I was being interviewed about childhood vaccination on the KTIS radio station that broadcasts in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. During the interview I stated, “In my opinion, parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are committing a form of child abuse.” According to the station, my comments “stirred up a hornet’s nest.”
One listener wrote this to KTIS:
I just heard Dr. Walt Larimore on the morning show make a statement that to not vaccinate your children is CHILD ABUSE!!! I am shocked that you have allowed someone to make such a claim on your station. My husband and I do not vaccinate our two children and they are healthier than most the other kids they are around. We have chosen to have a healthy, natural, organic lifestyle. Neither of our children has ever had an ear infection, major illness, or other issues that many kids their ages have had.
My children are happy, loveable, amazing little boys who are loved and cared for. I can’t believe you have allowed someone to claim we ABUSE our children. I am so frustrated right now after hearing that. I am a Christian who has listened to your station for many, many years. We have donated in the past to different charities and I even participate in your listener panel where we rate your songs by email.
Please have … the station does not necessarily agree with Dr. Larimore’s claims because he is making a VERY STRONG and REPREHENSIBLE statement that my husband and I are VERY offended by. (Sorry if I’m coming across too strong, I’m just very upset right now.)
I was listening on KTIS radio, in Minneapolis, MN and I found your comment; that “parents who do not vacinate are abusive to their childern”, VERY offensive. I know people who don’t vacinate for very good reasons. Why did you leave no room for that thought?
Well, I’m happy to explain.
I had predicted to the station that I knew that this comment would likely stir up some significant listener reaction – both positive and negative. Indeed it did. But, if I knew that going in, why would I go ahead and purposefully say it?
Especially since I know that parents who choose not to vaccinate their children (at least for reasons that are neither based upon their religious or on the child’s allergies) often are quite offended by such a statement.
But, the issue is not whether they are offended or not. The issue is what is the truth?
I suspect the rich man was offended when Jesus told him to sell all he had. But, Jesus still told him the truth.
And, to many, the Gospel is offensive — even scandalous — yet we still lovingly tell people the truth.
Some women find it offensive, even guilt provoking, when they learn the Birth Control Pill they are taking or have taken can lead to unrecognized abortions. Yet we tell them and counsel them on how to deal with this truth. (You can read more about this in two of my past blogs: Did you know the birth control pill can cause abortions? and American Society of Reproductive Medicine Statement Confirms the Pill Causes Abortion.)
But, the fear of offense should not, in my opinion, keep us from confronting people with the truth – especially as relates to their children. People who choose to not vaccinate their children are usually wonderful and sincere people. But, in my opinion, they are sincerely wrong – as their decisions are usually based up one or more vaccine myths.
First, they put their children at significant risk for potentially fatal or disabling diseases (thus my child abuse allegation).
Second, they put the community at risk because their kids can carry and pass on these preventable diseases to other.
I remember the first baby that I delivered to an unvaccinated young woman who had developed German Measles during pregnancy. The child was born severely mentally retarded and blind. The mother and her parents were heartbroken. They had chosen to not take the vaccines that would have saved this baby and them a lifetime of grief.
I remember the young 6 year old girl I admitted to the hospital with a bacterial infection known as Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b). Unfortunately, the infection gave her Hib meningitis. She’ll get better, thank the Lord, but her hearing is permanently affected and she’ll need hearing aides the rest of her life. Unfortunately, she was doomed to this fate because her parents had unwisely chosen not to vaccinate her. They chose not to have her take the HIB vaccine that has reduced the incidence of invasive HIB by more than 99%.
According to recent news reports, in the last few weeks, up in Minnesota (the same area of the broadcast), 5 unvaccinated children came down with invasive Hib. One died. At least three of the affected children (and perhaps all five) had not received any vaccinations, including the 7-month-old who died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Simply put, my case and the Minnesota cases were all preventable tragedies. Can you imagine the grief that the parents of the dead 7 month old must be experiencing?
So, I stand by my charge that choosing NOT to vaccinate your children against fatal or disabling diseases (at least without sincere religious or allergic reasons) is a form of child abuse.
And, as more and more parents realize this, there is a growing backlash against the antivaccine movement (what some call the “antivaccine crazies“). In fact, a new book defending vaccines, written by a doctor infuriated at the now disproven claim that they or vaccine preservatives cause autism, is galvanizing even more backlash against the antivaccine movement in the United States.
Stunningly, according to a report in the New York Times, the author of this book, Paul A. Offit, has actually had many death threats. Unbelievable. You can read about it here.
Accusing loving and sincere parents, who choose not to vaccinate their children, of “a form of child abuse,” is NOT an easy thing to do. In fact, it would be easier not to.
Some might think it would be kinder no to. But, in my opinion, it’s the truth and parents who love their children need to hear and at least consider it.
BTW, you can read more about these Vaccine Myths by going to my website and click on “Dr. Walt’s Blog,” at the top of the page and enter “Vaccine Myths” into the search box to read my explanation of the 13 most prevalent vaccine myths. Or, just go here to view the first blog in the series. And then click on the hyperlinks at the bottom of each page to read the rest of the myths.
Also, I’ve blogged on the very popular idea of delaying vaccines promoted by Dr. Sears. You can read my blog on that topic here. Although I don’t recommend a delayed schedule, if parents insist upon it, after informed consent, I’ll use it. Although I don’t think it’s particularly wise, I think it’s a much better option than no vaccines.
Here are other blogs in this series you might find useful: