Last night my mother and I had a long talk about my cousin. Brief explanation: My cousin is very ill physically and won't see a doctor. She adopted a child and shouldn't have. She believes in New Age woo, chem trails, spirits, past lives and all other kinds of nonsense. She won't get her kid vaccinated. She is harassing her child's birth mother while claiming the reverse is true. That last bit is according to my mother, so I'm taking it with a grain of salt.
Over dinner last night, I told my mother I knew my cousin had gone off the deep end a long time ago (you can find my post about it on this site if you look), but declined to tell her how I knew. Finally, she insisted I tell her, so I did. "I knew she had gone off the deep end as soon as she told me she wouldn't get her child vaccinated. Vaccines are safe and effective with very few side effects and anyone who thinks differently isn't in touch with reality."
"But she told me [name of child] had a bad reaction to a 'half' vaccination."
I briefly wondered what a "half" vaccination is, but instead pressed my point.
"I don't believe her," I said, echoing my mother's words. Mom had told me she didn't believe my cousin's assertions about the child's birth mother and a lot of other things. We both agree my cousin believes what she says, but isn't grounded in reality. "[Name of cousin] believes [name of child] had a reaction to the vaccine, but I don't believe it actually happened." One reason I don't believe my cousin is she claims all three members of her family (her husband, her unrelated child and her) have reactions to vaccines. This fits too conveniently with an objectively false world view. Whatever my cousin happens to believe is the truth. End of discussion.
"Well, I don't care what she believes: spirits, chem trails, past lives. It doesn't matter," said my mother.
"Yes, it does matter!" I exclaimed. "Anyone who believes in spirits, past lives, chemtrails, invisible friends and anti-vaxxer nonsense is not grounded in reality. Beliefs matter! If we have false beliefs, we are not grounded in reality and our decisions will reflect that."
I saw something flicker across my mother's face. Agreement? "But I have bad reactions to flu vaccines. I know I do. They've put me in bed for over a week twice now. I'll never get another flu shot again."
"You're probably having a reaction to the egg in the vaccine," I said. "If so, you should be especially pro-vaccine because you have to rely on the people around you to get their vaccines. Anyone who doesn't have adverse reactions should get a vaccination in order to keep those who cannot have vaccinations safe. When I found out [my cousin's name] was an anti-vaxxer, I got my DTaP shot. I had my doctor test my blood titers for measles, mumps and rubella antibodies. A few weeks ago, I got a flu shot. Now I can rest easy that I won't be a vector for disease."
I think I actually got through to her. If so, she's going to have some cognitive dissonance to deal with. If she follows her usual pattern, she'll come back even stronger against my position. Sometimes there's even a price to pay. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.
"Our beliefs inform our actions." I've heard Matt Dillahunty say this more times than I care to count, and I doubt the saying is original with him. You didn't just give that concept to your mom; you also reinforced it with a pretty potent example. As you say, the question now is what does she do with this knowledge.
Best of luck!
Apparently we have always had those who do not believe in vaccinations. Many cartoons about it in newsprint when the practice started. Over the years it has worked and we have gotten rid of many diseases. If we stop now they will come back. Anti-vaxxers don't know this and most likely just believed in how bad getting a vaccination is. Flu for 3 days, had to be in bed for a week, it causes autism, etc. None of this is true, of course.
All I know is that we have beaten polio in my lifetime. I used to know some people who had polio. Today I do not know any, and if we stop vaccinations for polio it will surely come back.
Totally true. My cousin and I share an uncle who had polio. I wonder how much our recently-departed grandmother would have paid for a vaccine that would have kept him from getting sick?