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Responses to Vaccine Pushers

admin May 16, 2012

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Welcome! This is the fifteenth post in my vaccine series.  You may have missed  Getting Serious10 Bad Reasons Not to VaccinateWhy “Science” Should Be Carefully EvaluatedWhat is Herd Immunity All AboutHow the Immune System WorksIngredients in Vaccines Part 1Ingredients in Vaccines, Part 2Risk-Benefit Analysis: MMRRisk-Benefit Analysis: DTaPRisk-Benefit Analysis: Chicken Pox, Hib, Flu,  Risk-Benefit Analysis: Pneumoccocal, Meningococcal and HPVRisk-Benefit Analysis: Hep A, B and RotavirusWhat About Alternative Schedules? or How to Protect Unvaccinated Kids.

It’s unfortunate, but much of this debate is completely unreasonable.  That is, people get riled up and rely on scare tactics, anger and fear instead of facts; and they don’t believe that people have the right to make their own decisions.  This leads to some pretty scary and sometimes hostile statements from ” vaccine pushers” that can be difficult, in the heat of the moment, to respond to.  Today we’ll talk about some of the most common excuses given by these pushers and responses you can use.

What’s a ” Vaccine Pusher?”

There are people who do choose to vaccinate, in part or in full, who believe that it is an individual decision for each family to make.  Vaccinating works for them.

I am not talking about these families.

A vaccine pusher is someone who believes that everyone ought to vaccinate, with every vaccine currently recommended, on the CDC schedule, with no choice.  If any new vaccines are added, they ought to get those too, without questions.  Families should not have a choice, and those who try to do anything other than the CDC schedule are abusing or neglecting their children and their duty to society, and should be at a minimum, publicly ridiculed; and at a maximum, have their children removed from their home and forcibly vaccinated.  They champion laws that would limit exemptions to extreme medical cases and other lack-of-choice legislature.

I have words for those who believe this:

You have absolutely no right to talk to anyone that way, ever.  You have no leg to stand on with this argument.  You have the right to decide for yourself and your family alone.  You do not have the right to compel others to accept the risk of vaccination or any other medical treatment.  I have nothing but disgust and contempt for those who believe they can and should force their beliefs on others in this manner.  I really cannot express the depth of my contempt for people who push vaccination on others.

Fear is a Powerful Motivator

For most families, when they have newly arrived at a decision to forego or delay vaccination, they are worried.  They are researching fervently, hoping to solidify their choice and stop their fear that “something might happen.”  They are worried about what could happen if they do vaccinate, and if they don’t.

It is these people that vaccine pushers target.  There are people like me, who, after extensive research, stand very firm in their decision not to vaccinate their children, and no amount of scare tactics will sway them.  They show disgust and contempt for people like me and try to stir up anger and use peer pressure, but they don’t target me directly.  The people who are still fearful, though — these are the people they target.

Every terrible story that comes out in the media — “This one child died or almost died of a vaccine-preventable disease!  We all need to remember little Suzy’s story next time we think that vaccines aren’t important! — are scare tactics, plain and simple.  And they have no place in this very important debate, and I mentioned in my first post in this series.

However, that doesn’t mean it will stop happening.

Vaccine pushers know that fear is a powerful motivator, and they use it to their advantage.  They use these stories and sometimes manipulated statistics (or even outright lies, in some cases) to try to scare parents into vaccinating.

Let’s look at some of the most common claims now, and take the fear out of them.  As well as giving you something to say in response!

Vaccine Claims and Answers

Claim: “If you don’t vaccinate, you’re putting my child at risk.”

Response: “It is your job to protect your child, and my job to protect mine.   Vaccines come with risks that I’m not comfortable taking.”  I really don’t like this ‘collectivist’ reasoning anyway.  We are all individuals who, in the majority of cases, need to protect ourselves, and then worry about our contributions to society.  We do have responsibilities to others but not to the extent to place ourselves at risk if we are uncomfortable doing so.  If you have a new baby, stay home or wear that baby close to your body.  If you have a medically fragile child, it isn’t only “vaccine preventable” diseases that could harm him/her, it’s any form of illness, and you must take proper precautions all the time.  Expecting others to be aware of all your needs and take extreme measures to protect you is wrong.  Now, as I said in a previous post, I believe that staying home when you are ill is a social responsibility, and being extra careful about going near newborns or people you know are medically fragile if you even think you might be getting sick or have been exposed is a good idea.  That, you can and should do, because it presents very little burden to you.  Feel free to point this out.

