Archive for the ‘Vaccines’ Category

Bad FaithRecently Dr. Paul Offit, a doctor and author who I greatly respect, wrote a new book, Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine. I knew from reading reviews and from participating in a conference call through Voices for Vaccines that this was going to be a hard book to read. Not just as a Christian, but also as a mother. I know the most visceral emotion I feel when my children are in pain, the fear when I don’t know what’s wrong, the panic when the fever starts to creep up. I won’t read books or stories where children suffer and die. I avoid news headlines. So picking up this book and knowing what’s in it is a difficult and painful thing for me to do.

I’m going to review this book chapter by chapter from the perspective of a Christian (I’m a Calvinist), a pastor’s wife, and a mother. This isn’t going to be cold and analytical, these are going to be my emotions and perhaps even my tears.

Dr. Offit, in his introduction, commends religion for the good acts and in fact dedicates this book to “all those who perform good deeds in the name of their faith.” I respect that he hasn’t taken a hostile view like Dawkins or Hitchens and that he admits the good commands that those who believe are called to do. While I don’t believe good works is how we enter into heaven (salvation is through faith in Christ), I do hear what James says when he writes that faith without works is dead in this.

Chapter One

I know the second I see the name and the religion where the story is going to end and my stomach churns and twists. I hate Christian Science. I hate it. I don’t hate the people within, I hate the lie that they’ve been told. Before I explain the story of Rita Swan, who watched her child die of a preventable illness (bacterial meningitis), I want to quote Offit with regards to Christian Science as I think it is incredibly accurate:

Eddy used the term Science because healings could be demonstrated, and Christian because healings follow the ministry of Jesus. Christian Science, however, differs from Christianity in nearly every central doctrine; mot importantly, whereas Christians believe that Jesus died for their sins, Christian Scientists believe that Jesus died to prove that diseases aren’t real. As for the word Science, Christian Science doesn’t incorporate any known scientific discipline. Arguably, Christian Science is neither Christian nor Science.

This is vital to understand no matter your faith or lack thereof. Christian Scientists aren’t Christians. Furthermore their beliefs are deadly. This is evident in Rita’s story.

For an opening chapter, this packs a punch. I could barely breathe as I read through the Christian Science practitioners blaming Rita for not believing enough. That they all stood by, so convinced of a lie, that when this child was screaming in pain they did nothing. Admittedly, I grabbed my toddler and I held him so tightly and yes, I thanked God for vaccines, for the doctors at our local clinic, for modern medicine.

I held back tears when Rita and her husband realized much too late that they’d been lied to.

This is how the chapter ends, with the death of a child. A baby.

It’s only chapter one and I’m furious.

 

 

 

 

“Oh look, she’s writing about vaccines again,” they said.

Recently, the FDA announced that it has approved Gardasil 9, a vaccine that protects against nine strains of HPV (the one currently on the schedule protects against four). HPV, Human Papillomavirus to get technical, causes genital warts and is linked to several types of cancer, the most common being cervical cancer. It is, frankly, a pretty awesome vaccine. In the words of my doctor, “It prevents cancer!”

Lies

via RtAVM

That being said, the HPV vaccine has been a hard sell to parents. There are a number of theories why and most come down to a parental reluctance to deal with their children and sexuality. HPV is sexually transmitted and it’s estimated that most will be exposed at some point in their lives. Because of the nature of the vaccine, it’s a popular one for vaccine deniers to lampoon through false rumors and misinformation. Couple that with parental fears and Facebook, and it starts to look like an uphill battle.

So, for the sake of brevity, let me dispel some of that misinformation – No, Diane Harper was not a lead researcher and no she didn’t say what you think she said. Also, no, the HPV vaccine isn’t killing anyone, it’s actually an incredibly safe vaccine. And finally, no, it’s not making kids more promiscuous.

Putting aside the blatant misinformation passed around, if I can even get someone to admit that it’s misinformation, the most common argument I hear from parents is either, “I’m going to teach them safe sex” (which doesn’t really protect them) or, “We believe that sex is for marriage and so if our kid isn’t having sex until marriage, they don’t need this vaccine.”

I’m theologically conservative, which probably doesn’t mean what most of you think it means, but for this particular post, it does mean that I believe that sex is for marriage. It’s part of a greater system of belief so if you think that’s absurd, that’s fine, move along because I’m not talking to you (or stay and figure out how to talk with your conservative friend(s)). My hope, in writing this post, is to explain why I intend to vaccinate my children per the CDC schedule and why I think it’s important that others who believe like me do so as well.

Here are the reasons I plan on vaccinating my kids (currently I only have boys):

1. Not all sex is consensual.

If I had a single silver bullet to the “no sex before marriage” it’s this one. Man or woman, rape and sexual assault happen. I’ll go ahead and pre-empt this thought that might be half-forming in some people’s minds – would you tell your son or daughter that they were “asking” for it if they got raped, no matter the circumstances? Rape is a horrendous act. One with many lasting consequences, some longer than others. HPV can cause cancer in both men and women and it usually happens years later. If I can protect my child against one more painful experience with a simple, safe series of shots that I don’t even have to pay for, count me in.

