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Parents’ Rights to Flexibility in an Age When Doctors’ “Hands are Tied”
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Parents’ Rights to Flexibility in an Age When Doctors’ “Hands are Tied”

To vaccinate or not: what a loaded question. As a mother of four living children and one deceased I must admit that it’s been impossible to avoid this question repeatedly during the last seven years I have been a mom. And as a mom I have learned that generally, if not always, there is never one right answer to any question. I have also learned that what works for one of my children will most likely not work for the other, to my dismay. We are all individuals and as much as our bodies are the same we each have a unique recipe that makes us who we are. So the question of “to vaccinate or not” is indeed not a simple one, as is evidenced by this very narrative. Passionate mothers on every side feel very certain of their decisions either way, or do they? We are all striving to figure out the perfect recipe for success and survival for our children. I would even venture to say that one thing that is black and white is that as mothers and parents, we all have the same fear, that we will lose one or more of our children. It’s this common fear that leads to differing passionate opinions. There are the parents that fear their children will contract a deadly or preventable disease by not being vaccinated or by being around a child that is not vaccinated and there are the parents who fear their children could be severely injured or even die from the very vaccines that are meant to protect them. There is fear that doctors will be sued if children are not vaccinated. I think however we all need to switch our focus from fear to the shared common goal, the health and wellbeing of all children.

I myself have been torn on this issue. To start, all of my children are vaccinated as I write this but I have not chosen to follow the same vaccine schedule with each of my children. When our first was born in 2009 there was still a lot of controversy over the potential link between autism and vaccines. There was also still an array of private practices that offered pediatric care. Our pediatrician at the time was flexible and listened to our concerns. Their practice statement from 2008, which I have in front of me now, stated, “Our office supports the AAP vaccine schedule. There has been no research able to link autism to vaccines or vaccine ingredients. We are sensitive to parent concerns though and hope to work with each family individually regarding their concerns.” So, indeed they did and we found a middle ground and she was willing and able to administer a delayed vaccine schedule. The only adverse reaction our son ever had was the initial shock and pain of the shot, which was quickly alleviated by clever nurses who were excellent at providing distraction. When our second child was born seventeen months later in 2010 we felt safer going the recommended route and by that time there was a lot more evidence debunking the link between vaccines and autism. Our son had not had any adverse reactions and so with our pediatrician’s advice we adjusted for our daughter. I still felt a pang of fear each time she received the shots because I could not ignore the stories I’d heard by that point of devastated parents who truly believed the vaccines caused their children’s injury or death and at that time I was getting to know more mothers whose children had been diagnosed with autism. It’s not a mother’s worst fear but it is still something I think each mother grieves, knowing that her child may forever struggle in ways other children will not have to. Not to mention, at every vaccine appointment, I was handed a paper that while describing the illness the impending vaccine was intended to prevent and listing the normal side effects it also had a paragraph about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. That was black and white proof...