Why You Won't Make Me Feel Bad For Vaccinating My Children

by Brittany Houck
A doctor holding a vaccine injection near a child's arm
didesign021 / Getty

Last week, my son had a well-baby checkup. It was, thankfully, a totally boring, run of the mill appointment. After discussing a minor concern about a scaly patch on his toes (that turned out to be a result of sweaty, stinky boy feet), our sweet nurse returned with my boy’s vaccines. He didn’t notice the first, cried on the second, and then got some snuggles and we were on our way. Boring, right?

I took him home and shared a picture on my public, blog-related Instagram of his hand holding my thumb with this caption:

“This little hand had a well-baby checkup today. He is about average for height and weight and at the top of the chart for his head! My babies just have big noggins. More room for their big ol’ brains!

Poor little guy was clinging to me the whole time. He had to get two shots, but he did alright. I make sure to tell the kids that it hurts for a second, but it keeps them from getting really bad germs. I’ll explain herd immunity to them later. #motherhood #momlife #checkup #vaccine # holdinghands #momblogger #momswhoblog #indianablogger #letthembelittle #motherandson”

The comments I received on this picture absolutely FLOORED me. The private messages I received were astounding. I should have known that using “#vaccine” could have some negative repercussions on a public platform, but WOW. The audacity that some people have is just amazing. Impressive, really. Give me some of your self-confidence when you get a chance.

Now, I’m not saying I got hundreds of negative comments, but I got enough that I feel like I should say something. There were comments about his head size indicating autism (I’m sorry, what?!), comments about the myth of herd immunity, and comments about the toxic chemicals I just allowed in my son’s body (um, what am I going to do at this point? He’s already gotten the shots). The comment about his head swelling due to vaccines just made me shake my head. My kids don’t have hydrocephalus; they’ve have had large heads since day one, TRUST ME ON THIS ONE.

Here I was, thinking, “Yay, vaccines! My kid won’t get mumps!” And these people are telling me, “Great job, you just ruined your child.”

How did we get to this point? The point where random people on the Internet feel that it’s okay to bombard a mother who is making research-based, medically-sound decisions for her children?

Several of the comments had the same line: “Do your research.”

Do you think I haven’t? Do you think my doctor, who has spent years of her life dedicated to treating patients hasn’t? My doctor has children the same age as mine. Would she be injecting her own children with something dangerous? I highly doubt it.

Now, let’s back up a little bit. I want to be completely transparent with you. *deep breath*

I was wary of vaccines for a brief time in my life.

There. It’s out there. I’m not afraid to admit this! You know what? I believe it is okay to question what you’re told! If something makes you nervous, do your research with sources from all “sides.” Fact check anything that sounds like propaganda by going all the way to the research studies.

In college, I declined the H1N1 vaccine, along with a few other students due to our concerns about side effects (that we had heard about on the Internet. . .). The school rushed it at us, in my opinion, and made it sound like some intense new type of vaccine. It made me nervous! I’ve seen I Am Legend I know how this ends! Turns out, it was just a vaccine for a specific strain of the flu. So, a few months passed, I saw my classmates didn’t turn into light-shunning zombies, I did some more level-headed research, and I went ahead and got it. (I was in a medical profession major, so it was to protect the vulnerable populations we would see. I get the logic behind our professors’ push.)

Before I had our first child, I was seeing a lot of vaccine-related information that seemed really scary. Lists of possible side effects, lists of preservatives that may or may not be used in vaccines, etc. The sheer number of shots that a child gets by kindergarten these days is a little surprising. It was enough to make me step back and really find out more before I had our daughter. I looked at articles and research studies from both sides. I compared the amounts of “dangerous” preservatives in the average vaccine to food found in the typical diet. (Did you know there’s more formaldehyde in a pear than a flu shot? 600 times more.) I’m going to leave this article here. They’ve already gone to the trouble of debunking the myths with linked studies, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel.

Long story short, I decided to vaccinate my children.

I don’t always get my flu shot, but that’s not me taking a stand, it’s me repeatedly forgetting until flu season is over. I’ll be better in the future.

There. Full transparency.

Why I vaccinate my children:

I’m not vaccinating against a case of the sniffles. I’m vaccinating them against terrifying diseases like polio, measles, diphtheria, and rubella. Could their bodies fight it off on their own? Maybe. But maybe they would have complications like a brain infection, blindness, or paralysis. I’d rather they be a little uncomfortable for a few minutes or a day due to a shot versus rushing them to the ER because they’ve contracted a disease that’s been all but eradicated.

Why else do we vaccinate? For those who can’t. I used to do home visits with a little girl who couldn’t vaccinate. Her little body had so much going on that she had a hard time processing vaccines. Before you say, “Well, if she couldn’t process them, maybe no one should get them!!” hear me out. Her body also had a hard time processing food. So, I’m fairly certain you aren’t going to say no one should have food. There are medical reasons that some people can’t vaccinate: cancer, genetic mutations, HIV/AIDs, to name a few. My family can process these vaccines with little to no reaction. We are helping create that community of immunity for those who can’t. Think of the families with new babies at home who are too young to have all their shots. . . They need the people around them, and the people who come in contact with their family to be protected from deadly diseases.

I’m not afraid of the preservatives. Our bodies have built in filtration systems that can process these things. The vaccines have to have preservatives in them to last from the lab to your arm. Your doctor isn’t going to have a fresh batch of measles sitting in a petri dish, ready to do a smallpox era inoculation on you, just so you can have a “preservative-free” vaccine.

To those who aren’t vaccinating right now:

I’m not going to talk down to you. The disrespect I was shown for vaccinating was eye opening. I am not going to do that to you.

If you’re vaccine wary, I get it what you’re feeling. You’ve obviously seen information that scares you. You’re just trying to do what is best for your child. Being a parent is really hard. We’re making decisions that affect these little people for the rest of their lives. The guilt we feel when we make a “wrong” decision can be awful.

I sincerely hope that you broaden your research outside of counter-movement groups. There is a lot of propaganda out there and they make it really easy to find. Remember that correlation does not equal causation. Be discerning in your research. If the CDC makes you nervous because it’s from our government and you don’t trust them, go see what the World Health Organization has to say. Talk to your doctor or nurse, but don’t put up your defenses. Listen to what they’re saying and why they are saying it. Ask them if they’ll help you get comfortable with the idea of vaccinating. Let them know your concerns. Go in with an open mind.

Here’s where I get serious: In the not-too-distant past, parents lost babies and children to these terrible diseases. Read that again. CHILDREN DIED. Thousands of children died. The children that families loved DIED. Rubella outbreaks caused thousands of miscarriages per year. Children became blind, deaf, or paralyzed as a result of these diseases. We are so happy in our bubble of modern health that we can’t even fathom that our child could lose people in their preschool class due to a measles outbreak. It’s just not something that crosses our mind because we are so far removed from the horrors of pre-vaccine days. I’m not saying all this because I’m sure it will change anyone’s mind, but I sincerely hope it will at least plant the seed.

When I vaccinate, it’s not just for my babies. It’s for your babies, too. Nothing you say will make me feel guilty for this decision.

So, don’t tell me to “do my research.”

I have. Extensively.

I hope you do the same.


A mother.