’ll send you a copy of Vaxxed. Dig into the information, the stories, the data, and you’ll see for yourself why parents have conscientious objections to the CDC vaccine schedule and why schools with high opt-out rates are full of healthy, flourishing children.