Questioning something doesn’t mean you’re against it. It simply means you want more information. “What are the ingredients in this chocolate cake?” does not translate to “I hate chocolate cake! Do not bring it anywhere near me! I can’t believe you would eat that! Never ever ever try to make me eat chocolate cake! Anyone who eats it is irresponsible!”

Absurd right? Yet that seems to be the conversation we are all having about vaccinations.

Vaccinations/immunizations are a touchy subject among parents and the conversation is abnormally polar: you’re either for or against vaccines. And anyone who questions vaccine safety is automatically placed into the anti-vaccine category. Which isn’t true. Or even fair.

There’s a massive unwillingness to have an intelligent conversation about this topic. Most of the conversations I’ve had with my mommy friends are “Are you vaccinating?” “Yes”, “No”. Conversation done.

The odd time it’s gone further into asking why. When it does, the responses are fear based. I’m afraid of the diseases therefore I’m vaccinating. I’m afraid of the vaccines therefore I’m not getting them. The discussions have a tip-toeing feeling because no one wants to offend the other or make it feel like they’re judging the other for doing something harmful to their child.

So much fear.

Have you ever noticed that fear gets in the way of having a rational conversation?

I had an experience a few years ago when I was out with a small group of friends. Two of the ladies had children and I did not. They were talking about one of their sons being sick all of the time and I asked if he was vaccinated. The other mother immediately reacted by defending vaccinations and how they were great and how it would be irresponsible not to vaccinate.

Her reaction was strong and instant. I had no idea that it was such a controversial topic. I didn’t mean anything by the question. I had just started becoming aware of the risks of immunizations and brought it up as a point of curiosity.

But for the reaction I got I may as well have said “You are a bad parent for harming your child!”. Which wasn’t true.

This was my first experience with the polar conversation of vaccinations. I didn’t understand what had happened. And I still don’t really understand to this day why the reactions are so strong. Why parents are so afraid to have the conversation?

I recently watched the documentary Bought which is about the food and drug industry. What I really liked about this movie is that the creator, Jeff Hays wasn’t against vaccinations and never states his opinion. I watched an interview with him and he explained the impetus for the film.

His grandson had a side effect to a series of vaccines and his daughter decided to slow down the vaccine schedule (not stop it altogether). She posted this on Facebook to her friends asking if anyone else had any experience with this. She was immediately attacked and some of her good friends told her not to bring her kids around their children. Jeff Hays made the documentary for his daughter to have the conversation she never wanted to have.

I’ve been raised by my parents and our education system to ask questions. If I don’t understand something ask, research, look into it further. Use my critical thinking. Don’t judge a book by its cover. There’s more than meets the eye. Don’t accept things at face value.

This is probably why I enjoyed watching Bought so much. It’s main purpose is not to convince the audience that vaccines are great or that vaccines are horrible. The purpose is to say ‘let’s have the conversation’.

Why can’t we have an intelligent conversation about vaccinations? It’s not a black and white issue but it often feels that way.

What are we afraid of?