Claim: “Don’t you know your child is going to die?”

Response: “These diseases are extremely uncommon today, and even if my child does get them, I know enough about the signs and symptoms to seek medical care if needed.  The serious complications are extremely rare, fewer than 1 in 10,000 in many cases.”  There’s a whole lot more you could say about this if pressed.  People like to mention the very rare complications but they act as if everyone who catches the disease will end up with these complications, which is simply untrue.  See my risk-benefit analysis posts for specifics on how often these complications actually occur in various diseases.

Claim: “You just don’t know how dangerous these diseases are.  If you did, you’d vaccinate.”

Response: “These diseases were actually not dangerous in the vast majority of cases.  There will always be complications for a few, but this is not the majority.”  Again, see the risk-benefit analysis posts for specific statistics on just how rare these complications are.  I’d argue that many people who vaccinate, especially vaccine pushers, are actually far more terrified of the diseases than they actually need to be.  And if they come back and say “What if it happened to your child,” you can simply respond, “What if my child had a bad vaccine reaction?  Speculating gets us nowhere.  There is risk to anything.”

Claim: “How will you feel when these diseases become epidemic again?  Pertussis cases are already rising.  It’s your fault.”

Response: “The majority of these cases are occurring in fully vaccinated individuals due to vaccine failure.  If you want to blame me, our conversation is over.”  Don’t take that ‘it’s your fault’ junk.  Don’t even discuss it, don’t argue with it, don’t deal with it at all.  If someone wants to name call or be rude, then there’s no point in debating them.

Claim: “Child services ought to/will come and take your child(ren) away if you don’t vaccinate.”

Response: “In many states, it is actually considered a false report and illegal for CPS to get involved simply because a family does not vaccinate.”  Look up your state’s laws, as some are stricter than others.  www.nvic.org is a good place to look.  This does happen, sadly, in a few states, and I suggest securing a legal waiver as soon as possible (even before your children are school age) and finding a lawyer or joining the Homeschool Legal Defense (HSLD) if you are in a state with stricter laws.  This will help to protect you.  And as for ‘ought’ to take your children…end the conversation immediately.  Don’t go there.

Claim: “Well, you can’t put them in public school, and you shouldn’t take them to any other public places either.”

Response: “All states allow for unvaccinated children to attend public school with some form of waiver.  As long as my children are not sick, there is no reason they should not be in public.”  Two states have only a medical waiver, but the rest have religious and/or philosophical, which allows your child(ren) to attend public school unvaccinated.  www.nvic.org can tell you your state’s laws.  As for the silly idea that unvaccinated children shouldn’t be allowed in public, there’s no issue if they are not sick!  If they are or if you know, for example, that your child has just been exposed to chicken pox, keep them home.  But unvaccinated children are not walking disease-carriers.  You may also choose to say, “Recently vaccinated children can shed viruses and make other children ill, yet they aren’t told to stay clear of public spaces.  Perhaps they should be.”  Of course that’s a bit argumentative….

Claim: “You are an anti-science whack job with a tinfoil hat.  Everyone knows vaccines are the greatest public health breakthrough.”

Response: End the conversation immediately.  Walk away.  Don’t engage.  There is no response needed to this.  It is an absolutely ridiculous and enraging idea but there is no logic behind it.  Anyone who says this doesn’t actually understand or care to understand your position and you shouldn’t waste your breath arguing.  Anyone who talks like this and thinks it’s appropriate is lower than low.  Insults are never appropriate and are a sign of a complete lack of an argument and no ability to use complex reasoning.

Claim: “You know that anti-vaccination is just a conspiracy theory, right?  There’s no actual science behind it.”

