Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

She Resisted Getting Her Kids The Usual Vaccines. Then The Pandemic Hit

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The Eldest posted the story below on Facebook, and one comment was from a pediatric nurse:

I can tell you from personal experience as a pediatric nurse, that vaccine hesitant parents can be reached, but only with personal engagement. I would tell parents about the pre-vaccine world that I grew up on. My sister had polio, another sister lost hearing in one ear after measles, our next door neighbor caught rubella during the rubella outbreak 1962-63 and her child was born deaf and blind. Please vaccinate your children. Don’t help create a pre-vaccine world and have your children or grandchildren be victims of preventable diseases. This approach was more convincing than telling them to stay off the internet and shaming them as anti-vaxxers. Compassion and personal interaction is the key.

Steve Mullis, Rachel Martin, and Bo Hamby have this report at NPR (and there is audio at the link):

“I just remember being very scared.”

That’s how Lydia, a 39-year-old mother of three in Canada, describes feeling when she was pregnant in 2008 with her daughter and had questions about vaccinating. She worried it might cause more harm than good.

“I remember feeling some trepidation and saying to my husband, ‘We can’t undo this once we do it,’ ” she says. NPR is not using Lydia’s full name because she’s worried about backlash from a community she once believed in — people opposed to vaccines.

The record-speed development of the COVID-19 vaccine has some asking questions about it as well as about the safety of all vaccines. It’s something that’s taken root and grown because there’s a natural incubator inside the broader movement opposed to vaccines.

“We have been seeing an increase in vaccine-hesitant conversations online,” says Kolina Koltai, a misinformation researcher at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public. “Vaccine-opposed communities online saw a growth in membership, and it has become easier to be exposed to vaccine-opposed content.”

One survey finds 71% of people say they’d likely get the COVID-19 vaccine, but still medical experts have been working hard to combat the perception that the rapid creation of the COVID-19 vaccine makes it less safe.

“The speed is really a reflection of the scientific advances that have allowed us to do things in a matter of months that would have formerly taken years,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told NPR in December. “That isn’t reckless speed; that’s sufficient speed based on scientific advances.”

For Lydia, the pandemic is what ended up leading her out of the movement among those opposed to vaccines.

But getting there was a years-long search for answers.

A decision to vaccinate questioned

Lydia didn’t always question vaccines. She’d worked in a pharmaceutical plant as a quality control chemist. She even got vaccinated for the flu while pregnant.

Having a baby in 2008 made the decision more complicated for her. She voiced her concerns to her husband, but in the end they went ahead. She made an appointment, and the pediatrician gave her 8-week-old daughter three vaccinations. A few hours later her daughter was crying a lot, what she describes a high-pitched squeal. It was a type of cry she’d never heard before.

“It was quite traumatic. She screamed and cried,” she says. “I felt horrible.”

That horrible feeling didn’t go away when a public health nurse she called tried to assure her that these reactions were normal. It still didn’t sit right. Lydia says she felt brushed off, her concerns minimized by the nurse.

Her daughter was fine, but at the time, Lydia wasn’t convinced and took her questions to an online forum for new moms. It was there that she read a lot of frightening information about alleged and unfounded harm vaccines can cause. They described terrifying symptoms — such as high-pitched screaming. She began questioning her decision to vaccinate.

“So then you start thinking, did I just hurt my child?” she says. “They give you an answer that the other people couldn’t give you or didn’t give you. And so now you don’t have any trust.”

Lydia began going deeper into these forums where people shared what she thought were convincing studies that made claims about the damage vaccines can cause, studies she now realizes were false. But back then, it was proof enough for her not to finish her daughter’s vaccine cycle.

“I think sometimes doing nothing is easier because you don’t feel as responsible for the outcome,” she says. “If you give your child a vaccine and they suffer a consequence, that’s your fault. A parent would say, ‘I did this to my child.’ So I think that there’s an appeal to inaction that makes it easy for a lot of parents to not vaccinate their child.”

”Out of my echo chamber”

Lydia had a second child eight years later, a third a few years after that. She wasn’t planning on vaccinating them either until the pandemic hit last year. She saw the news of people hoarding toilet paper and other supplies and read apocalyptic speculation about the collapse of health care systems and sanitation. She was worried about diseases coming back that she had not vaccinated her kids against and went looking for answers again on the Internet. But this time it was different.

“I got out of my echo chamber,” she says.

One of the myths Lydia had believed is what many of these groups believe about the blood-brain barrier. In short, their theory is that the membrane protecting the brain is not mature enough at birth, and therefore ingredients in vaccines can leak into the brain and cause harm. Studies have shown this is not true.

Lydia found some of these studies and realized she was wrong. And that moment became a bit of a revelation.

“That really was the catalyst to just keep going with the research and consider for a moment that maybe I’m wrong, even if it is embarrassing, even if it is uncomfortable, that I could be wrong about more things,” she says. “And that was hard. That is hard.”

Finding reassurance

Lydia says it was difficult confronting something that had been a part of her identity and beliefs for more than a decade. It was a reality she had built up for herself and her family, one that she thought was keeping them safe.

“It’s almost like thinking like you have this cheat code to keep your kids healthy from disease and allergies,” she says. “You feel like you’ve got a way to game the system to avoid all that. It does kind of become a large part of who you are.”

Koltai, the misinformation researcher, says this attachment to identity is a consistent throughline she’s seen in her research on misinformation and groups opposed to vaccines.

“If you subscribe to the ideology that . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including a link to a useful TikTok video.

This seems consistent with the idea that our identity is constructed from the memes that we adopt, some involuntarily (our native language and most customs) and some voluntarily (deciding to accept some meme).

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2021 at 4:24 pm

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