Ask Damon: Should I vaccinate my anti-vax friends’ babies without telling them?

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Hi Damon: My best friend is an antivaxxer (not just covid, all vaccines). His wife is too. They have a 9 month old baby and they haven’t vaccinated him. I babysit for them every weekend. Should I take the baby for their vaccinations without telling them?

Anonymous: My feelings about vaccinations are well documented. But just in case you’re unfamiliar, a little refresher:

I think I’ve reached the threshold of intellect where I’m just smart enough to know that I’m not that smart. I have gifts and talents, I suppose. But with medical science, I hope doctors and MDs who have spent thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to learn more, and whose livelihoods rely on conservation and application of this knowledge, know much more than I will ever know. And I’m not just talking about a faceless wall of faceless professionals in white coats, but of family and good friends. A neighbour. An ex-girlfriend. All physicians or doctors of science are unanimous in their belief – no, advocacy – Everyone get vaccinated.

And look, I’m a black American. My skepticism of our healthcare system, based on my awareness of the profound racial disparities that exist within it – historically and currently – is justified. But, as I wrote in a New York Times essay last year, my desire to prevent more infection, disease and death is a greater force than cynicism.

That said, I am also a parent of two young children. What if someone took them, against my will, to get vaccinated? Let’s just say that my editors advised me, for legal reasons, not to say what I would do to this person.

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What you are suggesting is irresponsible, blatant and possibly even criminal. Forty-three states require a parent’s permission to vaccinate a child. The age at which parental consent is no longer required depends on the state and varies between 15 and 18. But these laws are for teenagers who want to get vaccinated, not adults who want to bring their friends’ babies to the clinic.

Of course, if you think your friends are abusing their children, you have a responsibility to report it. But despite the fact that I agree with you about the need for vaccinations, and your friends acting dangerously, you’ve sunk so deep into the rabbit hole of complacency that you’ve found yourself on the wrong side.

I was tempted to suggest that you try to convince them to get vaccinated, but if an active pandemic that has killed millions – plus all the social restrictions that go with not being vaccinated – hasn’t convinced them yet, I don’t know what else it would be. Maybe an ultimatum, where you tell them you no longer feel safe with them. You would risk ending this relationship, of course. But I’d rather lose friends than commit a crime and lose my freedom.

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