Parents are the first line of defense for their children. They are the providers, the caregivers, the biggest supports and the best friends. But why do some parents put their children at risk of contracting diseases that could have been prevented with a simple vaccination? Is it a fear of science and modern medicine, is it the fear of mandated immunizations, or is it some evangelical crusade? It differs from case to case.
The constant in all of this is that when parents neglect to vaccinate their children, they are putting the lives of their sons and daughters on the line. But what about those sons, those daughters, those children who had no choice in the matter? How do they feel now that they are old enough to know that their anti-vaxxer parents weren't always looking out for their best interest?
Look no further.
A Reddit thread recently asked children of anti-vaxxers to share their stories and explain how their parents' decisions had an impact on their lives. The following responders explain what it was like to grow up in a household that put more merit in essential oils and the word of God than they did in centuries of medical research and modern medicine.
It's safe to say that most people picture anti-vaxxers as being crazy holistic hippies or fundamentalists, but that's not always the case, as Caellena pointed out when they were discussing their upbringing with a mom who seemed to have a warped view on immunizations based on her profession in the medical industry.
"Oddly enough, my mom is a nurse, but she still chose not to have me and my sisters vaccinated," they wrote. "Her reasoning was that she had been in a number of situations where doctors had been wrong and kind of mistrusted them. The fact that I wasn't vaccinated actually became a pretty big issue for me recently. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that made me have to start taking immune-suppressing medicine. I had to wait a few months before the several rounds of vaccines were done before I began taking it. It wasn't a great experience because I was in a lot of pain at the time."
Caellena's mom admitted that she "felt guilty about it," but when asked if she would have done things differently based on how her child's life turned out, the nurse said she "probably wouldn't" change a thing.
And that is where lies the problem. Even with years of knowledge and experience in the medical field, some people still don't believe science and continue to throw caution to the wind, even when their children pay the price.
Another Redditor had a similar story after their parents failed to get them vaccinated, which started a long line of visits to the hospital and death's door.
"For whatever reason, my parents didn't get me vaccinated," they wrote of the experience. "At age 4, I contracted whooping cough and nearly died multiple times in the hospital. I don't remember all the details, but I do remember not being able to breathe, feeling like I was going to die, and having fluid in my lungs."
The effects of these parents' decision to forgo the standard vaccinations almost killed their young child, and even though they made it through the childhood ordeal and into adulthood, they still suffer from damaged lungs and shortness of breath.
While some parents' choices can have devastating effects on their children's health, sometimes the children are lucky and end up being relatively healthy people. In some cases, however, the children can grow up and become just like their parents, continuing the tradition of pseudoscience and denial of basic facts. This was the case for this Redditor, who was lucky enough to escape, unlike her siblings. They wrote:
"My mom is a hardcore anti-vaxxer and overall religious nut conspiracy theorist. One of my sisters was born blue because she was deprived of air in the birth canal, and as a result, had some learning disabilities. My mom, of course, attributed this to the vaccines she got as an infant instead of the super obvious oxygen deprivation.
So growing up, my five siblings and I never got our shots, we had chicken pox parties, and luckily we all survived to adulthood somehow. It probably helped that we were all homeschooled so we didn't have a ton of contact with other kids.
She was always super vocal about the evils of vaccines and pretty much brainwashed me and my siblings on the subject along with the religious brainwashing. I didn't really challenge these bizarre beliefs until I was 25 when I had my son and had to make a choice about vaccinations. My husband wanted to get all the shots and convinced me to just do a little research and so that's what I did.
At the end of a couple of days of research and checking out statistics of local rates of vaccine-preventable diseases, I was sure that my mom was full of crap and vaccines were the right choice. Out of my three siblings who have kids two ended up following in my mom's footsteps and are vocal anti-vaxxers."
And finally, there are the people who want nothing to do with their parents, their religious views of vaccinations, or willingness to use essential oils in place of doctors visits, medications, and other forms of proper medical treatment. This one Redditor, in particular, sees their family's propensity to accept essentially any piece of information that's not from a medical professional as a threat to their community.
"My family is full of scientific illiterates and profound threats to our informed democracy," they wrote. "They'd treat cancer with essential lemon oil if it was left up to them.
I can't express to anyone how ashamed and disappointed I am of them. I don't say this lightly, but I'd revoke their right to vote and participate in society if I could. Inevitably they'll try to sell you essential oils and tell you that the fluoride in your toothpaste is actually killing you. It's within everyone's realm of liberty to harm themselves until their heart's content. But the way they spread their evangelicalism and scientific fallacies is a threat to my community and I won't take it laying down."
Thanks to an unhealthy combination of conspiracy theories and evangelicalism, these parents have turned their own child against them, to the point where they feel that they can never trust their mom and dad when it comes to being healthy - both physically and mentally.
It's sad to say it, but more times than not, it's the children who end up paying for the sins of their parents. The moms and dads who either fail to learn the benefits of vaccinations or see them as an evil form of control by the government are doing nothing but harming their sons and daughters. These parents' decisions affect their children physically or mentally, or even both, and they should realize that they are playing with their children's lives when they refuse to administer immunizations.
And why should parents vaccinate their children? Because it's much better to have a healthy child than a dead child.
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