My wife won't vaccinate our children
February 2, 2015 4:16 PM   Subscribe

My wife isn't vaccinated and she believes that vaccinations are harmful.

Before you all jump on it, no she DOESN'T believe vaccinating causes autism but she does think they interfere with the body's immune system and can ruin a person's chances of being as healthy as they would otherwise be. For example she links the rise in vaccinating with the rise in allergies in modern societies. She believes that with good nursing and modern healthcare our children aren't at risk from the diseases you can vaccinate against. I'm not sure if she believes in herd immunity. She has read quite widely on the subject but only the books against vaccinating.

For my part, I'm really really scared we're going to end up with a dead or disabled child by NOT vaccinating or that we're going to harm somebody else's child (I do believe in herd immunity).

I am really tempted to get my children vaccinated in secret.

I've noticed a real rise in anti-vaccer vitriol online recently and to be honest, I can understand it. I'm wondering (and I suppose this is my essential question) - is there truly a rational case to be made AGAINST vaccinating?

YES I've tried talking to her about this and no, she won't change her mind. She believes in homeopathy.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (128 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I am really tempted to get my children vaccinated in secret.

This is what I would do in this situation, right after filing the divorce papers. She is perpetrating what I believe to be child abuse.

is there truly a rational case to be made AGAINST vaccinating?

Unless your children are immunocompromised or have actual allergies to components of the vaccine, no. There is no rational argument against vaccinating an otherwise healthy child.

she does think they interfere with the body's immune system

Does she even understand how the immune system works? It works by learning how to fight off infections. Vaccines are university classes for your immune system.

She believes in homeopathy.

You have no chance of convincing her. To me, the choice is simple: kids are defenceless and need to be protected.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:21 PM on February 2, 2015 [126 favorites]

"I am really tempted to get my children vaccinated in secret. "

Do this.
posted by BostonTerrier at 4:22 PM on February 2, 2015 [81 favorites]

I am really tempted to get my children vaccinated in secret.

I would. Hell, I'd be really tempted to do it for a close relative's children if they believed as your wife does. I assume you don't mind the fallout when she finds out, right? She almost certainly would.

She believes in homeopathy.

This won't be the last argument you have, I'd wager.

is there truly a rational case to be made AGAINST vaccinating?

Nope. The movement is in its death throes (I hope; if an outbreak at Disney doesn't do it then nothing will) and the volume reflects that. (Homeopathy is a different matter; at least that won't hurt anyone other that its practitioners, or--sorry--their children.)
posted by supercres at 4:23 PM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

she links the rise in vaccinating with the rise in allergies in modern societies

The current thinking on the rise in allergies is linked to our use of antibiotics as well as a lack of bacteria around infants as a result of cesarean births.
posted by mathowie at 4:23 PM on February 2, 2015 [20 favorites]

So, I hope people will show respect and be kind here. There is a lot of insult hurling around vaccines here.

I didn't vaccinate my daughter for reasons very similar to your wife. Like your wife, I didn't believe vaccines caused autism, and I am not anti science. I was concerned that there are unknowns about the impact of mass vaccination programs.

Over time, I did decide to vaccinate. The main selling point to me was protecting the community at large. Thinking about kids with HIV or who for other reasons could not be vaccinated, convinced me to vaccinate my own child to protect them.

Now, I don't hold the same concerns about vaccines that I did 12 years ago. I would vaccinate if I had a baby today.

So I can tell you it is possible to change. And if you are planning to make a case to your wife about this, perhaps frame it around protecting the community. Consider a compromise of delayed vaccinations - doing the vaccines on a slower schedule than recommended. You could delay polio for example, because it is only found in a few parts of the world now. (I don't recommend delaying the MMR as there is a measles outbreak in the US right now.)

It's up to you whether your marriage will tolerate your secretly vaccinating your kids. If it was me, I would not do it in secret. But I would make clear this is a major, major issue for you, and figure out which parts of this you are willing to compromise on (timing? Skipping the chicken pox vaccine?) and which you are not.

Good luck.
posted by latkes at 4:24 PM on February 2, 2015 [64 favorites]

is there truly a rational case to be made AGAINST vaccinating?

No. I will not try to convince you/her about the medical case for vaccination, because apparently that's not working. Let me make a simpler argument. If vaccines didn't work, insurance companies would stop covering them. The fact that insurance companies cover vaccines indicates they have utility. If insurance companies could save the money associated with vaccinations (which is significant), they would do so in order to maximize profit.

She believes in homeopathy.

I think anyone that uses the term "believes in" with respect a particular form of medicine should be ignored. I do not "believe in" vaccines. I see a preponderance of evidence for vaccinations, which requires no belief.

Someone that "believes in" anything can't be convinced otherwise - because they are not using evidence to support their position in the first place.

Consider a compromise of delayed vaccinations

This is giving into irrationality, since there is no peer-reviewed medical evidence that indicates delayed vaccinations have any benefit whatsoever (and do, in fact, have significant disadvantages). If one person believes that the solution to a broken foot is to amputate the leg and one person believes the solution to a broken food is to put a cast around the foot, the correct solution is not to amputate half the leg.

If you compromise here, you are setting yourself up for future irrational health care decisions - even if they are half as bad, they still are irrational.
posted by saeculorum at 4:26 PM on February 2, 2015 [24 favorites]

If I had a family member who refused to vaccinate their children I would without hesitation take the child and get them vaccinated in secret. Likewise with a family member withholding any other medical care. In a heartbeat.

In my mind it's like refusing to give a diabetic child insulin because it "messes with the body's natural systems."

Vaccinations save lives. Period. Your wife is very wrong.
posted by phunniemee at 4:27 PM on February 2, 2015 [17 favorites]

Show her that she's wrong by giving her information about diseases that once killed people, but have now been virtually eradicated by vaccination. Smallpox and polio are obvious choices. Why does she think people used to die of these diseases back in the Good Old Days when people had Authentic Immune Systems, but they are almost unheard of today?

Bonus points if you can track down an actual person from the generation before the polio vaccine. When I was in elementary school, my science teacher had a friend of his come to talk to our class about the importance of vaccination. He used a leg brace because he got polio just before the vaccine became ubiquitous. Really sent home the Vaccination Is Important message.

I am usually against lying to your spouse about something as important as your children's health (and I do think you run a strong risk of her finding out you did this, but, yeah, I would be very tempted to immunize them without telling her. There are some things that are more important than making your wife happy, and this is one of them.
posted by Sara C. at 4:27 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

You need to vaccinate your kids, you cannot put appeasing your spouse ahead of your children's health. I do not envy the road you are headed down, I am sorry.

I was concerned that there are unknowns about the impact of mass vaccination programs

How did those unknown risks outweighed the very much known risks of not vaccinating?
posted by Cosine at 4:29 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

For your reference, only one parent's consent is necessary for pediatric vaccinations.
posted by palionex at 4:31 PM on February 2, 2015 [48 favorites]

She believes that with good nursing and modern healthcare our children aren't at risk from the diseases you can vaccinate against.

Vaccines ARE modern healthcare. Even with everything else today's medicine can do, the population would be ravaged today had vaccines for smallpox, polio, measles, etc. not been developed and widely adopted. Your wife's activism would be better aimed at the overuse of antibiotics, which may eventually make us wish for the days of the Disney measles outbreak.
posted by cecic at 4:31 PM on February 2, 2015 [101 favorites]

I looked into this very carefully when my daughter was born; my parents chose not to vaccinate me against pertussis when I was born out of a belief at the time that the risk of an adverse reaction was too great in children who had a family history of seizure disorders, which I did. Their fears seemed to be borne out when my brother had a VERY high fever (105.something) after the DTP shot. When I was pregnant with my first child, I learned that my husband had had a very similar reaction after HIS DTP shot, and taken together that seemed to be cause for concern.

My doctor -- who was wonderful -- explained to me that these very high fevers, while frightening, are not actually a "severe adverse reaction," and that the belief that my parents had acted on was a political one, not a scientific one. (My parents are both scientists; they were working off the advice of their pediatrician.) True severe adverse reactions do happen, but my daughter would be exposed to more risk driving to the doctor's office to get the vaccination than she would be exposed to by the vaccination by several orders of magnitude. Add to that the fact that there is an ongoing pertussis epidemic in my county, and I was sold. I didn't just take her word for it; I did my research, and she was right.

In short, there is no rational case against vaccinating unless your child falls into a very small number of categories, and if she did, you would already know about it because the medical specialists at the pediatric unit of your high-level children's hospital where your child was a frequent visitor would already have explained it to you and told you when and how you had to quarantine in case of outbreaks. Vaccines are incredibly effective; 91% of Americans are vaccinated against measles, for example, but only 15% of the people who have caught measles in the Disney outbreak have received even one MMR shot ever in their lives. Of the people who have caught measles, 1 in 4 have had to be hospitalized due to the severity of the disease.

I have a friend who grew up in a community that did not have access to vaccinations. Every year, every winter, she had friends die from diphtheria. I don't mean she had one friend die; I mean that she lived in that community for thirteen years, and lost peers to diphtheria every winter. Dozens of children dead, in one small town. She and her sister did a lot of ferrying supplies to the houses of the sick children, because they were vaccinated. Despite living in the same isolated community, eating the same foods, receiving the same medical care, they did not get sick.

In your position, I don't know if I would vaccinate my children in secret. But if you did, I would not judge you for an instant.
posted by KathrynT at 4:33 PM on February 2, 2015 [64 favorites]

As I mentioned in another thread, one survey I've seen shows that parents are more easily encouraged to vaccinate their children, not by focusing on the medical reasons, but by talking about not vaccinating as an active choice that people take that harms their children, like choosing not to wear seatbelts, or choosing not to make their children brush their teeth.
posted by muddgirl at 4:34 PM on February 2, 2015 [33 favorites]

I also think you should get your kids vaccinated yourself, in secret if necessary.

I wanted to add another point, though. Let's just say that vaccines did cause allergies. I don't think they do, but let's go with it. Now in a world where everyone else was vaccinated, one could imagine thinking "well, my kid's not going to get whooping cough because everyone else is vaccinated, so why risk giving my kids allergies." At least that would kind of make sense as a wager. The risk of not getting vaccinated would be essentially 0 thanks to herd immunity but the risk of getting vaccinated would be small (meaning both low probability and not terrible outcome), but larger, so why not take the smaller risk?

