Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Why Do I Vaccinate My Child and Secularly Homeschool?

Science!  Yes, the questions was posed:  "If you vaccinate your child then why do you homeschool?"  I admit it, I was stunned for a bit.  I never thought the two issues linked, until recently, as the topic of vaccinations is 'hot' at this time.  No, I have learned that a lot of secular homeschoolers do not vaccinate.  I have to admit, this surprised me a lot.  Secular homeschoolers are set apart from other homeschoolers due to their acceptance of and adherence to real science.  Yet, I didn't think anyone would think that pro-vaxers are NOT in the homeschooling community.  I'm here to tell you WE'RE HERE!  Just as there are secular homechoolers in the homeschooling community and even Inappropriate Homeschoolers, there are pro-vaxers in the homeschooling community and our answer to why we vaccinate is: science.  It just so happens that is also one of the answers to why we are SECULAR homeschoolers.  Science.  Real science.

I understand and accept that there are those who, for medical reasons, cannot vaccinate their children or who never build up the immunity required.  That would not be a problem because of the 'herd immunity' our society possesses(ed).  However, the issue is turning into a real problem as more and more people are choosing to not vaccinate for 'reasons' and that will continue to erode the herd immunity we all enjoy, as a result of vaccinating, and could eventually erode to the point that we are living our lives in real fear - again - of small pox, measles, polio, etc..

Regular readers of this blog or the IH facebook page know that I support a 'whatever works for you' point of view on MOST things that are truly personal choice.  I'm also a strong advocate for a person's civil rights.  Unfortunately, choosing to not vaccinate is not a choice that only affects you and choosing to not vaccinate as a result of fear or false information IS something I can speak out about and will, because your choice can affect us all.  So yes, I do say there is a difference between those who 'cannot vaccinate' and those who 'choose to not vaccinate'. It's not a matter/decision that ONLY affects the family who choose to not vaccinate. If it were, I'd have a different opinion.

If someone cannot vaccinate for reasons of medical conditions that preclude it THAT is understandable. That percentage of population is relatively small and if that's all that weren't vaccinating it wouldn't really be a problem! But, that isn't all who aren'tt vaccinating and we have a problem. Not vaccinating your children for any reason other than a medical condition/issue is the same as any other activity one could choose to engage in that would put society at risk. The science on vaccinations is sound. The outbreaks are a real problem and will only continue to worsen.  It is of course, not 100% effective, but it sure as hell as helped control the diseases and deaths from them. I'm not sure folks understand how having a vaccinated society keeps the outbreaks down or why society, as a whole, has a stake in a person's 'choice' in this matter.  The problem with having a population with too a high a number of non-vaccinated individuals (and this includes getting Boosters) is that it puts all of society at risk. The vaccines are not 100% effective but they do greatly reduce the risk of exposure for us all which is good for us all. It's not my opinion on your opinion that I'm talking about either. I'm talking about the science of protecting a society through vaccinations.

Using accurate, verifiable scientifically reviewed and tested data is how we educate and eliminate the 'fears' or doubts.  I'm more than willing to see credible, peer reviewed science that demonstrates a true problem with vaccines, if any truly exists.  According to the CDC the majority of outbreaks are a result of those not vaccinated: CDC Measles Outbreaks

There is information available on the adverse side effects of immunizations and the causality:  Adverse Effects

The decisions we make as parents that are truly personal choices, I **never** have a say in or a judgment on other than 'whatever works for you, as long as there is no harm.' But, when a parent is making a choice that not only affects their child but could contribute to negative repercussions for all of society then I DO have an opinion because what you do can/could/will affect me and mine and all the other members of our society. That is where the difference lies. It's not voodoo or woo that vaccinations are based on. Society isn't saying to sacrifice a chicken and make your child drink it's blood because that will prevent disease. As secular homeschoolers who value real science, I would like to believe that THAT point is understandable.  I'm not going to support a law that would force members of a democracy to immunize their children - like I do support the laws against drinking and driving. I will however, hold to the science of why it is better, safer, and necessary for an advanced society to inoculate against diseases that can kill - especially when the children are so at risk. Time will tell what the result is of this latest outbreak and any others that occur.

