Childrearing

No Grandma, It’s Not OK To Secretly Get A Baby Vaccinated Behind Its Parents’ Backs

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183961278I cannot believe today is happening, because for the first and hopefully only time in my life, I am forced to side with anti-vaxxers.

A grandmother wrote into Dear Prudence with a problem I do not envy: Her son and daughter-in-law have become anti-vaxxers and are refusing to vaccinate their 18-month-old son, the letter writer’s grandchild. She writes:

“My son and daughter-in-law are well-educated, responsible people. But once they had their first child (my now-18-month-old darling grandson), they did their own “research” and decided not to vaccinate him for fear of “pumping poison into his body” and “risking autism.” My DIL has particularly strong views about this, and we’ve had many vocal arguments over the issue. Finally she decided she didn’t want to fight me anymore, and the last time I brought this up she refused to bring my grandson to see me for several weeks. I know that due to herd immunity the chances of his catching a serious illness is not high, but I am still appalled he’s exposed to risks unnecessarily. I am about to look after him for five days while his parents go on a trip and I am thinking I will just take him to the doctor myself and get him immunized.”

What? No! I definitely feel for the grandmother here. I do not know what I would do if a loved one told me that they were not going to vaccinate their children because they thought a gluten-free diet would keep them safe from measles and hepatitis, or that vaccines cause autism, or that the illuminati had infiltrated the local school district. I’d probably toy with the idea of sneaking the child off for illicit vaccinations too, but I’d stop before I did it because grandparents absolutely cannot supersede parental authority like that. It is unconscionable to sneak a baby off for a medical procedure without the parents’ consent, especially when the grandmother knows both parents object vehemently. (And do not think I did not notice the way the grandmother pins the whole thing on her daughter-in-law. Obviously the letter-writer’s son is blameless in all this. Sure, lady.)

The parents are wrong. They are so wrong that songs should be written and dances choreographed to celebrate their epic wrongness. I would personally be thrilled if the government did away with the personal belief exemptions that allow parents to not vaccinate their children and then send them off to public schools, daycare, and Disneyland. But sneaking off and vaccinating them against their parents’ wishes is not the answer, even if the grandmother could find a doctor willing to do it.

I do not know what the grandmother plans to do about booster shots, or if she thinks her “well-educated, reasonable” son and daughter-in-law would not notice when granny scheduled sleepovers according to the recommended childhood vaccination schedule. But the parents would absolutely find out about the deception sooner or later, and grandma would never see any of them again.

I feel for the letter writer, I really do. I do not know what she can do in her position, but sneaking the child off for vaccines is not the answer.

Photo: Luiscar/iStockphoto / Getty Images Plus