However, this is not a world where everyone else is vaccinated. Which means your wife is risking her kids getting measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, etc. in order to have them avoid getting allergies. Surely most allergies are less dangerous than those things and this is a nonsensical wager.

Why not suggest to your wife that you research causes and correlates of allergies and then make a whole bunch of other decisions to try to minimize their risk (get pets, don't get pets, dust less often, whatever etc. etc.) in order to offset the supposed risk from vaccination.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:36 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not clear to me if you have a baby or are expecting one. Or are just planning ahead.

There is a huge difference in your decision-making when talking about hypothetical children and real flesh-and-blood kids in front of you. Seeing children very ill with communicable diseases in the pediatrician's office when you are waiting with your child can provide some serious clarity.

If you have or are expecting children, I would definitely consult with your pediatrician. If he/she is good, this will be a conversation about evaluating risks carefully backed by years of in-office experience, rather than online ranting.
posted by pantarei70 at 4:36 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

"I am really tempted to get my children vaccinated in secret. "

Do not do this. I say this as someone who is 100% pro-vaccine, whose own kids were vaccinated according to schedule, and who believes in science.

If you do not vaccinate your children right away, they are at some risk that you can't completely calculate. Many people do not vaccinate their kids and are lucky. Do not equate waiting to vaccinate with, say, taking a syringe full of measles and sticking it in to your kid. What she is doing is not a good risk, but it's not 100% a sure thing that they will become sick or infect someone else.

Do you know what IS a 100% sure recipe for hurting your family? If you take your kids to have them vaccinated in secret against their mother's express beliefs to the contrary. This is going to, without doubt, inject a level of emotional toxicity into your family that will be hard to recover from.

I would try to compromise through marriage counseling, a clergy person, or a mediator before panicking and going behind their mother's back.

Come on, folks. Plenty of people who are worried about vaccinations are good people who have made what I, among others, consider a wrong judgment. It's not as if the pharmaceutical industry hasn't given us all plenty to object to. She's trying to do right by her healthy kids; she is not withholding medicine from an already sick child who needs you to act immediately without trying to find a way to mediate this, perhaps with an alternate vaccination schedule.

Don't violate your wife's trust that the two of you are trying together to do right by your kids.
posted by third rail at 4:39 PM on February 2, 2015 [52 favorites]

Despite living in the same isolated community, eating the same foods, receiving the same medical care, they did not get sick.

To follow up on my previous comment: this was a community free of industrial pollution, where nobody had allergies or ate sugars or refined grains, where everyone ate whole, unprocessed foods and got plenty of exercise, and where babies were breastfed well past their second year. The average woman became pregnant 17 times and had 3 children live to adulthood. One of the big reasons was childhood diseases that we can prevent through vaccination.
posted by KathrynT at 4:41 PM on February 2, 2015 [41 favorites]

My advice is to have a meeting with your wife and the doctor about this issue, and hopefully mediate it with the doctor's input about the medical consequences of not vaccinating. If that doesn't work, bring it to a couple's counselor or a trusted mediator like someone from your church or family. If that doesn't work, call a lawyer and see what you can do. Maybe a call a lawyer first.

I would suggest working with the doctor to vaccinate in secret, but unless you can pay out of pocket in secret and manage to bring the kid/s to every followup appointment (there are several) in secret, without generating a bill, a call, or having the kid/s blab about it to your wife if they're talking already-- I don't see that working out. Secret will be very hard to do unless your doctor is actively working with you to make it happen, and since it's somewhat unethical to not involve the other parent (even when the other parent is just wrong.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 4:42 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

If it would appeal to her, I would say that you think that the health benefits for your neighbors and friends outweigh the very small risk to your children [provide printed stats from a neutral source as able] and that you think your family's higher-than-average focus on health will make up for the risk (and you should be able to find stats for this depending on the diets you eat.)

I don't know your wife, but I think most people against vaccinations can be turned around in about 2 years, and that is soon enough to keep your children and neighbors healthy unless there is a specific outbreak in your area.

I would also include your doctor and the doctor(s) she trusts in the discussion as able. You may want to look into a natural-friendly doctor who can explain the effectiveness of vaccination from first principles that she will like.

If you vaccinate secretly, you're just giving into the weird hysteria that's on display earlier in this thread and elsewhere which will kill any chance to make future health decisions together as a family. Despite how they act, the internet doesn't actually care about your family; they just hate your wife and want her to lose. Plus, imagine if someone gets something like Type 1 diabetes or a difficult cancer and you've destroyed that trust. Work together and you can accomplish this.
posted by michaelh at 4:45 PM on February 2, 2015 [8 favorites]

Have her read this story by a `crunchy`parent who changed her stance and decided to vaccinate her kids?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:45 PM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm wondering (and I suppose this is my essential question) - is there truly a rational case to be made AGAINST vaccinating?

For what it's worth, a physician friend of mine-- Harvard Med educated, extremely brilliant woman, hard-science background and absolutely 0% crunchy on any level-- has said firmly to me that there's no question that vaccinating children is a bad decision on an individual level. There are a variety of poorly-understood consequences and random side effects that make full vaccination an unfavorable risk-benefit tradeoff for the individual child, compared to just blithely enjoying the benefits of living in a society where collective vaccination has pared down to a mere sliver the risk of serious injury from contracting a communicable disease.

She also did say, of course, that getting vaccinated is absolutely the right thing to do for society, and her own kids are fully immunized. But I wanted to volunteer that I think there is a rational, albeit entirely self-interested, case to be made for a conservative approach to vaccination, or at least for critical thinking and case-by-case assessment in the decision of how and when to vaccinate one's own children. It's a shame that the reaction to a lot of the crazy woo on the part of the anti-vaxxers has been to make full, zealous, unquestioning adherence to every single jot and tittle of the official APA's schedule into some sort of ideological purity test for belief in Modern Science. If you're concerned about your own kids' safety, could you maybe make a bargain with your wife to do the hard research on the risks, benefits and timing of each of the available vaccines out there, and work through the math to reach an individual decision on each one together? You'll want to stay away from the crazy internet talk on the subject, but if there's a university library near you, then it should be possible to access a lot of great hard research on the subject.
posted by Bardolph at 4:46 PM on February 2, 2015 [28 favorites]

Maybe just take them to get vaccinated and then tell her you did so. Tell her, afterwards, that as much as you love her, she is straight up wrong and you can't sacrifice your children (and potentially other people) to pseudoscience. Maybe have the pediatrician call her afterwards to follow up.

Of course, it is a series of shots, so you'll need to do this more than once.

I don't know. This is hard. But any route that involves vaccination is better than one that doesn't.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:48 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

There isn't a compromise between do/don't vaccinate, though. Someone who believes that homeopathy works is not somebody who has any right to make any decisions about the health of anyone but themselves, because they don't understand the most basic concepts of science.

Which is why my response includes divorce. OP, you can frame it as "Medical science disagrees with you, and XYZ is why. I am now taking the children to the doctor, where they will be vaccinated. You can choose to be part of this process, or you can choose to enjoy life as a single person. Up to you."

Vaccination is not going to be the last argument you're going to have if your spouse believes in homeopathy. Let's say that Junior Anonymous comes down with something and your spouse insists that a jar of Magic Water is going to work. What do you do then? This is no different, it's withholding medical treatment that is necessary for your children and everyone they come into contact with. Particularly people who are immunocompromised, who don't even have the option of vaccine.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:48 PM on February 2, 2015 [19 favorites]

Bardolph, your friend is speaking about a theoretical world in which everyone else IS vaccinated and one individual can depend on never being exposed. But that isn't a true set of circumstances, even at Disneyland, as it turns out. The answer is that in this world, no, there is no actual evidence that vaccines are the wrong choice for a family to make.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:50 PM on February 2, 2015 [22 favorites]

Seconding mathowie: reuptable people do believe the the "hygiene hypothesis" about allergies, but in relation to decreased exposure to normal, non-pathogenic (or very mildly-pathogenic) bacteria and to parasites (e.g. helminths). It's also incoherent to blame that on vaccines because they stimulate, not suppress, an immune response - you get the same type of response as an actual exposure.

she believes that with good nursing and modern healthcare our children aren't at risk from the diseases you can vaccinate against

This, at least, is readily falsifiable.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:52 PM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Um. For all those suggesting you get your kids vaccinated in secret .. that's a terrible idea. It would mean your wife would have incorrect information about your children's health, which itself could be a hazard to their health.

You have two options: negotiate/mediate or divorce and explore your legal options to ensure the kids are vaccinated.
posted by Gray Skies at 4:54 PM on February 2, 2015 [10 favorites]

I would appeal to appeal to her sense of logic. Yes, allergies are bad and not good for children's healthy immune system. Dying from measles encephalitis is worse than having allergies. Polio based deformities are worse than having allergies. Having rubella is worse than allergies. Having mumps is worse than allergies, or worse - causing someone else to miscarry/or killing a classmate is worse than a child having allergies.

I don't know if i could remain married to someone who put the life of our child, and those around them, at risk based on what I would perceive as pseudo-science. Getting them vaccinated beyond her back is a breach of trust, however I couldn't trust someone to make the right calls for our children if they were anti-vaccine (YMMV).

If her sole concerns about vaccines are a concern regarding optimal health, than she should be receptive to going with the lesser of two evils. if it has more to do with what i would consider "woo science" - then you have a whole other conversation/decision in front of you.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 4:55 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

As a physician, I wholeheartedly believe in vaccination, and have vaccinated my children fully and on schedule. You would be hard pressed to find a physician who has done otherwise (yes, I know about the 'holistic cardiologist' in Arizona - most of my colleagues think he should be tarred and feathered). In your shoes, I'd absolutely take the kids in secret. Wouldn't care if she found out about it. Fights with the wife can be fixed, disabled or dead children can't.

For your wife, I just read this heartbreaking article about a baby who died of whooping cough, despite having access to all the benefits of modern healthcare. Incredibly sad stuff. It is rather ironic that she has such a strong belief in the powers of modern medicine to save sick children, yet doesn't believe in vaccines, one of the pinnacles of our achievements in health...