Response: “There is quite a bit of science to support the idea that vaccinations may be harmful.  Please check out the CDC’s Pink Book and read the vaccine package inserts.  I’d be happy to point you towards other accepted medical sources as well.”  Assuming that the person saying this actually believes it and isn’t trying to be deliberately inflammatory, point them towards the science.

Claim: “Anti-vaccinators are dangerous, because they spread lies.”

Response: “I am not anti-vaccine.  I am for choice.  If others would like to vaccinate, they may choose to do so.  Please take a look at the science.”  The first part is important: most people who are against vaccinations are against them for their own family.  They do not try to tell others what they ‘should’ do.  They aim to educate gently to help people come to their own decisions.  Pro-vaccinators, on the other hand, are anti-choice, which is why they have no leg to stand on.  You can also point them towards plenty of scientific sources that clearly state the potential dangers of vaccines, but most people who call you a liar are not actually interested in what the science really says.

The Bottom Line

Some people will say these things out of sheer ignorance, because they have heard them repeated frequently in the media.  Some will say them in confusion, looking for confirmation or answers.  Engage them, answer them, speak to them gently.  Point them towards the CDC’s Pink Book, the WHO disease position papers, and the vaccine package inserts to begin their research.  Honest questions should be answered, and answered respectfully!

Others, the true “pushers,” will say these just to be inflammatory and rude.  Don’t engage them.  It’s hard, but just walk away.  They are stuck in their indefensible position and there’s nothing that you can say to change their minds.  Ignore, avoid, do not debate them.  I refuse to do so anymore because it is not worth my time, stress, or frustration.  Usually these are not people who can actually do anything about your ability to make a choice, so there is no point.

The most important part is that if you do talk about vaccines, do it calmly and rationally.  Point people towards studies.  Use common sense.  Don’t get angry or frustrated or make broad statements that you can’t back up with data.  This position, despite being the only correct one (that people should have a choice, not that people shouldn’t vaccinate), is extremely difficult to defend these days because of all the vitriol being spewed by the mainstream.  It’s not helped when people make broad, emotional statements that lack science.

Be patient, persistent, and always point back to the data.  The small minority of voices will grow in strength if they are calm and have data on their sides.  That should be our point always — what the science actually shows.  We’re accused of being anti-science and that isn’t true, of course; we need to constantly be reminding everyone of that!

Final Thoughts

Next week will be the series wrap-up.  Three months later and we’re finally done!  If you have any additional questions about vaccines that have not been answered by this series, please leave them for me and I’ll do my best to address them next week.

What types of comments do you hear from ‘vaccine pushers?’  How do you handle it?

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  1. Great article!

    I want to warn people that there is a nationwide push to change vaccine exemption laws to make them tougher for people who want to opt out. If this isn’t currently happening in your state you can expect it to be happening soon, unfortunately. So get active, join a vaccine choice coalition in your state (or form one) and talk to your state legislators.

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  2. Good, good article. I came to this decision (not to vaccinate) with my husband a couple of years ago. I had worried about it for 20 years, had two daughters who had negative reactions to vaccination, and finally, with our last daughter (now 12), got brave enough to opt out. I personally wish I had had the courage to opt out YEARS ago. I don’t judge ANYONE who feels they need to vaccinate.

    I have also found that “a gentle answer (usually) turns away wrath.” I also do not engage in defending myself. I just smile and say, “You know, different people have vastly different opinions on this. I think we need to agree to disagree.” (More smiling!)

    It is very interesting to me that many folks who would firmly argue that “choice” for abortion is absolutely essential, but that “choice” for vaccination is reprehensible!!

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  3. I understand your concern with this subject, but as a nurse I’ve seen what happens when people choose not to vaccinate(yes I am a pusher), I’ve seen a 3 day old infant die in her mothers arms because she caught whooping cough from her unvaccinated mother as soon as she was born and while it was mild to the mother it’s incredibly deadly to the baby(as are most vaccine preventable diseases). The whole reason for vaccinations is to build up your immune system to it for everyday encounters, but you can still get it from someone who is infected. Because of letting people choose, you might as well get rid of the vaccines because it’s almost pointless. I’ve been seeing all of these diseases come back that we haven’t seen since we’ve gotten the vaccine, and it makes it harder to counteract it because none of us has had to do anything for these in our careers. Even vaccinated people and children come into our ER with these now because they were exposed to an unvaccinated infected person(it’s been happening a lot in day cares) I understand that it’s scary getting these vaccines sometimes and can lead to suspicion from the government, but i can tell you from my own experience the vaccine is much less harmful than the actual disease. It really hits harder to home for both parents and our staff when we see a child die of a vaccine preventable disease, and it just makes us feel even more hopeless about the growing number of these returning diseases.

