Some vaccines can cause allergies in children.
This summer, more than 100,000 children were removed from school because their parents kept them out of a comprehensive global immunization campaign.
The decision to keep their children out of such a campaign was infuriating for health officials and other progressives. There was an upswing in some illnesses, including measles, and public officials argued that a huge chunk of Europe was losing children to disease that could be prevented. And yet, moms have a reason to be alarmed: Some vaccines can cause allergies in children.
But vaccinations aren’t the only issue that distresses these parents. Across Europe, political parties on the left and the right are seeking to fuel the very kind of xenophobia and moralization often seen in the U.S.
“Health care workers, no more penicillin injections, health service run down, health care workers fighting each other because of hierarchy,” said Swedish politician Lotta Briisstedt. “We have to change the system.” Briisstedt’s party, The Social Democrat Union, is one of the oldest political parties in Sweden.
What’s unique about Briisstedt’s position is that, in the Brexit era, xenophobia is running rampant. What one may consider a mainstream opinion in the U.S. is being pushed by populists, such as the anti-immigrant British politician Nigel Farage, in Europe. One example of this is a movement that starts in the comfort of U.K. households.
These Brits tend to regard medical care as an issue of dignity. For example, British General Practice Services, a national association of family doctors, has a model policy on assessing immigration, stating “The welfare of English/Dutch citizens and immigrants of all nationalities is of a given importance, particularly in times of acute economic pressure.”
As the organization has ramped up campaigning on the topic, it has ramped up attacks on immigrants. It recently received an email calling it “a pathetic and shameful organization in the tradition of groups such as the Nazis and the KKK” because its CEO is Dutch. The health organization responded saying, “Your email is disgusting and our members feel sickened by it.”
The rhetoric and behavior of Briisstedt and other anti-immigration figures demonstrates how this kind of fear can explain non-medical reasons to boycott vaccinations. Some parents complain that their children are held back in school to start high school, when they should have been vaccinated for polio. (This didn’t exist on an official European level until the 1970s, but since then, a massive immunization campaign has begun across the continent.)
“It has been nearly four years since I learned the identity of my newborn baby. I had to invent the spell for the child’s name, my gender, even my skin color,” wrote a self-declared “post-feminist” mother of two in a blog post. The article was titled “If I Stay, It Is Because He Was Meant to Be Me.”
This kind of argument has already taken hold in the U.S. Dr. Robyn Wright, who writes about vaccines and health, shared a post on her blog this summer, “I Was 40 Years Old When I Felt Ready To Say No To The Vaccines.” On it, she describes how she wanted to be a part of the important conversation about vaccines, but decided to commit instead to a post-vaccination life.
“I’ve decided to adopt a lifestyle devoid of vaccines. Indeed, I have been without them,” she wrote. “I spend most of my time on a bike…And I love good food, high heels, and silence.”