I have been moved by the outpouring of emotion over the vaccine controversy. I want to start by saying that I vaccinated my children. The assumption seems to be made that Naturopathic Physicians are the crusaders for the anti-vaccine movement. This is not the case. I've been warned that Naturopathic Physicians can't win in trying to communicate about this subject. Maybe this is true and I will rue the day I wrote this post but my compassion for parents on both sides of this debate overwhelmed me.
As my patients know, I do feel strongly that each person has their own beliefs and motivations for the decisions they make but I take pride in helping young families feel confident that their children will be safe throughout the vaccination process. In reassuring them they have a healthy child who will continue to thrive into the future as a result of the great care they are providing and through avoiding debilitating illnesses that vaccines prevent, the emotion dissipates and both parent and child feel more confident. Fear is what drives some families not to vaccinate and fear is never helpful in making crucially important decisions.
Vaccines provide an amazing tool for prevention of diseases that have dire consequences around the world. Another argument I use in favour of vaccination is compassion; compassion for families that cannot vaccinate for medical reasons, or whose children are immunocompromised; compassion for children in other countries that do not have access to the vaccines we have here and who are so very vulnerable to disease.
It is also important not to demonize those who have felt strongly that vaccination is not for their children and to leave the door open into the future should they change their minds. As I said above, fear is a powerful motivator and many parents are more afraid of the needle being placed into their child's arm and what harm it might do than of an illness they have never seen or experienced. In fact I'm sure most parents have that concern but try to overcome it and do what they think is best. Making this a polarizing decision will not facilitate a happy end to the debate. We have to remember that vaccination rates are very high and it is the small minority of parents making the decision not to vaccinate. Some may have reasons you are unaware of - their child had a reaction to one set of vaccines, a history of anaphylactic or severe allergies, or an older child who had a side effect in the past... There are reactions to vaccines, they are usually mild but they do happen.
I think we are fortunate to live in a culture where parents care for their children so passionately. Let's hope we can reverse the trend of rising rates of preventable infections while still supporting informed decision making and avoiding judgement of any loving parent.