Her children nearly died. That was when this anti-vax mother decided to change. Her three-year-old twins and five-year-old daughter came down with the deadly rotavirus, leaving her with overwhelming guilt. A simple vaccine would have prevented the life-threatening virus.
The twins screamed as cramps pummeled their little stomachs, and her older daughter became dehydrated with the deadly diarrhea. All of the children were desperately sick. Fortunately, these children were healthy. If they had been newborns or medically fragile, their chances of survival would not have been good.
Forty-year-old Kristen O’Meara’s intentions were good. She and her highly educated friends thought they were avoiding autism by not vaccinating their children. They were wrong. Medical researchers have now debunked that scare. Yet, the amount of misinformation is staggering.
‘I scared myself to death reading the (since debunked) report by Andrew Wakefield about the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) inoculation causing autism.’
A study in the “American Academy of Pediatrics” shows that the number of children with anti-vaccination parents seeing a pediatrician grew from 74.5 percent to 87 percent between 2006 and 2013.
Chicago special needs teacher O’Meara explained why she was so against vaccinations before her terrible experience:
‘February 2010, I entered motherhood with what I thought was a healthy skepticism regarding vaccination. And I found a local pediatrician who agreed not to vaccinate Natasha. Two years later, I stuck to my guns and refused all inoculations for my twins.’
It is hard to sift out the accurate information about vaccinations, especially when the frightening rate of autism keeps increasing so rapidly. But vaccines do not cause autism. However, another environmental factor might be to blame. O’Meara’s attitude got in her way, she says:
‘I got absorbed in the anti-vax culture and secretly thought of myself as being superior to others. Parents who vaccinated didn’t have my special investigative skills.’
This mother knew that vaccinations were the reason many of the formerly fatal or crippling diseases had been nearly or totally eradicated. She thought that she was giving her children the best of both worlds. They would have a lower risk of autism and of catching vaccine-preventable diseases:
‘I thought, “Let someone else take on the risks of vaccinating.” It was a very selfish viewpoint.’
Many preschools refuse to accept unvaccinated children. There is a religious exemption, which is greatly overused, that will let parents send their children anyway.
A deadly measles outbreak surfaced in California at Disney theme parks in December. In the United States, 147 became sick. People could have died, but fortunately, none did.
O’Meara questioned her beliefs about vaccinations:
‘Do I really want to spend my life writing these letters — fighting something I’m not even sure I believe in anymore?’
People come down hard on both sides of this issue. After O’Meara vaccinated her children, she lost her best friend:
‘But in the end I am thankful, for the sake of Natasha, Áine and Lena, that I was able to reassess my position and accept information that is based on well-established, sound scientific evidence.’
An Australian mother posted a video showing her five-week-old baby fighting for breath as she battled whooping cough. She was trying to re-educate parents about vaccinations. It went viral.
For more information on this important issue, Voices for Vaccines is a pro-vaccination advocacy group. O’Meara recommended book by Paul Offit, M.D. (the co-inventor of a lifesaving rotavirus vaccine) and Seth Mnookin’s The Panic Virus.
O’Meara is glad she changed from anti- to pro-vaccinations:
‘If I can make even one anti-vaxxer think twice, speaking out will have been worth it.’