…just a quick rant about piggy flu and vaccines…

Can we all take off our tinfoil hats for just a second, please?

Yes, you.

I’d like to inject some sanity back into this vaccine debate, because it’s gotten way, way, way out of hand. Rational, smart, loving people are rejecting vaccines. Rational, smart, loving people feel they are better protecting their children by saying no to vaccines.

In a handful of cases, this is true. There are those with allergies to the vaccine, those that are too young, those that have immune disorders that can’t vaccinate. Unless you are one of those people, we really need to talk.

Science is your friend. Science is not out to get you. Science and data trump internet memes and Facebook fan pages. It trumps the Mom you talked to at pick up and it trumps the story you heard while waiting in line at Target.

I want you to go read this over at Wired. We’re going to start there.

It’s long. I’ll wait.

Done reading? Awesome. Now, let’s talk. I fully understand that you are freaked out about side effects from vaccines. But again, let’s go back to the science and the data. These side effects are rare. Rare. Rare. Rare. Many of these diseases WERE rare, but since you stopped vaccinating they are making a comeback. Thanks for that.

But forget all those vaccines for school…what’s really on everyone’s mind right now is flu shots. Seasonal flu, h1n1, etc. Again, about a handful of you qualify to legitimately opt out of these shots. The rest of you are putting my children at risk. Myself at risk. My community at risk.

So you’ve decided not to vaccinate your kid. It’s what’s ‘best for your family.’ Bravo you. But I’m telling you right now if YOUR kid passes the flu to my kid, and my kid becomes seriously ill…I’m kicking your ass.

You see you may not be worried about getting the flu. You’ll take your chances, after all your children are healthy and you have no underlying conditions. You’ve heard such horrible stories (not scientific data, but stories) about so-and-so’s kid that got the vaccine and xyz happened. But you see…while your kid is fine, that kid down the street isn’t. While your kid may not have asthma, my kid does. And YOU just put my family at risk because you didn’t want to risk getting that flu shot.

The next child that dies from swine flu could be your fault.

But nevermind that, you heard from so-and-so they rushed this vaccine to the public and they are just out to make a profit. It’s not safe. It does more harm than good. It’s just too risky.

Let’s go over the facts. Here’s the major h1n1 myths debunked.

I get that it’s hip not to trust drug companies. I get that you are doing your research as a responsible parent. I am too. What I don’t get, is why you would risk getting the flu and giving it to my kid? Are you the same parent who sends their kid to school the morning after they had a fever? The day after they puked?

Vaccines help stop the spread of disease. They save lives. Please don’t casually decide to do nothing because it’s the hipster parenting move of the moment. If you choose NOT to vaccinate please have a plan to help stop the spread of the flu. Please plan to not spread it outside of your home. That plan should include NOT sending them to school until the recommended WEEK is over. Because I’m sure you care about your community and my kids too.


  1. BRAVO!
    Vaccinations are good, head in the sand thinking is not. Science is good.

  2. I’m weird about this. I agree with you. But I have a friend who explained the counterpoint to me in a way I get on a very visceral level. She said “look, I appreciate your concern over your daughter and other peoples’ kids – but I’m not their Mom. I made a commitment to three kids in the world. Mine.”

    Let me restate again that I agree with you 100%… and despite the fact that the doctors are 99.9% sure my daughter had H1N1 last Spring right before the CDC announced all the precautions? We still had her get a flu shot and will get her the H1N1 shot… because it won’t do a thing if she had it and it will if she didn’t.

    That said? Yeah, my daughter comes first for me. Every time. If I thought that there was a bigger risk from vaccines than from getting the flu? I’d always choose on behalf of my daughter first. Always.

    Just like I know that you wouldn’t sacrifice either one of your kids on behalf of anyone else’s. Because Moms just aren’t built that way. No matter how noble it sounds? We would choose our own child over a dozen strangers.

  3. I could repeat what you said, but I just wanted to chime in with a sheep-like. Amen sister.

  4. Amen, amen, amen. My 20-year old son is immune-suppressed right now to treat his AUTOIMMUNE digestive disorder. This, combined with the newly-diagnosed diabetes puts him at deep risk. One of the characteristics of H1N1 is that it attacks the healthy lungs of some young people, causing a deep and deadly pneumonia. No, it doesn’t do it to all of them, but a fast look at the list of those who have died gives a fair indication of who is most at risk.

