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Safety First: Uniting Our Passion In The Vaccine Divide

By Janaiah von Hassel

A couple of years ago, I went to a press conference in Albany, New York, where Robert Kennedy Jr. was speaking regarding legislation that would mandate that meningitis vaccine and booster be added to the current vaccine schedule. (The bill has since become New York State law; here’s what I wrote about it at the time.)

A safer vaccine schedule is something very close to my heart. I know this is a controversial topic, and tempers can get quite heated in these discussions, but I believe the current vaccine schedule is overwhelming our children’s immune systems and that not all children are lucky enough to be able to handle that stress. I believe these mandates should be thoroughly reviewed from every angle before removing healthcare decisions from the families and the doctors and putting them into the hands of people who are influenced by those who profit from providing the vaccines. Because I am pro-healthcare, pro–parents’ rights, and pro–safer vaccines, some people have angrily labeled me an anti-vaxxer. Some have told me that, because of my views, they hope my child dies of a disease that vaccines could have prevented. I’m always perplexed by the hatred that prevents us from calmly discussing this subject. If we put aside misconceptions, many of us would find that we have far more to agree on than not.

Specifically, I am lumped in with a group that is thought of as “crazy autism moms” who are looking for someone to blame for their child’s condition. I’m frequently told that there are no links between autism and vaccines, and I’m reminded of polio and smallpox and other grave epidemics which vaccines took part in eradicating. My voice is not heard, my story is missed, and I am disregarded. Why? I’ve never experienced this in any other debate. I’ve generally been treated with respect and seen as intelligent in most discussions that I’ve taken part in…until now. Now I am written off as ignorant and dubbed as a threat to the health of America.

“Anti-vaxxers” is a cruel and discriminatory name that does not respect the viewpoints or efforts of those who oppose the current system and demand that parents and doctors have rights in the decisions about their child’s vaccination schedule.

The ugly truth is that this one-size-fits-all vaccine schedule and dosing is not working—not for everyone. We are trying to mainstream our children’s health, and sadly, many children are unnecessarily becoming casualties for the greater good.

It baffles me that everyone is willing to accept that many children can be hospitalized or die due to a peanut allergy, but they can’t possibly entertain the thought that some could be sensitive to or intolerant of vaccines.

As I mentioned, the press conference I attended was about a bill that would mandate the meningitis vaccine for 7th and 12th graders. Robert Kennedy Jr. presented facts in opposition to this mandate. He explained that New York State reported 5 to 7 meningitis cases last year. He then presented the number of children that would receive vaccines under the mandate, and by using the CDC’s own numbers for reported adverse effects and death caused by vaccines he deduced that by mandating this vaccine, New York State will potentially see 3,000 to 4,000 children adversely affected, and 9 to 15 children killed. All in the name of preventing 5 to 7 cases of meningitis (which last year did not result in any deaths).

See, the issue with some of these mandates is that the research is not being done. To justify a mandate—to remove the rights of the healthcare professional and the parent and push an objective—there should be an enormous risk to the safety of others. Please believe me when I say that my heart goes out to those affected by this disease, and to the loved ones of those who have died. I am in no way downplaying the loss of even one child…but where does it end?

There were more serious injuries or deaths last year from children on staircases or falling off swings. What will we mandate next?

My son is diagnosed with autism. When you watch your child deteriorate neurologically, and you see that something has triggered a loss of function and health, you become a detective. You leave no stone unturned. The regurgitated dismissal of a connection between autism and vaccines is scientifically unsound. Thousands of parents have been awarded compensation for their child’s vaccine injury resulting in autism. The connection is cited in peerreviewed studies and is not dismissed by scientists. My son has been tested, and those tests revealed decreased levels of glutathione levels, which helps the body detoxify itself. We don’t test children for this before they are injected with the preservatives and known toxins used as carrying agents for the vaccinations. My son also has markers for chronic viral infection. He has a neuroimmune disorder.

We have done everything possible to safeguard him. After two prominent regressions where he lost all verbal skills due to viral infections, we turned down a road less traveled. We made dietary changes. We added supplements. We made lifestyle changes as a family to encourage his overall health. We pulled up and replaced every carpet in the house, bought air purifiers, and started taking him to a chiropractor who specializes in neurological function.

We did everything in our power to reduce stress caused by any kind of trauma, toxin, or situation. We began to see improvements. Our little boy was returning to us. My ears catch a word now and then, and my heart can barely contain the joy. At one time I wondered if I would ever hear him speak again. Yet, as his eye contact improved—his mood, his health, his joy—I realized that it was not his words I had missed so much, but his laughter. My son is happy again, and if that’s all we get back, it’s enough.

My son cannot receive a medical waiver based on this data—not yet. We need more proof first. Do you know how to prove that your child will continue to lose more neurological function under an aggressive vaccine schedule that his little body can’t handle? How to prove that the vaccine ingredients which cannot be expelled from his body due to his reduced levels of glutathione are therefore stored in his gut and his brain, causing inflammation, headaches, stomachaches, and increased autism symptoms? Must I continue to expose him just to prove the point? That’s like mandating National Peanut-Eating Day, and the only way to opt out is to eat a peanut and have a reaction. I refuse!

I’m glad we’ve pooled our resources together as a nation and eradicated so many diseases. I’m proud of our progressive country and our ability to see problems and aggressively attack them. But, in this case, the casualties are too high, and what’s worse, they’re not being addressed. The pendulum swings and we will look back on our current situation with similar disdain to how we view past epidemics and trends. The day our sons lost their voices, a day when a generation of children experienced more developmental and neurological damage than ever recorded in history— more, I pray, than we ever see again.

We need to push for safer vaccines. We need to allow doctors to make informed decisions about their patient’s health, without threats of being out-of-network for not adhering to mandated schedules that are not a fit for every child. We need to allow parents—the people who know their children better than anybody else—to have a voice in their children’s health and development.

There is a call to action here. This is not a fight for antivaxxers, this is for every parent who believes that a child’s health is fragile and unique. The CDC schedule is flawed. It hurt my son. I don’t pretend that there are no other factors. I believe he has a genetic predisposition. I believe that dietary choices and environmental stressors are involved as well. But I am not mandated to continue feeding him GMOs and I’m not mandated to continue exposing him to toxic chemicals in cleaning products, and I’m not mandated to give him foods that, while rich in nutrients and vitamins, make him ill. New York State wants to mandate one of the few vaccines still using thimerosal (mercury), which is a known neurotoxin. Thankfully, many children will tolerate this. Sadly, more than we save from meningitis will be damaged by it.

I don’t want to put fear and distrust into the heart of anyone; I ask that as mothers we band together. Let’s hear each other out. Not in anger and accusation, but in sincerity. There are a lot of factors to consider when we address something as complicated as vaccines, but the next time you disregard or spew hateful words at an “anti-vaxxer,” please consider that there is a common ground, and despite our charged emotions, we can work together to find it.