The Anti-Vax Girl

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Originally Published in 2013

So I had just started acupuncture & in the last week had two treatments. The second treatment was free, part of a promotion where neighborhood types can walk in and have a sample.

As I was sitting in the office, small needles sticking out of my ears, this woman comes in with her teenage daughter and their dog. Super-nice people, super-polite and energetic and intelligent girl. They get needles in their ears as well. Apparently there is also acupuncture available for dogs, but that is a vet thing and half the battle there is convincing the animals that the whole thing is cool.

So we are all talking and the mom says, “yeah, my daughter has never been touched with a needle before.”

It turns out, she’s never been vaccinated. And suddenly, I’m looking at this girl as if she is some sort of unicorn.

I come from an era where pretty much if you’re not getting vaccinated, you’re not going to public school. The end. In fact, not only do I remember getting vaccinated multiple times, but also that everybody seemed fairly obsessed about these shots: my parents, the parents of the other kids, the teachers, school administration, etc.

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The last shot I got was to enter college, in the Nineties. Though I’m not the type to save my old report cards and whatnot, I still have this little yellow vax booklet, and it indicates in 1992 I had a “ppd” shot for something. The first shot was 4 months after I was born.

(My favorite part of the immunization booklet, by the way, is the section for illnesses; specifically, the illness known as “pica,” which is described as “a craving for unnatural articles of food, particularly paint and plaster.” This fired up my preadolescent imagination quite a bit, visions of having this illness and casually eating my ceiling.)

I never really paid attention one way or the other about vaccinations, until of course the last few years where it’s really blown up in the news. And outside of viewing rather grisly Facebook battles and whatnot over the topic between friends, I never really encountered anyone in person who actually chose not to vaccinate their kids.

Anyway, I think very shortly after that revelation/conversation in the acupuncturist’s office, I must have had that look on my face like when in Annie Hall Woody Allen is being driven home by Christopher Walken.

Thing is, I just don’t feel educated enough on this topic one way or another to give any sort of useful opinion whatsoever. Moreover, I am way too cowardly to even try. I’ve seen people on both sides of this issue absolutely incinerate and dogpile each other online…not in a hit-and-run trolly way, but proudly with their clickable blue facebook names a-glowin’ as they tell each other that they’re murdering their kids and are also ill-informed assholes and also die already.

It’s kind of a war, isn’t it? An ideological war. It’s got all the big keywords: children, health, autism, pandemic, science, religion, distrust, conspiracy, illness, death. In theory, it’s only about vaccinations…but it’s not, is it? It’s not just about that.

It’s never just about that.

Lastly, I would like to mention that I think I might have briefly had pica as a child; I nibbled on a stray bit of paint here and there. Not really nibbled. Just sort of savored; that cold, clean, reassuringly bitter taste, layer after ancient layer, flavor after flavor, color after color. I hope it wasn’t lead. People were really obsessed about lead paint back then too.

So now I have the possible pica, and the (checks booklet) 17 vax shots. I also watched TV really close to the screen as a kid, almost up to my nose, for at least 4-6 hours a day. There’s a billion things. There’s a billion, billion things. Which I’m hoping the acupuncture will properly address.