I'll go against the grain a bit here - there ARE arguments against vaccination on an individual level, but not on a community level, absolutely not. You see, herd immunity means that unvaccinated children can be pretty safe, but only if everyone else IS vaccinated. So if you know that you're the only one going unvaccinated, you can avoid the risk of side effects on an individual level and let the rest of the community shoulder the responsibility for you. I think you can see how fair that is, and how eventually that strategy falls apart when more and more people stop vaccinating ("those diseases aren't around anymore, so the risk of side effects is greater than the risk of getting the disease!" well, that can only be true for so long unless we truly eradicated the disease). This is the phenomenon you're witnessing right now. At that point it becomes foolish not to be vaccinated, because the risk of having the disease has gone up again, so from a purely selfish point of view, you would then change your stance. I really wish it wouldn't have to get to that point for people to do the right thing, though.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:55 PM on February 2, 2015 [29 favorites]

You can't nurse someone through Polio. Does your wife understand that it's endemic? That your child can get it from the environment? What if he or she steps on a rusty nail, are we turning down a tetanus shot?

What about HPV? That's one you need to get early, before your kids become sexually active.

This is such a fundamental disconnect and if you haven't been to the FPP about Vaccination, trot yourself over there.

An immune system doesn't easily overcome smallpox or plague or Ebola, for example. Sure a couple of people survive but they're the exception, not the rule. Lots of kids went deaf after contracting measles. How's your wife with that preventable outcome? Your wife's reasoning is faulty. Clearly. You need to be just as firm in your resolve as she is and if you have to take her to court over this, do it. The health of your children is at stake.

Also, why are you with someone who refuses to acknowledge hard science? This chasm will only get larger as the years go by.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:55 PM on February 2, 2015 [12 favorites]

You know, the more I think about it the more I think maybe this is just a thing where you need to put your foot down. Not even as a fait accompli, but as a "this is among the most important decisions we are ever going to have to make as a couple and we're going to do this one right, with science."

You sound as if you are accustomed to letting your wife make the decisions. That's probably fine most of the time if that works for your family; but this is not one of those times. Your wife is wrong and you need to show her why and protect your kids. What about calling your pediatrician and explaining the situation to her, and asking her to help you explain the science to your wife? It sounds like you could use both the information and the backup.

I can tell you, by the way, that as a wife who is pretty accustomed to making the decisions, I actually do appreciate it when my husband knows more than I do and can help us make a more informed decision than I would have come up with on my own.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:01 PM on February 2, 2015 [14 favorites]

is there truly a rational case to be made AGAINST vaccinating

Simply put, no. Your wife is taking unnecessary risk.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:01 PM on February 2, 2015

If she believes in homeopathy, I'm not sure busting out the science is going to help any here. If I was in your position, I'd tell her "Listen, to me this is like you saying you don't want our children to wear seatbelts because what if the seatbelt injures them. It might injure them if we're in an accident or due to some freak circumstance, but more likely, the seatbelt will keep our child from being splattered on the pavement in the event of a car accident."

And if that doesn't work, then tell her that this endangers other people, some of whom are the most vulnerable members of our population: infants and the immunocompromised elderly. Personally, I don't think it's morally defensible to do that, and I would not budge on that score no matter if it leads to a blowout argument. Tell her that either the kids never interact with the outside world or they get vaccinated, because you refuse to be complicit in the harming or death of other people's children.
posted by yasaman at 5:02 PM on February 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

but she does think they interfere with the body's immune system

It's so frustrating. Vaccines are one of the few things that we use in modern medicine that do actually just work with the body's immune system. They present proteins that look like virus to your immune system, and your immune system makes antibodies that match the virus, and then when you're exposed to the real virus your immune system is already educated.

Like, this *is* the medical version of "let 'em roll around in the dirt, it'll strengthen their immune system."

Me and Mr. Star Stuff aren't sure what we would do -- since the counter-factual is hard. But I think we both finally decided that we would say to our anti-vaxxer spouse-doppelganger, "I am going to vaccinate our children. It only requires that one of us consent to do it. So at some point, I will take the children to the doctor and vaccinate them. And if you want to go to court over it, if you want a divorce and a custody battle, I will still vaccinate our children, because no judge in the world would let you take them if you said you would not vaccinate them." It's a bit of a nuclear option, but honestly, this is a crazy thing to have to deal with.

This sort of neatly turns it back onto her. She's trying to make a unilateral decision about your children's health. You can also make a unilateral decision about your children's health.

If you don't have children yet, I think you shouldn't have children unless this is resolved. Don't borrow trouble, right?

If you do have children... does the state you're in have a "philosophical" exemption law for school attendance? Or would she also be keeping your children from attending school?

I don't envy you at all, and I think this is going to be a tough, frustrating conversation. I'm sorry.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 5:03 PM on February 2, 2015 [29 favorites]

Um, if Dad takes kids to be vaccinated in secret, does that mean Mom can take kids for other procedures in secret? Because she may think so.
posted by amtho at 5:05 PM on February 2, 2015 [9 favorites]

She has read quite widely on the subject but only the books against vaccinating.

When you have only read books against this, then No, you haven't read widely.
posted by lathrop at 5:05 PM on February 2, 2015 [31 favorites]

Oops, forgot to say: my dad, a pediatrician, has often said that vaccines are the one kind of modern medicine that actually work on (sort-of) homeopathic principles. You're introducing a small amount of (killed) virus to protect against real virus.

Maybe that'll move her? Probably not.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 5:05 PM on February 2, 2015 [25 favorites]

Vaccinations can cause harm. But only to certain suseptible individuals, which are a minuscule number of the population. If you or your wife suspect that your child falls into the categories that would make vaccines harmful (immunocompromised, neurological issues, genetic mutations), please please please look into those issues and take your child to a specialist because those are serious medical issues.

If not, vaccinate.

My brother knows someone who lost a baby to pertussis just last year. All the money and modern medicine couldn't save that unvaccinated baby boy. Best of luck to you convincing your wife not allow your children to go through such risk. Your opinion is important.
posted by Neekee at 5:06 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

but she does think they interfere with the body's immune system

Vaccinations are like safe exercises, stretching, warm-ups, and skills-building for the body's immune system.
posted by amtho at 5:07 PM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

If you are the child's parent, you can protect your child. Period. You don't need her approval (barring some bizarre local legal oddities), and you don't need to keep it a secret. Do it and tell her you did it. What's she going to do, un-vaccinate them?
posted by sageleaf at 5:07 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Does she have any close friends who are pregnant? You could also appeal on that grounds. What if her best friend`s baby died because of her kids?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:07 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

I fear your relationship is largely over. Respect and trust are enormous parts of the foundation of healthy intimate relationships. You are missing both.

I'd like to say I'd also just squire them off in secret as it sounds easy, but then what? It's the parenting equivalent of getting yourself a mistress. What happens when the kids are older and need their own health information? It will come out eventually. You will have been living a lie, and shit will hit the fan just as it does with affairs.
posted by kmennie at 5:13 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

My guess is that someone who is afraid of vaccines and believes in homeopathy is not going to be swayed by statistical evidence, but a moving personal story might work. Print out Roald Dahl's heartbreaking account of how he lost his first daughter to measles, and ask her to read it.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:18 PM on February 2, 2015 [26 favorites]

I think you should have your kids vaccinated, unilaterally if necessary, but not as a secret. Do it, and tell your wife. That is the best option for your kids' health and public health, and for your marriage.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:21 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Well this sucks for you.

Getting your kids vaccinated in secret is a HUGE breaking of trust with your spouse. However, if my husband were against vaccination I think I might risk that over the risk of my child getting sick or worse.

In any case- I believe that if you don't vaccinate your children they will not be allowed to visit certain countries when they get older until they get those vaccinations. But even countries that will allow them in, often have risks. For example- Most of my family is from the dominican republic and not a single one of them were vaccinated as children. So you can't even go to the carribbean with your kid without posing a major risk to him/her.

Are there logical arguments against it? Sort of. Depends on your outlook. Many vaccines contain dangerous chemicals like mercury. A lot of pro-vaccine people (and I myself am pro-vaccine) like to say that vaccines no longer contain mercury, but this is not true. Thimerosal is a mercury-containing organic compound (an organomercurial)." All doctors will tell you vaccines no longer contain this but ask to see the vax leaflet and watch their expression as you point out this ingredient. Not saying people should be anti vax but the two sides need to understand each other. When so many "experts" say vax no longer contain mercury or thimerosal, yet those ingredients are still listed on the label, it doesn't exactly sway the anti-vax people away from their fears. Those that are aware these ingredients are still in many vaccines will say that it's too small of an amount to cause any worry. Which is likely true, since most of us were vaccinated and the world still goes on as usual- but the fact is that there are trace amounts of dangerous chemicals in some of them.

So you can say that this is a logical argument against it, except it doesn't really stand up well against the logical argument that without vaccination your risk for bodily danger is dramatically increased compared to the potential and implied danger of trace amounts of chemicals. What good is 'saving' your child from extremely tiny amounts of poison that most likely don't have any permanent bad affects when it means putting your child under the absolute certain risk of developing a life threatening illness? I knew a child that was born deaf due to her mother having the measles during pregnancy.

Some day we'll find a way to vaccinate without using these chemicals, but until then my kids and grandkids are getting vaccinated. Because The DEFINITE risks of not getting them outweigh the potential and supposed risk of these trace amounts.
posted by rancher at 5:23 PM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Here's another lengthy, very complete look at vaccine myths and misunderstandings. Lot of good information.

