What Do Food Allergies Have To Do With Vaccines?

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“If my kid can’t bring peanut butter to school, yours shouldn’t be able to bring preventable diseases.”

I’ve seen this statement floating around both Facebook and Twitter for a couple of months, and it’s only ramped up since the Disneyland measles outbreak.

I find myself a bit confused, though. Stick with me as I sort my thoughts out here.

It appears to me as if those making these statements would like to drag us parents of food allergic children into the vaccination debate when we don’t belong there.

To be sure, the vaccine debate is heated and one that plays out even in the food allergy community. I guess I’d like to clarify to make sure that those passing this statement—and others like it—around aren’t singling us out.

To clarify: your kid can’t bring peanut butter to school because someone born with a life-threatening allergy attends your school, and your school (and/or district) made a choice to protect that child (and others) to keep allergic children alive while they are at school. (This, by the way, is a move I applaud. I always love it when children are protected by the adults entrusted with keeping them alive. It’s kind of a favorite of mine.)

I digress.

Back to the statement comparing food allergies with vaccines. Please note, this is where I really feel like breaking out in a, “You talkin’ to meeee?” moment. Because my son is fully vaccinated. Your logic doesn’t hold. You are drawing a comparison that doesn’t make sense.

Granted, I have my own thoughts about all the vaccinations and their efficacy. Many of my thoughts are informed by real-life experience sitting in round-table “war-room” discussions with epidemiologists from the CDC. I’m not 100% sure about the efficacy of the vaccines, but that did not keep me from fully vaccinating my son.

Imagine my surprise when it seemed as if you were addressing me, and parents like me. Because it was not my choice for the child I bore to have life threatening food allergies. But it was my choice to fully vaccinate him.

Let’s boil it down to this: vaccines are (currently) a choice given to parents in the United States of America. Whether you like it or not.

My son’s life threatening food allergies are not.

Period.

I know many families of children with food allergies that, when they can, vaccinate their children fully. By the way, that “when they can” caveat is for those who cannot vaccinate because their child may have a life threatening reaction to the vaccine itself because of the ingredients in the vaccine.

Let’s pretend for a moment that this statement is a blanket statement of, “we do our best to keep all children safe at school, which I feel should include vaccinations to keep those who cannot be vaccinated, safe.” Okay. I get that statement. Maybe we could reword the tweet to not draw the ill-fitting comparison to food allergies. Would that be fair?

There’s no need to draw us in your debate when we don’t belong there. With things like major food recalls and keeping our children safe from anaphylactic reactions on our minds, being drawn in to a debate like this just won’t work for us.

We don’t have the time or bandwidth to deal with silly assumptions or correlations. Our goal is to protect all of the members of our community, too.

Whether you believe it or not, you’ll have to take my word for it.

Tiffany Self

Tiffany Self is a wife, mom to "Z", and a lover of words. In an ironic twist, she is an English class dropout who now writes for a living. Tiffany is a freelancer in the Chicago suburbs by way of Seattle and Southern Oregon. She writes about her journey of parenting a child with multiple severe food allergies, asthma, and environmental allergies. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

26 Comments to What Do Food Allergies Have To Do With Vaccines?

  1. Liz

    I’m a FA parent but I don’t read the remarks as tit-for-tat to food allergy parents (even though some uneducated idiots probably intend them as such). I think people are just expressing frustration over the ludicrous double standard — peanut butter is banned because it can kill certain kids. At the same time, measels, mumps, small pox, polio, etc., are all proven killers yet school districts allow students without proper vaccinations all the time. Where’s the logic?? If peanut butter can kill a fellow student, you can’t have peanut butter in the school, PERIOD. You can’t get a religious exemption for peanut butter because, regardless of your religion, the peanut butter would still kill my kid. So would measels, but you can get a religious exemption that allows you to bring measels into my school and potentially spread illness/kill others. Ridiculous. When people use the peanut butter example, I don’t think they are blaming food allergy parents for not vaccinating, I think they’re just identifying an obvious hypocrisy.

    • Dawn

      Your comment was well stated and I couldn’t agree more.

    • Emma

      Liz, I think you are totally missing the point. If my son comes into contact with peanut butter he WILL have a reaction. If he does not receive treatment immediately there is a VERY good chance he will die. If he comes into contact with an unvaccinated child there is only a very small chance that child will have the measles. And IF that child has the measles and my child catches it, there is only a VERY tiny chance he will die. So it is really not a fair comparison. There is also a small chance he can catch measles from the MMR vaccine or from a vaccinated child. But it is almost a guarantee that if he eats even the tiniest amount of peanut protein he will have anaphylaxis.

      • Jewel

        Took the words right out my mouth Emma.

    • Tiffany Self

      Thanks for your comment, Liz. Part of my issue – which I didn’t include in this post – is that many schools (including our own) are NOT nut-free. So, again, I feel like there has to be a better way to communicate this than bring us and stereotypes about us into the whole raging debate. You know?

      I appreciate your stopping by and taking the time to share your perspective!

