Beth Leyba

The vaccine debate is getting incredibly heated in the media and on Facebook timelines and most likely at family gatherings as well. I have currently seen so many versions of “Dear Parents, You Are Being Lied To” that my head is spinning. Who is telling the truth? (There were originally three links here, but one blogger had to close her blog and alluded to threats to her family, possibly from the FDA.)

I wear several hats in life, but the most important one is that of mom. My first child was vaccinated fully, on schedule, as I never knew it was an option not to. I had her at a very young age and dutifully took her to well-baby visits, where I was simply told, “Your baby will be receiving such-and-such shots today,” then handed the information sheets after the vaccines had been administered. That is not informed consent.

My questioning started because of my observations of strange symptoms and behaviors after each round of shots. She has struggled throughout her life with eczema, life threatening food allergies, asthma, sensory processing disorder and general ill health. In my research several years later I discovered that she had received a dose of oral polio vaccine shortly before it was pulled from the market because it was known to be causing polio.

My second child was on an unintentionally delayed vaccine schedule because she always had the sniffles when her visits were to happen and I rescheduled, knowing that vaccines should not be administered while sick. She received each of her first few rounds of shots a few months late, and after being extremely bullied by a doctor and nurse at her one year visit, which happened at 15 months, for simply mentioning that I was beginning to question, I have refused any further vaccinations for her since that day.

I had, and have, immense guilt that I didn’t simply say no that day. They wanted to “catch her up” and while I did refuse the varicella vaccine because that was the one I had started researching, she received no less than ten vaccinations at once. In the days and weeks following she had several strange symptoms, as well as a huge red lump in one leg that took weeks to go away. Like her sister, she has asthma and sensory processing disorder, but no known allergies as of yet.

Another hat I wear is that of writer/journalist. I’m currently attending school in pursuit of a convergent journalism degree, and in one of my classes we were recently talking about ethics. According to my professor, and apparently the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, the foremost ethical concern that I am to take into consideration in writing and reporting is “the public’s right to know.”

Dear medical and scientific community, pharmaceutical companies and government, we want to know, and we have the right to. We want to know what the current science is for and against vaccines—all of it, not just the studies that showed favorable results. We want to know exactly what is in each vaccine and in what amounts. We want to see independent research that is not funded by vaccine makers or any medical professional who has a conflict of interest.

Don’t write us off as stupid or unable to read and understand studies. Don’t tell us we’re deluded or blindly following Jenny McCarthy or Andrew Wakefield. Personally I’ve never read a shred of anything either of them has written. (Scratch that, as in researching this piece I did end up reading Ms. McCarthy’s recent op-ed, and if anything it made me want to read more on her stance. It does not seem at all unreasonable to me.) Don’t try and tell us that the multitude of parents who watched their children drastically change in the hours, weeks, and months after vaccinations are crazy and their genes or bad luck are to blame.

Dear media, please stop presenting this as a one-sided issue and implying that there is universal medical and scientific consensus on vaccine safety and efficacy. There is not. When I started researching I didn’t rely on blogs or friends or Jenny McCarthy; I sought out information from medical professionals.

The media tends to center the argument around autism, but what of the concurrent epidemics of allergies, asthma, ADHD, autoimmune disorders and obesity? Our nation is sick, and I refuse to be put down and called names and told I’m responsible for dead babies simply because I want REAL scientific inquiry and true journalism.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I have seriously wondered lately at seeing several media outlets that I was under the impression were independently owned sink to the level of name calling non-vaccinating parents and blaming them for the so-called outbreaks of diseases. What happened to investigative, non-biased journalism that seeks the truth and reports on all sides of an issue?

Please stop the name calling. It makes us all look bad.

I am not the journalist to take this on, as I have delved deeply enough into the available information to lean towards the non-vaccinating stance. I do believe that the theory of immunization is a solid one, but what I question is the ability of a tiny infant’s body to mount an immune response to multiple pathogens at once and have that confer lifelong or even temporary immunity. And what of the potential short and long term side effects? Don’t tell me that genetics are solely to blame for this chronically ill nation.

Those of us who question vaccines are not anti-science at all. In fact, I view it as a very pro-science, pro-critical thinking stance that accepts that what we currently know is constantly changing based on observation and research. I get extremely tired of having people online yell “Science!” at me or tell me they hope I die of a vaccine preventable illness—all for daring to question. They are not advocating science at all, but rigid adherence to a belief that vaccines are safe and effective and do no harm. They may as well yell “Bible!” or “Burn her at the stake!”

I commend Katie Couric for reporting on the Gardasil vaccine. (Page has been removed.) It took tremendous courage and she was excoriated in the press as a result. She is now taking on the issue of Big Food in the form of the documentary Fed Up, which I commend her for as well. What I don’t understand, however, is how it’s okay to go after “Big Food,” “Big Tobacco,” “Big Sugar,” and even “Big Pharma” in terms of medications, but vaccines are given a pass with little scrutiny or in depth investigation.

There is a chance I will be blacklisted as a journalist simply for writing this, should I even manage to get it published, but quite frankly I don’t care, because I take the public’s right to know seriously, as well as the health and wellbeing of my children. I will certainly be harassed and intimidated and told I am stupid in the comments section, but I’m used to that, so bring it on.

Perhaps there is a journalist or two who will take on this issue from a non-biased perspective and really dig deep. Until then—

Dear parents, we are definitely being lied to and I think we’re on our own.

May the odds be ever in our favor.

(Note: I did not continue my quest for a journalism degree, as I quickly learned that real journalism no longer exists, with the exception of a handful of brave individuals such as John Rappaport and Sharyl Attkisson.)