In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines seem to be on everyone’s minds.
For me, they have a complex history. My mother was an anti-vaxxer. At 12 years old, I watched as my classmates lined up outside the school hall to receive their HPV vaccine. I stayed in the classroom.
My mother refused to sign the permission form the week before. “You’re allergic to vaccines,” she explained. I took this information as gospel. Why would I question my own mother? If anyone ever asked, I would tell them I was allergic. Allergic to what exactly, I wasn’t sure.
Watch: Mamamia talks to Malcolm Turnbull about vaccinations. Post continues below.
Then at 15, I was hospitalised for full body hives that swelled my throat and caused me to black out. I forgot my name and where I was. Swathes of red rashes covered my entire body, prompting my first time in an ambulance.
My mother refused to indulge in any further medical testing.
After the third reaction within months sent me crying into a cold shower in the middle of the night, I begged my mother to take me to an allergist. “Waste of money,” she replied.
The next week, she sent me to see an energy healer. The results were, obviously, inconclusive.
Since my mother was so vehemently opposed to allergy testing for such a violent, physical reaction, I began to question her claim of my allergy to vaccines. “You had a seizure after the measles vaccine,” was her explanation. Yet my father had no memory of this ever occurring.
My parents divorced when I was 10 years old, and I moved overseas with my mother six months later. Her truth became my truth. With a single parent — there is no other alternative.
I only realised years later that she was using the story of my health as her badge of honour.
Working as a naturopath, my mother used my vaccine history as evidence traditional medicine was evil.
She even bragged to her friends about the vaccinations I didn’t receive. I was her ticket to the anti-vaccination community.