As a frum mother, I take issue with the many people who are judging me on a daily basis. I firmly believe that vaccinations are dangerous, and I have seen the studies and information firsthand. Yet, because others are ill-informed or misguided, they are excluding my children from activities and treating them like outcasts. One of my former good friends won’t allow my children to play with her children anymore because my kids aren’t vaccinated. It’s so silly; if they think vaccinations really help, why are they worried about us being vaccinated? They’re “protected!” I feel really bad for my kids and wish I could explain to them that I’m doing this because I love them so much. The issue is that my kids, ages 6, 9, and 13, are hearing false narratives and lies and they are so confused. How can I convince my children that I’m here to help? I’ll even put my name to this question.
I really didn’t want to get drawn into this, but I’ve been receiving many emails from both sides. I removed your name since I feel uncomfortable publishing it.
There are many rabbanim and doctors who are far more qualified to discuss this topic, but, for the sake of the children, I’m going to share my two cents. To make sure I was not biased in either direction, I read information from both sides.
I read the Vaccine Safety Handbook A4 which was published in late 2017 by P.E.A.C.H., an anonymous organization allegedly dedicated to helping children. I also carefully read their “Tachlis Information Flyer,” which answers many questions about vaccinations. We’re not talking about a small fringe group, but rather a large group of people that has the blessings of some of our gedolim.
I didn’t have to go far to find many articles “debunking” the myths of “anti-vaxxers.” I read lots of information, although I didn’t read anything that was produced by pharmaceuticals, since one could argue that they might be biased and self-serving. I read articles from both sides, written by doctors and rabbanim, and researched their claims as best as I could.
I refuse to be drawn into name-calling. It’s obvious to me that one side is misinformed and making a terrible mistake. We, as humans, have a hard time admitting we’re wrong. Once we decide on an opinion we’re closed-minded, and tend to block out differing views. Baruch Hashem, I have tens of thousands of online readers, and countless more who read these articles in various newspapers. I’m hoping that my readers understand that I’ve been completely neutral in researching this controversial topic. All I ask is that you read the entire article before responding to me. If at any point you disagree, that’s fine. Just please finish the entire article.
I spoke to a father who is 100 percent against vaccinations. I asked him, “What would it take to get you to understand the importance of vaccinations?” He told me, “If a voice came down from the heavens, I still wouldn’t listen!” He then quoted the pasuk “Lo baShamayim hi,” insinuating that it is our responsibility as people to make the correct decisions.
I then spoke to a father who is pro-vaccination and asked him the opposite question. He replied, “I’ll give away all my money to an organization of your choice. It’ll never happen!” He was quiet for a few seconds and then he continued. “I actually didn’t do any research. I’m very confident that I’m correct.”
Therefore, it seems that both sides have convinced themselves that not only are they correct, but the other group is making a massive chillul Hashem or is the victim of a nefarious “conspiracy theory.” I don’t believe that anyone in this controversy is inherently evil; rather, there must be a plethora of incorrect information going around. I’ve been on a quest to find the truth.
Let’s first remove the information that’s useless. The anti-vaxxers frequently quote our president, Donald Trump. He is being quoted as confirming the dangers or unknowns of vaccinations. Is this true? The answer is: yes. He is on record as saying many things on this subject, including, more recently, advocating vaccinations. However, although I love most of his policies, self-control is not one of his stronger points. Our president has a habit of weighing in on things he knows very little about. He is neither a scientist nor a doctor, and, therefore, b’mechilas k’vodo, I won’t be using his statements to advocate for either position on vaccinations.
Many rabbanim and gedolim have been drawn into the fray. I’ve heard the names of some truly great leaders being used as support on both sides. I don’t know how gedolim make their judgments, but without direct evidence of what they said and a direct explanation of why they said it, I cannot offer an opinion about it. Therefore, although every iota of my being has been raised to follow the gedolim, I’m going to research this from a different angle. I’m not saying, chas v’shalom, that I don’t trust our gedolim. As anyone who has read my columns knows I am a huge proponent of speaking to a rav. Rather, I’m trying to ascertain from a purely scientific view what the correct path is to follow.
I’m not even going to allow doctors to tell me what’s right or wrong. My doctor has a strong opinion, but if the pharmaceutical companies want to push an opinion, it would seem that doctors would be the first influencers on their list. Again, I’m not saying that I don’t trust doctors. On the contrary, my doctor’s opinion is important to me. In this instance, though, I’m trying to be 100 percent unbiased. I hope that I’ve accomplished my goal. If I’ve offended anyone with this lengthy introduction, please forgive me, as it was not intentional. I really didn’t want to get involved in this debate, but, again, if children are being affected, I must weigh in.