    • Valleygirl

      Measles are not going to kill ur kid. Come on. Remember chicken pox? It was a normal childhood disease that the majority fared just fine with. Sure a few got really really sick and yes some died but that was not the norm. Same with measles! But now we are generations removed and all we hear are the horror stories and we assume it’s this huge nasty disease that’s inns kill us all when in reality, the common cold can have the same effect on someone with asthma and a weakened immune system. So let’s just be sure we are well informed before making such a ridiculous statement…..

    • Deborah Halpin

      I totally agree with you 100 %. I totally agree with food allergens being prohibited from schools. But I don’t agree with kids being admitted to school without their immunizations. Now, this “new trend ” of not vaccinating children is starting to become a health threat. Whooping Cough , as an example, is now becoming more prevalent than in the past few decades. I know, I guess I am “old school ” and pro vaccination.

  2. Kate

    Im not sure where the tweet in the above article came from, but the original post/blog/article that started it all was written by the dad of a boy with leukemia. The boy can not be vaccinated due to his compromised immune system and measles would likely kill him. He lives in a California school district with a very high number of unvaccinated kids. As we all know there is a measles outbreak in California. The dad was complaining about the lack of action to protect his son from exposure from other students. He used the school’s no peanut policy as an example of how aggressively they should also protect his son.

    • Lauren

      In this situation I think there’s a striking parallel between a peanut allergy and an immunocompromised child.

      I did not read the posted tweet (and tons of other comments like it) as a dig at food allergy families. I do not doubt for a second that peanuts (and various other allergens) are an imminent threat to someone with an allergy. I don’t want to diminish what any parent here goes through. To a varying degree, communicable diseases can be a threat to anyone with a compromised system, an inability to receive a vaccine, and any infant or elderly person living at home with a child going to school with others who aren’t vaccinated. Just my thought.

    • Tiffany Self

      Hi Kate, I’ve read all about that situation, too. Unfortunately, the first time I saw a meme with this particular statement was sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it was well before the measles outbreak.

      I absolutely get what he’s saying, and that is why I’m thrilled that my son is fully vaccinated so that he can safely play with those who are immune compromised in our community.

  3. Teresa

    What Emma said is 100% on target.

  4. Tiffany

    A relative of mine posted about how people who do not get vaccines are idiots and should be jailed. Of course, I had to respond (even though I shouldn’t have), because I believe that people should have a choice when it comes to things like this. For the record, my first child is fully vaccinated and my second was up until the age of two when she had a serious reaction (not allergic) to something I elected (not required) to get her. Her reaction didn’t make sense, since she’d had all these shots before. I looked at the ingredients afterward, and nothing was different…so she has not had her boosters. Once I commented on her thread, she posted comparing banning peanuts to banning non-vaccinated kids. It really irritated me that she dragged this into the conversation and really that it was getting dragged into the conversation on blogs everywhere. I see the correlation, however, these are two totally different things and should be strung together. We as FA parents have enough to deal with on a regular basis fighting for our children to be safe and trying to educate people who call us idiots and say our kids should be banned from school. I wish peanut butter were banned from schools and everywhere for that matter, but alas it’s a free country and they’re not. School boards are free to determine whether or not they want to or not. This is why I homeschool my kids, because I can not control what everyone else does. I can only try and control, to the best of my parenting ability, what goes on in my home. I can try and educate people about the dangers of food allergies, but in the end they’re going to do what they’re going to do.

  5. Liz

    Respectfully, the point is not to consider how the same child — allergic to peanuts but otherwise healthy — will react if he is introduced to peanut butter vs. the measels and/or an unvaccinated child. The point is to demonstrate that introducing peanut butter to a peanut allergic child (a topic that most people can wrap their heads around nowadays, whether they like it or not) is akin to introducing otherwise eradicated illnesses to an immunocomprimised child (or baby, or adult who doesn’t have full immunity, etc. etc.). What might not be an immediate killer to 90% of the population (i.e. peanut butter, or measels), IS deadly to certain members of the population. Whether or not they are both deadly to the same child is not the point. My child is allergic to peanuts (among other things). His best friend was born at 30 weeks and has a significantly underdeveloped immune system. If he catches the slightest cold he’s out of school for weeks and often hospitalized with severe respiratory illnesses. No one should have a right to kill my son with peanut butter. No one should have a right to kill his best friend with a preventable disease.

    • ForConsideration

      I really don’t mean to sound snarky at all, but we need to be careful about such extreme statements (“nobody has the right to kill my child or his best friend”). It’s just not helpful to the discussion… and to be honest, it comes across as a bit hysterical and not all that thoughtful (which I know isn’t the case at all). We make choices every day. Some kid in your child’s school may have had peanut butter toast for breakfast and could have it on his hands when he comes to school, right? That is a totally realistic risk (happens with my kids!), yet you still send your kid to school knowing that risk exists. Does that mean you are willing to kill your kid for the sake of a public school education knowing that another kid may have peanut butter on them? We both know that’s not a fair or logical statement. Neither is it fair to say that someone not wanting a vaccine puts your kid at risk of death. The incidence of measles is still extremely low. Also, and more importantly, if your child has been vaccinated, the risk to your child is nil. Me? I’d tell them to get the vaccine for the sake of THEIR children, not yours. Again, don’t mean to be snarky about it (comments are tough because you can’t use tone of the other parts of communication).
      PS… I’ve been reading about some VERY good research regarding peanut allergies (the latest involves a bacteria they are introducing to the digestive systems of kids that shows much promise). It will be a GREAT day when we solve peanut and egg allergies. It will be much less stressful for parents who want to let their kids be “free” but need to be so careful. Not an easy allergy to manage.