I'll add that I have two cousins dealing with post-polio syndrome after having had polio as kids before the vaccine was available. Their health is tenuous with a lot of hospitalizations. One is completely disabled and can no longer work. Polio is a terrible disease and it's so easy to avoid today. There is no excuse to not vaccinate and yes I agree with people that this could be grounds for divorce if you cannot sway her.
posted by leslies at 5:24 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Will the best doctors in your area accept patients who are not vaccinated? Will the schools you want to send your children to accept unvaccinated students, or will you be forced to home school or pay lots of money for your children to get an education even if that's not your first choice?
posted by Room 641-A at 5:25 PM on February 2, 2015

In response to rancher at 8:23: the mercury in thimerosal is not in a form that is chemically dangerous. Do you know what's in table salt? Sodium and chlorine. One will burst into flames in open air, and the other is a deadly poison gas. But only in their elemental forms. In the chemical compound sodium chloride, the worst that they can do is make your food taste too salty and raise your blood pressure if you're sensitive to sodium.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:29 PM on February 2, 2015 [18 favorites]

Many vaccines contain dangerous chemicals like mercury. A lot of pro-vaccine people (and I myself am pro-vaccine) like to say that vaccines no longer contain mercury, but this is not true. Thimerosal is a mercury-containing organic compound (an organomercurial)

Thimerosal was removed from vaccines over a decade ago; the only vaccines that still contain it are for the flu.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:29 PM on February 2, 2015 [13 favorites]

She's wrong, of course, but if you decide to do it, good luck keeping it secret after the fact if your kids are verbal (I guess take off their bandaids if they're not), and good luck staying married when she finds out.

I don't know, I'd keep trying to reach her. Read up on persuasion, message framing, health communication, and just general good practice between spouses, and work on her. Keep third rail's points in mind when you do - she's doing it the wrong way, but she's trying to be a good mom. Failing that, talk to a lawyer, as others suggest.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:36 PM on February 2, 2015

On a practical note: if there is any chance your children are going to plan on attending a public university or college, they (more than likely) need to be vaccinated. Folks who don't have vaccination records get force dropped at my school. (I add more than likely because I don't know the policies of every school in the country, etc.)
posted by joycehealy at 5:37 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is not a good place for this discussion if your choices are (a) divorcing your wife, or (b) breaking your wife's trust and vaccinating in secret.

I've never seen a calm well mannered discussion about vaccination on AskMe.

Take this to a marriage counselor to help you navigate this important decision together.

This is not a good place to come for advice on this. Sorry.
posted by jbenben at 5:41 PM on February 2, 2015 [12 favorites]

(I think that not vaccinating kids is not a good thing)

But here's an analogy:
You're catholic and your wife is protestant. You want to baptize your children but she believes in adult baptism. You fear that if your children aren't baptized, they could end up damned. Her beliefs are different.

Do you secretly baptize the kids? Do you respect her beliefs or yours? She is asking you to ignore your beliefs and follow hers. Why should you do this? Why shouldn't she follow your beliefs?

Now let's think about this with science: vaccines do something important for your kids both as individuals and as members of society. Your wife's beliefs are (forgive me for being blunt) dangerously wrong. But she's going to be hurt and betrayed if you vaccinate them without her permission and/or knowledge. Balance these two things. Will she get over this?

If you get divorced, she will have to agree to medical decisions and this may be even more fraught (lawyers! court! paperwork!).
posted by sciencegeek at 5:42 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Sorry, but it's also the FDA (not just the CDC): scroll down to Table 1.

If someone is going to insist that everyone is lying, links are really needed.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:42 PM on February 2, 2015 [8 favorites]

I was one of those kids whose second round of vaccines caused an adverse reaction that led my parents to pause vaccinations for me until we could definitively determine what the hell was wrong. I would be happy to speak to your wife as I have lived both sides of this issue, and despite having seen the very rare side of vaccines-as-scary-shitty-things, I absolutely support vaccination and am profoundly grateful that I can now be vaccinated.

Sorry you and your family are facing this frustrating crossroads. I hope you and your wife have a meeting of the minds soon and that she comes to see how vital it is to be vaccinated and risk the super rare side effects that very few of us ever have to deal with.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:42 PM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm not clear on whether you already have children or are just thinking about it. If the latter, your wife would be expected to get a pertussis shot during the pregnancy. (There's info about it in the story that treehorn+bunny linked to.) That's because infants are in particular danger from pertussis and it's thought that the mother will pass on some immunity to the fetus. Infants can't be vaccinated against pertussis until they are two months old, but if exposed, they can die from it. Just another thing to consider.
posted by tuesdayschild at 5:44 PM on February 2, 2015

Had the mumps as a child. It caused nerve deafness in one of my ears. Being deaf in one ear is not the end of the world, but there are a lot of things I can't do because of it. No military service, no marching band, always using the telephone on one side, and no stereo headphones... Would have been nice to have had a vaccination available. All my Mom could do was watch, worry and keep my fever reduced. Oh and btw, I work down the hall from an older lady who had polio as a child and has been in a wheelchair since.
posted by PJMoore at 5:46 PM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

I'm sorry, but woo attitudes when it comes to medical science would be a dealbreaker for me and I agree with FFFM that it's abusive to withhold this basic healthcare from your kids.

Your kids need to be vaccinated and if you cannot talk her into it, you need to do it by yourself.

A friend of mine, now in her early 40s, was not vaccinated as a child. She had chicken pox as an adult. It is much riskier in adults. She is fine now, but it was bad.

That's all I've got in the way of anecdotes, just chiming in with everyone else for encouragement to do the sensible thing.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 5:51 PM on February 2, 2015

is there truly a rational case to be made AGAINST vaccinating?

You didn't leave an email address and I don't want to post it here. If you want to email me or memail me, I can point you to a group with smart folks (some with PHDs) where articles and the like get posted that are anti-vax and sound sciencey. You can look at that if you want to and see if you agree or not.

I don't have strong feelings on the topic. I am immuno-compromised and I stopped getting my annual flu vaccine that folks like me are supposed to get annually. I am gradually getting healthier -- no, I am not suggesting it is solely because I quit getting the flu shot. But I did stop because all of the people who were actually being useful to me when doctors had basically written me off for dead were pretty strongly opinionated about vaccines being bad. So that was the basis on which I finally stopped getting mine.

I don't know The Answer here. I am 49. This was a personal choice for me. My sons got vaccinated when they were little, so I can sort of comfortably fence-sit on this one. I don't have to make some big political stand. It still gets me tarred and feathered by folks convinced that any sympathy for antivaxxers makes you One Of Them and Evil Incarnate as well as a total fucking idiot.

So I am posting if only because of what others have said: If you can't respect your wife and find a way to work something out that is this important, then your marriage is doomed. So my thought is that you should at least look at the info, if only to be respectful to her. Because saying "Yeah, being antivax means you are a total fucking idiot and full of horseshit and I am not even going to listen to this" is just not the basis for a healthy marriage. If you look, are unconvinced and can discuss it with her, maybe you have some hope of working things out. But, I fully agree with those folks saying that secretly immunizing the kids is a big NOPE. It would be better to just file for divorce and seek custody if you are that sure that her position here amounts to child abuse and you aren't even going to try to find a way to communicate.

So I am replying based on the assumption that your post here is some attempt to try to understand her and try to find a path forward in terms of communicating respectfully. So contact me if you want the link.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 5:51 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Made of Star Stuff makes a good point. Does your wife understand this: vaccines are the one kind of modern medicine that actually work on (sort-of) homeopathic principles. You're introducing a small amount of (killed) virus to protect against real virus. She needs to better understand how vaccines interact with the immune system in the average person.

My father was born in 1919. He had no vaccinations except smallpox, and tetanus. He had allergies, and his father (no vaccinations to speak of except smallpox since he was born in 1880), also had allergies. I have allergies. It seems to run in my family. I really doubt vaccinations caused it.

My other grandfather just barely survived the Spanish flu of 1918, being so sick he was delirious in the hospital.

My mother had polio as a child, and was left with lifelong issues because of it. She was first in line to get the new polio vaccine for her kids when it became available.

I had some vaccinations, such as smallpox, polio, and tetanus. My parents got me all that were available when they became available. I actually caught and was sick with German measles, chicken pox, and whooping cough/pertussis (we did not know then that the whooping cough vaccine wears off eventually). The chicken pox was so bad I had the pox internally in my throat and on my scalp. The whooping cough was so bad it took a month to recover and I had a residual cough for a year. My aunt almost died of whooping cough as a baby. Pertussis is back, and it is no joke.

In the 1940s, my mother taught at a school for children with intellectual disabilities (the term then was "feeble minded"). Two of the children there had such disabilities as a direct result of complications from common childhood illnesses we now can vaccinate against.
posted by gudrun at 5:54 PM on February 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

There isn't a compromise between do/don't vaccinate, though.

Sure there is. Bob Sears' vaccine schedule was specifically written to convince people who are fearful about vaccines to vaccinate--it spreads the vaccinations out so that a child never gets more than two at a time. It entails going to the pediatrician roughly monthly for the first year. Here's Sears about the schedule:
“A lot of parents don’t really trust the vaccine system,” Sears says. “I felt that if I could give parents a better understanding of vaccines -- as well as an alternative way to approach giving vaccines -- then these families who otherwise might not vaccinate could go ahead and feel comfortable with vaccinating.”
I consider myself rational/crunchy. I had a homebirth, don't believe in homeopathy or chiropractic, I breastfeed and bedshare. I was nervous about vaccinating my daughter not because of autism, which is clearly not a risk, but because her dad has severe egg allergies and I had febrile seizures as a child. I chose to go with the Sears schedule so that we could more closely watch for side effects and more easily know which vaccines caused them if she had any. The biggest drawback to this schedule is that it necessitates a ton of doctors visits (compliance would probably be a huge issue if this were the standard vax schedule) and that your child is at an increased risk for exposure to diseases when vaccination is incomplete.

I mean, the MMR still comes at the same time on this schedule as it does on the standard schedule and I am still shitting myself that she'll be exposed to measles before her 1-year-visit this week.

Not sure if we'll follow this schedule in the future--as I've said, it's kind of a pain in the ass, and my daughter has gotten a cold every single time we've gone to the doctor for a vax visit in the last four months or so--or the standard vaccine schedule (not vaccinating is not an option for us). But it is an option you might present to your wife. I'd be honest, not sneaky: "Honey, I'm scared witless about this. It goes against my instincts. Here's a schedule where we could watch our kids for side effects more closely. Would this be an okay compromise?"

I think vaccinating them without her consent is a terrible idea. What if one of your children spikes a fever or has another normal vaccination side effect? She'll know something is up and it would be really crappy to let her feel afraid for your children's health without giving her the full story.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:58 PM on February 2, 2015 [23 favorites]

Mod note: just a quick reminder: on contentious issues, it's still about providing answers to the asker, not having discussions generally about topic or replying to other answers, thanks.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:02 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

The OP said that the autism thesis is off the table, so good.

