I don’t normally discuss vaccines, either in person or online. In my opinion, some things are private. Although I have a blog to share my thoughts, ideas, and things I’ve learned along the way, I am also an extremely private person. I feel the same about circumcision and how many times my children poop in a day. It isn’t really anyone’s business but ours. I do feel strongly that people should have agency over their bodies, and parents have agency over their children’s bodies when it comes to medical decisions. I do not feel that vaccines should be mandated for the same reason I believe that abortions should be legal: the government should not put laws on our bodies. None of our bodies, not women and not children.
I also want to be very clear that I don’t believe that provaxers OR antivaxers have it 100% right at this point in time. What I do believe is that we are all concerned for our children. We want what is best for them. We want them to live very long, very happy lives.
There is only one mixed group (both pro and antivax) on social media where I’ve seen parents able to engage productively and respectfully multiple times on this issue. At first, I would cringe every time I saw a question about vaccines pop up in my feed. I enjoy the spirit and community of the group and didn’t want to witness the ugliness. Now, when I see vaccine posts, I feel so proud to be part of a group of parents that has figured out a way to talk about what most other groups can’t discuss without an explosion of epic proportions.
That being said, I have also witnessed vaccine conversations going very VERY badly. Here are my suggestions if you want to attempt to have a discussion about vaccines.
- Don’t wish ill on other people’s children. I have seen people wish awful horrible deaths on children. People who claim to care about children’s lives and how their vaccine status effects that. Regardless of how passionate a person is about their own opinions, wishing ill on a child is unacceptable. In my opinion, it also destroys their credibility.
- Don’t name call. There are different ways of insulting someone . We can simply call someone out their name. We can also do it indirectly, like suggest that someone isn’t smart enough to understand our particular argument or grasp the “scientific evidence” we provided them.
- Don’t threaten. This one is pretty self explanatory, but yes, I have seen threats made publicly, and privately. If this were a one time incident, I would write it off as social media dramatics. It happens often, to people on both sides of this argument. Threatening usually happens when a person allows themselves to get too frustrated and engage in the conversation far past their breaking point. It is a good idea to leave a conversation when we are feeling our patience fading. It is an act of self care to leave a conversation that is taking us to a place where we feel violent and aggressive.
- Don’t assume that people have not done their research. Again, in my experience, people on both sides have done their homework. Most people research vaccines extensively to make these health decisions for their children. We should not take this for granted or assume we know more. We all have our go- to resources that often support our arguments.
- Don’t expect to win. We more than likely will not change anyone’s mind. Sharing information with others is really the most we can expect to do in these conversations. I have rarely seen someone change their thinking from anti-vax to pro-vax (or vice versa) as a result of these discussions. It is even more rare for a person to admit they’ve changed their thinking so we should not enter the conversation with the expectation of changing anyone’s mind or winning the debate.
- Do understand that we all want our children to be healthy and safe.
- Do remember that fear is a big part of this conversation. We are all afraid for our children. I’m not sure I would have had children if I had known just how terrifying it is when they are sick. Even when they are well, I always seem to be worrying. Some of us are worried that our children will get sick and possibly die if we choose not to have them vaccinated. Some of us are worried that our children will get sick and possibly die if we choose to have them vaccinated.
- Do respect other opinions. Even if we don’t agree with them, respecting another’s right to their own opinion is very important to this conversation. This is similar to being civil to someone we really do not like. It isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of recognizing a person’s humanity regardless of how annoying they might be.
- Do engage and be willing to learn. If nothing else be willing to learn why someone would make a choice different from our own. We don’t have to agree with it or change our own mind. Being open to the information shared does not negate your stance. Being open does help us understand each other, and build relationships rather than creating distance.
What do you think? Have you successfully had a vaccine conversation with someone who disagreed with you? How did it go? Any Do’s or Don’ts you would add to this list? I’d love to hear them!
Thanks for reading.