Home Home About Zen Mama Contact

Monday, January 26, 2015

Vaccines: The Gray Area

"Black and white thinking comes with the assumption that we always know where to 'draw lines in the sand.' But the truth is we don’t. Sometimes new information and new experiences tell us we need to adjust those lines we draw. And without this open-mindedness, we will always be trapped within those same limitations." ~Steven Handel

My personal Facebook newsfeed is filled with two kinds of posts:

- vaccines are Satanic, evil, horrible inventions and should be avoided at all costs by all people
- vaccines are heaven-sent, miraculous, glorious inventions and should be mandatory for all people at all costs

I'm here to tell you that it's not as black and white as all that. I know. Shocking. There is a gray area. A HUGE gray area.

Not all people who vaccinate are uneducated sheeple.

Not all people who do not vaccinate are uneducated sheeple.

I mean, that is the argument both sides use.

Not all people who selectively vaccinate or do so on a delayed schedule are uneducated and unnecessarily afraid.

So. Much. Gray.

There are pros and cons to every which way you go on this issue. There is no one right answer.

We don't vaccinate. Based on our circumstances and our research to this point, we've decided against it. We started off vaccinating selectively. We researched more and changed our minds. Should circumstances and research dictate, we're open to changing our minds again. And again and again, as changes arise.

Before we even got pregnant, we were pro-vax. I mean, science! I was also all about that hospital birth. Science, I tell you! And circumcision and covering for breastfeeding and never cosleeping. This is just the way you do it. There were no questions. I'm a smart woman. I'm a teacher and in the middle of two graduate degrees, for blog's sake. I'm not risking the health of my child like some crazed hippie. Then, we got to thinking about balance. We found a midwife and in her office we took a class on vaccines, which was our introduction to understanding alternatives. From there, we cross-checked the prevalence of each disease with the ramifications of getting it. Low prevalence and few ramifications meant that vaccine got crossed off our list of what we'd give our child. Again, this was based on our circumstances at the moment. We lived in a place where disease risk was low and medical care was high. Those are still our circumstances. Should those circumstances change, our minds would certainly be open to changing. Also, the amounts and mixes of all of those vaccinations at one time have potentially irreversible and egregious side effects that have not yet been studied long enough (because the schedule hasn't been around long enough and is ever-changing). Again, we did a cost-benefit analysis. That was and is our constant state when it comes to vaccinations. What are the costs vs. benefits? What happens if we wait? What happens if we do nothing right now? Tetanus, for example, is one that seems silly to us. Get the shot to be supposedly immunized, but what's the first thing they'll do if you run a nail through your foot? Give you a tetanus shot. Regardless of whether or not your shots are up to date, they're still going to give you that shot just in case. I'll wait. If we had formula fed, we would've done things much differently. If we lived in a third-world country, we would've done things much differently. I am not anti-vax. We are simply, at this juncture, non-vax. There is a subtle but real difference.*

I've yet to meet someone who chose not to vaccinate who could be called uneducated or under-researched. They may not have PhDs in epidemiology, but they usually have their noses stuck in several books from several sources making sure they're doing what's right for their families.

I have met many who choose to vaccinate who have never researched anything about vaccines. They just do it, because "that's what you do."

Certainly, the two aforementioned scenarios do not apply to everyone. I have no doubt there are those who do not vaccinate just because their friend told them once that they shouldn't and I know for sure there are those who do choose to vaccinate who have their noses in just as many books as their counterparts.

You know who doesn't do research? Those who are just so damn sure they're right. I mean, what do they have to research? They already know it all. I'll take open over arrogant any day.

I grow weary of both sides spouting off about the other, like those who don't do as they do in this regard are just the biggest ignoramuses one could imagine. Why can't we all be open? Why can't we all open ourselves to the very real possibility that both sides have valid points? Most importantly, why can't we open ourselves and remain open to continued research and reflection and the possibility of changing our minds in either direction based on new information? Is that too scary?

*This is by no means an all-inclusive list of why we've chosen what we've chosen up to this point, nor should it be seen as speaking for others who have made similar choices.


  1. Do you mind sharing where you took the vaccine class? I'm in Tucson. We also chose not to vaccinate thus far, for many of the same reasons.. It's just what works for our family.

    1. Unfortunately, it was when we were living in Las Vegas, so it's a bit far for you, I'm afraid. :/