So maybe staggered vaccination is the way to go.

The only problem with staggered vaccinations is that they play into the woo argument that they're some kind of "assault" on the immune system. They're not. Being born is an assault on the immune system. When a child is born, his or her immune system is inundated with trillions of bacteria and viruses it's never encountered before. Legions march against it. It responds and defends, pouring boiling oil on them, pushing their ladders off the turrets. It musters antibodies and, hopefully, vanquishes the invaders.

Those same invaders, having suffered such a defeat, never return.

The MMR vaccine and others are a tiny, tiny skirmish party when standing next to those armies that await the child from the first moment out of the womb.

On the other hand, if that's a way to ease into it...
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:12 PM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Personally, I believe that the irrational actor always wins the argument because they're willing to go to extremes that the rational actor will not. It seems like a morally bad idea to vaccinate your children without your wife's consent, but then again she does not have your consent to not vaccinate them, and she's the one working against the tide of rational thinking. In your shoes, I would step outside my rational belief that it is wrong to do something like this behind the back of my partner and give greater weight to my rational belief that my children and the children and other people that my children are exposed to deserve the safety of the vaccination.

It might help for you to read Eula Bliss's book On Immunity. You may find a way of understanding your wife's perspective, not in order to agree with her, but in order to find the doorway into her thinking that will allow a conversation, and you may find here as well the way to frame the conversation that will help her understand your absolute and firm conviction that your children should be, and will be, vaccinated.
posted by janey47 at 6:17 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

I know someone whose child has a medical exemption. He got a couple rounds of vaccinations and had severe, life threatening reactions, so the decision was made to stop or possibly limit (I don't remember) future vaccinations.

Where I think this is relevant to your situation is that the parents briefly found themselves in the midst of anti-vaccer communities simply because those were the only places they could reliably find online that even acknowledged that those type of reactions happened. Every other legitimate source might mention them, but then handwave them away, as though they weren't even worth mentioning, which isn't an effective argument for a parent whose baby was hospitalized for them. A teacher even targeted the child by spreading rumors that he was somehow infecting the entire class with whooping cough (it was a cold going around), further ostracizing the parents and driving them toward communities that, from their particular perspective, were more understanding of the issues they were facing.

So these vitriolic sort of shoot them all into the sun reactions are not only wrong, they can drive people out toward the fringe. When Obama says “There is every reason to get vaccinated — there aren’t reasons to not,” he is wrong. There are plenty of individual reasons not to, and when you fail to acknowledge that there are risks, and some can be serious, all you're accomplishing is establishing that you're either ignorant or you're lying.

Extreme pro-vaccer arguments can be just as irrational as a lot of anti-vaccer ones. Maybe not as dangerous on a large scale, but just as ridiculous.

The argument isn't that these things don't happen, or that literally everyone should be vaccinated. The argument is that, for the vast majority of people, the risks of vaccination are dwarfed by the risks of not being vaccinated. And that it is important that every child who can be vaccinated do so not just for their benefit, but for herd immunity for the benefit of those who can't. It is a risk in some ways, and there are likely some things we don't know about their effects, but both the known and possible unknown risks are greatly outweighed by the risks of the diseases being vaccinated against. Plain old statistics should back you up on that, and if you illustrate them with a few personal stories, those can really help drive the point home.

Don't lie to your wife. If you choose to take the kids in and have them vaccinated, do it, but tell her you did it (or better yet, before you do). As others have mentioned, she will find out anyway, and it may even be dangerous for her not to know.

I do think you should do it. Just don't be more of a jerk about it than you have to, and if you guys can come to some kind of compromise like a delayed schedule that would respect both of your wishes, that'd be great.
posted by ernielundquist at 6:42 PM on February 2, 2015 [9 favorites]

I think a lot of times the hesitation to vaccinate is because of fear--would you say this is the case with your wife? Is your wife motivated by the fear of infecting kids who are immune compromised? This, to me, is the best argument. I know that at my kid's school, there is one kid in her class who is in remission for leukemia. I wouldn't want my child to infect him with anything that is completely preventable.

This was the first year my husband got a flu shot. In the past he's always said he's a healthy guy, so why would he need a flu shot. However, this year, he decided to for "public health reasons." He doesn't want to infect a person who isn't able to get the shot.
posted by biscuits at 6:43 PM on February 2, 2015

I was vaccinated as a kid, but I grew up with parents who were heavily into natural health and homeopathy, and they never allowed me to get the flu vaccine despite my asthma, because they were worried it would impair my immune system. I did a 5th grade project on homeopathy - I read our homeopathy textbooks and reported on them. I was given sugar pills, linements, ointments, herb teas, and all the rest all through my childhood. Then I went to MIT and got a degree in biology and learned to tell the difference between science and pseudoscience. (For the record, not EVERYTHING in the natural health world is bogus; herbs can do a lot of good.)

she does think they interfere with the body's immune system and can ruin a person's chances of being as healthy as they would otherwise be.

This is not the case. Vaccines are actually just about the most "natural" form of modern medicine that there is, since they simply prime the body's immune system to recognize pathogens. This is the common argument I was given as a kid, and I believed it until I learned how vaccines and the immune system work in great detail, and that cured me of this misconception forever.

is there truly a rational case to be made AGAINST vaccinating?

In a healthy child with no allergies to the vaccine ingredients/no history of reactions? No. None. It is honestly the pinnacle of medical achievement.
posted by Cygnet at 6:44 PM on February 2, 2015 [21 favorites]

This is the most important point:

"she does think they interfere with the body's immune system"

No. They use it to prevent you from getting that illness. That's it. That's all.

You're really dealing with something that's no different than a belief in the laying on of hands or the like.

If presenting the argument that vaccines do exactly that, that's how they work, doesn't do it, I dunno.

Belief in homeopathy should be your red flag - it's outright fraud. If your wife wanted in on an obvious Ponzi scheme, would you say "sure, why not?"
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:46 PM on February 2, 2015

I mostly agree with treehorn+bunny but I am really concerned that having your kids secretly vaxed will mean the end of your marriage and the beginning of a very difficult war over appropriate care for your kids. Does she trust your pediatrician? Would your pediatrician be willing to mediate a discussion between you?

Epidemiology PSA:
You can't nurse someone through Polio. Does your wife understand that it's endemic? That your child can get it from the environment?

A couple of misunderstandings, here - polio is endemic (meaning highly prevalent in a specific area or group of people) in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, not globally. The virus is transmitted only by humans and their waste (so fecally contaminated swimming pool water, yes, other aspects of the environment, no). The fact the virus doesn't persist in the environment well, and only infects humans, is why we very much hope vaccination will permanently eradicate this disease, unlike tetanus or rabies or influenza.
posted by gingerest at 6:53 PM on February 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Unfortunately, it seems to be very difficult to convince people who are anti-vaccine that they are wrong, according to this study.
posted by trillian at 6:58 PM on February 2, 2015

Um, if Dad takes kids to be vaccinated in secret, does that mean Mom can take kids for other procedures in secret? Because she may think so.

Yea, or just, you know away. Like to the airport, and to some random distant relatives across the country.

I completely understand, and frankly agree with the "do it anyways" wave rushing through here. But i think you need to realize, as a few others have noted, that if you go do this behind her back you are dropping a nuclear bomb on the relationship.

Not only because this is such a fraught emotionally charged subject, and because you're making a decision to do something to both of your children behind her back, but also because how the fuck do you recover from that kind of action as far as trust and a general relationship goes?

On preview, gingerest is saying mostly the same thing, but i think by doing this you're taking a shortcut to the absolute worst type of breakup. Like lawyers, court, nasty custody hearings, all that. Do i think you would still be doing the right thing? yea. But i think that choice is being taken with some flippancy here when people armchair "yea, do the right thing! duh".

It sucks to look forwards and realize the only way out is through, and really when "through" means "running through a flaming living room to get out the only exit"... but yea.

I disagree this is a bad place to ask this question. I mostly just think it only has one right answer, and that right answer is fraught and sucks.
posted by emptythought at 6:59 PM on February 2, 2015 [8 favorites]

She believes that with good nursing and modern healthcare our children aren't at risk from the diseases you can vaccinate against.

This is my own crunchiness, but any plan that assumes there will always be modern hospitals available doesn't seem like the best plan. God forbid Katrina hit your town and the child step on a nail. (Sorry.)

Good luck with the negotiations. I wouldn't go behind her back. A quick Google confirms that parental conflict and a bunch of other things that might reasonably result also correlate with poorer health outcomes.
posted by salvia at 7:12 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

As anecdata you can share with your wife, Me and my brothers have all been through vaccinations and none of us have a single known allergy. I was brought up by a very anti-medicine, granola kind of doctor father and he would have never dreamt of us skipping vaccinations, although we skipped many other things like antibiotics except on very rare occasion
posted by cacao at 7:21 PM on February 2, 2015

I should clarify, he def believes in medicine but is just very conservative in its prescription and use.
posted by cacao at 7:22 PM on February 2, 2015

My three siblings and I are another anecdata point for no allergies and full vaccinations, if you honestly think that will help.
posted by Sara C. at 7:33 PM on February 2, 2015

A family I know takes their kids to a "pharmacist" who gives vaccines without "preservatives". I didn't follow up to find out what this actually means but it does indicate that there are alternatives that people who are suspicious of vaccines may be more comfortable with. Maybe you can investigate delayed schedules and see if there are legitimate non-doctor-administered ways of getting the vaccines your children need?
posted by betsybetsy at 7:34 PM on February 2, 2015

I'm against doing it in secret. Unless you're in some kind of time-sensitive emergency, the best thing to do is stop and talk about it. Not to do anything non-reversible unilaterally. How mad would you be if there was some procedure she could take your kids to that would make them permanently, irreversibly non-vaccinated? And she did without consulting you, knowing that you were against it?

Right. That's what you're proposing to do, in reverse. The marriage will be over.

