Self-professed “anti-vax crackpot” changes her mind and vaccinates her children
It takes a bold woman to ignore mountains of medical data and the recommendations of thousands of doctors, but that’s just what Kristen O’Meara did when she chose not vaccinate her children. It also takes a strong person to admit she’s wrong, but that’s also what this anti-vaxxer did when she not only vaccinated her children, but publicly admitted her flawed ideology.
Like most parents, O’Meara went into motherhood with her own gut instincts about how she would parent. Coming from a “crunchy” family, she says she was raised to question the status quo and had a “healthy skepticism” of vaccination when her oldest daughter was born in 2010. Instead of embarking on an unbiased quest for information – because who has time for that, really? – O’Meara set out to find support for her preexisting anti-vax opinion.
“Purposely seeking out anti-vax books and websites that cited links between vaccines and rising rates of allergies, asthma and ADHD, I scared myself to death,” O’Meara said in the New York Post. What parent isn’t scared to death all the time? That basically goes with the territory. They hand out a lifetime supply of fear and doubt with the blue and pink baby blankets at the hospital.
“I got absorbed in the anti-vax culture and secretly thought of myself as being superior to others,” she said. “Parents who vaccinated didn’t have my special investigative skills. As far as I was concerned, they didn’t stop to question and were just sheep following the herd.”
Oddly enough, while O’Meara referred to parents who believe in science as sheep and wrote about the herd mentality of the people who follow doctors’ advice about vaccinations, anti-vaxxers rely on herd immunity to excuse their irresponsible decisions. Herd immunity is basically the belief that if most kids is immunized, non-vaccinated kids won’t get sick either because hypothetically there is little risk of an outbreak. But “little risk” is not the same as “no risk,” and little risks can quickly turn into big risks.
Setting aside the obnoxious comparison of responsible adult humans to herds of sheep, the anti-vax movement hinges on denial and hypotheticals, instead of science and responsibility. Hypotheticals will only get you so far, especially when a preventable illness or disease is staring you right in the face – which is exactly what happened to the O’Meara family.
In March 2015, the entire O’Meara family was hit with the rotavirus, which is like a stomach bug on steroids. “I’ll never forget the look of fear on my daughters’ faces as they suffered intense pain and diarrhea that lasted for three weeks,” O’Meara admitted. “I’ve no idea where we picked it up, but the horrific experience proved that, even living in a highly vaccinated population, we were vulnerable.”
Because – shocker! – herd immunity isn’t the same as an actual vaccinated immunity. In other words, hypotheticals don’t mean shit when reality strikes.
O’Meara started researching the issue from an unbiased perspective and realized that a lot of the “science” she had relied on was basically a bunch of conspiracy theory hogwash. She switched doctors and together they agreed to put her children on an “aggressive catch-up schedule.” Her children are now fully vaccinated.
As easy as it would be to criticize O’Meara for her selfish anti-vax decisions, we have to give her credit for coming to her senses and admitting the errors of her ways. As if it weren’t hard enough to eat crow and admit you’re wrong, to make matters worse, O’Meara said she actually lost her best friend over the issue.
“When I shared with her that I’d changed my mind, there was an instant feeling of tension,” O’Meara said. “Our relationship didn’t immediately end, but it went downhill from there. Perhaps she thought I was judging her.” A lost friendship is unfortunate, to say the least, but if someone is putting other children at risk because they want to ignore science and feel righteous in their risky conspiracy theories, maybe a little judging is justified.
Kudos to O’Meara for eventually seeing the light of mountains of scientific data backing the safety of vaccinations. Better late than never.