Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Sharp End: Why I have the right not to vaccinate my family.

The hysteria around measles has raised some very interesting debates on social media. I have been scrolling on by and rolling my eyes at some of the biased and badly written commentary, having to stop myself from commenting most of the time because frankly, it takes time and energy out of my day that could be healthily directed elsewhere. But after reading yet another badly informed article on a highly respected news site I have decided to draw my line in the sand.

I am not anti vaccine. I believe that like any drug, there are certain times when a certain vaccine, or a vaccination drive, may be beneficial to a child or to a community. I live in South Africa and have friends and relatives living in areas where there is extreme poverty, lack of resources and where there are people who have no access to any form of personalised medical care. Some of the time, well directed vaccine programs are potentially beneficial in these areas. Clean water and healthy food would help a lot more, but vaccines are cheaper, so that is what government will focus on. Vaccines are an emergency measure, a stopgap, a band aid. They should not be a permanent fixture in society, but in areas where children are not healthy enough to withstand illness and the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risk, they can save lives. There is a place for vaccines. However, that place is NOT in every child, with countless shots for so many diseases.

I didn't vaccinate my children. However, my decision not to vaccinate was only one decision of many I made to consciously create healthy, strong human beings. My research has led me to a lifestyle philosophy that is based on creating the conditions for health without relying on medical interventions. Every major decision we make for our kids is researched. I began researching in pregnancy, deciding on an evidence based birth plan that was as safe for the baby as possible. I breastfed my children - and not for weeks or months, but for years, because the benefits of extended breastfeeding for the childs immune system have proven to be incredibly important. I researched gut immunity and found out that a healthy gut = a healthy human. When I introduced foods at around 6 months, I had done my research and fed them fresh organic fruits and veg. No processed cereal or bottled puree. We avoid wheat, dairy and sugar as much as possible. Fresh fruits or veg are a part of every single meal, I bake my own gluten free breads. We have installed a water filter and my kids drink their rooibos tea with honey. Juice is a rarity. We didn't stop there. We don't use any toxic household products. Our dish liquid, house cleaner and laundry liquids are all non toxic and earth friendly. I have limited, as much as possible, my childrens exposure to harmful chemicals. 

When they get sick - and they do get sick sometimes, like all children do - the first thing i do is boost them. I up their liquids, give them vitamins and immune boosting supplements. I don't give them paracetemol to take down their fever. Fever is good, fever is the body's first line of defense. I use saline for sinus and coughs, and very rarely a nasal spray. What I have found after years of worrying is that actually, my kids are remarkably healthy. They will generally be over their colds in 3 to 4 days, whereas if their dad or I catch the same bug, we are down for a week. If the illness persists and I am at all concerned I take them to a family doctor who usually prescribes nothing but good food and lots of liquid. Don't get me wrong, judiciously used and properly prescribed medicine can and does help people, but we need to keep all interventions to a minimum if we want to create a healthy immune system. My kids however, have well developed and excercised immune systems and their bodies have learned to heal themselves. 

Why is it that I, in my role as a parent who doesn't vaccinate, gets maligned for my choice NOT to perform a potentially risky medical procedure when it is clear from my lifestyle and the choices we have made as a family, that I am doing everything in my power to keep my children strong and healthy without medical interventions? Interventions that I believe could weaken their immune system. Why is it that the laws that regulate the marketplace to protect consumers don't apply here? There are a plethora of laws in place to protect consumers in just about every other sphere. We can demand labelling, we can demand that toxic ingredients be removed, we can insist that dangerous products are recalled. However, when it comes to vaccines, this does not apply. If you don't like the ingredients, tough luck, you have to inject them into your kids anyway or you're a bad parent - or as our Minister of Health put it recently - a bioterrorist. 

I don't accept that. I feel that as parents we have every right to refuse a medical intervention without clear indication of a pressing need. We also have the right to use alternative remedies, and to refuse care from a doctor whose recommendations we don't agree with. Studies have shown that unvaccinated children are much healthier than their vaccinated counterparts, and often this is because of a range of healthier decisions they have made for their children. When I have put so much effort into growing healthy, strong children, and made drastic lifestyle changes in order to do so, why am I being pressured to conform to the vaccine program? I am not making a myriad of unhealthy lifestyle choices for my kids, I should not be punished because I have chosen not to follow the easy path. 

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