I’ve always been one of those people who value expertise. I don’t want to fly my own airplane or build my own car. I trust my safety to those I believe have greater education and/or abilities than I do. Having said that, I’m not a fool. I would always seek a second opinion before having major surgery, and I wouldn’t get onto a plane if I saw the pilot stumbling drunk down the jet-way. But just as I know that I was a darn good litigator, I recognize that we each have specialized training and talents. As the daughter and wife of physicians, I am particularly aware of the years of schooling and hands-on clinical practice that they received before treating patients.
For that reason, I was surprised when (some years ago) a few moms in my son’s play group revealed that they weren’t vaccinating their then toddlers. Instead, they were looking for kids with chicken pox so they could expose their kids “naturally.” That seemed bizarre to me, but these women were no dummies, so I looked into the issue more carefully. I could find no solid scientific basis to avoid vaccinations. Sure, there were risks, and for certain vaccines, those risks could be serious. But the odds clearly favored vaccination. Even in the area of autism, a condition I found hauntingly scary as a parent, there were no proven links to vaccinations. So I continued to have my kids receive their scheduled shots, much to their displeasure.
I’ve kept an eye on this issue and had the opportunity to have some peripheral involvement with the making of a documentary about the development of the polio vaccine. As part of that process, I read quite a bit about polio and vaccinations in general, and became more convinced that those refusing to vaccinate their children were placing their kids and others at risk.
When Markus Heinze approached me on Linkedin and asked me to read his anti-vaccination book, I told him that I was not a member of his camp. He politely offered to send me the book anyway and I consented. After reading about his journey to find the cause for his daughter’s Type 1 diabetes, I felt sympathetic to him and his family, but nothing in his book changed my opinion about vaccinations. None of the studies that he cited, and some of them were studies only in the loosest of terms, actually showed a causal link between vaccination and diabetes (or any other illness).
And Markus’s book revealed a frightening paranoia that he and many other anti-vaccinaters exhibit towards the Center for Disease Control and physicians in general. They seem to believe that there are thousands of doctors who are intend on supporting pharmaceutical companies, even if that means harming their own patients and families (the pediatricians for my children routinely vaccinate their own kids). To me, that defied credibility.
In addition to being sympathetic to his daughter’s condition, I fully understand Markus’s need to understand how it happened. Before I became pregnant with my son, I endured years of infertility with intermittent miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy. I was sure that if I devoted enough attention to researching my medical history, I could find the thread that would explain what was wrong with me. I never did. Instead, I have learned over the years that there are a lot of mysteries inherent in life. Some of them we will undoubtedly solve over time, as medical science continues to evolve, but there are likely others that will never become clear. Life isn’t always clear. We don’t know why some people suffer illnesses and tragedy and others do not. We don’t know why Markus’s daughter developed diabetes, like many other unfortunate children. Because his family doesn’t have a history of diabetes does not mean that vaccines caused her illness. It doesn’t mean that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Center for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization, are all conspiring to make pharmaceutical companies rich by encouraging our children to get harmful vaccines. It means that for now we do not know why his daughter became ill. But our children are still better off vaccinated.
I invited Markus on my radio show
to “debate” Stacy Herlihy, a
journalist and writer who has recently co-authored a book outlining the scientific validity
of vaccinations and debunking the commonly held misconceptions
against them. Markus knew my bias, but he gamely agreed. I thought
the show would be helpful because it would allow parents on the fence to
hear both sides presented directly. I invite you to take a listen and let me know
Since we recorded the show, there’s been lots of debate between Stacy and Markus and their supporters online. I hope we can continue that debate here, in a civil fashion. After hearing Markus’s arguments, I did additional research myself on the vaccination question and I will post the results of that research either as updates to the blog or in the comments as applicable. This is an amazingly important subject and I welcome everyone’s input!