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

FEMA Housing Lands On Pine Ridge Following Disaster

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is placing new mobile homes on Pine Ridge following spring storms and...

Daugaard Proposes Medicaid Expansion In $4.8-Billion Budget

Governor Dennis Daugaard is proposing a total state budget of about $4.8-billion for fiscal year 2017. You can...

Dakota Midday: Attorney General Marty Jackley Discusses 24/7

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley recently returned from the National Association of Attorneys General...

Dakota Midday: GF&P Secretary Kelly Hepler

While broadcasting live from the state capitol building in Pierre, Cara Hetland visited with Kelly Hepler, Secretary...

Dakota Midday: Wink And Sutton Look Forward To Budget Address

South Dakota Speaker of the House Dean Wink and Democratic Senator Billie Sutton visited with guest host Cara Hetland ahead of Governor Dennis Daugaard's annual...

Hawks To Introduce Resolution On College Debt

One South Dakota lawmaker says she’s crafting a resolution about debt-free college. Democratic State Representative Paula Hawks says she wants to start a conversation...

Dakota Midday: Images Of The Past Potato Creek Johnny

Potato Creek Johnny is featured in this week's Images of the Past. Jessica Michak, Archivist with the HomestakeAdams...

Dakota Midday: Health Insurance Change Has Financial Consequences

Certain people who buy health insurance on the federal exchange could find themselves paying significantly more money in January if they don’t change their plans soon....

Dakota Midday: Budget And Policy Council Anticipates Budget Address

Joy Smolnisky, Executive Director, South Dakota Budget and Policy Institute discusses Medicaid expansion, Indian Health Services, education funding, and state revenue...

SD Scientists Welcome Renewable Research Boost

World leaders are meeting in Paris to hash out a new agreement on the best way to deal with climate change. As part...

The Latest from NPR News

Trees And The Wind, In Pyeongchang

The wind roared in from Siberia, toppling concession stands and security scanners. These huge gusts led NPR's team...

Uber Eats Driver Allegedly Shoots And Kills Customer In Atlanta

Atlanta police are seeking an Uber Eats driver in connection with the killing of a 30-year-old customer during a...

'More Than War Fighters': Active-Duty Athletes Compete In Olympics Bobsled And Luge

Sgt. Nick Cunningham, a bobsledder, is one of seven U.S. service members competing in Pyeongchang. "They told me...

Seismic Surveys Planned Off U.S. Coast Pose Risk To Marine Life

The Trump administration could give companies permission to set off sonic explosions to explore for oil and gas...

Formal Doping Case Is Opened Against Russian Curler Who Won Medal In Pyeongchang

Aleksandr Krushelnitckii finished third in the mixed-doubles curling tournament, competing with his wife and...

Scientists Develop A Way To Use A Smartphone To Prevent Food Poisoning

A microscope that clips on to your phone's camera can detect bacteria, such as salmonella or E. coli, even in tiny...