I was scrolling Facebook a week ago when I came across an anti-vaccine meme. It was a photo of a cigarette carton labelled “VACCINES” filled with syringes, and the following two quotes purported to be from the CDC (American Centre for Disease Control):
“Cigarette smoking does not cause cancer.” (CDC, 1958)
“Vaccines do not cause autism.” (CDC, 2012)
Posted with the caption, “they’re safe as cigarettes”, the implication is clear. The CDC was wrong about cigarettes and their link to cancer, so they could be/are wrong about vaccines and their link to autism.
Obviously it’s a pretty big leap to make, given the autism link has been debunked time and time again, and I can’t help feeling insulted for all of the children and parents of children with autism that there are people who think that death by preventable disease is preferable to autism.
The thing is, we’ve all had arguments with anti-vaxers online, and if those arguments have taught me one thing, it’s that no one wins. You can throw all the scientifically proven studies in and rationally debunk all their claims until the cows come home, but you won’t change their minds.
So, I did the sensible thing and rolled my eyes and went to scroll on. But then I saw it. The sharer of the meme.
Oh. Oh no.
The meme was shared by my 10-year-old daughter’s best friend’s mum. Someone with whom I’ve had some friendly conversations, and even thought I could see us potentially being friends.
The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke to Mamamia’s Mia Freedman about anti-vaxxers. This is what he had to say:
To be fair, I had my suspicions already. The family are fairly health conscious (ironic, yes), and give off that “natural” vibe. When I took my kids to get their flu jabs this year, my daughter, the needlephobe told me that her friend doesn’t get shots. And once, said friend was shocked and horrified when she asked for water at our house and I gave her tap water (I’m guessing they don’t believe in fluoride either).
Also, we live in a fairly wealthy pocket of Melbourne with a notoriously low childhood vaccination rate (there is apparently a correlation between more money and less smarts), so frankly I’m a little suss on all of the parents at our local school until I get to know them better.
Well, now I know.
And now, I don’t know what to do, how to act, or what to say. As a very pro-vaccine and admittedly, very headstrong parent, I always thought it would be clear-cut: no jab, no play. But my daughter is fast friends with this child, and it is a lovely friendship. And the family is more than just an anti-vaxer behind a computer screen; we talk at school pick up about how ratty our kids are at the end of term, and text each other about various dramas, and arrange play dates at each other’s houses.
With more than a few years left of having kids at the same schools, it isn’t possible to just avoid them, so my solution is going to be to pretend I never the post, and hope it doesn’t ever come up in conversation.
I can’t help feeling more than a little disappointed though.
What would you do in this situation? Tell us in the comments section below.