Hysteria vs. Hysteria

When I wrote about vaccinations a while back, I had no idea that controversy on the topic would shortly ignite emotional paroxysm in America. I don’t care what your views are, there is something strange about a world in which ISIS torturing, brutalizing and murdering with clear intentions of spreading their violence around the globe (that means to you and me) provokes less attention and emotion than a measles outbreak in Disneyland.


Last week, I suggested in my Musing that if five pro-life women sat down with five pro-choice women, they might be surprised to find their counterparts to be kind, reasonable ladies who actually could agree on more than they think. Admittedly, I think the pro-choice group has more to learn than the other way around, yet my point was that our culture currently encourages us to picture those who think differently than us as crazy extremists.


Little did I know that vaccination was going to take center stage in the, “I can call names, spew hatred, avoid facts and attack my fellow citizen,” category. Some liberal reporters are attempting to use this issue to marginalize conservatives based on the ‘religious exemption’ clause many states have. Some conservative pundits are attempting to use this issue to marginalize liberals based on statistic that show anti-vaccine sentiment is highest in crunchy granola territory. People who objected to homosexual bathhouses being closed in the early days of the AIDS epidemic are talking of forcibly vaccinating children and people who urged the bathhouses to be closed are adamantly supporting individual parents’ rights. (I’m not equating the issues, just pointing out a paradox.) Guess what? This isn’t a conservative/liberal issue. How refreshing!  People with Obama bumper stickers are on both sides as are Tea Party followers. Highly educated and smart people divide on this issue as do traditional believers and atheists. 


Since my personal feelings on the issue are nuanced and conflicted, I am standing back and watching how neither side is listening to the other. I believe that vaccines have been a public health blessing and that they are more dangerous than acknowledged. I also think they are less effective and have greater potential for harm than necessary because of the politicization of medicine as well as the millions of dollars at stake. In short, I agree and disagree with both sides and if individuals could talk instead of shout, they might find areas to compromise. 


Obviously, this topic hits home. Mothers and fathers on both sides feel that their children’s health is being threatened. Can we possibly move this discussion away from politics, away from name-calling and use this issue to learn how to revive the old-fashioned, pre-social media, ability to have conversation and debate? Maybe, just maybe, we’d end up with better health policy for all. 


 It may seem like we live in crazy times – but we’ve been there before.
Use yesterday’s wisdom to get through today.








13 thoughts on “Hysteria vs. Hysteria”

  1. J – By one doctor I meant Dr. Andrew Wakefield and I was referring to his study. I haven’t looked into it myself, and I know there are some who question the discrediting of his study, but even if you take him out of the equation there are other Drs. and way too many parents who are not being given the attention they should.

  2. I did not see “one Dr. and one study” to be the case for the websites that I linked. Perhaps you were speaking in general about all medical “news?”

  3. You are so right, Lora. One of the reasons for such strong emotions on both sides of the issue is that everyone is feeling that their child is threatened. I do think if there was more honest conversation and back and forth, this wouldn’t be so toxic. We seem to have lost the ability to do that.

  4. There’s often an either-or mentality that pops up in issues like this: some would have us believe that it is either about parental rights or about the health of the community. It is either about babies or about medical technology. So many either-or walls are shadowy things that one can actually walk right through to find real facts, real truth, and possible solutions. But dang, as a parent, it has been so hard to get through some of those walls. Too many times I found that simply asking questions got me stigmatized. Ouch.
    I sometimes want to be weak, I want to just accept these false parameters…but I can’t. What is that quote? Something about becoming strong when you’ve already tried everything else? Yeah. I only have to look at my kids, and I just can’t fall down on the job.

  5. Lynn, I think your story is typical and the fact that Jenna McCarthy or Dr. Wakefield are brought up constantly rather than talking about the choices made by parents like you detracts from the pro-vaccination argument. However, I do understand the fearfulness as I do believe there is such a thing as herd immunity that protects those too young or too ill to get vaccinated. Also, the CDC does acknowledge that some immunity doesn’t ‘take’ and vaccination isn’t 100% protection.
    This is not a simple issue which is why I wish it could be discussed honestly rather than hysterically, Both sides, in my opinion, have valid points. As long as the gov’t doesn’t respect the valid points, they lose authority and I agree that it is dangerous and threatening to American freedom for them to impose their wishes on parents.