2. Children make poor choices.

Maybe you’re the rare bird that didn’t make a single bad choice, like ever, and certainly didn’t struggle in waiting until marriage for sex. Newsflash, the rest of us were very eager to get married because waiting is hard even if you really, really, really believe it. Some wait and are successful. Others slip up. Are abnormal pap smears, discomfort from genital warts, or death from cancer all something you would wish on a child because of a bad choice? Call me crazy if you will, but I think cancer is a little over the top when it comes to punishment for slipping up.

3. Children don’t always follow their parents.

I hate this one. The idea that my children might reject what I believe is scary. I don’t believe what I do just because I’m trying to be cool (kickin’ it Puritan style). What I believe is vital to who I am and my life. I pray for my children. I love them. I want them to believe.

I also know I can’t make them believe. God regenerates the heart, not me. Homeschooling them, taking them to church, family Bible studies… these don’t change hearts. Certainly I pray that God will honor the work and love I have poured into them and at the same time, I’m not God.

So, if they choose a different path, I want them protected. I want there to be as much time as possible for God to work in them. I don’t want them passing along something to their future spouse. I don’t want them getting sick themselves.

I could never say to my child, “Good riddance, you totally deserve the agony you’re going through right now.” I’m pretty sure most of the people I know would say the same.

4. I know one shot doesn’t undo years of discipleship and training.

Maybe this shot daunts some parents because what do we say? I plan on being honest. I still have a few years to work it out and I also know that I have a thoughtful kid. I’m raising my children in a world that doesn’t believe like we do, that things happen sometimes that we can’t control, that this is one more way for me to protect him.

That being said, sometimes we don’t give ourselves or our kids enough credit. We live with all sorts of experiences and beliefs that on the surface look contradictory, but when we dig down are connected together in a way that is incredibly complex. Part of growing up is realizing that not everything is black and white and learning how to navigate the gray. Our kids are often more intuitive than we realize.

5. You don’t know what their future spouse has gone through.

I don’t know the road my children’s spouses will walk. Maybe they grew up believing the same things I teach my children. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe their parents read one too many Facebook posts and didn’t vaccinate them against HPV. Maybe my child goes wayward and then marries someone who didn’t go wayward. Just like what I wrote above – I don’t want anyone getting sick, my child or his future wife.

6. I’ve seen what cervical cancer can do.

I won’t elaborate on this because it still hurts my heart. There is nothing like watching a friend die. I’ll be honest, if my head wasn’t in this, having seen the agony firsthand, my heart jumped in with both feet. I never want to see this happen to my children or their spouses.

So here I am at the end.

Maybe at this point you think I’m a liberal heathen (even though I said that I thought sex was for marriage and I think the Reformation is awesome and most of my liberal friends try to pretend I don’t believe half of what I do). Or maybe you sat through my post for some reason but still think I’m just a vaccine nut (or a religious one; Calvinists are a little crazy, I won’t lie). Maybe, though, you still have doubts. If it’s the last one on that list, I’m happy to answer questions, soothe fears, assuage doubts. I care about kids. All kids. Including yours :)

 

My paternal grandmother was known for her lack of skepticism. There was a saying in our family – “If the snake oil man is in town, she’s buying.” She insisted every time I saw her that she was getting better even though she clearly wasn’t. Perhaps she hoped sheer willpower would save her life but as I often pointed out to her, even if she’d magically been cured of her ailments, at 70+, she was on the wrong side of spry.

I used to think that getting taken in by charlatans was something only people on the fringe and a little unhinged tended to do (my grandmother used to also talk about the Bildebergs and something about global domination). However, as I’ve become more vocal about my position on vaccines (I’m for, very for, 100% for), I’ve noticed that people I consider relatively put together are buying into the weird, wild world of conspiracies. They’ll whisper to me about vaccines with things like, “Don’t you know what’s IN them?!” (I do, thank you, which ingredient would you like to discuss?) or “They cause autism!!” (for the 800 bajillionth time, they don’t. They don’t. They don’t. Stop it). In fact, I could list a dozen more but every single one of them is based on fear and misinformation.

So the next time you read an article on the internet, ask yourself these questions:

1. Is there a store?

Every single nutjob site out there that posts nutjob articles has a store. Mercola has a store. NaturalNews has a store. Tenpenny has a store. Seriously, I went to every one of these pages just to tell you for sure that they have a store. This is a red flag. It doesn’t mean they’re wrong (that would be a logical fallacy) but it does mean you should eye their information a little more carefully. Mercola, for example, sells a 30 day supply of his “Premium Immune Support” package for $69.97 that is put together based on claims from articles on his own website. Do you know how much my flu shot cost me? $0. If they are telling you something is bad but then offering to sell you something good, that is a red flag.