I'm not concerned about changing minds, but I am interested in promoting the truth of the science.  I stand by what I've said - not vaccinating out of fear and/or ignoring the science, can be a downfall for our society. Folks can decide to not vaccinate their kids - true - but they should at least recognize and acknowledge that by doing so they put others at risk and when that's the case the 'others' have a say - whether it's agreed with or not.

Your Liberty To Swing Your Fist Ends Just Where My Nose Begins

~Mari B.

For further insight and relevant valid links on the issue of vaccinations, I am delighted to share this portion of the blog post with a fellow secular homeschooler and friend, Alexandria Sommers.

Vaccine Primer
By Alexandria Sommers

So What’s the Deal with Vaccines?

Anybody who has been on any parenting page or site has seen a vaccine discussion devolve. There are high emotions and a lot of claims made. So, what’s a vaccine? How do they work? Are they safe? What does the science say?
Humans, like all living things, face a multitude of threats from microscopic parasites. We are crawling with cells that aren’t our own. More of our body mass is made of cells that DO NOT have our DNA than cells that do. The vast majority of these cells are either harmless or helpful. In addition to these, we have a myriad of viruses (basically, genetic material wrapped in a protein) that can infect the parasites that live off of us as well as infect our own cells. We have a few ways of helping us deal with these parasites. We can use water and soap to remove micro-organisms from surfaces, including our skin. Our bodies have natural defenses, like our skin, to help fight these. And we now have the benefit of modern science-based medicine to help us fight infections with antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, and vaccines. The greatest plague we face in the first world today is too much food. Obesity--but that is because we have managed to beat other plagues into submission with our science. At one time, more people died because of disease than through injury, murder, accident, and old age put together. Our lifespan has increased 300%. In our “natural” state, without the benefit of modern science-based medicine and technology, our lifespans were about 30 years. 90 years is now very common. The complexities of our biochemistry and the science behind our disease-fighting ability are not something that is taught in depth in schools, unless someone majors in anatomy or a related field in college. In light of recent propaganda and misinformation campaigns, it is critical that we have a good grounding in the basics of immunity. Let’s look at the way our bodies can fight infections and then how vaccines support that.
Our skin is our first line of defense; it prevents a lot of microbes from getting in. Cleaning our skin with soap and water has helped reduced the number of microbes we ingest and inhale. But even though we are living in the most sanitary conditions humans have ever known, it still isn’t enough. Infections still happen. Our bodies have an arsenal of weapons to use to fight an infection. There are macrophages (this term literally means “Big Eater,” because scientists are really very straightforward) that just roam around our bloodstream eating foreigners and cells that “look suspicious.” The macrophages eat anything that isn’t recognized as “self” and anything that looks damaged. These eaters can “see” this by chemical signatures (specific proteins on the outside of cells, chemicals released after damage, etc.). These are the bouncers and clean-up crews of our bodies.
We have snipers, too. Our antibody system is remarkably simple, just chemicals reacting to each other, but it is amazing. Chemical markers, usually proteins, called antigens are part of the “coat” that microbes wear. When our bodies detect a high concentration of foreign invaders, it sends an army of these snipers. The snipers identify and catalogue the specific coat on the invading microbes. These are chemical reactions. A protein wraps around and fits into the protein on the invader. When enough of the antibodies, our beloved snipers, have fitted themselves to the invading microbe, they let the body know that an invasion is happening and that more resources need to be sent to the fight. The antibodies that fit the specific invader copy themselves, and macrophages get called out to clean-up. The macrophages eat whatever the antibodies are attached to.
Our body’s defense system is truly impressive, but it can be slow to respond, and a great many microbes have evolved to take advantage of that. Bacteria are comparatively huge and easy to spot. It is the same with fungi. We have a lot of different medicines that we can use to help the body fight off a bacterial or fungal infection. We have some medicines to help fight off viruses, but they are far less effective. 200 years ago, Jenner first experimented with cowpox to prevent smallpox infection, and the vaccine was born. (We get the name “vaccine” from the Latin “vacca” for cow.) A vaccine exposes the body to the antigen in a controlled way so that antibodies can form before the body is exposed to the wild microbes that cause diseases and their effects. Nearly 70 years ago, Jonas Salk created a vaccine that didn’t require exposure to a live virus. These days, most of the vaccines we use are either dead or weakened. Now, viruses really aren’t “alive” by most definitions of life, but in this case we mean that the RNA is missing or damaged so that it can’t cause the body’s cells to replicate it. We expose the body to the protein that the antibodies will use to recognize the invader, but we don’t expose the body to the invader’s ability to cause damage (usually the intact genetic code).
Now, let me rephrase it in case it was unclear. When we use a vaccine that is “dead,” we expose the body to the material it will need to recognize the infection later - but not the material the infection would use to replicate itself and harm the body. So what about live virus vaccines? We don’t simply expose people to a full-scale infection. Live virus vaccines are used when a virus is particularly resilient or our immune system isn’t able to fight off a wild infection from a dead virus vaccine. These viruses are weakened and given at such a small concentration that they don’t usually cause symptoms or cause only slight symptoms, and this is also why multiple exposures are needed (like the flu vaccine). When Jenner first tested his idea that cowpox might inoculate people against smallpox, he actually injected infected tissue taken from a cowpox sore into his test subject. Even then, the subject suffered only reduced symptoms of cowpox. And that was 200 years ago! After 200 years of medical and scientific advancement, we have moved on.