    IMMUNIZE your kids, folks. Because an unimmunized carrier of this flu could mean death to my kid and no one wants that on their head. No one.

  5. GeekMommy, that argument doesn’t hold weight with me, mostly because there is a complete lack of science supporting the claims of the anti-vax folks, and a whole heckuva lot of science and history supporting the claims that vaccines make the difference between death and life.

    This is not some kind of government plot to microchip our kids. It’s a way to see them survive a virus that is rapid-moving and in some cases, deadly.

    With the shortage of vaccine right now, the only one who will get it is our son. Hopefully there will be more available soon, because I am concerned for my daughter as well.

  6. Karoli:

    You missed what I said. You proved it. You wouldn’t sacrifice your son for anyone else’s. Let’s not get off the reality track here. I said nothing about microchipping, nor did I disagree with you – reread my comment.

    I said that on a visceral level I understood my friend. I would not sacrifice my daughter for your son or anyone else’s. Or for 1,000 of them. I didn’t say “don’t vaccinate your children” – in fact, I said I vaccinated & will get it for my daughter as well. We also kept her out of school for 10 days last Spring rather than giving it to other peoples’ kids.

    But you will never convince me that you would sacrifice your son “for the common good” if you honestly believed there was a probability that’s what you were doing.

  7. GeekMommy,

    If there were a shred of science behind the claims of the antivax folks, I would respect that decision for exactly the reasons you describe. Shoot, I might even listen to them. What drives me crazy about this debate is that the anti-vax craze has no scientific foundation, just a lot of smoke, mirrors and hysteria underneath it.

    I intentionally used hyperbole as a way to highlight how insane this debate has gotten. Of course I know that they know we’re not microchipping anyone. But the paranoia with regard to this is so utterly out of control that it boggles the mind…while people die. While kids die.

  8. Normal vaccines, I would (mostly) agree, yes. Vaccines that have squalene as an adjuvant, not on your life. I’m one of the forgotten Gulf War Syndrome/Illness sufferers from the first time. There is no lack of science or congressional testimony on the dangers of squalene used in this way on the joints and connective tissue. I feel it every day.

  9. Just to nitpick a point about the recovery period for sending a kid back:

    The second section is when your kid can go back to school, which is 24 hours after the fever breaks.

  10. My 2 year-old has pretty severe asthma, and I scrambled to find the vaccine for her. We were lucky, she’s high-risk, so we were able to get it (after about a dozen phone calls to her pediatrician’s office). She’ll need a booster in a month. I’ll be getting mine as soon as it’s widely available to the public. Hopefully soon.

    As for kicking the ass of the parents who chose not to vaccinate and got your kid sick? Oh yeah. I’m right there with you.

  11. All three of my kids came down with Influenza B before flu season even started. My Dr advised giving the the H1n1 shot at that point to all three of the children, and I did. I even got the shot. I say vaccinate if you can, you should. I vaccinated my children because 1. my doctor said to and 2. I wanted to protect them.

    I have always been a pro vaccine person, I even did a paper in college on the pros and cons of vaccines.


  12. Let me first state that all three of my children are fully vaccinated. However, I do not think that the h1n1 vaccine nor the seasonal flu vaccine are necessary.
    I also don’t buy for a second that the h1n1 vaccine is safe or tested nearly enough. The gov’t banned the use of certain levels of thermirasol in vaccines for a reason, that ban was lifted just to rush this vaccine.

    Before you all get your panties further in a wads, we already HAD h1n1 before the vaccines were even available. So we aren’t putting the community at risk. Its a freaking FLU not the plague.

    Yes a very few people have died from it, but I could use the same argument that you used about the vaccines, just because a few people got sick/died as a result of either thing is not a reason to freak out.
    Whether or not a family chooses to vaccinate is their own choice. YOU nor the government have a say in that.

    I have a child with autism, I have no direct link between his autism and vaccines, but thousands of people do. Science is our friend, but it is not without flaws.

