Last week, Capitol Hill mom Jenny Allen started a group for families who vaccinate. That in itself would be noteworthy since this region, as we observed in last week's cover story, is an epicenter of the anti-vaccine movement. Allen's group, though, is all the more unusual because it's aimed at so-called "attachment parents," a cohort of Gen-Xers who take the era's obsession with nurturing to new heights. Somehow, this has translated into avoiding vaccination.
A few weeks back, Allen says, she started going to an attachment-parenting "meetup" group and noticed that many of the parents--generally liberal, educated, and health-conscious--had chosen to delay or forgo vaccinations. She says she gets why that is: "I think AP families are resistant to vaccines because the culture revolves around non-mainstream practices and vaccines are mainstream." That attitude was at least partially reinforced when Bob Sears--son of William Sears, the pediatrician who founded the attachment-parenting movement--came out in 2007 with The Vaccine Book, which suggests a delayed vaccination schedule.
Allen began to get concerned when she heard that some members of the meetup group had deliberately exposed their kids to chicken pox. She started researching vaccines, and came to the conclusion that she was all for them--and against what she dubs the "pseudoscience" of the anti-vaccine movement, which links immunization to autism and other illnesses.
She explains: "I want to be able to take my son to a play group and more comfortably watch him sip from another child's sippy cup and shrug--instead of imagining him dead from measles because someone in the group brought their knowingly exposed child."
So she set up a website inviting members to a new group (spankers are as unwelcome as vaccine refusers), which is to engage in play dates, potlucks, and all the other rituals of family life. "We have seven members after four days of being live," she enthused last Thursday.