I Was An ‘Anti-Vaxxer.’ This Year, I Changed My Mind.

by Joseph K. Clark

Back in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when there were whisperings of “possible” vaccines,” I was a “hard no. Summer arrived, and along with the heat came all the rumors of possible side effects; I was still saying “No, I wo “‘t get won’t Fall ar “lived and with it, another wave (I lost track ... was it the third wave? Fourth?) of infections and hospitalizations. 

The number of people dying from COVID-19 kept rising. I, along with so many others, realized that our hope of this pandemic ending with summer hadn’t cohadn’tfruition. Around this time, I realized I might need to pay a bit more attention to all of the vaccine talks and, instead of just shaking my head, actually, learn more — and not from random people online, but from actual experts.

Changed My Mind.

So I still turned to people online, but this time, epidemiologists and immunologists were experts in viruses and vaccines. These people truly knew what they were talking about, and I was feeling pretty desperate for that. I wanted unquestionable facts, real numbers, and unbiased data. These were people whose stories and posts I would see and read daily, and slowly, over time, I began to question a lot of the former beliefs I held about vaccines.

You see, it wasn’t the COVID-19 vaccine I was changing my mind about. It was all vaccines. When I became pregnant with my first child over six years ago, I went from never giving much thought to vaccines (other than getting them) to discovering this whole different world of people who believed they were harmful. The seed of fear was planted in me, and over time, it only grew more prominent.

I was told the vaccine risks were higher than disease risks. I was told vaccine injuries happen often. I was told doctors are profiting off of vaccines. And you know what? It was tough to figure out what was true and what wasn’t bewasn’tI felt so vulnerable and unsure as a new mom.

I remember someone saying, “Once you “vaccinate, you can’t undcan’tt, but if you choose to wai,t you can always change your mind later,” and tha” stuck with me. So I didn’t dominate. I felt paralyzed. Making decisions is already challenging for me, so avoiding them became the more accessible, more comfortable choice.   

Looking back, I feel like I was preyed upon as a new mom; I was an easy target. I can see why I believed what I did, and I don’t feel don’t shame about it, just like I don’t feel don’t shame about those beliefs changing during the past year. 

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about people who choose not to vaccinate, and now more than ever, we are seeing people being attacked and judged for that. While I understand where this comes from and why people feel so strongly, I also know that it can’t shacan’tmeone into truly changing their views. 

It took a pandemic to change my mind. A freaking pandemic! (As well as educators who were kind and forthright.) Most people who aren’t parenting themselves or their kids aren’t against the idea of vaccines. They just don’t trudon’tat the ones we have are safe. They want to see more studies being done. There is a lack of trust and a lot of doubt; I think that opens the door to believing things that maybe you wouldn’t.

If you feel frustrated by people refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the answer isn’t intended to scare them or make them feel worse. It is to provide facts with kindness. We are all trying to do what we think is right, listen to the people we think are telling the truth, and keep our children as safe as possible. Our actual goals are probably very similar; we just have different ideas about how we can reach them. Perhaps by listening to each other more, we can find a middle ground and actually be able to move forward.

I went from “anti-vax”er” to gett”ng the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccinating my children. I found peace in my decision, and that’s whthat’sope everyone can see. Whatever decision you make, make it an informed one that you can feel comfortable with; make it a decision based on facts and evidence from natural sources.

Many people have been asking me what really changed my mind when it came to getting the vaccine. Was it a specific person? Was it a piece of detailed information?

What changed my mind is that I ran out of reasons to NOT get it.  When I was saying I wouldn’t the vaccine, I had a list of reasons why. Things like fear of side effects, worrying how effective it was, questioning if natural herd immunity was better, and so on. One by one, those reasons were removed from my list as I learned more.

I decided that it made the most sense to trust the people who were experts in vaccines and viruses (I know, duh — but I’d been I’dvinced that these experts were all biased or bought out; not true). I quickly learned that some of what I had heard about vaccines and coronaviruses before from nonexperts simply was not accurate — it didn’t evdidn’tentifically make any sense! These are the people who gained my trust and ultimately changed my mind. 

At first, I’d read I’dngs they posted and think, “No, that “s no that’s” because “it went against what I had formerly believed, but it didn’t for me to recognize that they were the actual truth-tellers and that people I had been listening to before either really didn’t undidn’tnd what they were talking about or wanted to intentionally mislead people. It no longer made sense for me to be listening to random people in Facebook groups or doctors in fields entirely unrelated to virology over these experts. 

It wasn’t onwasn’tt I learned new things; it was also that something that I had thought was true were not. I knew that a few people are responsible for most of the anti-vaccine misinformation and are majorly profiting off of that! I learned that the VAERS vaccine reporting system is abused by people who add “side eff “cts that cl “arly has nothing to do with a vaccine, but also that the CDC really does go through and look into the severe reports (which we have seen as it reports new side effects from various COVID-19 vaccines publicly). My trust in vaccines grew, and my faith in those opposing them fell. 

Changing your mind, primarily firmly held views, is hard. It’s hardIt’srecognize that you were wrong or that you listened to the bad people, but you know what I’ve read I’ve? It’s also it’s liberating. It feels good to allow your views to shift as you gain new information or new experiences and recognize that as growth rather than digging in your heels and trying to remain faithful to something that no longer feels right to you. 

Let’s norLet’se changing your mind. Let’s supLet’speople who choose to grow rather than stay stuck. And let’s end let’s pandemic by choosing facts and kindness, even when we don’t know totdon’tagree.

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