A Shill For Science
Jan 13, 2012
Today we are featuring a guest post from one of our blog readers. We hope you will appreciate her contribution as much as we do!
I’m the mother of two young children and I have a great guy to call my hubby. I love running (training for a half marathon!) and baking, and like many moms, I do my best to balance the responsibilities of work and family. In fact, for the past two years I’ve been working full time, second shift so that I can be at home with my kids during the day.
As a parent, I have my personal views and opinions about things, just like everyone else. But at times, I’ve felt a bit like a contradiction. See I’m a science-loving (nerd alert), breastfeeding, pro-vaccine, Christian mom. I consider myself an “attached” parent since I believe in positive discipline, I co-sleep with my children, and I practice extended breastfeeding. I always try to make natural choices for my children by mashing my own baby food and opting for locally grown produce when possible. However, these characteristics don’t preclude me from having a great deal of respect for the medical field and the value of science. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The truth is, I am so enamored by science that I consider myself lucky to live at a time when I can protect my child from so many vaccine preventable diseases.
To be honest, because of my specific views, I’ve often found it difficult to find other moms who’ve been willing to respect all my choices as a parent. Thankfully, through online social groups like the Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page, I’ve begun to make connections with other like-minded moms that I can relate to – which led me to write this post.
As I began engaging in various parenting forums, I found myself frustrated by the way in which some people adamantly argue against vaccinations. They often spout off inaccurate information and misrepresent the science. They claim that doctors, scientists and the government are all out to cause harm. They sometimes even suggest a “Big Pharma” conspiracy.
But here’s the real kicker. I work for “Big Pharma”.
Yup, I admit it.
And you know what? I’m pretty darn proud of it too.
I test vaccines for safety in the lab, utilizing various microbiological assays. Before products are released to market, every lot undergoes rigorous quality control assessments to determine safety, purity, potency, etc. Not only do we test the final product, but raw materials, components, and several points along the production line are pulled and tested, as well. The microbiology labs, in particular, are responsible for ensuring all facets of vaccine production, and the fill and final product are free from bacterial, fungal and mycoplasma contamination. So, before anything is released to the general public, each and every single lot goes through my lab. It’s a fairly large responsibility, but a greatly rewarding one. And I must admit, saving babies is neato!
While I do get paid to show up and do my job, everything I do outside of work is purely out of passion. I don’t get paid to read immunization blogs or comment on pro-vaccination Facebook pages. It’s absolutely absurd to insinuate that my company would actually pay employees to argue for vaccines on social networking sites. I don’t make more, or less, based on the number of parents who vaccinate their children. And I certainly don’t appreciate it when people who’ve never studied science, or worked for a pharmaceutical company, claim a “Big Pharma” conspiracy is out to get them. Frankly, it hurts to hear people verbalize that anyone working in this industry is callous and “money-hungry”, and only out to get the big bucks.
The truth is, I work with some of the most brilliant and compassionate people I know. Many of my co-workers are parents themselves, and are dedicated to supporting the production of vaccines for the world. In fact, we have posters up around the plant site with pictures of employees’ children on them. The posters include a photo of a child either receiving a vaccine, or simply smiling and then introduce the child, as well as the department the child’s relative works for. The caption reads,
“Thank you to all of you who have worked on my vaccine. Thank you for saving my life!”
It’s wonderful to have visual reminders of the children we are helping to protect. It’s a really nice touch, and it’s nice to be reminded of why we do what we do, and why we are so passionate about our work. Historically, I have always been pro-vaccine. However, working for my pharmaceutical company has further bolstered my dedication and passion about vaccination. I don’t just want to ensure that my children are up to date on their shots, but I also speak out so that children around the globe are, too. I may be a “shill” for vaccines, but I am one for the passion in my heart, and not the money in my wallet.
So yes, I work for “Big Pharma”. But I’m also a human – a Christian, science-loving, breastfeeding, pro-vaccine, attached-mom human.
And I sincerely hope that others – like me – will realize that they are not alone. There are lots of other parents who believe in the same things you do. And who respect you for it.
If you would like to make a contribution to this blog, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to share your stories and encourage others to support the science and immunizations that protect us all.
This guest post was written by Alethea Mshar out of concern for her son Ben. A version of this post originally appeared on her blog Ben’s Writing, Running Mom. Like all parents, my child’s health...
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