  13. I have a daughter, who caught an illness from another child at a birthday party. That child’s parent didn’t want their kid to miss out on the party, so she allowed her sick kid to be around other healthy kids.

    My daughter died from that illness.

    I’m sure glad her child didn’t miss out on the birthday party.

  14. If your children have been vaccinated then they should not be at risk of catching the flu from a child who has it. Isn’t that the point of vaccination? So if you are pro-vaccine and you give your child the vaccine, he/she is safe. So why do you care if I don’t vaccinate my child? (Who by the way will remain home for a long time post recovery if he gets H1N1.)

    Special note to Heather: I am so very sorry for your loss. Your pain is unimaginable. I just had a discussion about this on my blog – going to parties when a child is sick. Unacceptable. I am so sorry you lost your daughter due to someone else’s carelessness.

  15. There was a letter from an anti-vax woman on NPR today who said she trusted nature more than she trusted vaccines. That sounds all cute on the surface, but deep down, I think nature is trying to kill us.

  16. If you get the h1n1 vaccine you can still get the flu. Your odds are better getting the vaccine, but you can still get it.

    As for the idea that if I vaccinate, it’s ok if you don’t… it doesnt’ work that way. vaccinations only work on a wide scale if a community participates. You see, you don’t vaccinate and then Suzy next door doesn’t vaccinate and so on and so forth. Then you get an outbreak of say…oh, I dunno…Whooping Cough (yup, like what happened here in CA) and suddenly you have a major outbreak of what was a long gone disease that’s back and killing children.

    Everyone’s odds are better if this is a community wide effort. the more people vaccinated the less chance it SPREADS.

    And Heather, I am so glad you stopped by. If there was ever a time to tell your story, now is it.

  17. I am sooooo tired of freaks who think vaccines are God’s enemies!!! I am soo tired of people who think their kid’s immune systems can deal with measles and mumps and not suffer any consequences except a light fever and a few days off from school (yippee!!). I heard that woman on NPR also and I wanted to reach out and shake her for being such a dunce!!!

    Heather, I really cannot find words to say how sorry I feel about what happened.

  18. “The next child that dies from swine flu could be your fault.”

    I politely disagree, Erin.

    And for the very first time, am offended by something you’ve written.

    I could write a post in rebuttal, but will leave it at this. I am really, truly sorry that I read this. I am hurt and disappointed. I love you as a person and a writer, but wow.

    Related: The virus has spread through our community, the vaccine is not even available here and at any sign of the flu we get Tamaflu (for free)(We’re in Canada).

    Also: At any sign of sniffles, ETCETERA, my kids are kept at home.

    Stepping back into my fully-educated stance in not giving my children the H1N1 vaccine, yet not judging others who choose to do so.

    If you want to talk about this via email, I am always open. I may be offended, but I am not opposed to discussion.

  19. Angella I think that fact that you actually keep your kids home negates any need for discussion. I’m offended by people who don’t vaccinate, and that is offensive to you. I’m not really sure we’ll agree or even agree to disagree. I just am thankful and appreciative you keep your kids home when they are sick. That’s responsible.

  20. I guess my point did not come across, because I AM agreeing to disagree.

    But this statement:

    “The next child that dies from swine flu could be your fault.”

    Is offensive. And also, inaccurate.

    Before throwing out statements that (I hope are not, but appear to be) about the drama, you might want to check your sources.

    My children have been vaccinated against polio, etc. (the regular vaccines).

    The regular flu shot is a gamble, and after watching a PBS documentary about the H1N1 vaccine that was rushed through the system in the seventies (ala, 2009), I will not risk the side effects.

    I’m also a little sad on the behalf of people who do not have access to the vaccine, whether it be via lack of availability or finances.

    Heaping that kind of judgment on their heads seems a little out of line.

    Just agreeing to disagree, here.

    And again, I truly hope the intent of this post was not to fire up drama. There has been too much of that lately and it’s kind of making me disappointed in the Internet.

