How do you cope when a child you care about is not vaccinated?
My daughter’s best friend has tight white-blonde ringlets that all the pre-school girls stroke in envy.
She has the nature of an affectionate kitten; playful and yet slightly mischievous.
She makes my daughter burst out in peals of laughter and watching them together makes anyone smile.
There is nothing quite like a childhood friend is there? Especially the ones that last forever .
Except I don’t want this friendship to last forever.
In fact I am not sure I want them to be friends at all.
I secretly wish that my daughter’s best friend, whose mother is kind and gentle and whose father is always friendly, would get up and move away.
My daughter would be sad if that happened. But at least she would be safe.
My daughter’s best friend is unvaccinated. Her parents are secret anti-vaxxers. They hid the fact that neither my daughter’s friend or her older sister, aged 8, are unvaccinated. And together those two delightful children, aged just four-and-a-half and eight, make me very uneasy.
Researchers tell us that five out of six parents of unvaccinated children actually believe in vaccination. The biggest barriers to immunisation are time and location – families with poor access to health services, and children living in a large household. Parents are often just forgetful.
My daughter’s friend’s family does NOT fall into this category.
Her parents are cut and dried anti-vaxxers.
The type who cannot be swayed from their dangerous beliefs.
The problem is that they don’t tell people – it’s a dirty little secret that only came out when their children got excluded from school due to an outbreak of whooping cough.
The father of the older sister actually complained to the school principal that his daughter had been sent home, as he wanted his kids to catch it.
They wanted whooping cough.
When I asked them why, they began to regale me with fairytales they believed as fact. When I tried to engage in reality, they shut me down and stopped any further conversations.
You do it your way we will do it ours they told me.
We are hurting anyone.
You might ask why I care when my children are up to date with their vaccinations? Shouldn’t I be placing my faith in herd immunity?
Well I do, but as we well know vaccination isn’t perfect – the vaccine itself is only 80 – 98% effective depending on the individual vaccine.
But also, we all need herd immunity – those high community levels of vaccination to protect those that can’t be vaccinated – in choosing to disregard it the family of this little girl show contempt society, for their friends and neighbours.
One of the greatest tell it how it is vaccination videos of all time. Post continues after video.
If I had known before they became friends, before I encouraged the friendship would I have stopped it as best I could?
I am torn.
I am not sure I could have. The two little girls have fused together as though they were destined to be bound by friendship. I don’t think I could have stopped it if I tried.
But how do you come to terms with the fact that her family has such different values from ours? How do you come to terms with the fact that her family knowingly and selfishly disregards the health of the rest of us. That they put lives in danger with their actions?
It isn’t something that you question when your child first makes friends. There is no questionnaire for play dates with vaccination status listed, under age and mother’s occupation.
There is no etiquette for dealing with this sort of thing.
So how do I morally come to terms with this? Do I slowly attempt to filter down the friendship? Do I hope that my own child’s immunisations hold out?
Deep down I feel desperately sorry for these children. It’s not their fault. Why should they be the ones to suffer?
She is an innocent victim of her fanatical parents. She doesn’t deserve to be ostracised… And yet there is the temptation to do just that.
What we need to do is start the conversation about who is and who isn’t vaccinated sooner. It needs to start being a conversation we have with friends, one that is so normalised that it that isn’t difficult or awkward.
Hopefully down the track the anti-vaccination movement will lose its potency and the families involved will realise how they have been brainwashed.
In the meantime though I think we all need to be comfortable with asking “Are your kid’s vaccinated?”
How we deal with the answer though I haven’t yet figured out.
This author is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous.