I Shared My Daughter’s Diagnosis and All Strangers Want to Do Is Blame It on Vaccines

Leah Campbell and daughter
Image source: Leah Campbell

My daughter was sick for about four months before we finally knew what was going on; before she officially had a diagnosis. And within four hours of my publicly sharing her diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis, I received the following e-mail:

“Hey, I don’t want to get in your business but it’s been weighing heavy on me. I’m not sure if you vaccinate or not but I’ve seen the damage they can do sometimes causing auto immune disorders, allergies, etc.”

This stranger, without knowing anything else about my daughter’s history, was pointing the finger at vaccines. And while she was the first (and probably the kindest in her approach), she certainly wasn’t the last.

As I have worked to learn more about this disease in the month and a half since my daughter’s diagnosis, I have received no less than 20 emails making similar assertions. And comments on articles I’ve written about our experience do the same.

Probably from vaccines,” these strangers will say. “This is why we don’t vaccinate.”

The whole thing has rubbed me the wrong way, so I just want to be clear about something once and for all: Vaccines did not cause my daughter’s condition.

You want to know how I know that? Because joint issues plague my daughter’s maternal family line. And she happens to be adopted from a rural Alaskan village of just 80 people. That village has no roads in or out and no hospital or easy access to medical care. I can almost guarantee that her grandmother and great aunt, who I’m told both had childhoods of near crippling joint pain, absolutely weren’t vaccinated.

I am not standing for anyone using my daughter’s plight to strengthen their own agenda.
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This condition is hereditary for my little girl. It has nothing to do with vaccinations. And I am not standing for anyone using my daughter’s plight to strengthen their own agenda.

The crazy thing is, I’m actually sympathetic to anti-vaxxers. I’m someone who tends to question all forms of medical treatment pretty heavily. I dealt with infertility and years of pain and medical issues as a result of drugs that I had been told were completely safe. So yeah, I’m wary about modern medical care.

Little girl smiling in hospital bed
Image source: Leah Campbell

When my daughter was born, I had a lot of anxiety about injecting her with anything. So, I researched. I read everything I could get my hands on. I asked a lot of questions. Eventually her doctor and I agreed on an extended vaccination schedule that I felt comfortable with. Because at the end of all my research, I knew I wanted my little girl to be vaccinated. But I also knew that vaccine injuries were real, and without knowing anything about my daughter’s family history in regards to vaccines, an extended schedule felt safest to me.

My daughter has never received more than one vaccine at a time, and I feel good about that. Today she’s almost completely caught up with the standard vaccine schedule, and I feel good about that, too.

But given the anxiety I had about vaccinations in the first place, there is no way I would publicly proclaim that vaccines had nothing to do with her condition if I didn’t fully believe it to be true. So yeah, I’m bothered by anyone who tries to say otherwise.

I’ve seen this happen before. Stories of little ones dying in their sleep always seem to bring out the anti-vaxxers, and it just … well, it really bothers me.

Don’t make assumptions about medical histories you know nothing about.
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I understand you feel strong in your belief. And I understand that you want your concerns to be heard. But latching onto tragic stories and declaring them a result of vaccine injury when you don’t know the facts is disturbing on many levels.

My daughter’s illness is not fodder for your anti-vaccination campaign. And trying to use her in such a way only invalidates your argument. If you have to hold up cases that aren’t in any way linked to vaccines, you must not have much of a point in the first place.

Even if her vaccines did cause her illness (which they most certainly did not), what good do you really think emailing me about it will do now? How do you think that will help? Are you just hoping to convert me? To have me jump on your bandwagon and wave your flag of vaccination fear? Is your goal to shame me into joining your movement?

Because I won’t. Because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that vaccines did not do this. And I have zero respect for anyone who might try to claim otherwise.

So stop it. Unless a parent or doctor is coming forward to proclaim that vaccines have caused a child’s illness or death, don’t jump to that conclusion yourself. Don’t make assumptions about medical histories you know nothing about. And don’t come at any parent who is currently struggling with the illness or death of their child and try to shame them into embracing your anti-vaccination rhetoric.

It’s not okay. And I sincerely question anyone who might think it is.

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