  21. I can see the point you’re attempting to make here, and this is surely a complicated conversation surrounding a complicated issue which ultimately rests on a personal decision every parent has to make for themselves, and for their children. Yes, we’re part of a global landscape, and we can hope everyone remembers this, always, but frankly, it just isn’t reality. It hasn’t been in the history of the world, and as much as I’d like to be all sunshine and rainbows in thinking that maybe we’ll get there someday (maybe we will!), most days I’m just not that naïve.

    But I’m failing to see how this piece, and your “The next child that dies from swine flu could be your fault” statement isn’t just as fear mongering in tone as you are asserting the anti-vaccine camp to be with regard to not vaccinating children (and/or adults).

  22. I understand your passion for your child’s health, as does every mom & dad who is passionate about keeping their child healthy. I won’t start the dramatic discussion on my (years) of research on vaccines. This is a personal choice that is anything but easy and in no way made because it’s the “in” thing to do, come on now….let’s take a deep breath. My point is to bring your awareness to the last comment you made

    “Please don’t casually decide to do nothing because it’s the hipster parenting move of the moment.”

    I don’t know ANY parent, vaccine pro or not, who would make a choice because its the ‘hipster’ thing to do. I know this is written out of anger and frustration…so – here’s a <> hope you feel better.

    NOW, let’s get real and remind everyone that even though kids and adults get the flu shot, or standards vaccines, does not mean they will NOT get sick.

    It’s always BEST to take precautions. Sniffles, runny nose = stay HOME!!! Wash hands, eat well, vaccinate if you choose…but please, don’t take a sick child (or adult) to a gathering. You simply never know who you are spreading germs to. Let’s take care of each other WHILE we are taking care of our own precious pumpkins.

  23. I honestly can not fathom refusing a vaccine, h1n1 or otherwise, contracting the disease, and then spreading it…when it could have been prevented. *could* being the important word. No, it’s not a guarantee …but when you have a chance to prevent the spread of something that can kill, why wouldn’t you?

    I do not have access to the vaccine right now. It’s not a choice for me yet. However if given the choice, and with all the information out there, I am taking it. Because it *might* save my child or a child in my community’s life. This is about stopping the ‘spread’ …

    I honestly think there is a great amount of hysteria over these current vaccines that are scientifically unfounded.

    And sadly, I have heard and seen parents opt out of vaccines because it’s the hipster parenting thing to do.

  24. I seriously cannot even imagine making a decision about my child’s health in a flippant manner. I’m not sure where these parents are coming from…but they certainly need a reality check. We are all a community and must do what is right 1st for our own family, then in consideration of our community. As we hope others would do for us.

    Personally, whether vaccinated or not, I have never been one to by casual about going into public places if my child is sick. When my toddler has a cold, we are home, resting and not playing with friends. We know children with chronic illness induced asthma, diabetes, immune disorders…why would I EVER put them at risk..even with what seems like a “minor” cold.

    It’s about personal choice combined with consideration for each other.

    This is not a clear cut issue…but we do need to keep discussing it in our communities and learning from each other.


  25. I am choosing not to vaccinate for the H1N1, but I am not anti-vaccines. Not in the least – we vaccinate on schedule. This is very personal and close to me – a classmate of mine in 2nd grade died of complications from chicken pox. So, yes – I am all on board for vaccines. However, I am NOT on board for a vaccine that I feel was rushed to market and I am not interested in my children serving as guinea pigs. Considering all the crap that the FDA allows in our food supply, we should all be wary of what they would allow through for this vaccine.

  26. Sherry Reson says:

    I applaud everyone contributing to this thread; thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful and civil comments. You may be interested in http://flutracker.rhizalabs.com/ where controlled crowdsourcing and some careful data visualizations are yielding the best available information on the spread and virulence of H1N1.

  27. Popping back in to say that I will searching for this vaccine after all. A conversation with my doctor yesterday eased some of my fears. I am still leery of the FDA – seriously, they are totally sucking at the teat of Corporate America and I trust them minimally. But still, my doctor says the H1N1 vaccine is being made with the same production methods as the regular strain. A vaccine that we routinely get every year.

  28. I don’t think the flu vaccine can be compared to something like the whooping cough or polio vaccine. I don’t think the end result is the same.

