When it comes to her anti-vaccination stance, Laura Roush knows full well she is in the minority. Still, that does not mean she sloughs off being called a bad mother.
It also doesn’t mean she should be silenced for fear of backlash. This is her side of the anti-vaccine story, in her own words.
“If you don’t vaccinate, you are considered a bad parent,” the mother of four who lives in Wayne County says. “You do get that from some people. But I’m not a bad mom. I’m protecting my children. And I’m protecting yours by being informed and keeping my children home when they’re sick.”
Roush and other parents like her opting out of vaccinations because they fear side effects have come under fire recently amid the nation’s second-biggest measles outbreak in at least 15 years. From Jan. 1 to Jan. 30, 2015, 102 people from 14 states were reported to have measles, including the first case of the year in Michigan reported in Oakland County late last week. Most of the cases are part of an ongoing multistate outbreak linked to Disneyland in Southern California.
Of her four children ages 13, 8, 6 and 2, Roush vaccinated her two oldest daughters, ages 13 and 8. She has not immunized her two sons, ages 6 and 2.
Rausch says her firstborn child began having behavioral problems and short-term memory loss right after she had her immunizations at 5 years old. These likely included measles, mumps rubella (MMR), polio vaccine and the diptheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine.
“It was like she had a completely different personality from the time she was in preschool and when she went to kindergarten,” Roush says. Her once sweet and calm little girl started having severe temper tantrums. “The damage was cumulative.”
By the time she was 8 years old, Roush says her daughter had been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), general anxiety and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Her second daughter, born in 2007, developed a “petechiae rash” or bleeding into the skin four days after her 1-year immunizations, Roush says. She was also vomiting and lost three pounds in one month. “It took about three years for her appetite to fully come back and about nine months for the petechiae to go away.”
“I know it was caused by the vaccines,” she says. “The doctors are just not willing to admit it.”
By the time her boys were born, in 2009 and 2012, Roush says she and their father made the decision not to vaccinate their sons. Now, “the boys are fantastic, they are extremely healthy,” she says. “I haven’t been to my pediatrician in three years.”
Roush also believes her chronic fatigue syndrome is a result of side effects from getting travel vaccines to go to China years ago.
Roush says we rely too much on pharmaceuticals.
“I worry that with all these shots we are creating a whole society of immune-compromised kids,” she says. “Rather than inject these toxins, it’s far better for us to clean up our food systems and practice good hygiene.”
While Roush says she had not had any problems with vaccine waivers at her children’s schools and day care centers, she is “extremely unhappy” with new state rules that took effect Jan. 1. The state department of Community Health now requires parents refusing immunizations for their children attend a educational session with a health care worker about vaccines.
“That is extremely insulting,” Roush says. “I know probably 100 times more about vaccines than the person standing there giving me that lecture. If I’m taking this risk with my children, you can be sure that I have done my research and that I know what the consequences are for my kids.”
Roush also doesn’t believe her unvaccinated children puts others at risk.
“I’m very conscientious when my kids are sick,” she says. “I don’t bring them around other kids. I make sure my friends know that I’m not trying to avoid you, but I believe infants should be isolated.”
Like many in the anti-vaccine movement, Roush contends the risk of side effects from the vaccines themselves overshadow the risk of the disease.
“I don’t deny the fact that these diseases really hurt people, but if we looked at the true numbers of who actually gets the disease, we would see that it is nature, or God’s way or simply part of life to get sick,” she says.
Above all, Roush says the decision to vaccinate should be up to the parents and no one else.
“I’m going to take my risk with God and nature and the environment. Hopefully, they won’t get sick, but I’m not going to put that needle into my kid and know that I caused them harm.”