Lara's Story: Growing Up Anti-Vaccine
Mar 06, 2012
Lara Lohne grew up in an anti-vaccine household. Although her father was fully vaccinated, the decision for Lara and her siblings not to be vaccinated rested primarily with her mother. Several of her extended family members happened to be chiropractors, including her grandfather and two uncles, and Lara believes that they were a big influence on her mother’s position.
Lara explains that as a young child she didn’t realize that most people were, in fact, vaccinated.
“I lived an extremely sheltered life growing up, and I was essentially taught that what my parents (or my mom) believed was the only point of view that mattered. Any other view was considered as rebellion and betrayal. In my house, people who were vaccinated were contaminated and less pure than those who chose not to vaccinate. I remember when I asked my dad if he was vaccinated. He told me he was because he served in the Marine Corps and it was required for service. It was a huge disappointment to me and I had difficulty not feeling resentful toward my dad because of it. Of course I was only eight years old at the time and only had what my parents told me as the basis to form my beliefs and opinions.”
Lara remained unvaccinated throughout her childhood and recalls a time when there was a measles outbreak in school. She was in the ninth grade at the time and she didn’t want to be removed from class. She asked her mom if she might be vaccinated so she wouldn’t have to miss school.
“She had told me we’re not going to let them inject us with poison. It is only a trap, trying to force us into their way of thinking. She used to say, over and over again, “We are not sheep!” She told me that the shot would cause me to get sick, make me go crazy or retarded (her word) or even kill me. She successfully talked me out of it at the age of 14.”
Despite her mother’s insistence, two years later, Lara was surprised that her parents took her to receive her first MMR shot at the age of 16. At the time, there was another measles outbreak in her school and the county health clinic was offering free MMR vaccines to those who didn’t already have them.
“I was a junior in high school and my mom came to take me out of class to get vaccinated. Due to the fervor in which my mom fought us getting vaccines in the past, it confused me why she would want us to get them now. However my mom explained that it was to keep them from being able to remove us from school again. She and my dad had to drag me kicking and screaming into the county health clinic to get the shot. I even remember saying a few times while this was all going on, “I don’t want to be a sheep!”
I was hurt that my mother, who had taught me to hate vaccines and everything they stood for, was now so adamant that I get one. After successfully convincing me vaccines were harmful, dangerous and inherently evil, she took me to get one with no sign of regret or remorse. It felt like callous disregard and I felt betrayed. I had to ask myself, why would someone who was so strongly opposed to vaccines – who believed it could harm or kill me – insist that I get one after all the times she had rejected them before? I was convinced that she didn’t care about me because she was literally dragging me to get one with no good reason in my head other than “They won’t have an excuse to remove you from school this time.”
After getting the shot, I waited, and expected the worst to happen. I didn’t get sick, I didn’t lose my mind and I most certainly didn’t come anywhere close to dying. I didn’t even have a mild reaction. I suppose that was when I started to really question everything I had been raised to believe. I started to wonder about vaccines, but unfortunately I didn’t have access to any resources at that time to investigate them further. It was an experience that I have never forgotten.”
Years went by and Lara remained confused about her views on vaccines. Then she discovered she was pregnant with her first child and she decided that she needed to do some research in order to make an educated decision for her own child. Since these were the days prior to prevalence of the internet, Lara researched the subject by visiting the public library, reading books on childhood diseases and discovering how and why vaccines were first introduced. Obviously, she was very surprised by what she learned.
“I didn’t know people died from these diseases and it was quite shocking when I learned about the harm that they could cause. My thoughts went back to my mom and whether or not she really cared about us as she felt it was better to fight infections naturally and make our immune systems stronger.”
“I realized that vaccines contained the virus or contagion of the disease but in a weakened or dead form. I understood that by injecting that tiny little bit into a vaccine, that a ‘natural’ immune response was initialized. The benefits? You got the immunity and you didn’t suffer the disease or run the risk of permanent damage or death. The risks? Compared to what the disease could do, the risk was minimal.”
“Since I had survived a few of these diseases myself, I was well aware of how it felt to live through them. Looking back, I would have preferred to get a little shot in the arm then have to suffer through the disease. The thought of watching my own children suffer through the same diseases was unbearable. What I learned about vaccines during the months I spent in the library prior to my first child being born convinced me that it would be better to vaccinate then to take the risk of my child contracting the diseases they provide immunity for.”
Growing up in an anti-vaccine household made Lara’s decisions to vaccinate that much more difficult.
“It definitely made it harder for me to accept vaccines. I didn’t want to think that my mom had been ‘telling stories’ all my life, trying to get me to believe something that wasn’t true at all. It was something I struggled hard against because along with feelings of betrayal. there was fear of rejection. I also wanted to make sure I didn’t buy into vaccines just because it was against what my mom wanted. I didn’t want it to be a rebellion thing and at first I believe it may have been. Until I did the research of course. Then I realized that all the feelings in the world don’t mean anything if there isn’t any fact to back it up. Once I learned the facts and my common sense caught up to my emotions, I was able to make the decision to vaccinate without feeling like it was just me being rebellious. It really was nothing personal against my mother. It was the simply the best decision I could make for myself, my children and the general public that we would all be exposed to. Knowing that science was behind me made the decision a lot easier to make with a clear conscience.”
Over the years, Lara continued to vaccinate her children. But then something happened that she simply could not have anticipated. Check back on Thursday when we will reveal how one diagnosis challenged her views of vaccines and changed her life forever.
If you are someone who has changed their views on vaccinations in the past, we would love to hear your story in the comments below. What circumstances made you reconsider your personal beliefs?
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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