ONTARIO, CANADA: Autism, Vaccines And Seven Misconceptions

ONTARIO, CANADA: Autism, Vaccines And Seven Misconceptions

5225166724_128f47afcb_zMy older son was born in 2003 and diagnosed with autism in 2007, when proponents of the vaccine/autism link were at their loudest. Since my son had displayed autism-like tendencies from birth, I never bought into this theory, and both he and his younger brother are up-to-date with their vaccines.

I find myself constantly having to defend my parenting choices where vaccinations are concerned. I get accused of not doing my research (I have), of supporting the interests of Big Pharma (I really have no feelings about Big Pharma one way or the other), and of pumping my children full of toxins (most of the ingredients in vaccines are present at higher doses in what we eat, drink and breathe).

The whole debate mystifies me a little, not only because of the overwhelming scientific evidence refuting the autism/vaccine link, but because there are those who believe that autism is such a bad thing that they are willing to force bleach enemas into their kids to “flush out the vaccines”. I hate to break it to you, but if you do that, your kid will be seriously ill, and he or she will still have autism.

A growing number of parents are basing their decisions not to vaccinate their children on myths instead of science. Some of these myths include the following:

1. Courts have confirmed the link between autism and the MMR vaccine. This myth is based on one Italian court case featuring a child who was diagnosed with autism a year after being vaccinated. The court found in favour of the child’s parents, and its ruling was based on a flawed, fraudulent report that has been discredited. And let’s face it, how much should we trust a court system that stated that a man cannot be convicted of rape if his victim was wearing jeans?

2. Vaccine shedding has resulted in more measles cases than unvaccinated kids. In one of the books in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series, Douglas Adams likened the chances of something with the odds of dropping a ball bearing from a moving 747 and hitting an egg sandwich. The odds of vaccine shedding – the phenomenon of someone catching a disease from someone who has recently been given a live vaccine – are similar. There has been the one-in-a-gazillion case of the rubella portion of the MMR vaccine shedding into breast milk, and in over 55 million doses, there have been five reported cases of shedding in the Varicella chicken pox vaccine.

3. There is almost no autism in the Amish community, which does not vaccinate. Both parts of this statement are incorrect. Most Amish parents do vaccinate, and autism does exist in the Amish community, although at a lower rate than in the general population.

4. Diseases like measles and polio have been reduced not because of vaccines, but because of better living conditions. Substandard living conditions, including poor sanitation and lack of access to a safe water supply, exist in many poverty-stricken places in Africa. While some diseases, like bilharzia and cholera, spread very quickly in places like this, the incidence of measles and similar illnesses has dropped dramatically in places that have had vaccination programs.

5. People who vaccinate their kids have nothing to worry about. A common argument of those who choose not to vaccinate is, “If your kids are vaccinated, what are you so worried about?” That is true – I’m not too worried about my kids, whose shots are up to date. On the other hand, I am worried about the elderly person who lives in the same house as me. I worry about one of my loved ones, who is immune compromised because of the chemotherapy she is currently enduring. I worry about a friend’s two sons, who are transplant recipients and cannot receive vaccines. I worry about the pregnant women I know, and about the newborns who are too young to be vaccinated.

6. Measles, chicken pox and whooping cough are normal childhood illnesses. Anytime you put the words “normal” and “illness” into the same sentence, there is a problem. Illness, by its nature, is not normal. It’s a state of imbalance, of the body not functioning the way it’s supposed to. When these illnesses were common, it is true that many people got through them without serious consequences. But there were those who didn’t. There were the babies who died of pneumonia, the pregnant women who lost their babies, the kids who died of encephalitis, the people who suffered irreversible loss of sight.

7. The risk of vaccine injury means that no-one should vaccinate their kids. To play devil’s advocate for a moment, vaccine injury may exist. In a small percentage of the population, vaccines are alleged to cause serious illness and even death. But that is not the fault of the vaccine. It is simply a tragic result of the genetic makeup of some individuals. People who are at significant risk of vaccine injury have a very valid medical reason not to vaccinate – in fact, they are among the people we need to protect via herd immunity. But to say that no-one should vaccinate because of the few who are genuinely at risk is as ridiculous as saying that no-one should wear seatbelts because of the handful of people who have been harmed or killed by seatbelts in vehicle accidents.

When making the decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate, parents need to be driven more by the facts and less by emotion and media-generated fear.

Where do you stand on the vaccine debate? Do you believe that vaccines should be mandatory with an allowance for medical exemptions?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle (Running For Autism) of Toronto, Canada. Photo credit: PATH Global Health. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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BELGIUM:  Sinterklaas

BELGIUM: Sinterklaas

SinterklaasAs an adoptive mother of an Ethiopian Panther, I’ve grown an extra pair of antennas when it comes to racism.

