Anti-Vaccination – really?

anti-vaccination?Anti-Vaccination – really?

It’s a funny thing, the vaccination debate. And frankly, I’m over it – I’m over the name-calling, the mud-slinging, the belittling and the fighting. I’m sick of the bullying, sick of greed, sick of otherwise decent and well-intentioned people falling out over something that ultimately boils down to the simple issue of sovereignty and choice. Here’s why.

I’ll say it now, straight-up: I’m not a fan of vaccination.

I’ll also say this: As much as I’m not a fan of vaccination, I’m a huge advocate of people’s right to choose what goes into their body. That goes for vaccines, too.

So why is it that the former statement – my personal position on a particular medical intervention as it stands for myself and my family – will ultimately mean that, for certain groups, the latter will be totally dismissed and mean that any viewpoint I hold, anything I say or do, any other opinion I ever express will be written off as that of a crackpot/quack/hippie/dangerous anti-science lunatic? Why does it even matter what I ‘believe’ about something so personal?

I have a lot of questions I’d like you all, dear readers, to think about right now.

Firstly, why is it that any and all pharmaceutical medication is fair game for criticism and open to questioning – except when it happens to be a vaccine? Why are they the single thing that you aren’t ‘allowed’ to question, to ask about the ingredients therein, to query potential side-effects and what the injection of myriad live or attenuated viruses and viral fragments (both intentional and unidentified), antibiotics, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals may do to your body? Why is it fine to reject or question antibiotics or painkillers or statins or SSRIs or any other class of drug, but the moment you open your mouth and ask the simple question “Just what could this do to my child?” you’re shot down in flames and made to feel like an irresponsible, ill-informed imbecile, sucked in by the rantings of a psychotic fringe? All just for asking a question we all should be asking?

Secondly, why is it that the name-calling is such a huge element in this ‘debate’, which isn’t a true debate at all? Why is it that, despite the many doctors, nurses, naturopaths, pharmacists, and other highly-qualified health professionals speaking out about and questioning the safety of vaccines are spoken of largely as ‘quacks’ and ‘woo doctors’ (usually accompanied by a scathing repartee about how they must also believe in ‘magic water’/crystals/fairies/creationist theology/etc), the minute they open their mouth and step into the debate? Many decades of solid clinical practice, expertise, and priceless experience can be thrown out by simply questioning the things – let alone saying they don’t ‘believe’ in them.

Just where is this all coming from?

Another thing – since when is it ok to tell another person what to put into their body? I don’t presume the right to tell anybody what to do with their body, ever. I can give advice, sure, and help to guide people through the mire of health information available today – but I absolutely, staunchly believe in people’s right to an informed choice and to any decision coming from them, having weighed up the risks and benefits for themselves.

Which is ultimately what this boils down to: Informed choice. Informed consent. Something we, in New Zealand, are entitled to under the law, but unfortunately also something that is only paid lip service to by our Ministry of Health and the majority of health professionals.

You see, how can a person make an informed decision about a medical intervention if they’re only provided with half-truths in glossy government brochures? How can they decide properly whether or not a health intervention is right for them, if they don’t have the information to make such a decision? How can they know what they’re doing is right, when they believe that any person who refuses that drug is an uneducated, ill-informed, child-killing loony?

The answer: They can’t.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights assures us of two very clear things in relation to this matter – the right to refuse to undergo any medical treatment, and the right not to be subjected to medical or scientific experimentation without consent.

That’s right: We have the absolute right to refuse medical treatment. That includes vaccination. Likewise, we have the right to not be subjected to medical experimentation without our consent (interesting, given how few trials have been done on a number of vaccines prior to their release, and how it can be argued that we, the people, are the test subjects…).

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where you sit on the fence: A staunch pro-vaccine advocate, an ‘anti-vaccinationist’, or somewhere in between… we ALL have the right to refuse them. We all have the right to informed consent. We all have the right to choose what goes into our own body, and that of our children until they are of age.

But while the ‘debate’ rages, and the name-calling continues, anybody who isn’t properly initiated into the arguments that surround vaccination – and yes, statistically-speaking these arguments against the practice are generally from highly educated, health-savvy, intelligent people who aren’t easily sucked into propaganda (why would they be questioning it in the first place if they were?) –will be denied that all-important right to proper information, in order to give informed consent.

Many people are simply too scared to ask questions, for fear of the repercussions.

And given the way the media portrays it, and anybody daring to speak out, it’s no wonder so few people even understand that there are serious questions to be asked and serious issues with vaccines, as they stand today. That it isn’t just a bunch of raving nutters on the fringe of society wearing tinfoil hats, but a large and ever-expanding group of qualified health professionals and educated parents with genuine questions that affect the health of every single person in this country.

Let me re-affirm: I’m not a fan of vaccination, for more reasons than I could possibly list here. I am a huge advocate of our right to informed consent, regardless of what we ultimately decide to do. I’m a highly-educated, intelligent, thinking person, not easily sucked into ‘woo’, who works hard to help people stay healthy. I’m a fan of ‘science’ – which, incidentally, tends to progress by people asking questions such as those we ‘anti-vaccinationists’ are asking now! And no, I don’t ‘reject’ or ‘deny’ science or all other modern medical interventions, either – nor does that make me a hypocrite for refusing one intervention and accepting others; simply, it makes me a thinking person who understands that one needs to examine each thing, individually, on its own merits.

I don’t want to see epidemics of typhoid or other infectious diseases coming back. I do, however, want to see this ‘debate’ re-framed and allowed to happen properly – without the name-calling, the mud-slinging, the slick phrases, smug wordplay, and belittling from the Science Mafia and self-proclaimed Skeptics Brigade (who ironically tend to be the least sceptical of all…).

And I do want to see this country step up and give parents the information they need to exercise informed consent.

No slick catch-phrases. No smug name-calling or words such as ‘anti-vax’, ‘science-denier’, and so on. No half-truths and leaving out vital information. No downplaying of the risks. And our health professionals to be encouraged to truly understand the information on both sides – not just that which suits the government and the pharmaceutical industry, but that from educated experts who understand the risks and have no conflicts of interest to mar their opinions.

Just the facts – pure and simple.

After all, if the ‘debate’ is that cut-and-dry, surely there’s nothing for the pro-vaccine types to fear anyway?