It IS important, and you should not back down. Be a pest about it. Insist on discussing it and providing studies. Tell her it's a deal-breaker for your marriage. Show her what a pain in the ass it's going to be registering unvaccinated kids for school/travel/military/etc. But don't escalate to unilateral action lightly, or even ever. They are her kids too.
posted by ctmf at 7:40 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

with good nursing and modern healthcare our children aren't at risk from the diseases you can vaccinate against
Even if this were true where you live now (and it definitely isn't), what if your children ever want to travel the world? Is she willing to keep them home from the class trip to Mexico because they won't be allowed to go without hepatitis and typhoid vaccinations? What does she think will protect them from contracting polio or dying of meningitis if they ever have a chance to tour Africa, Asia, or Central America?
posted by mbrubeck at 7:41 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I hope you have enough sense to ignore all the people telling you to vaccinate your kids in secret. Your kids are not in such imminent danger that you need to put your marriage at risk by doing that. If you're "really really scared" of ending up with a dead or disabled child if you don't vaccinate, I'd say you're being as irrational as your wife. The reality is that the risk to your kids of being unvaccinated is pretty low. Are you scared of measles now that it's in the news? More kids die from choking on balloons every year than die from measles. How would you react if your wife brought home a package of balloons? If you wouldn't end your marriage over that, don't end it over this. I'm not saying you shouldn't try to change her mind. I'm just saying there's no need to get into a panic and imagine your kids are doomed if you don't succeed right away.
posted by Redstart at 7:46 PM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

Get them vaccinated... then tell your wife.

If your relationship is healthy, it will survive the crisis.
posted by Kwadeng at 7:52 PM on February 2, 2015

I'm pretty sure before you can come to a productive joint consensus on this divisive issue with your wife, step number one is showing respect for her perspective and feelings. People aren't usually open to considering opposing views until they feel their concerns have been fully acknowledged.

Along with counselors, apparently there are professionally trained mediators that also assist folks with difficult decisions.

People use mediators to help facilitate contentious discussions, and you don't need to be a business entity or on the verge of court to utilize their services! The idea is to help both sides feel heard, and therefore help the people involved reach an agreeable joint decision.
posted by jbenben at 7:59 PM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

I agree with jbenben - this is a matter for marriage counseling and a medical consult - not for AskMe.

Obviously your kids should be vaccinated - the question is, at what cost to your relationship? Fully ending it, or negotiating compromises (are there health/lifestyle tradeoffs your wife would accept in exchange?) Agreeing on how to make future decisions of this nature, or setting a precedent for a future in which every health, diet, medical, lifestyle decision up to and including end-of-life care is going to be subject to ascientific decisionmaking? How will she counsel children about birth control? HPV vaccine Organ donation? This isn't a one-time issue. It's central to life as a married couple with a family, and the disconnect in your thinking is not likely to go away on its own. It's a conflict you must resolve if you are to continue.

It's about vaccination, but it's bigger than vaccination. And you need bigger help with it. If she won't accept the staggered plan (and risks of same) outlined in this thread, then please start making appointments.
posted by Miko at 8:00 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, it is definitely how you handle the hard times and the major disagreements that count in marriage.
posted by jbenben at 8:06 PM on February 2, 2015

You are / should be an equal parent, so your Yes carries as much as her No. Mediation is a good idea. Some concessions you can offer: delays, skip the "unnecessary " ones like flu shot and chicken pox (I'm not saying I believe they are not necessary ; just that these are the lower risk ones), and be accepting of complementary homeopathic treatments. For example, I have heard of homeopathic remedies that can be taken before and after the immunization, to reduce its negative side effects - thuja I believe . Best of luck.
posted by leslievictoria at 8:29 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't have any insight on the marital angle, but wanted to point out this excellent comment by Blasdelb on on how immune systems work, and the subsequent discussion on how to talk about the subject with anti-vaxers .
posted by yuwtze at 8:31 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

So I've been thinking about the importance of fostering conversation with your wife and how to do it. I'm trying to imagine if I was against vaccinations, and my husband, who is a doctor, was for it, how we might come to an understanding. It would feel like a betrayal for him to get the vaccinated behind my back.

1: It would help for him to tell me that he was afraid for our kids

2: it would help if he acknowledged that I was doing what I thought was right for the kids.

3: it would help if we reframed this as a chance to figure out how we deal with difficult situations.

4: It would help if we went back to information gathering stage, asking the other person to read articles defending our topic. There is something about taking the time to understand the perspective that I think is important.

5:It would also help if we both read resources from people on the fence, to discover different outcomes - like slowing down the vaccination schedule to one at a time, and watching the kids - deciding which ones were must haves, vs. would be nice to have.

6. It would help if after all of this, and talking, if we were still at am impasse, that he could tell me that he's at a crossroads, and acknowledged that this is so serious for him that he regrets us not talking about it before the kids, because it would be a deal breaker for him. And that he imagined that it would have been a deal breaker for me too.

I would hope that there was some sort of solution around options - for example, that we think of the community issue: if the kids don't' get vaccinated, that we agree to tell other families that the kids play with. That we agree to tell our school later. That we don't put any other child at risk, whose parents deserve to make an informed decision. That we are vigilant about where the kids go, and who they are exposed to, because they are at a higher risk. In short, if I could show him that I was willing to take steps to address his issue rather than just say "nope, it's okay, every other kid is vaccinated".

I think these are the ways one moves forward in terms of talking about this - just together, or in a mediated session with a therapist or someone else.

Good luck. This is so, so hard.
posted by anitanita at 8:40 PM on February 2, 2015 [36 favorites]

This article might be of some help. It's a letter to parents who don't want to vaccinate their children from a mother of a child with cancer.
posted by Tamanna at 8:58 PM on February 2, 2015

This is something you need to approach carefully with your wife to try to educate her and get her to take on a positive mindset in getting your kids vaccinated. You will have much better longterm results if she can also take ownership in the pro-vaccine decision-making.

My suggestion is that you watch some good documentaries with her when you're both in the right frame of mind. I highly recommend the SBS documentary Jabbed - Love, Fear and Vaccines I found this doco nicely illustrated both sides of the vaccination debate, pointing out the risks for that minority group. Although you might want to watch it before showing your wife in case I'm wrong.

Parenting can be a strange territory to manoeuvre through at times. After having our first child, my partner and I were frequently at odds about so many things we had never even considered previously (thankfully vaccination was not one of those). But I find the best outcome is always when we give each other the time for positive discussion and learning together. I think your problem is more than just getting the kids vaccinated. It's also getting your wife's understanding and agreement on it, so she (and you) can feel good about the vaccinations, longterm, as parents, together.

She believes that with good nursing and modern healthcare our children aren't at risk from the diseases you can vaccinate against. ... Just on this comment, I think it's all very well for your wife to say you will do whatever it takes as parents to prevent the risks and yes while they are children this might be possible too. But what happens when your kids start making their own decisions as adult, when they want to travel the world? Vaccination is not just for childhood, it's for their life as risk-taking, error-making adults too.
posted by Under the Sea at 9:17 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do you know what IS a 100% sure recipe for hurting your family? If you take your kids to have them vaccinated in secret against their mother's express beliefs to the contrary. This is going to, without doubt, inject a level of emotional toxicity into your family that will be hard to recover from.

Yeah, for the love of god, do not try to secretly vaccinate your children. That is a nuclear bomb on your relationship and also your children's relationships with their parents. "We have to keep this secret from Mommy" is a lot of unhealthy pressure to lay on a kid. Talk to her, don't sideline her.
posted by corb at 9:32 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Your wife is going to feel really shitty when/if her unvaccinated-self ends up infecting your kids with any of those illnesses that vaccines are commonly given for. You will probably feel at least as bad.

Perhaps she can help come up with a *real* solution.
posted by Good Brain at 10:17 PM on February 2, 2015

A lot of people are suggesting that secretly vaccinating your kids is like a ticking time bomb in your marriage but I kind of feel like the time bomb exploded when your wife refused to vaccinate your kids. This feels more like the fall-out.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:40 PM on February 2, 2015 [11 favorites]

You two should read the book "trick or treatment".
posted by Sophont at 10:43 PM on February 2, 2015

A lot of people are suggesting that secretly vaccinating your kids is like a ticking time bomb in your marriage but I kind of feel like the time bomb exploded when your wife refused to vaccinate your kids. This feels more like the fall-out.

I totally agree with this. In your position, I would probably have one last come-to-Jesus talk with your wife using some of the great points included here.

If, after that talk, she still is against vaccination, then I think you should go ahead take the kids to get vaccinated, and then tell your wife after the fact.

You have to be a parent first and a spouse second as soon as you have kids. By all means, try to get your wife to see reason, but I'm not real hopeful given her belief in homeopathy.

I'm sorry that you're having to deal with this.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:53 PM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

I am so very sorry to read that you are dealing with this very thorny challenge to your marriage, because this is, indeed a deal-breaker. Here is my anecdote; share it with your wife if you think it will help.

My husband is just old enough to have contracted polio when he was five, just before the Salk vaccine was released. He attended 1st grade in a wheelchair and learned to run on crutches while he could still walk, until the paralysis attacked his legs. The conventional treatment of the day was to put him in an autoclave - style thing with scalding hot blankets that they couldn't touch until the blankets cooled off. When he was finally released to go home, the home nurse had him sit in a bathtub with 3" of scalding hot water and touch his toes for long periods of time. He eventually could walk again but one leg has always been shorter and smaller.

He lied about having polio when he joined the Army, so he could serve his country, and figures he was lucky he didn't get caught. And decades later, he now has post-polio syndrome, which in his case, means the nerves in his legs shut off from time to time and he just falls down. And his case was not considered really serious; there were people who had to go in iron lungs that would breathe for them because the virus attacked their thoraxes. Can you imagine a future like this for your kids?
I really really urge you to not let this happen to them.
posted by Lynsey at 10:57 PM on February 2, 2015 [14 favorites]

As well as other children, if your and her parents are in the picture, will they be able to see them if they are old and sick? If my relative hadn't been vaccinated I doubt she would have been allowed to visit her grandmother in hospice during the last months of her life. That would have been a life-altering trauma for her.
posted by Iteki at 11:49 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

OP: You need to step up and do what's right for you kids. I'm not sure getting them vaccinated secretly is the way to do that; it may be better to have a talk with your wife (perhaps jointly with your kid's pediatrician) letting her know that you are going to vaccinate your kids. That way there is no sneaking or lying involved.

But if you aren't willing to put your foot down and insist on doing what is right when it comes down to your kid's health and the health of the community then when would you be? What kind of lesson would you be teaching your kids when they grow up?

