I was posting this in the comments section, but it was starting to get rather long, and in any event, my browser ate it, so I thought I would just post it here as a follow-up to the post yesterday.
First off, I want to extend an invitation to those people who are reading who are anti-vaccine to talk about why they don't vaccinate. I think we are overall very civil here, and if the concern is not about the so-called link to autism (as one of our commenters noted), then what is the concern? Some vague unease about "chemicals"? Concerns about "overwhelming" baby's immune system? Seriously, I want to know, not being snotty. It is hard to have a conversation about this without coming to (virtual) blows, so I would love to be able to talk about it rationally here, not even just to try to convince one side or the other, but just to visit the other side's perspective. (Obviously this need not be said, since we are all grown-ups here, but if anyone is brave enough to present their personal concerns about vaccines in what seems to be a very pro-vaccine forum, we all should play nice.)
The second thing I wanted to address was the fact this topic never fails to make me as both a mother and physician so enraged--not annoyed, not puzzled but actually angry, like I'm taking people's anti-vaccination sentiments as a personal affront--and I wonder why. After some thought, I have come up with this: I am taking it personally. And here is why.
As someone who works in healthcare, with sick patients, I see every day the injustice and horror that is illness. Preventative healthcare is a wonderful thing, perhaps the best kind of medicine that we can practice. Along with a healthy lifestyle, protecting against preventable illness is a big part of that. As a doctor, it's quite simply the very best that we know how to do.
When I go go onto these internet parenting boards, to read this anti-vaccination literature and hear the rhetoric, we see people who are not only rejecting we have to offer, but who vilify doctors and other healthcare workers--people who have devoted decades of their lives to caring for children and families--for working their hardest and giving the very best of what modern science has to offer, it quite frankly hurts my feelings. It's not paternalism, it's not about me wanting to tell patients what to do and for them to comply mindlessly, it's about me wanting to do my job and provide the best; and then feeling like people reject my efforts and recast my motives as somehow evil, greedy, or just plain ignorant. It hurts my feelings.
So yeah, I take it personally. I respect a parent's intuition and I respect the fact that no one feels great, myself included, about bringing their baby in, making them cry by jamming them with needles filled with seemingly mysterious antigens and preservatives. I know first hand that the desire to protect your children from all real or potential harm is beyond conscious thought, it is instinct.
But I respect science, too, and I have based my life around that. In lieu of religion, I have science. And the impulse to prosthelytise is equally strong. And just like people who prosthelytise about religious faith, I am doing so not to force you to be like me, not to scorn or humiliate you for possibly being of a different faith, but because I care about you and your children and families, and I want what all best evidence I have points to being the most effective way to stay out of my hospital.
The other thing that would have enraged me, by the way, with all the fury of a mother bear protecting her cubs, would be if Mack had somehow gotten the measles from an un-immunized kid before he was old enough to get his own vaccine. Luckily we he got his first MMR last week, so at least that's one less thing to worry about.