Vax Controversy Spreads to Playdates

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-14-2005
Vax Controversy Spreads to Playdates
Thu, 06-12-2008 - 10:15am

June 9, 2008, 10:38 am
Vaccination Controversy Spreads to Playdates
Posted by Rachel Emma Silverman

vaccineLast week, my four-month-old son received his second round of vaccines. For my husband and me, it was a no-brainer to get him vaccinated. But for a number of families, including some of our friends, the decision isn’t so simple. Due to concerns about autism or other adverse reactions, some parents choose to delay vaccinations or forgo them altogether.

We have written about the vaccination debate in the past and the response was heated. Certainly questions about vaccinations can make it tough when arranging childcare or playdates. If your kids are vaccinated, should they still play with children who aren’t? Should you check with potential playdates to see if they’re vaccinated?

The issue was addressed in a recent “Ethicist” column in the New York Times. In the column, a playgroup pressured a parent to leave because she chose not to vaccinate her child. The columnist concluded it was not right to kick out the family because the un-vaccinated child wasn’t likely to endanger the other kids.

Readers, have you faced any concerns about vaccinating your children? If you vaccinate your kids, have you had any run-ins with parents who don’t, or vice-versa?

Kicked Out of the Play Group

Published: June 1, 2008

My daughter’s play group consists of children ranging in age from infancy to 4 years old. One mother revealed that she does not vaccinate her son. After much frank but cordial discussion and opinions from pediatricians — some thought she endangered our vaccinated kids; others did not — she felt pressured to leave the group. Did the group behave ethically? J.G., PASADENA

The group’s inclination was understandable, but its actions were unfortunate. Parents may — must — provide for their kids’ safety, but should not act unless that safety is truly threatened. Had you thought this mother was a witch who would cast wicked spells on your kids, you would have been wrong to purge her from your midst. A parent may prevent her child from being turned into a toad, but she may not exile someone when there’s no actual risk of toad-turning. You could, however, expel a member who is merely a social or cultural menace — a parent (or precocious but sullen 2-year-old) who curses like a drunken sailor, perhaps.

Did this mother present any such dangers? It can be a tough call to make when pediatricians offer contradictory advice, but the doctors I consulted say she did not imperil your kids, so I say you were wrong to push her out. Her views on vaccination are certainly benighted. Or as Dr. Mark Cullen of the Yale medical school more tactfully puts it, “The data on the harm from vaccines (e.g., autism) is such that the mother’s choice not to vaccinate is a very poor one for her own child.” That is, she endangers not your play group’s vaccinated kids but her own. She also jeopardizes other people’s unvaccinated children. Dr. Michele Barry, Cullen’s wife and also of Yale, cites a statistic from one study: “The likelihood of an unvaccinated child getting measles after exposure is anywhere from 22 to 224 times greater compared to vaccinated kids.”

Assuming that this mother is a congenial person (and you wouldn’t have included her otherwise), you should not exile her simply because she deviates from the group’s thinking. It is possible to socialize with people who have a diversity of ideas, even wrongheaded ones. As Dr. Johnson wrote, “a man accustomed to hear only the echo of his own sentiments, soon bars all the common avenues of delight, and has no part in the general gratification of mankind.” And he is a guy I’d want in my play group.


Just curious, has anyone here ever had a situation similar to the above IRL where someone would no longer let their child be around yours for not vaxing?

Or are you a vaxing parent who has told another parent your child won't be playing with theirs any longer?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2008
Thu, 06-12-2008 - 10:40am
I've never run into this situation - then again, I'm not one that believes in playdates either. We just pack up and go visiting.


iVillage Member
Registered: 10-18-2007
Thu, 06-12-2008 - 11:06pm
I really hate the NY Times.