There is a curious overlap between anti-vaccination activists and midwives. It seems that it is hard to find a pro-vaccination midwife, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that vaccines are a fantastic way to prevent illness. Midwives will outright tell patients anti-vax propaganda during their pregnancy- I should know, it happened to me. The midwife telling me reasons not to get a flu shot did not know that the flu is a virus instead of a bacteria, and she also believed that getting the flu shot causes the flu. I looked into the Midwives College of Utah and The Community School of Midwifery to see if midwives are actually being trained to reject vaccines or not. I could not find any vaccine specific information. But did I find an inadequate level of training for them to make any recommendations about vaccinations. The health courses that midwives take are very basic, and almost all related to birth, well woman visits, and newborns. Again, it is worth noting that when legislators ask midwives if they are practicing medicine, they vehemently claim that they are not in the business of practicing medicine. When their clients ask them questions that should be answered by a doctor, direct entry midwives claim to know what they are talking about and readily accept money for answering their questions.
Luckily I was informed enough to know that the flu shot is a good idea for a pregnant woman. What is more troubling to me is the fact that there is not any requirement for midwives, who work with a vulnerable population (newborns and pregnant women), are not required to be vaccinated against possibly fatal diseases. This is yet another gap in the Direct Entry Midwifery Act that should be bridged by new legislation.
Anti-vaccination midwives are totally at odds with the Utah Health Department’s vaccination initiative. Rates of vaccination are low in some parts of utah, and outbreaks of disease like measles and pertussis are increasing. This initiative is important and will save lives, but Utah midwives are purposely undermining this cause because of their own mistaken beliefs about vaccines. I do not think most parents who hire midwives know that they are not qualified to make a judgment for or against vaccination when they consult them. I certainly didn’t! I would not have asked if I did not think my midwife was knowledgeable about the process. This mom almost didn’t vaccinate because of the word of her midwife, so I was not the first or last person to make the mistake of asking the midwife about vaccines.
I found that the president of the Midwives College of Utah, Kristi Ridd-Young, discouraged the cancer-preventing Gardisil vaccine on her facebook page:
“Ughhhh! ank goodness I had a bad feeling about recommending this vaccine.” Someone (correctly) points out how there is a lot of information online about how the information Kristi linked to is not correct. Her response?
“Thanks Emily and Katy. As always, we should all be aware of all research. Sadly I now know two people personally who have experienced serious repercussions from the vaccine with no information prior to the vaccination that there was such a possibility.”
So her knowing some people with problems that she believes are caused by vaccines is enough reason for her to feel uncomfortable recommending it to people. That type of thinking privileges anecdotes over data, an obvious mistake when discussing matters of public health. Also, the nonsense about ‘no information that such a thing were possible” could be false as well. I have gotten vaccinated more than most people- I had my childhood vaccines twice because I could not obtain records and needed them to work in the medical field. The shot was cheaper than a blood test so I got everything again. I get a flu shot every year. When swine flu vaccine became available, I was the first one in line at the health department to get vaccinated. I have had gardisil and hepatitis b vaccines (three shots each). Every time I was either automatically given the CDC information sheet on vaccines or I was offered it. It is a requirement for informed consent. I am not saying that people behave perfectly or that the sheet is never forgotten, but it just seems much more likely to me that regular people likely skip reading detailed information about vaccines when they could be doing something else. It isn’t interesting to most people, and that is fine. This is also a story that cannot be verified because none of us have access to either of these people, the details can never be known.
She isn’t just against gardisil, she is against varicella (chicken pox) vaccines:
This is also a bit of nonsense that has been thoroughly debunked. There has not been a meaningful connection made between vaccination for chicken pox and shingles. There seems to be some other factor causing an increase in shingles infections that has not yet been identified.
If the president of the midwives college doesn’t know this, how can Utahans reasonably expect students to know? I would imagine that someone willing to publicly discourage vaccination would likely pass this message on to students, who in turn pass it on to their patients. The ripple effect of these damaging beliefs should not be underestimated.
I also found that the Utah Midwives Organization administrator is rabidly anti-vaccine. No one expressed disapproval of her ridiculous beliefs:
She also seems to subscribe to the deadly belief that garlic is better than antibiotics. This belief has unfortunately cost at least one baby their life. Again, the idea that medicines and medical professionals are totally unnecessary passes without comment by the other midwives in the community
People can believe whatever crazy thing they want to- I don’t take issue with that. What I do take issue with is midwives acting outside their expertise and scope of practice in order to spread beliefs. They have a position of authority over the clients that they serve (even if every effort is made to negate that authority, it still exists). People trust midwives to tell them reliable information about their health, and instead they are told rumors and falsehoods. Midwives are unlikely to regulate themselves, so I believe that the Utah senate should step in and do something. I will have a new page up soon about how to contact your representatives and possibly a form letter for concerned citizens.