Why, then, do we need booster shots? Energy is limited and to expend it needlessly is something living organisms abhor. Our bodies clean up and increase efficiency whenever possible so keeping around antibodies for invaders we haven’t been exposed to in years isn’t often worth it. Some things are really nasty or really persistent and hang around our bodies long enough that we keep antibodies “forever,” but most things don’t warrant that level of energy commitment by our bodies. We give booster shots to re-expose the body and keep up the antibody strength. Booster schedules are important so that the antibody concentration doesn’t wane to nothing and render the vaccination incomplete and useless.
When every member of a population that can be vaccinated has been, the disease simply has nowhere to live. We have, in effect, destroyed its habitat. This happened so completely that we drove smallpox to extinction. It happened with measles in America, eradicating wild indigenous measles from our country. (The disease was reintroduced from overseas.)

Unfortunately, 100% vaccination is not possible; the very young, those with compromised immune systems, and those who are allergic to part of a vaccine cannot be vaccinated. A small minority of the population, despite vaccination, will simply never form an immunity. These people comprise a very small minority of the population, and that minority is protected when the rest of the population is immune to the disease. There’s nowhere for the disease to live and breed, so those who cannot receive a vaccine and those for whom a vaccine will not work remain safe. This is called herd immunity (or community immunity). For most vaccine-preventable diseases, herd immunity is at least 70% of the total population, or 90% of population that CAN be vaccinated. Every member matters here. Every member of the community that can be vaccinated needs to be to prevent the disease from being able to reproduce and spread.

Like anything, especially any medicine, there can be side effects and reactions. For vaccines, these are extremely rare. The most common adverse reaction is pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site. That’s it. That’s the big adverse reaction drama. For some vaccines (each vaccine is very different) there can be additional symptoms, but these are exceedingly rare. There is an incredibly small portion of the population that is allergic to one of the components in a vaccine, and these people can have an allergic reaction in the same way that some people get an allergic reaction to penicillin the first time they use it. There is no way to know about a possible allergy before giving the shot; this is why parents and patients are told to watch for symptoms of an allergic reaction. The risk of an allergic reaction and the incidence of allergic reaction are no different for vaccines than for Tylenol.

