Seven. The answer is "Seven." That's how many of a Canadian mom's children (out of seven) had to get whooping cough to persuade her that her previous opposition to vaccines was just a wee bit wrong-headed. The good news: All seven responded well to treatment and are now out of isolation. All it took to completely put Tara Hills's anti-vax beliefs behind her was more than a week of home quarantine with seven children -- the youngest just 10 months old -- and their dry hacking coughs, sometimes so violent the kids vomited. Let's hope that just maybe some others may learn from what her family went through, maybe?


Haha, yes, we are quite the optimists, aren't we?

Hills wrote about her experience last week in an essay for The Scientific Parent blog while the family was still in isolation at home. And we're inclined to back off on the schadenfreude a little bit, because while it took something this awful to finally persuade her, at least she came out of the experience persuaded that maybe medical science isn't just a big evil corporate scam. Thank Crom she wasn't also a devout faith-healer, or we might be writing another of those stories about somebody who figured God had some reason for letting their kids die.

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And let's give her credit for recognizing how badly she and her husband had fooled themselves:

We had vaccinated our first three children on an alternative schedule and our youngest four weren’t vaccinated at all. We stopped because we were scared and didn’t know who to trust. Was the medical community just paid off puppets of a Big Pharma-Government-Media conspiracy? Were these vaccines even necessary in this day and age? Were we unwittingly doing greater harm than help to our beloved children? So much smoke must mean a fire so we defaulted to the ‘do nothing and hope nothing bad happens’ position.

Hills acknowledges they had stubbornly resisted all of their relatives' attempts to persuade them they were wrong -- and notes that those efforts "only irritated us and made us defensive." She remained convinced for a long time that regardless of whether they vaccinated or not, "it would be nothing more than a coin toss with horrible risks either way." Thanks one hell of a lot, Jenny McCarthy and the entire anti-vax crowd.

It was the Disneyland measles outbreak that finally scared Hills into rethinking her commitment to the anti-vax movement. She admits she had let her biases against big institutions -- "civic government, the medical community, the pharmaceutical industry" -- blind her, and to discount what really was the valid evidence:

By default, I had excluded all research available from any major, reputable organization. Could all the in-house, independent, peer-reviewed clinical trials, research papers and studies across the globe ALL be flawed, corrupt and untrustworthy?

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So hooray, she figured out that maybe there's more to science than just groupthink and the profit motive, and Hills began to be persuaded that the anti-vaxxers weren't Galileo being persecuted by the church; they were just a bunch of cranks -- especially when her family narrowly dodged a local measles outbreak:

I looked again at the science and evidence for community immunity and found myself gripped with a very real sense of personal and social responsibility before God and man. The time had come to make a more fully informed decision than we did 6 years ago. I sat down with our family doctor and we put together a catch-up vaccination schedule for our children.

And because Jehovah may not be real but Loki the deranged trickster is alive and well, here is what happened next: The children started coughing just one week before their scheduled appointment to begin getting vaccinated.

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In the interest of warning other parents who might think that pertussis is just a little cough, Hills recorded her children coughing and sent the video to the editors of The Scientific Parent; the blog decided it was too gruesome to show (especially since, when the video was posted last week, the kids weren't yet out of the woods). But the audio is quite enough. Do we need to warn you that this is disturbing to listen to? You should probably listen to it anyway:

People who want to get a waiver from mandatory vaccinations for their kids should be forced to listen to that. We've had vaccines to prevent this for decades, and far too many people like Tara Hills have fallen for the anti-vax lies.

As for Hills, she knows she was an idiot:

Right now my family is living the consequences of misinformation and fear. I understand that families in our community may be mad at us for putting their kids at risk. I want them to know that we tried our best to protect our kids when we were afraid of vaccination and we are doing our best now, for everyone’s sake, by getting them up to date. We can’t take it back … but we can learn from this and help others the same way we have been helped.

We'd like to welcome her back to the community of parents of healthy children. And we should probably warn her that somewhere, Alex Jones is trying to decide whether to claim her whole story is a lie, or that Big Pharma must have deliberately given her kids pertussis as part of a sinister plan to turn us all into cyborgs or something.

[The Scientific Parent / WaPo]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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