Monday, July 21, 2008

The Vax Files

Yup, there's a reason for my silence: it's my big mouth.

Some of you know I wrote a pretty silly and inflammatory post up at my bloglet last week. X-Files actress Amanda Peet had gabbed in Cookie mag about being pro-vaccines; for the first time in what must surely be forever, I found myself in ready agreement with a shalebritay, and I posted accordingly. Unfortunately, I did so in a rather foolish and crass manner.

It wasn't very smart of me to tell the non-vaxers to go and live on an island by themselves with no airport. It wasn't very nice of me to gloss right over the gray areas of the vaccine scene. But I am a crabby mommy first and foremost, and well, sometimes even I don't like myself. Unfortunately in blogging, sometimes you say some sassy things late at night and then you press "publish." It's the nature of the form. And so blogging means sometimes having to say you're sorry, if not really for content, then at least for delivery.*(see mitigating circumstances/ pass-the-buck footnote)

To those who have been following this little ripple in the Crabscene: no, the mag hasn't fired me for being peppery and rude to the non-vaxy people. Yes, we all agreed the post had to go, and no, I'm not going to link to the Google cache. It was a stupid moment. The bottom line is that when something is too serious to be made fun of then Crabmommy should not be writing about it.*(see mitigating circumstances/ pass-the-buck footnote)

I know what must come my way in the form of punishment now: the many voices claiming (but erroneously) to represent autism at large will find this blog and start their engines (some already have). Skipping ahead, this is what I think the blog comments will look like: I will probably have to engage in extremely long conversations about serious issues with some who agree with me and a ton who don't and of that ton, a very tiny percent will sound like reasonable people. We will back and forth and insult each other. I will be forced to concede, grudgingly, there exists, maybe—unlikely but...who knows—a weentsy something-or-other of gray area, but the non-vaxy crowd will not concede that many a pseudo-scientific premise raised by their camp has been disproven. Words like "mitochondrial disorder" will be bandied about. This is not a serious blog but we will all be forced to have a serious discussion.

I know I opened the can of worms and I wrote something in a beastly impish tone entirely unsuited to the material, and I'm sorry for it. I am not a heartless person and to write flippantly about something that touches a nerve for a great many parents who have heartfelt and unhappy reasons for questioning vaccines (if not, to my satisfaction, the proper facts to back up their feelings)...I'm not proud of this. I apologize for my tone here, and I expand on my personal vaccine views in the self-same post, so feel free to go there if for some peculiar reason you want to know what someone as entirely un-balanced as Crabmommy thinks about vaccinations and why. I am also ready to answer your questions, if I must. I can't say I'm looking forward to this conversation; it is my experience that there is a vast and deep Grand Canyon between the pro-vaccine people and the vaccine skeptics, and in the space between is a lot of angry and inflammatory rhetoric.

So, in brief, for those who are deep into this debate: I think the vaccine skeptics are doing some very harmful things. On the other side (being as reasonable as I am capable of here) I will also say this: it's a shame that our major spokesperson in this debate is Dr. Paul Offit. I believe in Offit's message, but it's absolutely true that he is paid to create vaccines. And while he pooh-poohs the conflict of interest thing, it doesn't make the pro-vaccine camp look all that fantastic in this regard and thus is excellent fodder for the other team.

I don't really want to say any more, because already I am incredibly weary after reading tons and tons of links and this exhausting forum. I don't want to say anything more but I suspect some of you will make me. And that's fair enough. I asked for it, so bring it on.

*In my defense I was, for the first time, actually asked by the mag if I wanted to blog on the topic of vaccines (they did not suggest to me what POV I should take). I've been avoiding this one throughout my blogging career, but when they asked, I felt I should deliver. It has to do with keeping a job that allows me to sit on my bot at home and pick at flecks of dried toenail polish.

12 comments:

cmg said...

Well...I haven't read your original post or the ensuing comments...but isn't it a good thing for Cookie magazine that they have a mildly (?) controversial column that drives traffic to their website? Isn't that part of the bargain when an "old" media outlet decides to take advantage of a "new" media tool to - presumably - increase readership?

OmegaMom said...

I think it's a shame you had to pull your post. I thought it was refreshing; the world of mommy-blogging tends to be full of rather...credulous types. You might try reading Respectful Insolence; Orac's always full of fine rants against anti-vaccinators and various medical woo.

DoulaMomma said...

