I want to give you my take on vaccines, which sits right smack dab in the middle. I am not pro-vaccination. And I am not an anti-vaccinator. Yes, people, including doctors, can sit in the middle of the debate.
In recent months, there has been a lot of attention on the measles outbreak that occurred in Disneyland, USA. Heated discussions revolve around how the unvaccinated are to blame.
With the outbreak, thousands of people are taking the opportunity to share strong opinions towards ‘anti-vaxxers,’ saying their views are not based on science and that ALL doctors agree vaccines are perfectly safe.
These types of conversations really frustrate me. Not particularly about the debate as I am used to that. As a doctor that uses integrative medicine, I often hear from people who feel let down by conventional medicine or from people who feel their doctor does not ever truly hear them. I have quickly come to realize that my patient base is quite different from that of a typical primary care provider or pediatrician.
Among my patients, there have been several adverse reactions from vaccinations hours and days after injection. Does the news I receive from my patients mean I am 100% against vaccination? Absolutely not.
What I am so disappointed and frustrated about is what is NOT being talked about. These people, whose lives have been devastated by the side effects of vaccines, and children who changed dramatically after vaccination, are being ignored.
What I find challenging is people dismissing someone’s personal experience. How can you say “vaccines didn’t cause those side effects” or “science proves vaccines are 100% safe therefore it wasn’t the vaccine.” Science in fact can give you both sides of the coin. We can choose what we want to read and people can choose what they want to post but the complicated truth is there is evidence to support both sides.
Are vaccines created to harm people? No, of course not. Millions of lives have been saved.
Do vaccines have side effects? Yes. The side effects are commonly mild and short-lived but in rare cases, they can be severe and even fatal. When I talk to my patients about side effects, I bring out the vaccine insert and show them what the possible side effects are. Or, we go to the CDC website and look there.
Overall I find more and more parents who have to create private, and even underground, groups in order to freely and safely talk about their experience with vaccinations. Otherwise, they may receive scrutiny from their friends or family if they speak up and share their personal experience. More and more I am having parents come into my office petrified to have their child vaccinated and I respect this fear.
The tragedy here is that large groups of people who have experienced horrible, life-altering experience are being dismissed while famous actors and corporations are making them feel as if their experience doesn’t exist. I do not agree with this approach. It is not productive to deny something that has happened when in actuality it has.
My suggestion? LISTEN to each other. Stop quoting what some famous actor had to say. Or what Merck commercials are advocating. Embrace these people with compassion and empathy and let’s work together to achieve more transparency in the research that is currently going on.
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