This is an issue worth taking a stand over. That doesn't necessarily involve sneaking around.
posted by Justinian at 12:47 AM on February 3, 2015

Another thing to think about: this isn't 2003, where maybe the potential risks of vaccines was being weighed against some hypothetical chance of getting infected. We're now at a place where there is a real risk of your children being exposed to something preventable.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:03 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

But if you aren't willing to put your foot down and insist on doing what is right when it comes down to...

This kind of thinking is dangerous, especially when people are so divided on what is "right". One of the main advantages of science is that it is possible to find and give reasons for our beliefs; it may be frustrating sometimes, but it's what differentiates a more scientific approach from a solely religious one. If, however, you impose your will with only "science says so" as the justification, and if the people subject to this don't trust science already, how can they tell that you are behaving differently from any other tyrant?

Of course explaining, convincing, justifying actions based on science involves somewhat complex reasoning, which is not easy if your audience doesn't understand the various constituent facts. It's going to be difficult sometimes, but we have a lot of technology to help, and it should be quite possible with some effort.

So, I hope people put more effort into explaining/convincing/educating, and less into trying to force people to just accept things as they are. Isn't critical thinking what we want people to do? Don't we hope people stop accepting blind decrees from authoritaties?
posted by amtho at 4:15 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

What would she do if you just declared that you were taking the kids in to get vaccinated? Would she try to stop you physically? Get violent? Run away with the kids? Call the cops? Or what if she found out about it after you did it? Would that be the end of your marriage? Would she take the kids and leave? Would she lie about you to the cops and child protective services in revenge? For your children, how do the risks of being unvaccinated compare to the risks of being caught in a messy divorce and almost never seeing their father again?

I'm on your side, but you need to step carefully. She's perhaps not very rational and, from her point of view, you are threatening her children's lives.

I'm not into therapy and counselling as the solution to every problem, but in this case it might be the safest first step. You both go to a marriage counsellor who can talk to you about this (and maybe about other things as needed) and maybe you settle on a plan that will protect the kids and preserve the marriage. If you can't come to a solution you can live with, at least you will have tried. And then you can get drastic, smuggle the kids out the door while she's out shopping, risk divorce, etc.
posted by pracowity at 4:37 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ben Franklin's only legitimate son died at age 4 due to a smallpox epidemic. His son was not vaccinated due to being ill during the time when the inoculation was available. There also seems to be evidence that he and his brother opposed vaccination due to the 2% mortality rate. After his son's death, Franklin became a vocal proponent of vaccination, realizing that he himself had survived due to his previous inoculation.

Ask your wife if this is a story you want to happen to you. You guys survive and your child dies. Have her think on that long and hard.
posted by chainsofreedom at 4:50 AM on February 3, 2015

Get your kid(s) vaccinated, and do it honestly and without sneaking around.

Contact the pediatrician, explain the situation to them and that you are coming to get your kid(s) vaccinated. Just so they know what to expect. I am sure most pediatricians have spoken to anti-vaccination parents before.

Explain to your wife, "The kid(s) will be vaccinated. I am not going to sneak around and do this behind your back. This is also not negotiable. I've made an appointment and the doctor is going to talk to both of us about the risks and benefits of vaccines, and then the kid(s) will be vaccinated."

You can do this in a way that both protects your children and respects your wife.*

*There are decent alternative pediatricians who practice homeopathy AND vaccinate. You may want to find one. They can also be helpful the first time your kid gets strep throat because they'll prescribe antibiotics, not garlic cloves and honey.
posted by kinetic at 5:30 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Anecdata, but:

My siblings and I were kids during a major polio outbreak; believe me, if there had been a vaccine at that time we most definitely would have gotten it --- have you ever seen a kid in an iron lung? It's a horrific way to live. When the vaccine did come out, parents everywhere celebrated, and we all got it.

We all had measles and chickenpox as kids: no vaccines were available then, but you better believe that every single one of my nieces and nephews got theirs right on schedule, because none of us wanted to see the kids we love get those diseases.

Due to a variety of childhood illnesses, doctors recommended against me getting a smallpox vaccination; but when I was 12, the family was moving to a region that wouldn't have let me in without it, so it was either get it or get left behind. All of my siblings got it pre-school age, so unlike them, I remember it well: multiple minor pricks in a circle, that produced what this former kid considered an amazingly thick gooey scab that resulted in a half-inch scar I have to hunt for nowadays.

I have had a wide variety of allergies my whole life, as well as asthma since I was an infant and a few other goodies. None of my siblings has any allergies or anything like my asthma: all of them were healthy kids. Note: the only one of us with allergies (me) is also the only one who had vaccinations delayed or skipped: all of my siblings had all available recommended vaccinations on schedule. All of my nieces and nephews, as well as all of my great-nieces & nephews, have had every one of their shots right on schedule, and there's not an allergy in the bunch. Just me, and I'm told I showed those allergies well before I was even old enough to be due for the standard childhood vaccinations.
posted by easily confused at 5:32 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your children's health is more important than appeasing anyone else's bad decisions from misinformation. A dead or permanently injured child is a real risk from vaccination refusal. Get your kids vaccinated.

In my experience as a biomedical researcher, MetaFilter is a great place for vaccination discussion. There are many participants who back up their statements with scientific evidence. People who want to spread anti-vaxxer misinformation don't like it very much because that tends to get called out pretty quickly.
posted by grouse at 5:42 AM on February 3, 2015 [8 favorites]

I agree with all the commenters suggesting counselling or mediation. I think your wife is incredibly wrong, but you both owe it to your children to come to a decision that keeps them safe, and their family intact if at all possible.

There is one appeal to your wife, though, that I haven't seen suggested. Loads of people have suggested asking her how she'd feel if your kids spread disease to others.

But what about how your kids may feel, knowing one day that they potentially killed a friend, family member, or other innocent member of society? All because her beliefs ensured they were as selfish as a human can be, and weren't vaccinated when they could've been.

Because people do die from these diseases. Full stop. Modern medicine does not save everyone.

I know there is no good way to logic someone with such strongly held beliefs into believing the truth, but maybe she'd be a bit more sympathetic to this other massive potential for causing harm that she is burdening your kids with.

Good luck.
posted by jennyweed at 5:46 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

In case you want to go through educational materials again, there is an excellent resource on the CHoP website.
posted by gaspode at 5:56 AM on February 3, 2015

Google "faith healing" to find hundreds of horrifying stories of parents refusing medical care to their children on religious grounds. Print a couple stories that you know will appeal to your wife on an emotional level. Make her read them and ask her to understand that this is where you are at, emotionally, yourself. Then shut up and give her a few days to think about it. I can't imagine a mother who is not swayed by science OR photos of disfigured, suffering children.
posted by rada at 6:44 AM on February 3, 2015

Vaccinate your kids in secret, file for divorce, seek custody.
posted by ewiar at 6:54 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

You BOTH need to read literature on the pros AND the cons of vaccinating. Then talk to various pediatricians, some who advocate for vaccinating, and some who advocate for not vaccinating. Attend some seminars on the subject together. Read the stories of families who do not vaccinate due to prior vaccine injury.

If you aren't willing to do that much, then you are not making an informed decision about the health and welfare of your children. Educating yourself on only one side of the argument is not the same as making an informed decision. Find out what both sides of the argument are, and then make a decision as a couple.
posted by vignettist at 8:51 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

she does think they interfere with the body's immune system

Which is correct. That's exactly what they're designed to do.

and can ruin a person's chances of being as healthy as they would otherwise be.

Which is incorrect. The way vaccines interfere with the immune system gives the body enough of a head start in recognizing a pathogen load to shut it down before it has a chance to cause severe bodily damage.

If you wanted to ruin a person's chances of being as healthy as they could be, a good way to do that would be to withhold from their immune system the best available information about diseases known to be prevalent and damaging; in other words, you'd prevent them having vaccinations.

For example she links the rise in vaccinating with the rise in allergies in modern societies.

There is more evidence for the hygiene hypothesis than for any link between mass vaccination and the rise in allergies. Vaccination actually primes the immune system in much the same way as exposure to certain specific pathogens does, so if the hygiene hypothesis has any merit and vaccination has any effect at all, you'd expect it to help rather than hinder healthy immune system development.

But any such effect would have to be quite minimal either way; the number of pathogens we get vaccinated against is tiny compared to the number of organisms a child gets exposed to with a bit of healthy dirt play.
posted by flabdablet at 9:01 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

"I am really tempted to get my children vaccinated in secret. "

I would do it, too, but be aware that your wife will have access to your childrens' medical records and would likely discover that you did so.
posted by Gelatin at 9:30 AM on February 3, 2015

In my country, you have to wait one month between vaccinations. Also, the baby has to be completely healthy (no sniffles) for most shots.
So be aware that this can be a long drawn out process especially for winter babies. Your chances of sneaking the entire vaccination program past your wife are slim.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:19 AM on February 3, 2015

The one illness that can be vaccinated against that terrifies me the most is tetanus. Unlike all of the others, this soil borne pathogen is present in the environment all around us and is not acquired from an infected individual. Lacking the tetanus vaccine, a small penetrating injury (the classic "rusty nail") can infect the child. My mother told me the tale when I was a child, long ago, about the boy who was brought into the emergency room bent backwards like a "C". His muscles had contracted due to the illness. Here was a boy who convinced his parents that they should not get him any shots. I realize that this tale my mom told me was to convince me that the short term pain of a shot would protect me from a painful death.

