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Our Story Begins: Tackling The Vaccination Consternation


Vaccinate written on chalk board

Our Story Begins:
Tackling The Vaccination Consternation 

My oldest daughter is about to head to college, a new adventure and new frontier for her.  Part of the process for college admission is vaccinations and making sure she’s protected against meningitis.  I bring this up because we all as parents – mothers, fathers, straight, gay, what have you – love our children and want to do what’s best for them.

So when people come to me and say, flat out, that they refuse to vaccinate their kids I get angry.  I don’t mean put out, I mean angry.

I grew up in a household with a dad, and a brother and then my late wife who were all pharmacists.  My mom went through nurse’s training.  I had a teacher who was one of the last in a generation to get polio – and he walked, forever, with metal crutches, the cuffs hugging his upper arm and the clack of his metal assistants rattling down the hallway.  His legs just didn’t work, he was partially paralyzed.  He never complained but you always knew; his was the face of a debilitating disease.  These are the people who grew up in the era where you vaccinated, not because of societal pressure but because of the fear of what might happen if you didn’t.

I think we’ve lost that fear and that’s a bad thing.

An article in the Atlantic by David Perry speaks heavily to this issue.

In the article Perry focuses on Jenny McCarthy (for the record,  I rarely publicly call anyone out in what I write, but I am now).  She has been very vocal about skipping vaccinations.  She came out against them when her son was diagnosed with autism, citing evidence from a British study saying vaccinations have links to autism in kids.  She’s managed to gloss over somewhat that the study was debunked and the results had been skewed by the author.  She claimed she’d cured her son’s autism.  Then she told Time Magazine her son may not have been autistic at all.

Yet the damage is done.

I get angry, not because of the sheer audacity to claim you cure an as-of-yet incurable disorder.  Nor do I blame her for wanting to find cause or reason behind her son’s medical problems.  But still preaching avoidance of vaccination directly affects others.  It affected my family.

Three years ago, at the height of McCarthy’s campaign against vaccinations, my daughter, Hannah, at the waning end of her pertussis vaccine, came down with whooping cough.  We had an outbreak locally and the health department said it’s possible that unvaccinated individuals may have spread the disease to others around them.  Hannah had just hit the age when she needed her booster shots but had she been few years younger, this could have killed her.  As it was, Hannah was sick for months with a persistent, barking cough.  She couldn’t sleep at night.  She got colds and a sinus infection because the pertussis weakened her immune system.  At one point a chest cold turned to pneumonia which only worsened the cough.  The only thing that stopped it was a narcotic-based cough medicine which she wouldn’t take because it made her feel funny.

I sat up at night with her, worried, scared, and nearly as exhausted as she was.  The more Hannah suffered, the more frightened and angry I got.

So . . . yeah.  I take a stand on this issue, and it’s not necessarily going to be popular with everyone, but here’s the deal: realistically, they offer longer schedules for vaccinations, easing the amount of vaccine in a child’s body.  Flu shots are voluntary, but the kids’ shots have no thimerosal or mercury in them.  If you are in doubt, you can ask!

MOST importantly, it’s not just saving their lives, it’s saving the lives of those around us.  The references to problems with the vaccines are sketchy at best and the fact is, millions live when we have them.

Fear of the unknown is driving this while fear of the havoc these diseases can cause has diminished.  You or your child could be hit by a car tomorrow, but the narrow chance that your child could have problems due to a vaccine when not having it could open them up to a potentially fatal disease seems crazy to me.

I ask you . . . is this protecting our kids?

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Dave Manoucheri framed headshot


Dave Manoucheri is a writer, journalist and musician based in Sacramento, California.  A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.


  1. Dave M

    July 14, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Melissa – If you read the article again, you’ll see that I don’t claim changing the schedule of vaccinations is wrong. In fact, I state that you can ask you doctor and that if you are unsure if the vaccine is mercury -free you can ask. You are working with your doctor and I applaud that.
    BUT…I disagree with you about my daughter’s catching whooping cough. I did do the research. I spoke with our doctor at the time. The fact is that Hannah was on the waning end of her vaccine. It’s not perfect and ten years is more a guideline than an expiration date but the idea is that if EVERYONE is vaccinated the disease has no foothold. Unfortunately, in speaking with the CA Department of Health (which I did for this column) the outbreak WAS spurred along by non-vaccinated individuals. Some from other countries who didn’t have access to the vaccine…others who just flat-out refused. California turned it around by a campaign of flu shots and offering clinics.
    Voluntary shots for the flu or for other non-fatal diseases are different. That, however, is different than polio, tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps, pertussis . . . all of those can be horrific outbreaks. I get angry not because of caution but ignorance. Complete disregard for the vaccinations due to faulty and skewed research that’s been debunked is dangerous to more than your own children…that was my main point.

  2. Dave M

    July 14, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Oops…sorry, meant to say the DPH had a campaign of vaccinations, not flu shots. What happens when I post without my coffee for the morning.

  3. dianthe

    July 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    PREACH Melissa!!!!!

    I am also an alternative/selective vaccinator. I came to be that way strictly by accident. I intended to follow the standard vaccination schedule and did so until my daughter’s first round of shots. We came home from the pedi and she napped for over 4 hours. That had NEVER happened before. Ever. That’s when I decided to do some research. I bought a book about vaccines written by a medical doctor. After reading the book and doing some other research, I decided to make some major changes in our vaccination schedule. Some I delayed and some I decided to skip, with the full support of my pediatrician.

    I know a LOT of parents that don’t vaccinate at all. And none of them are worried about autism. I also know several parents with children who have autism. And very few of them blame vaccines. I think the fact that Jenny McCarthy has been so vocal about the connection between vaccines and autism has been extremely damaging to holistic parents who just want clean vaccines for their children. I also think it’s irresponsible (and insulting) to imply that parents who don’t vaccinate made the decision because of Jenny McCarthy.

    Please understand that I’m not saying my approach is perfect for everyone. I can only speak from my experience. But it infuriates me that people assume that non-vaccinators do so because “Jenny McCarthy says vaccines cause autism”. How is that any different from blindly following the CDC or your pediatrician’s advice. Yes, I realize your pediatrician has a medical degree, but trust me when I say that doesn’t make them omniscient. As with everything else I do pertaining to my children’s health and well-being, I take my pedi’s recommendation under advisement, do my own research and then make an INFORMED decision. i suggest that others do the same.

    And Melissa – as a side note. I took my 5 year old to Urgent Care a month ago when she couldn’t shake a sinus infection. The doctor asked when was the last time she had taken antibiotics. Uhhh … never? She was completely blown away. That in itself tells you how overmedicated our society is. And don’t even get me started on how 2 days later when I took my son to our pedi for the exact same symptoms, we got a completely different diagnosis and different prescriptions. Research, people!!!

  4. Dave M

    July 14, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Okay…I’m going to post once more to be perfectly clear: changing your vaccination schedule to increase the time the medications go into your child’s body I have NO problem with. I also had a wife, father, and brother- all pharmacists- who preached against over-prescription of antibiotics. I applaud the push to reduce things like mercury in vaccines.
    BUT . . . offended as some may be of my reference to Jenny McCarthy, the reality is a LOT of people do and did listen to McCarthy. She wrote a bestselling book. She is being touted as a possible co-host of the View. She has a platform and while many of you do research, many don’t. That ignorance can lead to things like California’s outbreak of pertussis in 2010, with the state said may have been made worse by the spread of the disease by the unvaccinated. It was stopped, but unchecked could have been far worse.

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