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  4. I dont think very quick on my feet…I am the type who gets flustered and cant engage in this kind of conversation. I took my kids to the doctor and was getting the “talk”. He proceeded to try and scare me into vaccinating my kids by telling me there was a whooping cough outbreak in XX county (which happened to be one county over). I politely thanked him for his concern and reminded him that I lived 4 counties over (approx 150 miles). He didnt have much to say at that point. Needless to say we will not be going back there agin.
    I also really upset doctors when they try to scare me with the vaccine talk by telling them “well that ilness doesnt frighten me”. They really think I am an idiot then…he he he

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  5. Just dealt with this issue today. Thanks for the advice!

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  6. Here’s one I always hear: “the toxins in vaccines are in such small amounts that they are not harmful. Your body just flushes them out.” I can never think of an intelligent response to this. Can you help me out here? I’m also one of those who gets too flustered to think of a response in the heat of the moment and can think of a million hours too late. Thanks for the read and th guide!

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  7. David, the link you provided from Skagit county, do you know that Skagit County, WA has an unvaxed rate of 10% of kindergartners? Ten percent! With ten percent of children not vaxed, that is putting older children who have waning immunity at risk. That is why we are seeing so many older children with pertussis in Skagit, Whatcom, and Snohomish counties in WA State. Because all three counties have unvaxed rate of 10%.

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  8. Jessica, I agree with you.

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  9. In response to the above post about the three day old baby dieing from pertussis , I have heard similar stories from MD friends of mine and my question to them was, the baby was three days old and in eligible for a pertussis vaccine, the mother and anyone vaccinated can still act as a carrier for the disease even if they show no or mild symptoms. How is the vaccine making pertussis preventable, for that baby, in any way? It can not. The answer as stated above is breastfeeding, as long a mom is exposed first they baby is realativly safe. My daughter was not vaccinated and will not be. She has been healthy and happy even though my husband and I have contracted colds and even a nasty case of viral pink eye(in spite of sleeping next to me before I knew I had it). Why because she was given my antibodies.

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  10. Jessidca…I mean seriously. Not trying to seem derogatory but parent cocooning for protection against pertussis is being renounced all over because of it’s complete failure rates. If cocooning doesn’t work, and the baby was only 3 days old, this was an unpreventable death. Unfortunately, we cannot completely eradicate disease. That is a very poor argument and also very predictable….you’ve had scare tactis embedded into your brain.

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  11. One of my closest friends is a Vaccine Pusher, and I explained to her politely that it was my choice to whether to vaccinate or not and that my sister who had been vaccinated fully had measles three times as a child.

    Also, personally, both myself and my daughters father have cousins who were vaccinated and then suffered autistic-like issues.

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  12. I’m soooo glad to meet people who see things my way! Thank you so much for this post; well said!

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  13. I’m so tired of the people who say I’m hurting their children by not vaccinating my children. I usually tell them that vaccines aren’t fully protective and aren’t a panacea. If they were there’d be no epidemics EVER, because the percentage of un vaxed children is not equal to epidemic percentages EVER.

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  14. This argument would be more effective and less inflammatory without the use of straw man arguments and generalizations such as “most vaccine pushers” do such and such. It sounds like you are venting so it is hard to take it very seriously. As a registered nurse I consider myself a vaccine pusher, which is why I was interested in this. Just a friendly suggestion from someone with a different perspective. I do respect other people’s right to choose even though I strongly encourage vaccinations. Have a nice day 🙂

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  15. thanks for this MAM 🙂 My baby is due in December so I have been researching all medical procedures like crazy! I am part of a forum on whattoexpect and oh my, some of them need to read this! they make fun of “anti vaccine” people and tell them that they are stupid (for lack of a better word). I won’t engage in arguments with them (mostly because it’s with people I don’t know, over the internet) but this is great for people who have a lot of questions.

