Is the vaccination debate distracting us from a bigger issue?

Do we need to chop down some trees to see the forest more clearly?

Do we need to chop down some trees to see the forest more clearly?

A quick note before we get to today’s post: This post is not designed to be a forum to debate whether or not we  should vaccinate. I have no desire to weigh in on the slinging match about the merits and risks of vaccination because this topic has, at its heart, parents who are doing the very best they know how to protect their kids – on both sides. I’m not a parent and haven’t studied the research about vaccination, so I’m not in a position to comment on who is right. I do know that hurling abuse at others for their views is not something I will tolerate or accept, both on this blog and in my life. I will delete any comments that are rude, aggressive or disrespectful. Thanks for listening! Now onto the today’s post:

Much has been published about the vaccination debate recently. (Oh, you hadn’t noticed?) It’s being discussed in great detail, and rightly so. It’s an incredibly important topic.

I have been keeping my eye on the seemingly never ending deluge of articles about the issues surrounding vaccination rates and I have started to become increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of times I have seen the words ‘make vaccinations mandatory’. As I said at the start of this post, I’m not interested in discussing the merits of vaccinations right now. What I want to talk about is what I see as being a much bigger issue – an issue that is hiding in plain sight behind those three little words: make vaccinations mandatory. It’s an issue of our rights. Our right to decide what medical care we do and don’t want. Our right to choose which medicines we are happy to take into our system and which ones we want to avoid. Our right to weigh up the risks and make decisions about our own body and health.

These rights are so very important.

When we focus on the specifics of what is being proposed (changes to our legislation to make vaccinations mandatory) it’s easy for us to get caught up looking at the benefits of such a decision and forget that this change has more far-reaching consequences than just enforcing a vaccination schedule. Let me put it a different way: what happens when the push is to mandate that you and your family take a drug you aren’t comfortable with? What happens when you think the risks of taking that drug outweigh its benefits? By allowing mandatory vaccinations, we are opening the door to a new precedent in enforced medication. Whether or not we agree with someone else’s decisions regarding vaccination, it isn’t our right to force someone else to take a drug. Nor is it our government’s right, but it will be if this legislation is passed.

I am very aware that this may seem melodramatic and I’m certainly not saying that big pharma and the government are out to get us. Not at all. I’m saying we need to be mindful of the broader implications of legislation changes like these. I’m saying we need to really consider what it means to take away someone’s right to decide what medicine they want to take. Because the government won’t just be deciding for someone else. They’ll be deciding for you too.

All drugs come with side effects and risks. We know this. The aim, of course, is that the benefit of the drug outweighs the side effects and risks. Vaccines are no different. Much of the vaccination conversation centres on the risks associated with the drugs found in these vaccines. Like every other drug, there are risks associated with vaccinations – no one is pretending that there aren’t. The general consensus though is that the benefits to both the individual receiving the vaccination and to those who can’t be vaccinated for whatever reason, far outweigh those risks.

Let’s look at a different, equally common drug: the oral contraceptive pill. Like vaccines, the benefits and risks of this drug are well known. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the pill helps prevent unplanned pregnancies but it can cause issues like increased risk of blood clots and some cancers. It can also affect your long-term chances of conceiving because (at risk of stating the obvious) the drug’s purpose is to suppress your fertility. Taking a fertility-suppressing drug for years is likely going to mean your fertility is suppressed, at least for a while, after you stop taking that drug. Doctors know this and I hope the women they prescribe the drug to know this. Unfortunately for a lot of women, the pill has suppressed their fertility for so long that their body no longer knows how to be fertile and those women must embark on a long journey to heal before being able to fall pregnant.  Most women I know who have been on the pill started taking it in their teens and didn’t stop until their late 20s, so they’re looking at 10-15 years of taking a drug that screws up one of the body’s most important processes.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that the pill is a harmless drug but that simply isn’t the case. Every drug comes with side effects and, just like vaccines, the pill is no different. 

A lesser talked about side effect of the oral contraceptive pill is the impact it has on other people. ‘What is she on about?’ I hear you all asking. Well, what I’m talking about is how someone else’s decision to take the pill affects everyone else’s health, along with our planet’s health.

The synthetic hormones (namely ethinyl estradiol)  found in the pill are flushed from the body during urination. These hormones make their way into our waterways, where they set to work creating intersex fish. Yes, you read that correctly. We are demasculinising male animals, destroying their ability to reproduce, through our decision to take the pill. Ethinyl estradiol isn’t the only thing to blame for this but it is a big contributor to the problem. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we don’t really know if we can actually remove ethinyl estradiol from our waterways. Ecotoxicologists think we might be able to but it’s going to cost a bomb.  You can read more about this here. 

Setting the (huge) impact to our wildlife aside, let’s look at how this affects other people’s health. Because this is my blog and I get to call the shots, and because I can only really comment on my own experience, I’m going to talk about myself for a minute.

I want to be as healthy as I can be.

I want my body to be in the best possible shape for when my partner and I decide we want to fall pregnant.

I want my body to be free of synthetic hormones.

I stopped taking the pill years ago when I started to realise the damage it was causing me. I don’t want synthetic hormones in my body yet they are in my body because they are in the water I drink. They are in the water I drink because a large percentage of women in Australia take the pill. And it is categorically their right to take the pill.

It is their right to take the pill, even though it negatively affects my health.

It is their right to take the pill, even though it could affect my chance of becoming a mother.

