Best-selling novelist's anti-vax post goes viral: 'I do not consent'

Novelist Jamie McGuire in 2017. (Photo: Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images)
Novelist Jamie McGuire in 2017. (Photo: Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images)

A best-selling novelist has stoked a passionate discussion around the topic of vaccine safety with a Facebook post that has gone viral.

“Until you can prove vaccines do not cause DNA mutations, I do not consent,” posted Jamie McGuire, author of 20 books in the New Adult genre (for ages 18-30), including Walking Disaster — which debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists — as well as the apocalyptic thriller Red Hill. Her March 8 post, which has 2.6K shares, 8.3K reactions and more than 19K comments (and is actually a repost of the original by Facebook user Jaime Lorraine), continued, “Until you can prove vaccines do not carry cancer causing retroviruses, I do not consent. Until you can prove vaccines do not impair fertility, I do not consent.”

The mother-of-three’s post goes on to question the safety of injecting “8 different live viruses at one time” and of injecting aluminum into day-old babies; she also questions whether any “of the 16 vaccines and their components” cause autism (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no such link), whether or not vaccines “contribute to SIDS,” and more.

McGuire, of Tulska, Okla., and who has 89.9k Instagram followers, ends her post by noting, “Where there is risk, there must be choice.”

In Oklahoma, parents can choose to claim vaccine exemptions in three possible categories — medical, religious or personal — and the state has seen a rise in exemptions in recent years. Only 17 other states accept personal exemptions, and all but three (California, Mississippi and West Virginia, which offer only medical exemptions) allow religious exemptions.

McGuire, whose children are 6, 14 and 19 years old, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that while her two oldest are vaccinated with the exception of the HPV shots, she stopped vaccinating her son after his first MMR dose “because it caused an adverse reaction.” And, she says, “As parents I believe we should maintain that right.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes on its website: “The United States’ long-standing vaccine safety program closely and constantly monitors the safety of vaccines. A critical part of the program, CDC’s Immunization Safety Office identifies possible vaccine side effects and conducts studies to determine whether health problems are caused by vaccines. Data show that the current U.S. vaccine supply is the safest in history.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics, meanwhile, says that, “Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives.”

Reactions to McGuire’s Facebook post have been fast and furious, on both sides of the argument, and many have responded angrily, with comments such as: “Then stay the f*** out of public schools because your ignorance is a health risk to us all”; “Your rights end when you start infringing upon the life, liberty, and property of others”; “You can’t fix stupid”; and “Stay at home and fade away.” Others have taken aim at McGuire’s appearance with sexist comments comparing her to “an ad for Hooters,” while some have simply posted ridiculing memes.

Many posts have also been supportive of McGuire, noting, “The science is not settled and I doubt your heckling and bullying can dumb this free-thinking woman down enough to regret her decision”; “All you pro-vaxxers are vile, disgusting morons believing in bribed government officials saying you have to do something they have been paid to promote”; and “Where are the ‘my body my choice’ people at? Oh, that only applies to killing unborn children? Gotcha! The silence is deafening.”

Others posted links to various studies, including a small one from 2004 in BMJ, suggesting that the hepatitis B vaccine increases the risk of multiple sclerosis over the following three years, while some quoted from vaccine-manufacturer package inserts.

McGuire says she believes the vaccine issue has become so polarized for two reasons: “because most involved believe they’re fighting for the health and safety of children,” she says, “and because of the growing trend of media and pharmaceutical companies’ fear mongering when it comes to choosing to vaccinate. It’s the right button to push for parents.”

Regarding possible adverse reactions or side effects, the CDC notes, “vaccines are continually monitored for safety, and like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects. However, a decision not to immunize a child also involves risk and could put the child and others who come into contact with him or her at risk of contracting a potentially deadly disease.”

There have been three measles-related deaths reported to CDC since the year 2000 — one in 2015 (a Washington woman whose age was not released), and two in 2003, of a 13-year-old suffering from a chronic disease, and of a 75-year-old who had traveled to Israel, Jason McDonald of the CDC tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

The flu and its complications, according to the CDD, caused the deaths of an estimated 80,000 Americans in 2017 alone; 185 were pediatric deaths.

Still, no one denies the possible risk, however slight, of adverse reactions to vaccines or injuries. The MMR vaccine’s package insert has warnings including, “MMR II has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or potential to impair fertility.” It also warns that caution should be taken by nursing women because it’s not known whether the vaccine is secreted in milk, and lists many possible adverse reactions, “without regard to causality,” including fever, vomiting, diabetes, anaphylaxis, myalgia, encephalitis and neurological disorders.

The CDC further notes “very rarely occurring” events including deafness, long-term seizures and brain damage, and urges anyone who has experienced any sort of adverse reactions to report the details to Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), allowing the CDC and FDA to monitor any problems.

The U.S has a system in place for handling such reactions — the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims — which is a specific, no-fault forum for alleged vaccine injuries or deaths. The system, explained recently in a Business Insider story, was created by Congress in 1986 both to ensure justice for children and to protect vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits (as later clarified in a Supreme Court ruling). Since its inception, the program has doled out more than $4 billion in damages, for rare reactions ranging from Guillain-Barré Syndrome (from the flu shot) to encephalitis (from the pertussis vaccination) and, very rarely, death. But more than 80 percent of the cases wind up as negotiated settlements between both parties, with no scientific conclusions.

Finally, McGuire explains why she remains outspoken on the issue. “Parents with similar views feeling silenced is what gives me the courage to speak openly. I need concerned parents to feel they’re not alone,” she says. “My fan base knows I — like anyone — have opinions and that I often share them. Most know I’m also a fan of discussion and open-mindedness. Social media has cultivated a strange, concerning new climate that people who disagree must hate each other and spew vitriol without repercussions or consequences.”

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