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Raising vaccinated children among anti-vaccine parents




The measles outbreak that began in Disneyland last month has brought the child vaccination debate back into the national spotlight.
The measles outbreak that began in Disneyland last month has brought the child vaccination debate back into the national spotlight.
Photo by Aki Hänninen via Flickr Creative Commons

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The measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in December has brought the polarizing debate to vaccinate or not to vaccinate back into the national spotlight.

Recent decisions of some pediatricians to close their practices to un-vaccinated children has anti-vaccine parents feeling bullied and alienated. But can some understanding be had for parents who choose not to vaccinate their children?

Ann Bauer, essayist and author of Forgiveness 4 You, wrote an article for Slate that offers a first-person perspective into why the mothers in the liberal community where she lived in the 1980s-90s chose not to vaccinate.  

"It was very different back then. No one had seen a case of measles ever in our group. We thought of this as something that was gone, and so I think  it was easier for people to discount it as a risk," she said.

Though Bauer chose to vaccinate her children, she cautions against anger and finger pointing as a way to persuade parents who do not vaccinate. 

"The hate and anger that's coming out now is really counter productive because no one who's fearful is going to change their mind because someone is screaming at them," Bauer said.

Bauer says it is helpful to try to empathize.

"I wanted to show a picture of these people who I will tell you straight out I think were selfish... but I think people do selfish and irresponsible things. Parents in particular tend to do things that are good for their own children like pulling them out of the public school system and putting them in private schools because their focus is on that child not on the other children who need resources," she said.

According to Bauer, people need to see this as a complex issue in order to get to something beyond judgment.

"Let's look at this in a lens of something larger. What is our responsibility to each other? A lot of people made this mistake 20-25 years ago. What mistakes are we making today?" she said.