It is their right to decide which drugs they are comfortable taking and which drugs they are not comfortable taking. Not mine. Not yours. Certainly not the government’s.

Where am I going with this? My point is that although someone else’s decisions about their medical care can and do impact our own personal health status, introducing legislation that forces people to take a drug they are not comfortable with is not something we should be advocating for. Taking away our fundamental right to make our own choices about medical care isn’t something I can stand for. By handing over our power to the government to decide what and how much of a drug we should take, we are handing over our power for them to make decisions about more than just vaccinations. We are handing over our power for them to make decisions about what risks we are subjected to, based on which medication they force us to take. I’m not OK with this and I hope you aren’t either.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Remember, I’m not talking about whether or not people should vaccinate. This is about our right to weigh up the risks and benefits of any medication and make the best choice for ourselves and our kids. If you want to debate vaccinations, there are countless other forums you can do that on 😉

Laura xo

3 thoughts on “Is the vaccination debate distracting us from a bigger issue?

  1. Kim says:

    From my perspective, the issue with “it’s my choice” is that, in many of these cases where choices are being made, the public are not (and cannot practically be) experts in the field.

    It takes literally years, often closer to decades, to become a doctor/pharmacist/research scientist and more again to specialise. Each of those years is filled with information that people who aren’t doing the study don’t have. It is gross hubris to assume that any lay person can make a decision that is better informed than the decision of actual, qualified (not self-proclaimed) experts.

    Unfortunately, “it’s my choice” often amounts to “I am choosing to ignore the collected, collated, reviewed and challenged information which informs best practice and go with my feelings instead”. Sometimes this isn’t an issue, and sometimes it results in negative outcomes for society as a whole.

    Often, a personal decision that goes against informed best-practice will not only affect that person should the situation arise. For example, “I’m not going to wear a seatbelt” may result in not only injury or death for the chooser, but grief for their family and friends, negative work experiences for the police and ambulance officers, reduced capacity for the hospital to accept other patients, etc.

    I am not (and don’t have the time to become) a specialist in road trauma, so I trust those who have spent their lives learning about and researching road trauma to make the best recommendations for me, regarding road trauma. I am not (and don’t have the time to become) an immunologist, so I trust those who have spent their lives learning about and researching immunology to make the best recommendations for me, immunologically. I am not (and don’t have the time to become) any number of other specialists, so I will trust those who have spent their lives learning about and researching the relevant fields to make the best recommendations for me regarding them.

    I am not arguing that we lay people should not engage critically with the information we are provided and seek a second opinion, should we desire one or suspect that that one is required. I am saying that where the overwhelming consensus of experts does not agree with “my choice”, “my choice” is probably rooted not in proof so much as bias and is not therefore reasoned or reasonable.

    Science and medicine do not know everything, but they do know much more than we did historically, and are continuing to test and improve the knowledge we have today.

    Like

    • Laura @ Miller Natural Health says:

      Thanks Kim! This is exactly the kind of conversation I wanted to start. I agree that we can’t be experts in everything and know an immunologist has a much better idea about vaccination efficacy than I ever will.

      I don’t think I got my message across as clearly as I would have liked in the post. I should have just written, ‘I’m comfortable that the experts know more about their respective fields than I do and that they generally have our best interests in mind. I’m not comfortable with a law being created to force me to accept their advice. I never said I wouldn’t take on their advice nor am I suggesting that others should ignore their advice. I’m simply saying that I have been thinking about what this could mean more broadly for our rights and I wanted to share that. The end.’ 😉

      Like

  2. Veronica Stephan-Miller says:

    Expecting the government to enforced vaccinations is very much a “nanny state” mentality. I disagree with fluoride being added to water, as this is a forced mass-medication using a toxic industrial by-product. If companies can be fined for adding this toxin to waterways, how come we are being forced to either consume it or spend a fortune on a special filtration system to remove it? I would also like to know why the proposed enforcement is being forced upon people receiving the family tax benefit payments. What about people who do not receive this as they earn more money? What will be done to ensure they vaccinate their children? The very basis of this is discriminating against a particular segment of people.

    Something related is the recent push to have burqas banned in Australia. I personally agree that in situations where a person is not allowed to wear a helmet or hoodie, then burqas and niqabs should also be banned and an alternative provided for women who do wear these. But what right does the government have to dictate which items of clothing we wear? If the burqa and niqab are banned, will it follow that all religious head coverings (hijab, kapp, hanging veil, nuns’ habits) will be banned as in France?

    My health is affected by other people’s decisions to smoke. I was very happy when smoking was banned in places where food was served, and then the indoors of shops, etc, as smoke is trapped and you cannot escape it. I disagree, however, with the government placing ever-increasing taxed on tobacco as this is purely an exercise in revenue raising. If they truly wanted to help people’s health, they would instead put restrictions on the additives tobacco companies are able to use and allow people to grow their own – organic – tobacco.

    Then there is the issue of forced sterilisation of people with mental health issues/disabilities. This isn’t something from the 1800s or even 1900s, but from this century. In fact, from the past five years!

    http://www.cchr.org.au/component/content/article/35-front-page-news/222-children-consent-to-sterilisation

    There is a push in the EU to ban the use of herbs as they are considered to be medicinal and therefore have to be prescribed. Ergo, people will not be able to buy them off the shelf.

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/may/01/new-eu-rules-on-herbal-remedies

    Is this really where we, as a country of supposedly free people, want to go?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s