Once A Vaccine Skeptic, This Mom Changed Her Mind

Posted by NPR News on
Juniper Russo walks her dogs with her daughter Vivian (left).
photo provided by Juniper Russo

The ongoing measles outbreak linked to Disneyland has led to some harsh comments about parents who don't vaccinate their kids. But Juniper Russo, a writer in Chattanooga, Tenn., says she understands those parents because she used to be one of them.

"I know what it's like to be scared and just want to protect your children, and make the wrong decisions," Russo says.

When her daughter Vivian was born, "I was really adamant that she not get vaccines," Russo says. "I thought that she was going to be safe without them and they would unnecessarily introduce chemicals into her body that could hurt her."

That's a view shared by many parents who choose not to vaccinate. And in Russo's case, it was reinforced by parents she met online.

"I had a lot of online acquaintances who claimed that their kids had become autistic because of vaccines," Russo says. "I got kind of swept up in that."

But fear of autism was only part of the reason Russo didn't want vaccines for her daughter. She says at that point in her life she identified strongly with what she calls "crunchy moms" who question mainstream medicine and things that aren't natural.

"They're the ones who breast-feed and cloth-diaper and co-sleep and all that stuff," Russo says. "And so much of who I was, was being a crunchy mom. At the time I thought that if I went along with what my pediatrician suggested ... I would be losing part of who I was."

Her daughter's pediatrician, though, kept talking to Russo about vaccines. And, over the next couple of years, she began to reconsider her position.

She also began to worry about Vivian. At 16 months old, her daughter still wasn't walking and her speech was odd.

Over the next year or so, Russo allowed the pediatrician to give her daughter a few shots — though not the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. 

Then, when Vivian was nearly 3, Russo decided her daughter should get all her vaccines. By that time, Russo says, it was pretty clear that Vivian had autism, caused by something other than a vaccination.

To read and hear the full story, click here

subscribe to sdpb email updates food and cooking banner image learning blog link living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

The Latest From SDPB Radio News

In The Moment ... Innovation In Business, Film, And Science

In The Moment ... March 28, 2017 Show 059 Hour 2 It's a competition to encourage students to not only come up with...

In The Moment... A Look At Soviet Propaganda

In The Moment ... March 28, 2017 Show 059 Hour 1 Today we bring you one of the highlights from the South Dakota...

Alicia Olatuja

Praised by the New York Times as "a singer with strong and luscious tone and an amiably regal presence on stage...

Governor: Federal IHS Savings Could Help People In Health Care Gap

South Dakota’s governor says federal health care reform can benefit the state’s working poor. The United States...

V The Noble One And Knights Tempo

V the Noble One (Vaney Hariri) is recognized as one of the founding fathers of hip-hop - at least in the Upper...

SD Legislators Pass New Bill On Veto Day

Lawmakers in Pierre changed their own rules Monday to introduce a new bill on veto day. The final day of the session...

House Lawmakers Fail To Override Gun Bill Vetos

Two vetoes by Governor Dennis Daugaard aimed at bills that relax state gun laws… stand. The South Dakota House of...

The Dead Pigeons

The South Dakota Friends of Traditional Music welcomed The Dead Pigeons to headline the 37th annual Sioux River Folk...

Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank

Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank (brothers Teague and Ian Alexy) share a common love of American roots music. They've...

Tab Benoit

Tab Benoit loves Sioux Falls and JazzFest fans love him back. Benoit was tabbed to headline the opening night of...

The Latest from NPR News

India's Cities Have A Honking Big Noise Problem

They're so noisy that the Central Pollution Control Board is urging drivers not to honk needlessly — like that Uber...

White Supremacist Charged With Terrorism Over Murder Of Black Man

Police say James Jackson traveled to New York City in order to "kill black men," a plan he carried out when he...

Late Anti-Apartheid Leader Ahmed Kathrada: 'Don't Harbor Hatred And Revenge'

The anti-apartheid activist, who died Tuesday, worked to end apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela. In his later years,...

Device Mimicking Female Reproductive Cycle Could Aid Research

Scientists have assembled a lab system from living tissue that can replicate a woman's 28-day hormonal cycle. The...

Footy McFooty Face Is Stomping Competition In Vote For MLS Team Name

With the final round of voting set to close Friday, Footy McFooty Face has more than twice the votes of any other...

What Trump Misses About Energy Jobs In America

The president on Tuesday signed an executive order with the intention to help bring back coal jobs. But clean energy...