Perhaps the wife that won't vaccinate could be stirred by a story or a video of a child suffering from this type of illness.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 10:28 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Unless you are ready to go the divorce route, I think this is a broader discussion you need to have with your wife, largely because it isn't just about vaccines. You mentioned that your wife believes in homeopathy. What happens if you child gets Type I diabetes and she wants to keep insulin away from him? Or if your child gets strep throat and your wife decides to let it develop into untreated scarlet fever rather than treating it properly? At some point, this becomes much less about the in-the-future risk of coming into contact with measles while unvaccinated, and much more about an immediate crisis where your children require real, modern medical care. Whatever decisions your wife makes about her own health, I think you guys need to be on the same page of insuring that your children do not suffer needlessly for her beliefs (or cause others to suffer needlessly by spreading infections to the immunocompromised). To me, this would 100% be a dealbreaker, and I would make that very clear to her. At some point, you have to put your kids' health and safety first.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:29 AM on February 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

A suggestion that may have already been made: an intervention with older family members who remember the early days of vaccines. If Nan is well respected and she can say, "you're risking my grandkids' lives," it may mean more. Especially if she has memories of polio.
posted by Brodiggitty at 1:15 PM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Here's an article you could give her, that might meet her where she is: Yes, Vaccines Are Naturopathic!
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:49 PM on February 3, 2015

Is your wife planning to get your kids exposed to all those illnesses? They would need to catch mumps, measles, whooping cough and all the rest while still young or else it's really dangerous. I was born before those vaccines came out and my mom would make sure I caught everything early. It was horrible to be so sick but necessary. I still remember it and of course I vaccinate my own.

To boost kids' immune system, just don't use anti-bacterial soaps or cleansers. Not vaccinating isn't the answer.
posted by Coffeetyme at 4:12 PM on February 3, 2015

Vaccinate the kids anyway. It is your duty to protect them.
posted by w0mbat at 6:08 PM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

One further factor to consider as you decide how to address this issue with your wife is the downsides of delaying vaccines. Scientific American says that delaying the MMR vaccine from about 12 months to between 16-23 months is associated with greater incidence of febrile seizures. I was talking about vaccines with a pediatrician friend over the weekend, and she said that many vaccines both have greater side-effects and reduce efficacy when administered for the first time to adults, as opposed to in early childhood.
posted by foodmapper at 7:05 PM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

God only knows where Buzzfeed ranks in the realms of the anti-science, but they just did a tongue-in-cheek listicle featuring lots of visual aids on the matter of why vaccination is important.
posted by Sara C. at 7:21 PM on February 3, 2015

Vaccination is a hot button issue with me. But I'd approach it from a different angle. How is this her choice alone? She says emphatically No, you say emphatically Yes. As a couple, as parents, you have to find a way to deal with strong differences of opinion, because there will be more of them. Will she teach the kids Creationism? or join the Jehovah's Witnesses and take them door-to-door? What if she decided everyone had to be vegan and eat only raw food? If these are your choices, I apologize for any offense.

There may be compromises, like a delayed vax schedule. Or skipping the polio jab, because it's exceeding rare in the West. Taking the kids to get vaccinated is unlikely to remain secret; a mild fever, crankiness, and the miseries accompany some vaccinations. Make an appt. with the doctor, take her with you, and talk about her concerns, and the options.

I was in the 1st generation to get the polio vaccine, and the last generation to get the smallpox vax. A friend from China, younger than I, has a limp from polio, because they didn't have access to vaccines. I had chicken pox, and can't wait to get the shingles vaccine, because shingles is nasty. I plan to call my doctor, because I never had measles, and now I'm worried about being exposed. I vaccinated my kid, and they vaccinated my grandbaby, and I am grateful that my family will be spared these wretched diseases. We may eradicate polio in my lifetime; what an unbelievable accomplishment. Don't just defend vaccination, be grateful and happy about the opportunity.
posted by theora55 at 7:49 PM on February 3, 2015

Are you trying to mount a case for vaccination or against your wife?
posted by space_cookie at 9:07 PM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

How important is your marriage to you? Is this a big enough dealbreaker for you to end your marriage without first taking more time to talk to your wife and try to impact her, through logic or emotion or both or something else? You're right in your thinking, there's no rational case to be made against vaccination...your kids need to be vaccinated. When I see people believing this nonsense about vaccinations and homeopathy and all of that, I am completely appalled. But if I believed something 100%, and someone violated my belief systems with my own children, I would be done with that marriage.

I vote, decide where your limits are. If this is a dealbreaker for you, fine, take them to be vaccinated and be ready for major consequences. But if you can spend even another week or month or two months to work this out with your wife, do it. Take her to see doctors and talk it out. Hire a mediator. Share stories with her like what you're seeing above. I don't think anyone's mind is ever truly 100% made, though we sometimes dig our heels in and stubbornly refuse to see logic. But there's plenty of material out there about how to motivate others, and people have given cases of anti-vaxxers changing their minds, so I truly believe there's still hope!!
posted by violetish at 9:24 PM on February 3, 2015

This article might be good to read to get a further handle on where she is coming from:

Understanding the fear of vaccines: an activist explains why he buys a debunked idea
posted by gaspode at 7:51 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am going to take a contrary view here.

To be clear, I am very much in favor of vaccination. I don't believe any of the anti-vaccine arguments. My kids are fully vaccinated. I am fully vaccinated.

But I think many of the responses you've gotten here are hysterical. Your marriage isn't over. You shouldn't get a divorce. You shouldn't sneak your kids off to the pediatrician to get them vaccinated without telling you wife. Your kids are very unlikely to die a horrible death from an easily preventable disease if you don't vaccinate them.

It is important to distinguish the public health value of vaccination from the individual health value of vaccination.

From the perspective of public health -- the health of the whole community -- it is important that as many people as possible get vaccinated. There are potentially large negative consequences for society as a whole if vaccination rates drop significantly.

However, from the individual health perspective, the risks of skipping vaccinations may not be huge. (Disclaimer: the risks will vary from disease to disease and from community to community. I am not an epidemiologist and I am certainly not your epidemiologist.) The anti-vax movement has been able to persist precisely because the individual risks of non-vaccination are relatively low in a community where a large majority of the population is vaccination. The kids who aren't vaccinated are still, generally speaking, protected by the herd immunity.

There is certainly still an individual health issue, and there is certainly a moral issue. When you don't get vaccinated, you weaken the herd. You are freeloading. But is this the moral issue that you want to break your marriage over?

You should certainly try to come to an amicable agreement with your wife. Maybe the Dr. Sears schedule will do the trick, or something similar. But please don't respond to current events in the news by getting hysterical and giving up on a marriage and parenting relationship if that marriage and parenting are otherwise going well. You're much more likely to harm your kids that way than by letting go and letting your wife be irrational here.
posted by alms at 11:33 AM on February 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

A family friend, whose mother is naturalist & didn't trust the safety of vaccines, got Polio when she was a child. she's now in her early 50s, the nicest, sweetest person. But she still won't speak to her mother. She says it was unfair for her mother to make such decision when she's the one to deal with life-long consequences.

So even if you modern medicine saves your child's life, there are still consequences.
posted by Neekee at 12:01 PM on February 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

It is important to distinguish the public health value of vaccination from the individual health value of vaccination.

This a million times.

Look, I happen to be immunized against smallpox. It's great! Offers some resistance against other diseases as well! But right now, what is protecting me, individually, from getting smallpox, on the whole, is not in fact my smallpox vaccine, but the fact that smallpox has been largely eradicated through immunization.

Right now, there are children who for medical reasons, cannot get immunized. They generally lead relatively healthy lives because of herd immunity. This is not an issue where a failure to get immunized constitutes imminent danger that you have to divorce your wife in order to run screaming from. And many immunizations can be performed after the recommended age for them. This is not an immediate life or death problem. Your adrenaline does not have to kick in. You have time to figure this out.
posted by corb at 4:20 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

You know what, I just finished reading On Immunity again, and I really can't recommend it highly enough. The writer is, among other things, a young mother, so she has experienced the fear and doubt that your wife is experiencing. Her tone is compassionate without being patronizing, but she has the resources and skills to parse through the various kinds of fears to understand where they come from. There's one chapter in particular that I think might be super helpful for your wife, and that is the chapter about where information comes from and what happens to it along the way, together with a greater understanding of what science is. For example, she mentions an article that was posted on line about squalene in the H1N1 vaccine, which was picked up and reposted in a number of places around the internet. The original article was corrected several times and then finally pulled from its original site because it turned out to be false. However, the repostings were never corrected and are still on line. So that's something to consider.

She also considers in great detail the idea of not vaccinating as part of a plan to building super strong immune system and, again, while she empathizes with the goal, she is able to step back and see the flaws in the methodology.

Your wife may benefit from this book as well as you, but one of the main things I think you might get from it is the gut source of your wife's fears so that you can have a productive conversation about this with her.
posted by janey47 at 11:06 AM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I just found this really intelligent Wired article about how to talk to anti-vaxxers. Like, not yell at them but understand their fear. You likely can't convert the stubborn 2% but the rest are "vaccine-hesitant" whose concerns can be address specifically. Sounds like your wife falls into that camp.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:14 AM on February 13, 2015

I would start by asking...does vaccinating mean more to you than your wife? What holds your marriage together- your love for each other (your love for God if you are religious) trusting that you'll both be there for each other no matter what or the ability to have children to vaccinate.

In which case you should be able to easily just divorce her and get it over with if you really have elevated vaccination above your wife. But if you care about your wife, then suggestions of discussing things with her- really LISTENING to her fears and trying to understand where she is coming from, compromising with delayed schedules etc are all good suggestions. Sometimes if you wait for the hype to die down people become less scared and are more likely to listen to your point of view.

Personally, if My husband did this in secret, I don't know if I could recover, no matter how I felt about the issue. It would be a huge violation of my trust for that to happen. I trust that he can talk about issues rationally with me, and not go behind my back in anything. If He can't do that then I would question how much he really cares about me.
I'm not going to get into a pro vs con debate. But, I just think you need to consider the seriousness of violating your wife's trust. I grew up in a broken home with broken trust and it can take a lifetime to recover from and in some ways is harder to get over than a vaccine or disease injury.
To play devil's advocate, You have to consider, heaven forbid, if you did it in secret and your baby was the one to have a serious reaction from the vaccine, albeit not that common though you can never predict which child will react to things, are you ready to own up to that? Are you ready to be the one to explain to your child the reason they have whatever injury the vaccine might cause is because you went behind mum's back? Are you ready to take that responsibility FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE? Are you ready to have that between you and your wife FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE every time you look at your child?
If you truly love your wife, are you read to listen to her side of the story, or push aside her ideas and fears because vaccinating is more important to you.
I would think seriously about secrecy. I think at the end of your day, BOTH of you need to work on the issue together. I reiterate is vaccinating worth more to you than your wife?

Just some thoughts.
posted by greenlightshade at 1:09 AM on February 26, 2015

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