So why, then, the “controversy”? That’s a complicated and interesting question. People fear what they don’t understand, so “here, let me inject you with a virus to protect you from a virus” sounds stupid and counterintuitive unless people understand the complexities of the biochemistry involved. It makes sense that people might be a little hesitant. Add to that the conspiracy theorists, purveyors of woo, and one bogus study with ringing celebrity endorsement - and the antivax movement that now plagues us was born. All of the fears and worries and suspicions are based on bad information and/or an incomplete understanding of immunology. Let us be clear in our understanding, though, with the exception of a compromised immune system, and then not always, or a prior allergic reaction, NO SCIENTIFIC DATA BACKS UP REFUSING TO VACCINATE. Not one bit of data supports waiting, altering the vaccination schedule, or refusing to vaccinate. To do so is acting against the evidence EVERY TIME. To be anti-vaccination is to be pro-disease.

Included below are links to get more basic information on vaccines.

On the immune system:


  1. Hey! Thanks for this post. It feels really lonely right now to be a homeschooler who vaccinated my child over here in Toronto. The anti-vaxxers are loud about it: those of us who believe in science are "politely" quiet. We are new to the homeschool community and just kind of stunned by it all :(

  2. Thank you for this blog post and your blog in general. As a pastor's wife who homeschools and does not do it for religious reasons or incorporate religion into my schooling (because seriously my kid will get enough of it, I don't want to push them away) it's so nice to see there are other quirky people like myself pushing through the homeschool thing.

  3. I came across your blog because I am a secular homeschooler. I never dreamed I would homeschool, but my child was damaged by a vaccine and is just now getting over some of the medical hurdles caused by vaccinating, but still would be placed in special education because of damage still present.
    I just want to say one thing, many secular homeschoolers chose to not vaccinate for the same reason as you, science. As an RN when I became pregnant I researched for countless hours, deciding on delaying our vaccinations for our unborn baby, and completing many, many more hours of research in that first 2 years of her life. We were pushed by the daycare we wanted to start earlier than planned (the only local one with cameras accessible by parents) and started when she was a toddler, using a delayed selective schedule. Yet still we almost lost our daughter to a vaccine reaction. Less than a year later, after my flu vaccine at work I was permanently disabled... within a couple days of my vaccine I was in the hospital sent by my doctor for severe and sudden neurological symptoms. I will never get my body or my career back. There is no cure for the damage done. As a nurse you no longer have the choice to vaccinate or not if you want to keep food on the table. Employers can pick and choose which exemptions they accept, even among those who have had a reaction to a prior vaccine (starting more so in recent years because the government reduces the hospitals payments for patients with government insurance unless a certain percentage of workers are vaccinated). There are hundreds of scientific reports, studies that show there to be a valid concern with the current vaccinations and schedule. If you would like I can post links from accredit .gov websites. To vaccinate or not is a very difficult decision. One that should be left to the individual since there is science on both sides, and risks with either direction you take.

    1. While I'm sorry that you've had the experiences you've had it doesn't change the real science of the issue. Yes, risk exists and I understand that there are those who are medically compromised and therefore should not vaccinate but that number does not negate the validity of vaccinating the overall population.


  4. And I see you have not included the comments I'm sure you have gotten to the contrary. If you want to call yourself a Christian an put aborted fetal cells in your kids body, don't waste your breath.

    1. I deleted your other comment because you posted a link to a website that I do not endorse. However, I want to say that if you think I call myself a Christian you clearly haven't read my blog. Also, your ignorance is now on display for any who wish to read your comment.


  5. The problem is that there is conflicting information and the fear of not knowing exactly WHAT the vaccines are made up of are what scares most people. Let's face it, vaccinations are big money and with anything that is turning a profit, people will be skeptical. I did my own research and made a decision that worked out for us. But it is SCARY.

    We are a secular family. We chose a delayed vaccination schedule, and against my wishes my daughter was given more vaccines than we had agreed upon with her doctor. She had a mild reaction but is doing well.


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