Truly, a lot of really nice people distinguish my daughter from other children, based on her color. Even if it is meant to defend her, like calling me disgusting for letting her carry the groceries, it basically still is hidden racism. Should I tell her that people believe she shouldn’t be helping me out because it reminds them of slavery while her white brother is allowed to do the same chores? I’d rather have people call me names than let them wreck my daughter’s self esteem.

However, as I’m writing this, there is a HUGE racism debate going on in Belgium and even worse in The Netherlands, where it all started. And despite my racism antennas, I just can’t fully agree with the racism-yellers this time. Not even if they yell all the way from some United Nations office.

The debate is all about the ancestor of Santa Claus: Sinterklaas. You can read here about how Santa Claus evolved from our Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, who is actually believed to be Turkish, who resides in Spain, has a white horse called Bad-Wheater-Today (Belgium) or Amerigo (The Netherlands), and celebrates his December birthday by coming over to our countries and surprising children with presents.

In the Netherlands he comes over on the evening of December 5th. Later that night, he comes to Belgium and delivers toys and sweets to be found in the children’s shoes on the morning of the 6th. It’s really a children’s celebration, full of magic and anticipation. You will bump into him just about everywhere during November.

Now, because Sinterklaas is getting old and forgetful, and has a lot of work to do within 24 hours, he has helpers. These helpers are all black, and hence all called ‘Black Peter’ (Zwarte Piet).

And that’s where all the accusative fingers point.

Indeed, this tradition can be seen as offensive. I, for a fact, believe it is partly based on a slavery and stereotype-loaded past, and a lot of people agree with me. Black Peter has long been depicted as a bit slow, barbaric (kidnapping and hitting the naughty children), dressed in clownish clothes, with stout lips and being submissive to his white boss.

Of course I agree this is an awful, insulting picture to brainwash our children with during the big Sinterklaas-Awaiting-Month-of -November. I also agree an outsider would be shocked, when he meets Sinterklaas and his Black Peters for the first time, especially if oblivious to the folklore. And I honestly understand and feel the offense people take.

For me personally, Sinterklaas has me cringing with bittersweetness ever since I found out about his racist taint. I’m not even particularly fond of the Sinterklaas tradition anymore.

However, I also don’t agree that we are teaching our children racism, nor paying ode to slavery by honoring this tradition every year. Not any more, that is.

Since the 1990’s, we have a children’s holiday special on TV portraying the real story. Children are elegantly taught Black Peter is black – and not brown/colored/african – because he came down the chimney. No more, no less. Nobody really tries to explain why his clothes didn’t get black during his journey down the chimney.

It is just part of the mystery, just like Bad-Wheater-Today walking on rooftops or Sinterklaas having this enormous book in which the good and bad behavior of every single child is listed. It doesn’t make sense, but children buy it anyway.

In this TV-special, Sinterklaas is depicted as a bit senile. In fact his Black Peters are now the smart ones, all with different names according to their function or character. A bit like the Smurfs, and everyone likes the Smurfs, right?

For the past 20+ years, this  special comes on every November. Along the way, children started to grow more afraid of this very strict and grumpy old man than of his joyous, candy throwing helpers. The Black Peters became the true friends of our children. And every Belgian child you ask about Black Peter’s color now, will patiently tell you the chimney-story.

To me, this shows our tradition is evolving from, I admit, a racist past, towards a new story. Just like it evolved into Santa Claus overseas—who, by the way, appears to imprison a whole lot of innocent, little people in a Siberia-like, harsh environment without paying them for their round-the-clock labor.

Therefore, I trust society may even evolve towards a tradition of White Peters in a few more years or decades. After all, with more and more houses being built without huge chimneys, we will sooner or later find out that Peter’s color is fading, won’t we?

I’m hoping that by the time this post runs, all the petitions –pro and con–the social media frenzy, any UN investigations and any public manifestations, will be over and done with. I truly hope no-one got hurt along the way, and that both camps have reached a certain level of understanding towards each other by the time Saint Nicholas wants to celebrate his birthday.

Because, you know, my children are already expecting Sinterklaas to send one of his Peters down our chimney on the 6th of December. Especially my very dark daughter is impatiently awaiting. I’d hate to disappoint her if he decided not to come this year, because he’s afraid to be called a racist. She would definitely not understand, mainly because she doesn’t see any resemblance between Black Peter and herself.

I’m confident Sinterklaas will make it, though. We are both alike, Sinterklaas and me. We’re already used to people calling us racist slave handlers. And we both know better than that.

Did you know about Santa Claus’s European past? How would you feel if he had black helpers instead of elves? 

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to Sinterklaas Himself, who published it on Wikipedia, while undercover as Gaby Kooiman, under GNU Free Documentation License.


If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

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