We started out following the doctor’s orders with our first baby—she received her first year’s vaccines on time. After a period of moving around a bit and coping with some family illness, we fell behind on immunizations, but did manage to catch my daughter up once we had settled in Texas. After a move to Denton, so my husband could complete his last year of college, I gave birth to our second child. With him, something changed. I was just a few immunizations into the schedule when I became skeptical. I’d met several moms in Denton and nearly all–if not all—had been considered “crunchy.” Although some moms in the group were okay with vaccines, other were against them and, for better or worse, I was infected with vaccine fears.
I grew especially close to one of the anti-vaccine moms—whom I still remain a close friend. She too fell victim to some anecdotal stories and pseudoscience, but had unfortunately had first hand experience too. Her second baby had had an adverse reaction to a certain vaccine, confirmed by a doctor. Afterwards she decided to not vaccinate any of her kids anymore. It was a tough choice but how could she risk it?
I was not sure at the time that something like this—a vaccine reaction—was a big risk to all who received vaccines, but my friend would not risk getting the rest of her kids any vaccines. I started conversations with my husband about vaccines and found that he was skeptical of anti-vaccine claims. He encouraged me to do some research, and I did. I found lots of misinformation: blog posts by authors claiming to have knowledge equivalent to that of immunologists/pathologists/chemists but not having any of those credentials. There were sites listing the ingredients in vaccines and all their “negative side effects,” including anecdotal stories of vaccine injury. I didn’t know what to think.
Eventually, my husband graduated and we moved yet again. I no longer saw my Denton friends often, though we still interacted on Facebook. One day, another friend from Denton decided she needed to get her highly active son evaluated for ADHD. She took him to experts, and in doing so gained more trust in the medical community. It turned out her son needed a small dose of medication to help him stay focused. His doctors were attentive and caring and were able to stay connected and in the know with this family.
For me, this was a light bulb moment. As I watched my friend’s trust in the medical community grow deeper, I also saw her reconsidering her stance on vaccines. In fact, she came to believe they were safe and effective. She shared so many articles with me that debunked everything I had previously read. This was important. I needed that to make the flip.
She invited me to a group on Facebook called The Crunchy Skeptics. They are freaking amazing. They share and discuss all “woos” and facts of mostly parenting-related topics and especially vaccines. They are so organized they compile peer-reviewed articles and research papers into saved documents on the Facebook page so that everybody can look in their own little database instead of relying on Google. Over the span of a couple years I learned the truth: vaccines are safe and they work to protect our children and our community from preventable diseases. I made certain to get my kids up-to-date on their vaccines, and haven’t looked back since.
Linnie Cheatham is currently a stay-at-home mom, married with two kids living in Texas. She helps her husband with his business, Growin Green Eco-Farm, which uses a young agriculture method called aquaponics. By using this method, the business saves thousands of gallons of water to grow produce.