I Was A Teenage Antivaxxer

Posted on Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 at 2:56 pm

I didn’t get any vaccinations as a kid, so I acquired my immunity the old-fashioned way: I earned it.

Before ... and After

Before ... and After

I can specifically remember suffering through the measles, mumps, and chickenpox. But I got through it all fine. I can’t complain.

The only vaccination I received before age 30 was for smallpox, strangely enough, because it was required for travel into South Africa. Being members of the Bahá’í Faith, we had been strongly encouraged to travel abroad to spread our gospel, and we’d heard that Africans were receptive to the Word, so we each got vaccinated for God’s sake.

My parents are as staunchly anti-vaccination as they are anti-establishment (against what Bahá’ís call the Old World Order). My father is a retired chiropractor, but it would perhaps be more accurate to categorize him as a naturopath, as he has used a variety of extra-chiropractic modalities over his career, including applied kinesiology (“muscle testing”), magnet therapy, a wide variety of targeted nutritional supplements, and I think he may have dabbled in homeopathy and reflexology.

I recall one specific treatment that we underwent as a family — a balloon-up-the-nose technique that made my dad very sick (he thinks it may have revived his diphtheria). Surprisingly, this nutty nostrum appears to be a legitimate procedure, though in our case it was presented as something everyone needs, so I got a balloon too. The balloon really gets up there, and there is a small risk of brain injury. All I know for sure is I’m never doing it again — very disconcerting to feel one’s head expand from the inside.

As I have devolved into a casual skeptic as an adult, I don’t subscribe to everything I was taught as a child, but it’s taken awhile, and I still nurture a healthy fear of hospitals — let’s be real: physicians are only human. I didn’t do so much as get my teeth looked at until age thirty.

I remain proud of my parents for what they have accomplished. My father isn’t just any naturopath: he has been blind since childhood. My mother has a blood sugar condition that once haunted her with severe (grand mal) seizures. In spite of these afflictions, this match made in heaven has enjoyed sustained success throughout their 50-year partnership. I may not agree with my parents at every turn, but I do admire their resourcefulness and perseverance. Theirs is a remarkable story, which I hope will survive them.

The antivaxxer stance is rather ironic in my father’s case, for reason of the primary cause of his blindness: diphtheria. This preventable disease reduced his eyesight to a featureless blur. He ultimately lost his eyes to glaucoma, brought on by a wrestling injury. In addition to his blindness, he suspects diphtheria to have caused the persistent sleep disorder and head pain that dog him. I recently had the temerity to respectfully suggest to him that he might have been sighted and healthier had he been given the new diphtheria vaccine as an infant. His response was that only improved hygiene has eradicated diphtheria and smallpox (though he also contends that it’s silly to wash one’s hands as a means of flu prevention).

I know: smallpox could not possibly have been eradicated by hygiene. Squalor is worse worldwide today than it has probably ever been. My modest response to my father was that we’re practically swimming in bugs, meaning that we can’t possibly hope to keep clean enough to keep them all off of us. At that point we agreed to disagree, which was a good outcome, I think.

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4 Responses to “I Was A Teenage Antivaxxer”

  1. Zachariah Wasson says:

    It’s interesting how many Baha’is are into “woo” Orac (who’s blog I think you would enjoy if you haven’t already seen it) calls this “crank magnetism”. This is the tendency of people who are believers in one type of irrationality to flirt with multiple other irrational ideas. For example, holocaust deniers are often 9/11 truthers, global warming deniers, and/or moon landing hoaxers. This tendency toward woo was not something I was exposed to as a kid growing up in a small Baha’i community in Oklahoma. It wasn’t until I went to do my “year of service” at Green Acre that heard of homeopathy, chiropracty, acupuncture, antivax ideology, nose coning, and the like. It was also at Green Acre that I was exposed, for the first time, to many of the crazier ideas of the Baha’i Faith. Strangely, it took me 10 more years to reject Baha’iism.

  2. I got mumps last year and it was really very painful. I have to take some pain killers to ease the pain. ‘-

  3. mumps is so damn painfull that i don’t wanna hear about ‘*”

  4. Led Spots  says:

    mumps do really suck, it hurts so much -;-

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