Why I No Longer Agree to Disagree with Some of the Anti-Vaccine Crowd

Some of you are about to be offended. I will likely see my follower count drop. I am prepared for that. This is important enough to me that I am willing to risk it. If you need to let me go over this, I wish you the best on the rest of your journey.

For the first time that I can remember, I’m about to talk about vaccines. It’s going to be long. I’m going to be frank. I am not going to leave room for a vast array of opinions. I have had enough. My son deserves my adamant and complete defense. He is the most important thing.

Someone recently called me ignorant for choosing to continue to vaccinate my child after his autism diagnosis. She “believes” autism is caused by vaccines, although there is no actual science to back up that belief. Science points to autism as a difference that exists from the womb to the tomb. She chooses to see it another way.

She chooses to see autism as a problem that needs to be solved. She isn’t alone. There are thousands of anti-vaccine individuals spreading this kind of hideous judgment all over the planet, trampling on autistic children, calling them damaged, injured and broken.

I’m mad as hell. It’s not okay. And I am done being silent. As long as I live and breathe on this planet, nobody is going to tell my child he is damaged or needs to be repaired without me shouting loudly over that nonsense with a message about everything beautiful that he is.

There is a nauseating level of ableism that comes along with the rampant fear-mongering about vaccines and autism. Do you know what a joy and privilege it is to raise my son? Do you have any idea how much sunshine he adds to every single life he touches? If I had a magic genie with unlimited wishes, making Walker neurotypical would never, ever make the list. He is a treasure. Frightening parents into vaccine hesitancy by asserting that their child might end up like mine is disgusting. It’s abhorrent. Repugnant. Anyone would be lucky to have a child exactly like mine. He isn’t suffering with autism. He is living happily and happens to be autistic. He doesn’t need a detox, a f*cking bleach enema or any of the snake oil that anti-vax con-men “experts” try to hock to moms like me.

He just needs to grow up in a loving environment, get the learning support he needs, and become who he is going to be. If you disagree, see yourself out of my social media and my entire life. I’d rather be alone than in the company of anyone who fails to see my son’s inherent beauty, value and worth.

In our home, autism is a variation that we celebrate in Walker as we evaluate his specific needs and help him do his best to succeed in every area. I understand not everyone experiences autism the way we do. But I can only speak for the environment we choose to create in our home for the well-being of our specific child. In this home, for Walker’s sake, no matter where you are on the spectrum, you’re welcome to be your full self. We will work to make sure you’re comfy here.

The person who called me ignorant ended her snarky, obnoxious little rant with #educateyourself.

It’s one of the most annoying phrases on the internet to me. Invariably, when someone says “educate yourself,” what they mean is “come to my conclusion, backed only by opinion and misinformation.”  I never see a truly educated person throwing out this particular admonishment.

I’m not sure why the person who chose to call me ignorant thinks I have no education on the matter, but I know she and I have a very different idea of what vaccine education looks like.

I firmly believe that anyone who thinks they can fully self-educate on this topic via any at-home means is mistaken. Full stop.

Though I have done what I can to “educate myself,” I am self-aware enough to know that yes, I am still technically ignorant.

Ignorant isn’t always an insult, you guys. In this sense, it just means unaware or uninformed.

I wouldn’t say that definition is perfect, but I will say that if you compare my understanding of vaccine science to an actual, qualified vaccine expert, you’d probably conclude that I am ignorant about vaccines.

And I would readily agree.

I am not a vaccinologist, an immunologist, a virologist, an epidemiologist, an infectious disease specialist, a microbiologist, a pediatrician or any other type of research scientist or medical professional.

I have not devoted many years of my life to studying in credentialed institutions so I can fully grasp how viruses and bacteria work in the human body. I don’t know much about the deeply complicated science of the immune system. It is impossible for me to be an expert in these areas because it takes years of intense schooling to become an expert, and I have not had that schooling.

What I have done to form my conclusions on vaccine safety and the alleged vaccine/autism link is consult reputable, credible sources to get my information about vaccines.

I have spoken to my child’s pediatrician, the developmental pediatrician who diagnosed his autism, my mother’s close friend who is an infectious disease specialist who works in pediatric oncology, and my obstetrician.

Online, I have sought out answers from the types of experts I listed above who have graciously chosen to donate their time online to answering vaccine-related questions for parents like me.

In order to increase my confidence in the information I have acquired, I have learned how to spot a credible source. Whether the information supports my conclusion or not, I don’t believe it unless it comes from a science-backed, peer-reviewed source that is not based on anecdote or personal opinion.

I have self-evaluated, making sure I am not susceptible to believing conspiracy theories and being swayed by fear over facts.

I have done everything a layperson can do to learn about vaccine science. I have a pretty decent grasp on the basics of how it all works.

Despite ALL of that, I still don’t know even a fraction of what I’d need to know in order to be called an expert.

So, in my admitted ignorance, I choose to trust the experts. Vaccine experts currently conclude that, with all the information they have collected thus far, they can confidently assert that vaccines are not causally linked to autism.

I choose to listen to every major public health organization and medical body in the entire world when they say that it is a good idea for almost every child with a normal immune system and no other medical contraindications to be vaccinated on schedule.

I have learned about the risks and the imperfections in the science and weighed that against the risk of leaving my children unvaccinated.

I choose to vaccinate my neurotypical child and my autistic child alike because no matter how their brains work, measles, influenza or even chicken pox could be bad news for either of them. Or they could recover without incident but pass it to someone whose immune system is not as robust as their own.

I choose to vaccinate because I’m ignorant about vaccines, and I know it. I leave this one to the experts.

One thing I will never be is arrogant enough to parade myself around the internet, insulting people and calling them names. I’ll never be self-important enough to feel like I have the right tell another mother that her perfectly healthy, happy child is broken. I’ll never have a heart that is hard and black enough to be that kind of cruel and ugly.

Thank goodness for all the brilliant minds who can help me navigate through the ocean of terrifying misinformation on the internet and find my way to solid, scientific ground. Because of them, I can make the best choices for my children and keep them as safe as possible.