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Dear Medical establishment; anti-vaccine rates are your own fault

We’re taught from a young age to recognise, trust and remain obedient to authority. Mainstream parenting starts kids as toddlers, babies sometimes, to just do as they are told before they can even understand what they are being punished for. Then in school, they are given rules, uniforms and codes of conduct designed just to create conformity and compliance. But, there’s a certain subset of people who maintain an individuality that never really buys into it. We like to know the facts that affect us, rather than just trust authority to tell us what to do. Maybe we’ve been lied to before or maybe it’s just our personality. Maybe it’s because we weren’t raised by authoritarian parents, or maybe it’s because we were and that’s why we reject authoritarianism. I’m sure there are a million and one reasons we exist.

“The highest form of Human Excellence is to question oneself and others,” Socrates once said. His dialectic method of inquiry – breaking a subject down into a dialogue between two or more people with differing views, both mutually in search of the same truth – taught us to assume nothing and to scrutinize everything, and gave us a system by which to do it. It remains a key element of scientific study today – beginning with a hypothesis and then distilling it until a definitive conclusion is reached.” From Socialphy.com

So when anti-authoritarians get pregnant and start doing their research, because this is the biggest thing to happen to them so far, and they learn an awful lot of unappealing things about the medical establishment, what do you think happens?

wishing

The mother of my 21 years old niece went to the library to research things like whether or not to have scans and what to do if she went “overdue.” There are few people who would have done that back then, but today it can all be done on the internet. I agree that there are pitfalls for this everywhere (which by the way is why I will be homeschooling because I believe media literacy is THE most important thing to know for my daughters’ generation). So there were always a few outliers who wanted to understand the issues that affected them and now naturally there are more, because it’s that much easier. But the medical establishment, and by that I mean mostly the boards that decide what everyone needs to know but also some health care professionals who don’t bother leveling with people, has not continued to evolve on this issue. In response, we have ended up with people who are not always treated as a competent person who has just been trying to understand their own care. Of course we may not always understand everything we are reading and maybe sometimes we are reading complete hogwash! But maybe sometimes not.

There was a recent study in fact which shows that one quarter of people in the UK and close to half those in America do not trust doctors. A 2006 paper in the Oxford University Press said: “The lower level of institutional trust and the emergence of more informed and potentially demanding patients who are aware that expert knowledge may be contested and who may actively seek further opinions and treatment options poses challenges for both governments and the medical professions…”

drhand

When I went looking for examples from people who had these experiences, a woman responded who was told, without even an assessment, that her daughter had no functioning vision in one eye which she knew was incorrect. I also heard from a woman who says she was tutted at when asking for a milk bank to feed her newborn human milk as the World Health Organisation recommends, and then laughed at when she cried over trying to decide between formula brands. This is a woman in a maternity ward who had just given birth. It is not acceptable.

When you do some research about breastfeeding you may find out that an infant has a “virgin gut” for the first six months and in fact should not have anything beside breast milk for that time if at all possible. However pediatricians don’t blink at telling you to give your baby formula at the first hurdle, or infacol if it’s crying a bit more than you’d like, even though there’s little proof Infacol does anything at all. In fact science don’t yet know much about gut flora, except 1) it’s a lot more important to our health than we ever thought before and 2) getting the first six months right matters for the entirety of a person’s life. So those of us who know about this want to get it right for our kids.

I’ve heard of nurses in America ordering women NOT to push when the women is having the primal urge to do so, until the doctor gets there, so he can get paid. How are we supposed to trust you?

maternity

Just last week John Oliver delivered a devastating message about the amount of marketing to doctors pharmaceutical companies do in America. You should watch it. Seriously. This wasn’t news to everyone, in fact I’d be surprised if it was news to anyone, though I was dumbfounded about the billions spent, the free lunches, the manipulation and lies that run rampant. Recent studies have shown that America is in fact an oligarchy and that it’s multinational corporations that run the country, rather than a country of the people, by the people and for the people. This is further proof.

Back here in the UK again,  very slowly “delayed” cord clamping is becoming more and more routine procedure in hospitals, but it wasn’t that long ago at all that women would get cross-eyed looks for requesting to just wait five minutes while the blood that belongs to our newborn is transferred from the placenta back into the newborn. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn most hospitals in America don’t bother yet. Of course, best practice is going to be rolled out at different times in different places, but the fact that we can learn that something is best practice elsewhere means you need to meet our request with understanding, not rolled eyes.

One of my biggest bugbears is co-sleeping. This is the issue that brought me to the natural and gentle parenting world to begin with. Sharing a bed with your baby is such a contentious issue and I have no idea why because if you actually do your research you’ll find that actually as long as you follow the guidelines (and there are guidelines for putting baby to bed in a cot or crib too!) a baby is less likely to die of SIDS when bed sharing than in a cot. Many health care professionals don’t tell you the whole truth though, they take the stats from all the bed sharing deaths, including those where the parent was drunk, on drugs, or a smoker (not recommended) and tell you it increases the likelihood instead.

cosleeping

Not everyone wants to be informed, some people DO just want to be told what to do, because, yes, this stuff is complicated. But there is a large enough group of us who want to be involved in our own care and I have read many many stories about people who are not treated with the respect they deserve. We may be the minority but minorities can have a serious affect on the whole of public health. The number of children not being vaccinated is as much related to trust as it is to fear. If someone fears an action may harm their children, of which we should admit vaccines do in incredibly small numbers, is coupled with a distrust of the motivations of the insitution pushing the vaccine, big pharma, government, a seemingly condesceing health care provider, then it is hardly surprising that there is now a growing gap in the population’s immunity. Health Care providers need to reassure and allay those fears, not pretend they are unfounded or irrational, even if the HCP think that they are, these are people we deal with, not robots, and we are talking about their children, in other words, people at their most vulnerable. There is less trust for the medical establishment now than ever before, and it has contributed to a lower rate of vaccinations. Because, less face it, you’d have to be an immunologist to understand it really and the horrors of past child mortality rates are only read about in history books!

Now, I know there may be a lot of both anti and pro vaxxers here and I don’t really want that debate (which is everywhere) but I will explain that I have vaccinated my kids because I decided it was too emotive to research online for myself. But I don’t blame anyone for doing it. I don’t blame anyone for not just blindly trusting “the establishment” either. Not when many of us have already had experiences of condesecing, or even out right misrepresentation, in other areas of our medical care.

I will say I’ve also seen almost nothing from either side trying to understand the other in the past few weeks and months of comments to articles. Everyone seems to be reiterating the same message over and over rather than listening to the concerns of the other. This particular point could be it’s own post, but it shan’t be. Not now anyway. All I will say is I sympathise with both sides of the vaccine vs anti-vaccine argument.

The ball on this is in the medical establishments court. You’re going to need to take a more nuanced approach because the old ways of telling people half truths and watered down information as a quick, easy route to get their cooperation isn’t working in the ‘information age’. So what are we going to do?

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Featured image courtesy of Victoria Nevland 
Second image courtesy of Truthout.org
Third image courtesy of World Bank Photo Collection
Fourth image courtesy of Or Reshef

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