What this really boils down to are two simple questions.
- Are vaccinations necessary?
- Are they safe?
To answer those questions, I did some of my own research. I didn’t read any articles that were suggested by either side. I won’t bore you with all the information, but it was exhaustive. I checked to see if there was any correlation to autism. I analyzed the ingredients in the vaccines to see if they were harmful. I tracked down and spoke with professors from both sides of the argument. The answer was really quite shocking.
Are vaccinations necessary? The answer is: Only if we want to prevent and eliminate harmful diseases. Are they safe? Yes. To be brutally honest, finding this information wasn’t difficult. The proofs and facts are indisputable. So, what about the many proofs that are brought by those who claim how dangerous vaccinations are? I researched them. Lies! That’s a harsh word, but it’s a fact. Much of the information being disseminated in these pamphlets and other media is completely incorrect.
One example is how the anti-vaccination pamphlet lists the ingredients of the vaccines. Mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum, fetal cells, gelatin. The list seems endless, and the pamphlet details how dangerous each ingredient seems to be. However, it neglects to mention the quantities, reasons, and testing methods for each ingredient. If you do any research whatsoever, you’ll realize that it’s completely safe. Here’s an example. One pamphlet I read details the serious dangers of aluminum in the bloodstream. Many paragraphs explain what aluminum can do to a body. However, a quick search online found the following.
“In the first six months of life, babies receive about four milligrams of aluminum if they get all of the recommended vaccines. However, during this same period they will ingest about 10 milligrams of aluminum if they are breastfed, 40 milligrams if they are fed regular infant formula, and up to 120 milligrams if they are fed soy-based infant formula.”
Basically, it’s like hearing a court case with only one side present. The anonymous people aren’t hiding because they are worried for their safety. They are hiding behind the shield of anonymity because they know that they are deliberately misleading others. I am not exaggerating when I say that researching this topic was very simple. The facts are right in front of us!
I’m not sure what people have to gain by deceiving others about this. Perhaps they think they’re doing a chesed for the community? Perhaps they’re conspiracy theorists? In any case, if you’re reading this and you’re anti-vaccinations, there are two things you should know.
- You’ve been lied to.
- You’re harming others.
Without turning this forum into a quasi-medical journal, here are some fundamental facts regarding vaccinations. Getting vaccinated doesn’t make you 100 percent safe. There is still a small chance you can get very sick. Therefore, the argument of “If they want to get vaccinated, it’s fine, but leave us alone” is a poor and selfish one. Additionally, very young children cannot get vaccinated. Do you realize the heartache and pain you’re causing when a young couple’s first child gets measles at six months of age because you believe it’s a “simple disease?” Sure, you wanted a fun chol ha’moed, but during that outing you destroyed the lives of others. How horribly selfish!
You want proof that you’re wrong? Much of the information I read in your magazines and articles poked fun at doctors. It portrays them as simpletons, nincompoops, and money-hungry barbarians. Really? Aren’t these the same people who are there 24/7 to help you and your loved ones? When your children are sick, do you start second-guessing whatever they say? How could you possibly think that anonymous people, putting out incorrect pamphlets, are smarter and more caring than the doctor who has devoted his or her life to helping others?
That should have been the biggest warning sign. Once people start sowing distrust among you and those you’re close with, you should realize that they’re incorrect. We’re supposed to promote peace and unity! We all know Hillel’s famous statement in Pirkei Avos: “Be among the disciples of Aharon — a lover of peace (ohev shalom) and a pursuer of peace (rodef shalom).” Telling people not to trust their doctors or rabbanim seems to be the opposite of what the Mishnah tells us.
On the flip side, yelling and making fun of those who don’t vaccinate won’t help either. If anything, it pushes those people further away. Someone told me, “This is why the goyim hate us!” It’s sheker! Those who want to hate us will do so no matter what. We’re not even giving them ammunition; they create their own ammunition at will.
If someone really wants to help those who don’t know, there are better ways to do it. Validate that they have information that seems accurate, but explain that those who know best have proven this information false. Most importantly, vaccinate your children as soon as possible, and get the booster shots.
To answer the question you posed, I wouldn’t let my kids hang out with your children. You have been lied to, and you are hurting others with your stubborn inaction. Those who are yelling at you are wrong in using that tactic, but their hearts are in the right place. They want to stop innocent people from getting sick. If you’re a good mother and want to do what’s best for your family, please vaccinate your children.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To comment on this post visit http://www.yidparenting.com/blog/a-neutral-opinion. To sign up for the weekly emails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com.