Reflections of a former vaccine sceptic

Ulrike Schmidleithner

Ulrike Schmidleithner

July 15th, 2014

Ulrike Schmidleithner

‘I’d like to tell you about my first experience of vaccination, which goes back 17 years.’

When my son was about one year old I bought a book written by a paediatrician named Dr Robert Mendelsohn, who was against vaccinations (he died some time ago): ‘How to raise a healthy child in spite of your doctor‘.

Three things left a lasting impression on my mind: the astonishment I felt when looking at graphics demonstrating that rates of disease outbreaks had already reduced before the introduction of vaccines; the dread of permitting toxic substances to be injected into my son; and the lingering doubt I had after reading it.

I asked myself: “Why is the WHO so strongly in favour of breastfeeding to the point where it is critical of the artificial milk industry while it agrees so strongly with vaccination?”

It didn’t make sense. That nagging question was like a stone in my shoe that helped me to realise that the book – which I had lent to others because I initially like it so much – contained pure disinformation.

But before I came to that conclusion I had enthusiastically promoted the book. I wanted to put a copy of its cover in every kindergarten. I was convinced that it was an extraordinary book that every parent should read.

After reading the book – before the stone in my shoes had its effect – I decided that I wouldn’t allow my son to be vaccinated against measles, mumps or rubella.

I told the paediatrician that I would like to delay these vaccinations until adolescences in order to allow my son to get sick from these diseases: only if he had not contracted the infections prior to his teenager years would I have him vaccinated.

The paediatrician strongly advised me to let my son at least have the vaccine against measles because it’s a disease you can’t underestimate. The doctor said that his opinion measles should be called “the big disease”.

I trusted his advice and so I let my son be vaccinated – against measles only.
Several years later, in 2002, when I began to be interested in volcanology, I realised that I had taken such an important decision based only on misinformation.

I wanted to slap myself and I felt ashamed. I immediately fixed an appointment for the MMR vaccine and later, naturally, also for the second dose.

In this way my son was vaccinated three times against measles.

And now? What am I doing?!

I’m sharing my story with you. I set up a blog about vaccination in 2008 to help parents make decisions based on science.

This is the way you can change: you need determination to be well informed, by trustworthy sources, and not to blindly trust in everything they suggest to you.

That little chapter of my life taught me a valuable lesson that I am now sharing with other parents.

This article originally appeared in Italian on VaccinarSì. The author is a Member of the Scientific Committee of VaccinarSì.


  1. Dorit Reiss

    Dorit Reiss

    July 16th, 2014

    Thank you for speaking up.