I love your blog (& have not read post in question). That said, I wish that even here, in this apology/acknowledgment, you took notice of the fact that things are not as simple for most as black/white, vax/no vax...
I often say that I wish to come back in my next life, if there is such a thing, as someone who just does as she is told, as it seems enviably easier...I think that many folks (not you, per se, as it seems like you have your reasons) are doing just that rather than having actually thought about the issue. But I may be getting into that black/white territory myself...
I have three children in various degrees of having been vaccinated...from almost entirely up to date (oldest) to having skipped some things & aged out of them...we are not no vaxers & will not seek exemptions for public school, but have delayed, broken up etc. I don't consent to more than one at a time, I don't allow a shot if my kid seems to be fighting something off, we are not first in line for the new vaccine hot off the presses & generally look outside the US for guidance on what a reasonable schedule might be. I, like most parents I know, am doing what I feel is best for my kids given the information available to me. This, to me, is reasonable but I am at peace with the fact that this s not the common approach for most, though it is quite common in my circle of friends.
To make the issue so cut & dried does a disservice to those of us working to find middle ground and perhaps gives more credit for thoughtfulness than is due to the majority of folks out there, as I think most parents don't consider doing anything other than what the AAP suggests, as is their right.

Bix'Mom said...

Sorry I missed your original blog, sounds like I would have enjoyed it. I never read/hear about people being silenced because they speak against vaccines, but those who choose to to take your/my side are derided as being intolerant...sigh.

cathy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cathy said...

I didn't read the original inflammatory post, but I have read the subsequent post on Cookie and, of course, this post, and I thought that they were very well done. Good job, Crabmommy. I think it shows great wisdom to have pulled the other post, and I hope that you aren't flogged too violently for it and can move on to entertaining us with more Crabmommy-ish things.

crabmommy said...

omegamom, thanks for that suggestion. The bk sounds great. Doulamom, thanks for your thoughtful note too. If only more people in your camp sounded as reasonable as you, then at least people like me would be less likely to focus on the mumbo-jumbo crackpot-medicine side of things that so frequently colors the argument on the other side...That said I remain unconvinced about even staggered shots. I have read the reasonable "other side" journalism, from Kennedy's article for Rolling Stone to Dr. Jay and the literature for Generation Rescue. I have also read the Slate rebuttal piece to Kennedy's article and it was very compelling to me, more compelling than even the kennedy piece, which I will aver had some compelling points. Ultimately, I respect the notion that I may have to eat my own words one day if indeed any link ever is proven to exist between vaccines and neurological impairment as it pertains to autism. Until then, I reside in the pro-vax-on-schedule best-for-public-health camp...

kim said...

well written, though freedom of speech I would have thought would negate the need for such a post.I think you need to stir the pot once and a while to get great disscussions started. I vaccinate my children ( and yes I have researched the effects of vaccinations). I do so because where I grew up vaccination is not an option and thousands of children die each year of entirely preventable diseases, I have seen children die of the mumps, and I have seen people suffer the ravages of polio, the measles, late stage chicken pox, and on and on. There is no "Herd Immunity" in most of the developing world, I can not in good concience risk the life of my child or those of the children they may come in contact with throughout the rest of their life. For those of you who claim that this is bad parenting, I accept this as your point of view and follow it with the belief that the majority of us need to take those risks in order to maintain a healthy balance within our society, and allow you the benefit of making an alternative choice not to vaccinate. You are welcome to disagree.

PennyRoo said...

Sadly, I missed your original post. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it.

I frequent a blog called Science Based Medicine, which, not coincidentally, has had a few posts on the topic lately. Informative, though not as entertaining as your take, I'm sure.

M said...

I'm sorry the post was pulled, I have to say. I understand all your reasons and Cookie Magazine's reasons as well, but there is something called the freedom of speech. I personally don't think you said anything all that controversial. A lot of what is out there about vaccines and potential neurological disorders is unstudied and unproven.

Like you, I have a young child, and I have done my research. In fact, one of my good friends is an widely known and well-respected immunologist, and he has explained to me that the vaccines actually work in conjunction with one another. Skipping vaccines or staggering them can render them less effective. Parents who choose not to vaccine their children are, obviously, free to do so, but since their choice puts my kid at risk, I am also free to express my opinion on that choice--as are you, Crabmommy.

Anonymous said...

If you vaccinate your child, how is someone else NOT vaxing their child putting your child at risk? Your child would be immune from any disease they were vaccinated against. If vaccines work, you have nothing to fear of others not vaccinating their children.

Crabmommy said...

Anonymous,
What really worries me about non-vaxers is that they encourage people in their ignorance. Your statement, for example, is entirely ignorant of basic medical science. Read any vaccination post (including mine at Cookie) and you will learn some totally indisputable basics about vaccines. Vaccinated children are NOT immune from the diseases they're vaccinated for. You need to read up on "herd immunity." Herd immunity will explain to you that for vaccines to work, they need to be widespread. For every child who isn't vaccinated, your child's risk of getting a disease is increased, and everyone's health is compromised. I made these points very clear at the Cookie post referenced in this piece, and so does Amanda Peet in her Cookie interview that started it all.