By Audrey Komrij Jones
I’ve spent the past few days arguing with strangers. I keep telling myself, year in, year out, ‘stop arguing with strangers on Facebook’. It is always actually my number one New Year’s resolution. Suffice to say, I normally break it on New Year’s Day at 9am, or earlier if anything controversial has happened.
This time, the hot topic is vaccines due to the fact that the Bexsero (meningococcal group B disease) vaccine is now on the market. It is amazing how things change. Just last month, mums all over the island were panicking over the fact that this vaccine was not available in Malta. Some even travelled overseas just to get it done. But now, on the basis of a David ‘Avocado’ Wolfe post, some parents are changing their minds and opting not to give the Meningitis B vaccine.
One of the most irritating questions I am asked is, ‘Did you give her the MMR vaccine’. When I reply that I have, people suck their teeth and go ‘ah’.
Most of you may know by now, that my 5 year old daughter, Sassy, has autism. One of the most irritating questions I am asked is, ‘Did you give her the MMR vaccine’. When I reply that I have, people suck their teeth and go ‘ah’. They are thinking ‘oh OK, she did this’. But no, I did not.
I’m not entirely sure how or why it happened. I do not even think I care anymore. What I do know is, that it is safe to assume that my husband’s and my genes, produced a child who loves hugs, mushrooms in garlic and reading. What I also know, is that what caused her to be on the autism spectrum is definitely not the MMR vaccine.
Let me continue by stating that I have no medical training or knowledge whatsoever. Much to my mum’s disappointment, I scraped through my Chemistry O’ level and I haven’t bothered with anything remotely scientific since. Until Sas received her diagnosis, that is. Then, I threw myself into the task of obtaining the right facts behind the world’s most infamous lie.
The internet is a wonderful thing, if used properly. On the other hand, it has made it too easy to spread false information and news. I can’t blame confused parents for letting themselves believe unfounded claims about vaccines, coming from unreliable sources.
David Avocado Wolfe recently shared a story reported on The Mirror (yes, that paper which featured topless women on page 3) featuring a video of a child having seizures, after reportedly being given a vaccine. The problem is that there is not enough information about this case, and the link between the vaccine and the seizures is obscure at best.
Yet, to my dismay I read comments from mums who suddenly became petrified, and decided they will not be giving the Bexsero vaccine to their children after all. What must be understood is that Febrile seizures are a pretty common side effect of high temperature. Your paediatrician will confirm this. Your child could get one through a throat infection that causes a spike in temperature.
When sharing videos or articles online, it is very important to check the source. For example, if you ever feel tempted to share a Wolfe link, remember that this is the same person who believes in: bleach enemas as treatment for Autism, essential oils to treat cancer, detox foot baths and alkaline diets. Oh, and he actually sells the essential oils he talks about, for big money, what a coincidence. Excuse me while I pin Sas down to give her a bleach enema…….right, I’m back, yep she still has autism.
Flash news: the MMR has not had Thimerosal (Mercury) in it since 2001, yet autism cases are increasing.
On my autism journey, I have found that in my efforts to increase tolerance and acceptance for people on the spectrum, I have become pretty intolerant myself. I have been told that I am rude when I reply to people, and that I am arrogant.
Apologies for that – it is true. I am simply tired of repeating the same thing. One of the howlers that the anti-vaxxers like to cry out is ‘we shouldn’t be injecting mercury into our children’. Flash news: the MMR has not had Thimerosal (Mercury) in it since 2001, yet autism cases are increasing.
Other points made in the anti-vaccine camp, tend to involve an obscure story about a child who died in America (or was it Italy?) after having a vaccine. I’m quite sure this may have happened. The problem is that there is no information about underlying conditions that this child may have had.
There is also a tendency for people to talk about how their child changed the day after receiving the MMR vaccine. I’ve been through this one myself. I looked back, from when Sas was a happy interactive toddler, to the day she became a child who would not even look at me.
I too, for a second thought, aha! She had the MMR vaccine a few weeks before, it must be it. But then, I spoke to our doctor, I looked at her videos, and I realised that it had all started happening gradually, but I had not known what to look out for at the time.
“Ignorance about immunisations is unacceptable, selfish and inconsiderate. Not vaccinating your child (because of something that is not even proven) can kill (I’ll say it again – KILL) another child.’’ Lorinda Mamo
I’ve even come across a parent who has two children on the spectrum, who actively encourages people not to give their kids the MMR vaccine, as it caused her daughter’s autism. When I pressed her on the argument once, she admitted that only one of them has been given the vaccine, so HOW can it be responsible for the other child’s autism?
Another comment that people tend to pass is, ‘to each their own’, people have the right to decide for their own kids. I used to think that this was true, and I did not really care if people wanted to risk their own children contracting a preventable disease. Until I met Lorinda Mamo, that is.
This is what Lorinda had to say:
‘’My son Henry was born with the rare syndrome called Prune Belly Syndrome as well as Chronic Kidney Disease. Henry spent the first six weeks of his life in the N.P.I.C.U with doctors often telling us that they weren’t sure he’d make it another day. So much so, that we had sessions with a bereavement counsellor. Henry’s medical teams worked tirelessly to find the right medications to keep him stable.
Like all other babies, time came for immunisations. We were told that since Henry would eventually need a kidney transplant, he would need to have every single vaccine to keep him safe in the time before the transplant as well as after. I can assure you, there was no doubt in our mind about doing what was necessary to keep him safe.
Now, to give you, the reader a little more perspective, at 7 months old, Henry was hospitalised again for a sore throat that escalated into a urinary tract infection that ultimately harmed his already weak kidneys. Between getting sick and surgeries, Henry has been hospitalised several times. I have spent the past 4 years being scared stiff at the sight of a sick child and being in closed spaces with groups of people, and more so when I read false and misleading statements about vaccines.
The truth is, there is not enough significant evidence of vaccines causing things like seizures or autism, however, I am sure that, had I had not vaccinated Henry and he was exposed to an illness from a child whose parent decided not to vaccinate them, Henry’s life would be in serious danger, and it still is.
Henry’s kidney transplant is fast approaching and a common question and concern that the doctors, specialists and surgeons ask about is his immunisations and whether they are up to date – just to show you the importance of immunisations.
Ignorance about immunisations is unacceptable, selfish and inconsiderate. Not vaccinating your child (because of something that is not even proven) can kill (I’ll say it again – KILL) another child.’’
So yes people, whether other mums vaccinate their children or not, is our business. There are kids who are not healthy enough to have any vaccines at all. So please, think hard about what you do.
Another belief is that it would be better for our kids to be given separate vaccines. This was actually the idea behind Wakefield’s scam. He was trying to patent separate vaccines and stood to make millions through this, which is why he set up a joke of a study, using 12 children to claim that there is a link. The reality is that this would make no difference. A child on the spectrum will be on the spectrum whether they are given the MMR vaccine at one go, separately, or not at all
It all boils down to carrying out your research from reliable sources. Jenny McCarthy is not a reliable source, nor is YouTube. But sites like the CDC and NHS are. Speak to your doctors, take their advice. If they do not recommend that you give your child a vaccine, it will be due to other health reasons, and certainly not any side effects that Wakefield and Wolfe have dreamt up.
Do keep in mind that locally around 1 or 2 children a year are killed or severely disabled by different strains of meningitis – so yes, what then? What if that was your child?
I am aware that I come across as aggressive and sarcastic when I reply to people on Facebook groups. I am not attacking you, I’m attacking your argument. Scaremongering and spreading of false information is just not on.