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  16. What about personal vacs? My pulmonologist is pushing. He says I have a highly compromised immune system due to asthma and Hashimotos. I tried explaining that 3 out of the 4 times I’ve gotten a flu shot I’ve immediately gotten sick. What would you say? Thank you!

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  17. My favorite thing is always to ask the pushers if they are up to date on their adult boosters. That usually shuts them up. I mean, if vaccines are so important to “herd immunity” (which has never been proven to take place with mass vaccination), then they are endangering the herd just as much as unvaccinated kids. Come to think of it, since so few adults are getting adult boosters, shouldn’t all these “scourges of childhood” have come back already? Debatably, vaccines offer some kind of short term protection but I get so annoyed when pushers somehow think that a vaccine also prevents transmission. Vaccinated kids carry bugs and pass them on, too. Just b/c they don’t manifest symptoms doesn’t mean they aren’t carrying and passing on a bug.

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  18. According to some prominent physicians Dr. Mark Geier – pointed out at a conference in Europe that the amount of mercury of vaccines is extraordinary, the EPA states that 0.1 mcg of mercury is acceptable to a human system, but in most vaccinations for children they carry 12.5 or mcg of mercury…in the flu vaccine the amount of mercury is 25mcg…you would have to be 550lbs to be able to assimilate all that mercury…cdc one had a page on their web site about the dangers of formaldehyde which is carcinogenic.. (page has been removed) but yet when you look in their web site at the list of ingredients in the vaccines, formaldehyde is listed in most of the vaccines even flu, so with this knowledge…and lets not underestimate these people who make these decisions are all well respected scientists and physicians..how is it that they can sleep at night knowing they are harming people?…Let’s be clear there are no safe levels of mercury…and the other ingredients are just toxic.

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  19. I am pro Vaccine, a nurse but also a mother. And i am always a mother first. I wouldn’t say i am a “pusher” i accept others choice to vaccinate or not vaccinate despite my own beliefs. I find most comments above quite plausible until i start reading things like ” Big Pharma” and ” money makers” and “Dr Wakefield” I lose interest very quickly. Maybe I should do a blog on how to respond to Anti Vaxxers and by this I mean those who refuse to vaccinate and try to change others views by using scare tactics, anger and fear instead of facts. I choose to vaccinate my children due to research I have done ( I have studied immunisation extensively at UNI ), But personally I have also seen reactions and illness due to Vaccination. I am open to the view of anti vaxxers who choose not to vaccinate in fear of reactions or that are against putting unnatural things in to their bodies. I do however tend to find myself arguing with the ones ( these would be the extremists “tin foil hat ones” ) that argue government conspiracy theories, that Bill Gates is leading a population culling vaccine programme, that it is money making for big pharma etc. I guess there is a middle ground and there are two very polar opposite extremes.

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  20. You can’t stand Vaccine Pushers, do you push your religion on others? You are right, fear is a huge motivator and your religion preaches that non believers or non worshippers will be subject to fire and brimstone, how is that for fear?
    I am not a Vaccine Pusher, I think parents should make an educated decision on the issue. I am actually really interested in your writing since you have done research and my husband and I are trying to have a child.
    My comment is only with the purpose of having you reflect on how you behave at times. I don’t know you personally so I can’t say you push your beliefs on others, but not following an established religion I have been told I’m going to hell more than a few times. I think what is important is for us all to accept people have the right to make individual choices for themselves or others… and they aren’t necassarily wrong, just different.

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  21. Thanks for your great article and insights. Always a great read.

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  22. Kate have you mentioned anything in your series yet to address this question: The parents of my generation all contracted many of the diseases we now vaccinate for, which means their children (my generation) receive a level of immunity from them whether we are vaccinated or not, right? What about our children- with no exposure to the diseases or immunity passed to them. Or am I incorrect in believing immunity to some diseases is passed down to children (biological)?

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  23. What if I live in a State that only allows for religious exemptions and I’m not religious? Is there a way around this?

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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