I was an outspoken anti-vaxxer until Covid-19 changed my mind - now I'm vaccinated and so are my 6 kids
- Alyssa Ruben, 38, is a mom of six who chose to not vaccinate her children when they were growing up.
- After seeing the effects of Covid-19, she realised much of what she knew about vaccines was wrong.
- Here's her story, as told to Jamie Orsini.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
I'm a mom of six kids, and for most of my parenting life, I belonged to the anti-vax community. For many years, I was outspoken about my choice to not vaccinate and encouraged others to follow the same path.
I was a young mom - I'm 38 now and my oldest is 21-years-old. I was the first of my friends to have kids. So I figured, why not use the internet to find some new parenting friends?
I joined a lot of websites and mom groups, including iVillage, CafeMom, and BabyCenter. I also cofounded MommyCon, a natural-parenting convention.
I found friendship and support in those groups. I also found the anti-vax community.
When I was pregnant with my oldest, I considered myself vaccine-hesitant. I tried doing research but found that many of the medical websites at the time were hidden behind paywalls. So I went to a paediatrician for guidance.
I found a local doctor named Mayer Eisenstein who described himself as a "natural" doctor. He was, but he was also very anti-vaccine.
When I brought my questions about vaccines to Eisenstein, he was convincing. I trusted him when he told me vaccines were unsafe and unnecessary; he was a doctor. He had not only a medical degree but also a master's degree in public health and a law degree.
So I felt comfortable with my decision to not vaccinate my children. My mom friends online supported me, too.
The pandemic changed my views on vaccines
If Covid-19 had never happened, I probably wouldn't have changed my views on vaccines.
When Covid-19 arrived in the US, I remember watching the news and learning that my local intensive-care units were filling up.
I had friends with Covid-19 and knew nurses who'd travelled to my area to help with the surge in cases. My uncle was in the ICU on a ventilator. And I started seeing all this stuff from my anti-vax groups and friends saying, "It's a hoax," and, "Nothing's going on." I couldn't believe it.
When I started seeing conspiracy theories in my local parenting group, in an area where I knew people were dying from Covid-19, I was like, "Whoa. This can't be the group that I'm associating with."
For the first time since I was pregnant with my oldest kids, I started researching vaccines. I realised much of what I thought I knew was wrong.
I'm now vaccinating all of my kids and myself
I called my kids' paediatrician - a new doctor, not Eisenstein - and told him I'd made a mistake. I wanted to get my kids vaccinated.
My 17-year-old has always thought I was stupid for not getting them vaccinated, so he was like, "Great, let's go." My younger kids weren't crazy about the shots, but we're now all up to date on our vaccinations, including for Covid-19.
I was vocal in the anti-vax movement. For years, I've had an online platform in parenting communities, and now I'm trying to use this platform to share my experiences and encourage others to get vaccinated.
I've been open about our journey, and I'm facing a lot of internet abuse because of it, especially on TikTok. But I'm going to keep sharing my story because I want other parents to learn from my mistakes.
If you're part of the anti-vax community or you're vaccine-hesitant, I hope you know it's OK to change. You're not a bad person. What's important is that you keep learning and trying to do the right thing.
I'm sorry I didn't vaccinate my children earlier.
I'm sorry there are other people who didn't vaccinate because I told them they shouldn't. I'm so, so sorry about that.
If my story helps even one parent decide to vaccinate their children, then I did my job.
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