Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Autism Answer: Vaccines and Autism: A (Valid) Distraction

In the autism community there is a battle that rages. Well, there are a few, but none seem to be as emotionally charged as the vaccine wars. Are vaccines linked to autism? Are they the cause? Are they a trigger? Are they absolutely unrelated and a convenient scapegoat for those desperate for answers?

Well, I don’t know. What I do know is that the fighting has become a pretty useful distraction for those interested in taking away our right to choose and to educate ourselves freely.

It is not wacky or conspiracy conjuring to imagine why and how Big Pharma and even the CDC would want us forced into an intense immunization schedule. The amazing advances in medicine cost money, the millions of people employed in a system that saves lives costs money, there is the fear of polio, measles, mumps, rubella and meningitis, the habit of Band-aiding problems as they arise rather than admit to mistakes,  the money that can be made while medicating said problems, I get it. But that doesn’t make it okay.

Why are parents who dare to ask vaccination questions so openly painted as bad parents? Often accused of risking the death of their child for fears of disability, chronic health issues and more? Should parents not be applauded when they question what is being forced into their little ones? It's not (usually) a fear of autism or other specific disability that has them questioning the shot schedule and ingredients, but rather a natural protective parenting instinct. Almost always they are asking for safe vaccines, not no vaccines.

And why are parents who wait patiently in waiting rooms in order to vaccinate their loved ones often treated as uneducated sheep, following the herd? Though pro-vaccination is the bigger camp, it is still true that parents who believe in keeping their children safe by following the recommended vaccine schedule often find themselves looked down upon by moms and dads who feel "better than" or "smarter than" for having done all kinds of research, digging deep into science and studies, to come to a different conclusion. 

Like most great distractions, the links between immunizations, inflammation, immune disorders, seizures, autism etc. need to be explored; with honesty and integrity. However, the question of whether a body of others—government for example—has the right to tell you that you must stick lab baked viruses, preservatives and human tissue (along with its DNA) into your child, or yourself, is where the conversations narrative should be centered.

*An Honest Aside: I am neither for nor against vaccinations. I believe that both choices carry risks. I am for safe vaccines even if they are more expensive. I am for freedom and transparency. Lofty goals? Why yes!

When my mom, who is an international brain expert specializing in autism, was interviewed on a morning show in Uganda, the host nearly fell out of his chair after she revealed that the kind hearted volunteers he had mentioned were injecting viruses in the children. He was under the impression that it was a drug. Had he been lied to? Had he just misunderstood?

Again, I don’t know. But I’ll bet it wasn’t explained clearly because people who love children, and love helping, felt a need to save the little darlings. The end justifies the means.

I am of the opinion that we should not be lied to, and that we should have the freedom to make our own choices, even if those choices are perceived by others as dangerous. Yes, even if your choice may put me in danger. I like laws and rules, but a bare minimum. Ask my boys!

My Vaccination Story: When I was a young mom, taking my boys for their shots felt wonderful and very "mom" like. I didn’t even wonder what was in the vaccine. I had always believed that introducing a bit of virus to our immune system so it could study the enemy seemed brilliant and all natural, which was enough for me. I truly just loved playing the part of responsible mom. No part of me feels guilt or shame for having vaccinated my boys then. I chose it with pride!

When my youngest son was born they wanted to vaccinate him straight out of the womb. I didn’t like it, but chose to ignored the little nagging I felt. I’m not comfortable with confrontation and it was easy to assume they knew what they were doing. My son soon began to avoid eye contact, was sensory challenged, vomited constantly, had seizures, and still has a struggling immune system. I never wondered about the vaccine connection out loud, after all he had been moments old when he received the shots so there was no reason to assume things would have been different without them. However, the thought bounced around my brain a bit.

But that’s not the climatic (to me) event in my vaccine story. It was a few years later, when I was told that my boys had to get a shot for chickenpox if I wanted them to continue in school. Everything in me screamed no. Chickenpox? Most of us have been through it and our bodies have become so much stronger for it. And the intermittent exposure we adults have to kids with the virus acts as a natural booster, protecting many of us from shingles. How will we get our natural boosters if no one has chickenpox? Also, by this time I had grown-up enough to know better than to see these man-made concoctions as "all natural". This vaccine was new, and I was very uncomfortable. My gut turned and I didn’t feel right. However, I took my boys and did what I was told. That day it was I who avoided eye contact. With my children, with the nurses, with my family, I choked back tears and looked away for fear of seeing me in their eyes. It wasn’t so much about the varicella shot, in truth I knew nothing at all about it, or the potential benefits and dangers. It was because I felt trapped and afraid. It’s my "vaccination story" because I hadn’t been willing to risk dirty looks and confrontation, I didn’t feel educated enough to argue any points, I had been told that it had to be done or I would be reported to Family Services, and saying no because I was uncomfortable (or because I didn’t know enough to say yes comfortably) is frowned upon. This is a painful memory because I hadn’t stepped up and taken care of my kids my own way, but rather failed them by fearing the judgments of others.

So I ask that we not look down at people who remember a time when hand washing was considered ludicrous, when ‘night gasses’ were believed to cause malaria and mosquito nets were for loons, who remember when GMO’s were a potentially safe solution to the hunger problem, or when smoking Tobacco was being touted as safe by the CDC. Parents who have seen that just because smoking causes cancer in one person and not another, while still others get cancer that is completely unrelated to cigarettes at all, does not mean that smoking doesn’t cause cancer.  I ask that we not treat them as though they don’t have the right to ask questions, and consider all options, when it comes to what they do-- or do not-- consider healthy for their child.

And I beg that we continue to see how amazing we are as humans—having created vaccines, life -saving medications, cellular phones and espresso machines —and to remember that it’s only with freedom and a curious nature that we will continue to surprise ourselves and make advances of such import.

The vaccines and autism connection is a worthy distraction, but let’s please remember that it is a freedom to decide for ourselves that we need to keep our eye on!  The freedom to choose and learn the truth.

“If the people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”  -Thomas Jefferson  

"I'd rather live in a world that often allows the criminal to remain free, than one that often locks away the innocent. There are mistakes on every side, I'd rather live with the mistakes of freedom."~Tsara Shelton (me!)