My early life was spent in a happy hippie home in Canberra. I remember conversations about vaccination; I had been vaccinated and some of my parent’s friends did not agree with this.
My mother was a scientist and a feminist who thought that raising ‘thinking’ girls was very important. She would always ask, “Have you seen the original study?” “Who published the information?” “Do you think it is a good source?” Occasionally she would raise an eyebrow and say, “I think that statement lacks scientific rigour.”
When I made the decision to have children, I read information on vaccines from the Internet and chatted to other mums. A friend sent me Jenny McCarthy’s book. However, the two things that stood out were my own experience, and a lack of ‘scientific rigour’.
My own experience included encountering vaccine preventable illness in South America whilst travelling, knowing a woman in my street who still lives with the effects of meningitis, and seeing my father desperately ill with chicken pox at 60.
When I scratched the surface, a lot of the anti-vax information misquoted or downright misrepresented medical information, and down-played the serious risks of vaccine preventable illness. I was also uncomfortable with the representations of people on the Autism Spectrum as “broken”. The final straw came when a doula in my community made a statement that I knew to be an outright mistruth. This convinced me that anti vaccination campaigners were not correctly checking facts.
I had lingering doubts when we took our eldest to have his 8 week vaccinations. However, it was nothing like I had imagined. No one hid anything. The nurses at the Hilton Community Health Centre spent 15 minutes doing a health check and going through the potential side effects. They respectfully and intelligently answered our questions, and encouraged me to breastfeed to effectively relieve the sting.
Now I am looking forward to my new baby’s vaccinations being complete. The 8 week vaccines made me feel far more confident to take him out with other children, knowing we had lowered his risk of contracting life threatening illnesses.