  6. First off, if you have had your child vaccinated, why are you fearful of those who have not been vaccinated? I think this years crop of flu vaccine should make people aware that a vaccine isn’t always as good as the manufactures and government want you to believe it is. Even the CDC web site doesn’t give the flu vaccine a perfect record for everyone. Back in the 80s I choose not to vaccinate my children after my oldest had a terrible reaction to his first shots. I have NEVER watched Oprah and had never heard of Jenna McCarthy at that time. I went to the library and read what was out there and talked to my Doctor, then made the decision. Since then I have come to know of two families who have children with disabilities who will be happy to share with you their stories of how they children were progressing normally both physically and mentally up until their 18 month old shots. One friend said that her daughter started screaming the moment she received the vaccination and didn’t stop for a week. We may be coming to a time when how and when vaccines are given should be questioned. Maybe the doses need to be reassessed and maybe the age starting them needs to be put off until the child’s system has matured. But my question about the child vaccinations is why has autism exploded over the past decade or so? Why does that question not get answered? Never the less, we live in America and the government has no right to force this on anyone.

  7. Jean – One of my daughters sent me a link this week to a Brady Bunch episode where the kids all got measles. It was incredible how many things have changed since that episode. The kids are sent home sick from school without a call to the parents – the kids just walk home.
    The parents I know who don’t vaccinate have done extensive research. Some of the parents I know who do vaccinate have also done extensive research. They each made the decision for their family but it wasn’t based on Jenny McCarthy or TV or the American Medical Association.
    You are right that the threshold for demanding for gov’t intervention has gotten much lower, as well as the recognition that we cannot protect everyone from everything.

  8. I’m not defending the press on this as they are running with a narrative engineered to distract from more important issues, but the whole “vaccines are dangerous” was popularized by daytime talk diva Oprah Winfrey, who allowed Jenna McCarthy to spout her disinformation with zero – no – nada – rebuttal or refutation of the alleged “facts.” Sadly, when the majority of the population gets its scientific information from a daytime talk show rather than asking a physician – or even doing extensive research in credible journals – there will be consequences.
    Also, I remember when every kid in my second grade class got the measles – including me (got them at the end of school picnic, which really annoyed me). It was part of life – we expected it – and once it was over, we knew we’d never get them again. I understand that preventing rubella – German measles – became an imperative once the link between rubella and birth defects was uncovered, but having a case of regular ol’ measles was never considered a “crisis.” To me, the hysteria over kids having the measles is an indication that the threshold for “serious problems that demand government intervention” has been lowered significantly. That’s more frightening than the measles.

  9. James, You are raising a good point which is that the press often magnifies a danger, such as Alar in apples or shark attacks, that turns out to be non-existent or no more than usual. Industries are sometimes ruined by that irresponsible reporting and attack. The flip side, however, is the non-reporting of real problems, whether it is a medical risk that is ignored or wasted of taxpayer money.
    Much of this controversy stems from a lack of trust in gov’t and the press. People do not believe that the truth prevails with either of those two groups.

  10. I did remove the links you sent, as is my policy, but anyone can Google and find out about the specifics you cite. There is a great deal of information – some valid, some not – out there and when the reporters keep mentioning one Dr. and one study as if that was the only issue, it proves they are parroting lines rather than investigating.

  11. Like you, I was raised in an atmosphere of science. Without exactly knowing the work of Pasteur and Koch, still I was taught about cleanliness with respect to microbiology. When it came time for vaccinations I was gently advised at home of the work of Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the preventive medicine which was the equivalent of ‘the hair of the dog.’ Heat-killed microflora that caused polio or smallpox might be less virulent yet stimulate a positive immune reaction: the hair of the dog that bit others might protect YOU from the bite.
    Many years later the story was released how the mercury preservative thimerosal used in vaccines caused autism in the young. That study and its story have long since been discredited and retracted, but the shadow of its evil rumor remains today. The sensationalist liberal press release many a story like this one, where one year coffee causes cancer and two years later, coffee prevents cancer, etc. It is easy to follow the sensationalist press and to jump on the bandwagon, without regard to where the bandwagon is going.

  12. I think vaccines have most likely helped many people in the distant past such as those vaccines which were used for the eradication of polio in the USA, but not every vaccine manufactured and promoted these days is good.
    How can a person today possibly know for sure what all the ingredients are in a specific vaccine that he is to be given?
    In Nigeria and elsewhere, the tetanus vaccines given to women and girls were deliberately laced with hormones to cause spontaneous abortions in pregnant women. This has been documented by the Catholic Church and other organizations.
    Vaccine harm: (link removed)
    Hepatitis B vaccine given to newborns causes fatal auto-immune disorder:(link removed)
    Mandated HPV vaccines for eleven year old girls:(link removed)
    All ingredients in every vaccine made by every vaccine manufacturer should be tested for safety and proven safe by an independent testing facility before the FDA allows the vaccine to be used on human beings. This must be done for the Common Good of all people.
    These are relevant questions for us to ponder: Should the government have the power to vaccinate a person without his consent? Should Americans support a Medical Bill of Rights or should they be willing to be forced to be vaccinated even if the vaccination is contrary to their own morals and better judgment?

  13. Another inspired insight…
    I so appreciate you and the Rabbi.
    Bless you and thank you for what you are doing

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