Freedom, Responsibility, Education, and Vaccines

Speaking up for vaccines is important. I didn’t know that it was until I had kids. Even in the beginning, I was the opposite of vocal on parenting choices, mostly because as soon as I was a mother, I became painfully aware of the constant judgment we face. Beginning before the baby even arrives we get the comments, the sideways glances, the blatant remarks that make us question if we are doing the best job. I find it absolutely ridiculous

1415655337038I used to work with children in the foster care system, so I have heard some egregious accounts of abuse. When I hear a friend cry that she is a “bad mother” because her child watched several hours of TV so she could finish a project, it breaks my heart. Of course we all want to do what is best for our children, and of course we should set high standards, but how did society breed such criticism that we can so often feel like we are failing, even when we are excellent?

So if I strive to support and empower mothers, why am I so vocal about this one choice: vaccines? Because vaccines are not a personal choice.

The matter of choice seems to be building momentum within the anti-vaccine community. I’ve seen the issue framed as–not being anti-vaccines per se, but being pro-freedom to choose what is best for your family. That is some clever messaging, because who wants to be against freedom?

Vaccine advocates must speak up about this topic because we are indeed pro-freedom. We support a community free from preventable disease by protecting the rights of those vulnerable to a healthy life. Children should be free to go to school without contracting a preventable disease. The immunocompromised deserve the freedom to take part in society without being exposed to preventable disease. Newborn babies have the right to be protected, as do pregnant women and their unborn children. As long as vaccine exemptions exist, the best tool we have is awareness and education. Freedom is not being allowed to make irrational decisions that harm others.

Unfortunately we are up against a dangerous amount  of misinformation, and it is especially troubling when it is propagated by individuals who are seen as health advisors. A few months ago I learned that a conference called the Freedom for Family Wellness Summit was coming to Reston, Virginia which is in my home of Fairfax County. With a target audience of chiropractors, the attendees will hear from a number of keynote speakers who are infamous in anti-vaccine circles. Practitioners, whom many people see as a health care provider, will be listening to dangerous pseudoscience and whatever misinformation is received will be trickling into our communities. We needed to respond, so we organized a event for the same weekend.

On November 15 at 10:30 am at the Reston Regional Library we will be presenting “Vaccines and your Family.” Parents will receive accurate science-based information about vaccines and will have the opportunity to ask questions of panelists Dr. Emily Faltemier MD, Dr. Erica Brown MD, and Joanna Hemmet RN.

I encourage anyone in the DC Metro area to attend this event, and to spread the word. And if you live elsewhere, please host a similar event in your community by using the Voices for Vaccines Parent Advocacy Toolkit–assistance is available to make your event successful.

In most states parents do have the right to choose vaccines, and we have the responsibility to protect our community by ensuring that decision is made with the best scientific information available. I believe that most parents are simply trying to do everything they can to protect their children and it makes sense that many have questions about vaccines–there are some scary rumors out there. Fortunately, we have answers to the questions and we parents can help empower our peers with the facts they need to make the healthy choice to vaccinate.

Karrie Delaney lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two children. She is a communications strategist with a commitment to charitable organizations. Karrie represents Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.