After a week of what seemed like a simple cold bouncing from one family member to another, Tara Hills found herself increasingly concerned as the dry coughing fits became more violent, leaving her youngest child struggling to breath with his choking cough:
I’m writing this from quarantine, the irony of which isn’t lost on me. Emotionally I’m a bit raw. Mentally a bit taxed. Physically I’m fine. All seven of my unvaccinated children have whooping cough, and the kicker is that they may have given it to my five month old niece, too young to be fully vaccinated.
Hills explains the “vaccine phobia” that paralyzed her from making some pretty important decisions, including one that would have prevented her family’s “One Hundred Day Cough”:
We had vaccinated our first three children on an alternative schedule and our youngest four weren’t vaccinated at all. We stopped because we were scared and didn’t know who to trust. Was the medical community just paid off puppets of a Big Pharma-Government-Media conspiracy? Were these vaccines even necessary in this day and age? Were we unwittingly doing greater harm than help to our beloved children? So much smoke must mean a fire so we defaulted to the ‘do nothing and hope nothing bad happens’ position.
For years relatives tried to persuade us to reconsider through emails and links, but this only irritated us and made us defensive. Secretly, I hoped I would find the proof I needed to hold the course, but deep down I was resigned to only find endless conflicting arguments that never resolved anything. No matter if we vaccinated or not, I thought, it would be nothing more than a coin toss with horrible risks either way.
The recent “Disneyland Measles Outbreak of 2014-2015” changed her mind, even before her family became infected with the pertussis bacteria which causes whooping cough:
I looked again at the science and evidence for community immunity and found myself gripped with a very real sense of personal and social responsibility before God and man. The time had come to make a more fully informed decision than we did 6 years ago. I sat down with our family doctor and we put together a catch-up vaccination schedule for our children.
That schedule that was supposed to start the week after I found myself in the waiting room of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) with my 10-month-old son, waiting to confirm if he had whooping cough.
Although Hills’ two oldest children improved, her four youngest got worse; her 10-month-old’s breathing difficulties sent them emergently to the hospital, leaving Hills relieved — and remorseful:
I am not looking forward to any gloating or shame as this ‘defection’ from the antivaxx camp goes public, but, this isn’t a popularity contest. Right now my family is living the consequences of misinformation and fear. I understand that families in our community may be mad at us for putting their kids at risk. I want them to know that we tried our best to protect our kids when we were afraid of vaccination and we are doing our best now, for everyone’s sake, by getting them up to date. We can’t take it back … but we can learn from this and help others the same way we have been helped.
Vaccination is a serious decision about our personal and public health that can’t be made out of fear, capitulation or following any crowd. No one was more surprised than us to find solid answers that actually laid our fears to rest. I am confident that anyone with questions can find answers. I would only advise them to check your biases, sources and calendar: Time waits for no parent.