Why one parent decided to vaccinate

By Phil Plait | January 28, 2010 11:40 am

When confronted with arguments over an issue, how do you decide what to do? Especially when, to you, both sides seem to make good points?

I’ve written about this before, and won’t belabor the logic process that goes into decision making over a contentious issue — even if the controversy is manufactured, as it is for vaccinations.

Instead, I’ll give you an anecdote. When making a scientific argument anecdotes should be avoided, since they are the beginning of inquiry, not the endpoint. But I’m not trying to make a scientific argument here, I’m hoping to support the decision making process… and sometimes a good example is worth a dozen detailed instructions, so read this essay by a worried parent over his decision to vaccinate his child. It’s a wonderful tale from someone who managed to find the narrow path of reality having once been well away from it.

If you’re a new parent wondering whether to vaccinate your children, then you absolutely have to read that essay. You’re not alone out there. There are lots of people who have been through what you have, and some of them have figured out how to make the right decision.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Skepticism
MORE ABOUT: antivax

Comments (21)

  1. Greg in Austin

    Speaking of vaccinations, this in the news today:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8483865.stm

    “The doctor who first suggested a link between MMR vaccinations and autism acted unethically, the official medical regulator has found.”

    Note the chart at the bottom of the article. Also, is it normal for doctors to pay kids money for their blood at birthday parties?

    8)

  2. Carl Gelfand

    I dont belive everybody should be vaccinated because some are made from eggs, some people are alergic to eggs.

    I myself am alegic to eggs and i would be dead or very sick if i got vaccinated.

    O and by the way i know so much and im ony 12 years old!!!

    Mr. phil plait (sorry if name spelled wrong) I met you at a lecture at carl sagan day at BCC. I was the one named after carl sagan.
    Im sorry i havent been on the website lately i got grounded-_-. as they say “boys will be boys” (: (: (:

  3. John

    It depends on the vaccine, doesn’t it?

    Most are safe and necessary, but the controversy surrounding the necessity of the swine flu vaccine is well-founded, IMO, and the jury is still out on the links between vaccines and severe cases of ME, highlighted in the UK by the recent decision by Lynn Gilderdale’s mother to assist in her suicide after suffering from the illness for 15 years

    Now that was a difficult decision by a parent.

  4. boatman

    Jesus H., dude, post some stuff on astronomy. Activism is fine, but you’re turning science into Sunday school.

  5. I have a better idea, boatman (#4): read this.

  6. Added this to antiantivax.flurf.net under Additional Resources.

  7. Ed

    My wife and I came up with a vaccination compromise, we only vaccinated the kids in one arm.

  8. Will add this to Facts, not Fantasy as well! Thank you Dr. Plait!

  9. sophia8

    Carl Gelfand@2: Most vaccines are safe for people with egg allergies. The only vaccines that are normally cultivated in eggs or chicken fibroblast tissue are those for swine flu, Yellow Fever, measles and mumps, and there are non-egg alternatives for them all.
    There, now you know a little more. Live long and prosper!

  10. @Carl Gelfand, Just to add to what sophia8 said, I don’t think anyone here would be for 100% vaccinations no matter what the case. There are going to be people who have valid medical reasons why they can’t be vaccinated. (Scared of The Autism isn’t a valid medical reason.) For these people, herd immunity is sufficient assuming enough other people vaccinate. When people en masse decide not to vaccinate, the diseases come back and kill people again (as they have been doing).

  11. NewEnglandBob

    An excellent letter full of the real truth. This is the best line:

    “There are so many examples of just how well they work it’s mind-boggling.”

  12. I just got the H1N1 vaccine, the nasal type. Painless and quick. I wish all my shots could be that nice.

  13. John Paradox

    7. Ed Says:

    My wife and I came up with a vaccination compromise, we only vaccinated the kids in one arm.

    Ha! Ever see the Marx Brothers, I think it was Day At The Races, where Groucho tells Margaret Dumont that she has ‘double blood pressure*’, differing from one arm to the other?

    J/P=?
    *Haven’t watched it for a while, so not sure how it was phrased.

  14. Carl,
    Researchers are working on all kinds of alternatives to using eggs. There are studies on vaccines made from virus-like particles (VLPs), and vaccines genetically incorporated into plants. So stay tuned!

  15. M. Brown

    Phil, thank you sooo much for posting this article. My grandchildren are, fortunately, vaccinated. However, it is my daughter’s age group that has been influenced by the anti vax proponents. Some precious little ones have not been vaccinated because their loving, well meaning parents have believed what the anti vax people have said. We know that these people can present their views in such a way that it sounds convincing. The article was well written, intelligent, and has a very human touch. This can be more influential for some young parents than purely scientific articles.
    BTW luv your Blog and its variety of topics. I have to refrain from reading it until later in the day because I can spend so much time reading your Blog and the comments and following your links to other pages. It can take a very long time, but it is always enjoyable and thought provoking,

  16. M. Brown

    —–and the jury is still out on the links between vaccines and severe cases of ME, highlighted in the UK by the recent decision by Lynn Gilderda—–
    This is a story that I was not aware of. What an aweful position for a parent to be in.
    The comment caught my attention because I have ME—most definately not anywhere as severely as this child. Although I do not know why I developed it, I do know exactly when it reared its ugly head and changed my life. Vaccinations had nothing to do with it in my case.

  17. davem

    @JP:
    I was in hospital recently, and, on one occasion, had my blood pressure taken in both arms. The results were different…

  18. jdw242b

    I’m not a new parent, but even when I was, we decided that doing the right thing meant having our children vaccinated. It is the right thing to do for the whole. To quote Spock “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” I’m no island, and to subject others to the dangers of some sickness because I’m being too short sighted to educate myself means I’m the outlaw; not everyone else.

    I’m glad to see that evidence is taking it’s rightful place in the world.

  19. Anne J

    One of the items I like to discuss when I speak to a person who is unwilling to vaccinate themselves, is to think about the immunosupressed people the come into contact with. At this point in time almost all of us come into contact with someone who has HIV, who is undergoing treatment for cancer or other illnesses that affect their ability to fight illness. These people have a high probability they will die if they get the flu, and cannot receive the vaccination themselves. If you remain un-vaccinated you risk passing it on to one of these people. That in my mind makes you the cause of their death. Involuntary manslaughter at best. The same thing with masses of people with respiratory disease. How many asthmatics do you know? Are you willing to be the cause of their death?

  20. Parents, of course have been coming to this realization for 300 years:

    “In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the small-pox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it, by example showing that the regret may be the same either way and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen. ”

    -Benjamin Franklin

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin

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