Calvin & Hobbes Natural

2. Do they cite their sources?

NaturalNews is notorious for citing themselves as a source. They’re so hilariously wrong 99.9% of the time that I wonder why they haven’t been categorized as a comedy site. However, for kicks, I’ve debunked their articles for friends because I can’t let that crap just go unanswered. When I manage to dig out their sources (by having to do my own google search), all I find are twisted words and lots and lots of lies. Occasionally they’ll have a link to a scientific study that usually doesn’t say what they think it says. So check the facts.

3. Google the title of the article.

I’ve found that crazy nutjob articles are usually only reposted on other nutjob sites, very rarely do they ever see the light of mainstream media. I’m not saying that this is the litmus test (all of these suggestions should be used together). What I’m saying is, if Mercola is posting it and then it’s NaturalNews and then it’s Whale.to, you probably have a tabloid article on your screen.

4. Does it make any logical sense?

This seems obvious and yet I see the stupid onion article posted and reposted so clearly people are not asking themselves this last question. Why the hell would an onion suck the virus out of the air? If you really think it’s plausible look for the science behind it. Or at a minimum, please check Snopes. But just stop yourself and think “Does it make sense?” For example, all the claims made about vaccines boil down to having to believe that pharmaceutical companies are paying off all the scientists in the world. The entire world. Look, I know Big Pharma can be shady and I know they rake in a lot of money, but it makes more sense that they rake in the dough for things like Viagra and Cialis and painkillers than they do on vaccines (and truthfully vaccines make up less than 2% of their revenue). Where are the Facebook posts telling me Big Pharma is giving everyone erectile dysfunction?

This is by no means a comprehensive list. In fact, I recommend the less snarky post here. My point is, before you repost, before you whisper it to a friend, before you claim it as fact, check yourself. Make sure your source is good.

Oh. And get your flu shot if you haven’t.

I’m a vaccine advocate. If you know me on Facebook, you’re aware of my myriad of posts encouraging people to go get their flu shots (seriously, go get it). What most people don’t know is why I’m a vaccine advocate. Why do I take every single opportunity to yammer on about polio and measles and the flu shot?

It started with Brady. I was pregnant with J and I came across this little baby’s story. I broke down and cried; I sobbed. My heart hurt in one of the worst ways, but I know it was nothing compared to how Brady’s mother felt. That pain started me onto this journey from being a parent who vaccinates to a pro-vaccine parent.

I started reading. Then I got angry.

See, pertussis has a vaccine. It’s not a perfect vaccine. It’s not the best vaccine, but it’s what we have and people are refusing to vaccinate their kids or themselves. Vaccines have done such a fantastic job that first world mothers are going “Well, really, was measles so bad?” and “What about all the toxins?” without understanding half of what they’re saying because they’re educated and know more than their doctor with a medical degree and their “thousands of hours of research” on Google is somehow equivalent to the research done in labs by scientists (who, again, have actual degrees).

If you didn’t pick up on my tone, I’m still angry two years later.

My anger, my frustration, has taken a new form, however. I’m a pastor’s wife. I have held the hand of the broken, the sick, and the dying. I have prayed with them. I have wept with them.

So imagine my frustration – my fury – when I found out people who call themselves Christians weren’t vaccinating. I couldn’t understand it, as many of them said they were pro-life. Pro-life. Pro-life and yet they didn’t see the point in a vaccine that would have most likely saved little Brady’s life. Pro-life and they refuse to vaccinate against a disease that can kill a child in its mother’s womb. Pro-life and they refused to get shots that would protect the weakest among us.

Why, I wondered, why would they refuse?

That’s when I put the pieces together. The anti-vaccine movement is relatively evenly split between liberals and conservatives and spans all faiths and even attracts those who are non-religious.

The people who are anti-vaccine are generally in love with all things “natural” and organic. They worship nature. I’ve listened as Christians make the argument that God made our bodies a certain way, totally skipping over the parts of the Bible where we’re cursed. In fact, the Bible does not speak highly of “natural” anything. At best, it’s neutral and at worst, it’s damned to hell.

Here are the facts – as Christians we have a moral duty to vaccinate. The Bible tells us to care for our neighbors, for widows, for orphans, for the lowly and the broken. If you call yourself a Christian, you have an obligation to get immunized if you are medically able.

If you are pro-life, secular or religious, if you want to be consistent, then you need to vaccinate.

If you care about anyone other than yourself – regardless of beliefs – then you need to vaccinate.

I happen to be a pro-life Christian and I can’t reconcile worship at the altar of “all natural”* with my faith. So if you can and you claim to be like me, then you need to take another look at that Bible. And if you do vaccinate, please, please don’t be silent. For the sake of the babies, the immuno-compromised, for the sake of your neighbors – love them in this way. Love them with life.

Voices for Vaccines

*I’m not saying we avoid things that say natural or that we shouldn’t be “crunchy” at all, there are benefits to certain things that are considered “hippy” or “crunchy”, but when one chooses “all natural” at the expense of truth, that’s when it’s become “worship” in my book.