    As we’ve seen with polio, that vaccine eliminated that disease. However, the flu virus is ever-changing – I don’t believe I’ve ever read of an end goal of eliminating the flu. So even if we ALL got the flu virus we wouldn’t be protected from the next evolution of the virus…and as you said, getting the flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the flu.

    What I see is everyone panicking and rushing to get the flu shot thinking it’s for the greater good – and maybe they won’t get the flu this year…but what about next year, or the next, when the virus has gotten stronger? In many cases, I think there’s a good case for building natural immunity for the flu, since the flu isn’t going to be ‘cured’.

    If you’re open to reading an alternative perspective go to http://www.drjaygordon.com

    I vaccinate my kids, but we don’t get the flu vaccine.

    Cagey, I’m right there with you on the FDA and corporate America. I don’t feel they have the public’s best interest at heart. If you haven’t read it, check out The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O’Brien.

  29. I’m late on this but BRAVO. I’m so very tired of being made to feel like a mindless lemming because I (gasp!) trust the CDC over something someone’s cousin’s sister-in-law’s babysitter read on a blog or saw on youtube. I think it’s part of a larger cultural reticence to accept the authority of experts, to equate a mommy blog post with something written by a trained science writer for the New York Times, or a public health manifesto issued by NIH or the CDC. But there’s something to be said, IMO, for spending years in med school, and in residency, studying to be, say, a virologist. Something that makes me far more likely to believe you know what you’re talking about when it comes to vaccinating my children than that random shoe salesman commenting on my neighbor’s Facebook status.

    As for Michael May’s comment above, there IS NO SQUALENE in this vaccine; this from the CDC website:
    Does the 2009 H1N1 flu shot have an adjuvant or squalene in it?

    Adjuvants are agents that are sometimes added to a vaccine to make it more effective. There are no adjuvants (such as squalene) in either the 2009 H1N1 or seasonal flu shot used in the United States.

    I’d also like to stand up and applaud cagey for having the grace to admit she changed her mind. The “this vaccine was rushed to market” hysteria makes me absolutely mental — flu vaccines are “rushed to market” EVERY SEASON.

    Here is a very reasoned Q and A from the New York Times for those who might be interested:

  30. Widget Whiteberry says:

    Jennifer – I am most distracted by so-call experts who look as if they should be credible, sound ‘possible’ and are very destructive. For major issues, we need constant debunking. Example http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/11/03/What-We-Have-Learned-About-the-Great-Swine-Flu-Pandemic.aspx

  31. It’s probably too late to really bother commenting, and clearly your mind is made up. But do you know what bothers me? That people assume that everyone who makes a choice thinks the same way. I am not anti-vax. I think long and hard before having anything introduced into my children’s systems. In Canada (where I’m from obviously) there are adjuvants in the majority of H1N1 vaccines (some don’t for pregnant women and others with special conditions). That was a little flag of concern for me. Also, my biggest concern is like someone mentioned, the flu is not being eradicated by the vaccine. Not even close. The vaccine doesn’t even protect against the “flu”, just certain strains, including the current H1N1. Protection now is no guarantee of protection next year. And H1N1 is just the flu, plain and simple. I got that information from my own government’s website, not some crazy anti-vax site. I read death rates and compared this flu to death and complication rates in any average year. Not higher; lower in fact. And I reminded my kids yet again about hand-washing and my school put in place extra rules about drinking from the water fountain during the outbreak. And my kids got sick, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean they will give it to someone’s child and kill them. They stayed home from school one day longer than the recommended guidelines (which was 24 hours post-fever, not one week). I think the flu hysteria is as bad as the vaccine hysteria and we need to quit telling everyone else what to do. Life is just not that black and white.

  32. Like a lot of the comments on here, I’m not against vaccinations. I’m not against the CDC or the government. I’m not uneducated or making decisions based on how hip I’ll be.

    We have never given our daughters the flu shot. We likely never will. H1N1 is the flu – plain and simple. Yes, people die from it. People die from the flu. People die from vaccinations. There are risks involved no matter what choice you make. Science is our friend but so is logic.