      • Mom

        The food proteins in the vaccines are causing the food allergies. The same manufacturers of the vaccines are the same manufacturers of epi pen. Merck sold epi pen to Mylan in 2007. Sanofi has their own version auvi-q. Last spring ACIP were going to make food allergies a comensatable injury caused by vaccines. They voted no. There is plenty of evidence out there. There all in each others pocket. The vaccines ingredient are loaded with adjuvant food proteins. They added food proteins, created combo shots, changed the schedual and are cashing in on the epi pen. That’s why good allergies are increasing 50% in the last 10 years. Type pink book In the searh engine of cdc.

    • Tiffany Self

      I appreciate your response, Liz! I agree, we live in a community and should definitely act in that way…looking out for others as we want others to look out for us!

    • Emma

      The MMR is a live virus vaccine so it is a fact that the virus can be spread by those recently vaccinated. It is also true that vaccines are not 100% effective so it is possible that someone can get the MMR vaccine and still catch the measles and spread it to others. So an immunosuppressed person can get measles from a person who is vaccinated too. They can also get seriously ill from things like the common cold that most people get over easily. Life is full of risks. I think all parents just need to do their own research and do what they believe is right for their family, while being mindful of others, but not letting that force their decision. And I personally do not rely on anyone else to keep my son safe in regards to his food allergies. I have been teaching him about reading labels, never eating anything unless he knows he is safe, wiping down surfaces, washing his hands often, and NEVER going anywhere without his Auvi-Qs.

  6. ForConsideration

    So I think there is a subtle difference (imho). We avoid bringing peanuts to school because they put others at risk. That’s fine. But as it relates to vaccinations/illnesses, if my kids are vaccinated, the “vaccine averse” group poses no risk to my children. Also, we should keep in mind that until very recently, measles was pretty much eradicated in the US. Their choice not to vaccinate was “VERY, VERY low risk”.. But we have many new residents from other countries now… who have brought back illnesses that were once pretty much gone from the US (this was predicted at the start of the recent border crisis, but that’s for another discussion). I’m not anti-vaccine, just saying that it’s complex and the ‘anti-vaccine’ group aren’t just being selfish idiots. But the equation has changed this year and they should seriously reconsider their anti-vaccine choices.

    • Tiffany Self

      It sounds as if you do not have a peanut allergy, but avoid to keep others safe at school. Yes? If so, fantastic. On behalf of all allergy parents everywhere, thank you!

      The vaccine thing…it’s definitely a hot button issue on all sides, isn’t it? We have vaccinated because we have friends who can’t. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  7. Johanna

    Finally an article with common sense. Thank you for this!

  8. aWiseSageOnceSaid

    Wow.. you missed the point entirely… IT IS ABOUT EXPOSURE. Period. Since when have we gotten so damn ignorant as a nation???

  9. Just wanted to say thank you for this. Friends keep posting cartoons and articles with this message and I’m so glad to have this post of yours to share with them as it expresses my feelings about this ridiculous “debate” better than I could.

  10. Ravin Palmer

    I’m a FA kid with a autoimmune brother. I have a sibling that not everyone takes into consideration when throwing around this debate. My brother has a rare condition when certain immunizations could hurt him more than going without. my brother is the kid walking around with the “preventable disease”. I being a big sister will do anything for him including telling you all how rude, harsh, and embarassing you are. Do these shots help some yes. All..no. does your kid getting a shot help my brother to not get it….not always. just because less kids are getting sick doesn’t mean the germs aren’t still floating around out there. The shots will always react differently for each kid. they will always effect some more than others. some kids get sick more than others. some kids never get the chicken pox and some kids get them 6 times. but either way you are parents, these are children. you want to protect them. do what you need to do as a parent to keep them safe to you best ability and let other parents do the same. I think all parents should help save their children by letting them pick their religion, their sexuality, their own political opinion but it doesn’t always happen my way and it surely isn’t going to change for you either. I do not make you praise satan, sacrifice cows, or wear a headdress so don’t be the mom to single out another child do to family beliefs. you are all behaving childish.

  11. Mom

    Food allergies, nothing good about them. Children who have a family history of asthma or seasonal allergy, excema or any hypersensive immune system are more vulnerable. They don’t care about that percentage of children. They care about the money. Billions 💰 and what’s worse maybe a more perfect genetic race. Look up Charles Richet a 1913 noble prize winner scientist. If you inject proteins into humans or animals they will be anaphylactic if they injest that same protein. They know this. Even the smallest amount of proteins in the vaccines (fish, peanut egg white, soy ECT… can effect some children. Most likely chilren. With a family history of Asthma, allergy or any other immune issue. These new vaccines create a hypersensitivity.

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