My daughter was born during the height of the hysteria over a now-debunked theory linking immunizations and a rise in autism. I convinced myself that the best thing for my daughter was not to be vaccinated, employing a kind of bizarro logic to “protect” her against the only thing that would truly protect her from potentially horrific illness.
Once I took such a drastic and dangerous step, I became relatively impervious to doubt. I had the education to understand the scientific method, access to good medical research that proved the vaccines were very safe and effective, and plenty of peer pressure from doctors and family members to vaccinate. Yet I still held fast to my anti-vax beliefs. It was like a religion, and to doubt that vaccines were dangerous was to admit to myself I had made a horrible mistake that put my daughter’s life at risk. The stakes were too high to be wrong.
I wish I could say I had a scientific epiphany, one that could be replicated with other anti-vaxxers, but it was a slow and personal journey sparked by a divorce that caused me to reevaluate every aspect of my life. As I went through this process, I had the good fortune of being supported by people who patiently urged me to reevaluate my stance against vaccines. I was also lucky enough to fall into a job as an editor for several diabetes publications, which taught me about every aspect of the Food and Drug Administration’s process for approving new treatments.
My daughter eventually got her shots, my son was immunized on schedule, and when the Covid-19 vaccine was given emergency authorization, I rushed to get it.
I now try to advocate online for vaccination, especially for the Covid-19 vaccine. It hasn’t always been pleasant. I’ve received messages that tell me to keep my politics out of the diabetes forum, or to do anatomically impossible things to myself.