  33. Wow, quite the discussion going on here!

    I see that Heather left a comment about how Maddie’s fatal illness was given to her from a sick child at a birthday party. I think it is very important that we all as parents remember to keep our kids home long after they stop having symptoms of illness. You never know how sick another person may get from a bug that you could fight off.

    As for the H1N1 vaccine, I got it and gave it to my children. I try very hard to be respectful of others’ decisions not to vaccinate, but I admit that I do feel that as a community everyone is safer if more people vaccinate. Not just for the H1N1, but for all illnesses. I do hate that there are risks for the vaccines, but the thought of anyone dying from a preventable illness seems to me to be worse.

  34. Heather – I am so sorry, I did not realize that is how Maddie got sick in the first place. There are no words.

    I always laugh, when we here in the States ARGUE about getting vaccines. There was an article I read when doing research on vaccines years ago – people in third world countries were having problems because they were so scared of the diseases, they were getting FOUR AND FIVE DOSES of the vaccines for illness we don’t really have to worry about any more and they were totally perplexed when the author told them we have parents that opt. out of them. They were totally baffled why someone would have a chance NOT to get these horrible diseases and OPT OUT.

    We got the h1n1 vax for our kids and will be right there when it’s available for healthy adults. My nephew is high risk and cannot find it. I am v. scared for him – he has had pneumonia three times, RSV, severe asthma attacks, etc. I am counting on herd immunity to keep him safe until he gets the vax.

  35. Good discussion here. I did want to bring up another point though, a recent study shows that children are still shedding the H1N1 virus up to 6 days AFTER the fever is gone. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=107133 This scares me since people are theoretically keeping their kids out of school (or staying out of work) until 24 hours after the fever stops. While that’s helpful, now I’m not sure that’s enough. We all feel very lucky to have been able to get the vaccines this year for both flu strains. Now we just hope we can get my 3 year old the booster shots in another 2 weeks.

  36. At first I wasn’t going to comment; Lord knows I comment enough on tons of boards! But up until recently I have been wavering on getting the vax for us all (right now it’s a moot point, as it’s not available to us yet in our neck of the woods), then I spoke to my son’s pedi about. He’s someone that looks like he’d be more comfy in the 1960’s, to tell the truth, and he’s completely honest about these vaxes, so I knew if I asked him if all this was hogwash, a way to get us all panicked over basically the flu, or should I be worried, he put it this way to me-if he could save one life by vaccinnating all his patients, it will be worth it. If he can save one child from having to depend on an iron lung, it will be worth it. He told me that in the state of Ca. there are very few iron lungs, and one of the nasty things about H1N1 is how it can destroy the lungs so severely that survival is dependant on one.
    #2 My son was one of the first to get the chicken pox vax, and I thought long and hard, questioned, researched, and thought some more. In the end, I took the pedi’s advice, knowing the vaccination wouldn’t be 100%, but if he did get chicken pox, it would be a very light case. So far, no side effects, and it’s been like 8 yrs.
    #3 H1N1 would kill my husband if he got it.
    #4.We live in a community that is very, very small, with lots of kids and senior citizens. The local school has less than 25 kids, K-8, and we’ve already been hit very hard with the seasonal flu. We have masks, hand gel and plenty of handwashing going on. We are the type of parents that keep our kids home longer than in the city, because it would be too easy for our school to close due to illness. We are not bad parents, we are parents that care very much for our kids, our own and others. Since we don’t have the option of the H1N1 vaccination yet, we are doing our best to contain the illnesses the best way we can.

    I will be getting my son vaccinated when I can, myself and hubby too, but until then, we are taking all measures possible to stay healthy. I can’t understand why, if you have a tool available to help you, you won’t take advantage of it to keep yourself and fam healthy. Rushed? I don’t think so. If you go and do your research on CDC, you will see the guidelines and steps taken for this shot. They take the same care for this as they do for the seasonal. Mercury? Don’t think so. Squalene, or do you mean squalane? (2 different things-one is animal, one is plant) Nope, not in there. I believe that if your child is sick, and you, as the parent, lets that child go to a party, school, or elsewhere in public, and gets my child sick (and my child dies or has serious complications), that some kind of legal charge of neglect should happen. Personal responsibility should happen before, not after, your child is sick.

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