To Those Who Don’t Vaccinate…

 

Dear Parents Who Choose to Not Vaccinate,

 

First of all, I want to apologize to you.  I think that, over the years, you have come under attack.  People treat you like you’re uninformed and irresponsible.  Some people think you’re alarmists and, quite honestly, a dangerous menace to society.  You’ve had to be on the defensive for years now and it’s taken being vocal and vigilant to make your point– I get that.  And I AM sorry.  It’s not fair that the minority has to fight that hard just to take a valid stance.

 

I’ve “outed” myself before: I choose to vaccinate my children.

 

And here’s what I wish you would know.

 

Just as you are not being irresponsible in your decision, I am not being ignorant.  I am not a sheep blindly following the crowds into an office for inoculations.  I am not “misinformed”, “misled”, or “unaware” of how the drug manufacturers impact the marketing and distribution of vaccines.

 

I am not the victim of “Big Pharma” and I’ve never had a doctor fail to provide me with information about the injection my child was about to receive.  I’ve requested– and pored over– drug information sheets.  I ask questions.  I write them down, in fact, before I go in.  And, when I feel strongly that something is not right for my family, I refuse it (e.g. the swine flu shot a couple of years ago).

 

I actually do read the studies and charts you frequently tout and link to.  I am an ever-learner, always anxious to know more.  This doesn’t mean I’m going to believe it, mind you, or that it will change my mind.  But I absolutely want to have the full picture: I consider that my duty if I’m to say I’m giving “informed consent.”

 

I want you to know that, while I mean it when I say I support your choice to not vaccinate, it hurts me when you write me off as “not having done my research” or “not caring about what I expose my child to.”  I am not only insulted, but devastated, when someone implies that I am hurting my child by destroying her immune system.  Using your words as daggers to try to make someone feel lousy is no better than the people who have tried to make you look negligent and irresponsible.  It’s a gross generalization and it’s simply not fair.

 

Five and a half years ago, I watched pertussis sweep through the NICU of our children’s hospital.  All of a sudden, we all had to wear masks to go see our babies and everyone was on pins and needles.  While those with “typical”, healthy immune systems (even most young children) will fight the disease off and emerge with strong antibodies, those tiny struggling NICU babies weren’t so lucky.  We lost several over the course of three days.  That affected me.

 

For my daughter’s first two winters, I took her EVERY MONTH to receive an injection of Synagis.  I read report after report and asked dozens of questions of our most beloved neonatologist (the one who was willing to try all sorts of “unorthodox” methods of getting things done).  It all added up to the same: our daughter’s best chance of dodging RSV was to get the shots.  Did I like it?  No.  But, again, while RSV manifests itself as a nasty cold for most of us, it kills preemies.  Over and over.  Just saying “RSV” strikes fear in the hearts of preemie parents.

 

You can leave me links and information here and I promise I will try to read it.  I will also promise that it is unlikely you will change my mind.  Not because I’ve been misled or brainwashed, but for the same reason it’s unlikely I will change yours:  I have done my research and I am confident in the choices I’m making.

 

So, as you seek to educate and inform, I say God Bless You.  Truly.  If you’re compelled to share what you’ve learned, I believe that you should and I will only encourage you.  But, as you do so, consider how you feel when people treat you like you’re stupid, like you just have no clue what you’re doing… and then extend some kindness and grace to those parents who, while they may not agree with you, are doing their very best.

 

With lots of respect and personal conviction,

A Parent Who Chooses to Vaccinate

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41 comments to To Those Who Don’t Vaccinate…

  • You are more generous than I. But since I am older than you (by a bunch of years), I know the importance of vaccinations in the elimination of killer diseases.

    People of my parents generation died from the various illnesses that ran rampant through children. Diseases you rarely hear of any more like Pertussis, Whooping Cough, Typhoid, Influenza, Polio, and others.

    When I was about 10 or 11, I stood in line at the Department of Health in my small town with all the other kids in town waiting to receive that first dose of Polio Vaccine on a sugar cube. I had two friends in grade school who had been victims of Polio, both wore leg braces and walked with crutches. Polio struck without warning and was virulent. The very word Polio struck terror into the hearts of parents. Today there is no longer that fear. No one is forced to remain in an Iron Lung that provided the chest pressure to a child with Polio in order for them to breath. The Salk and Sabin vaccines wiped out (well, almost) this horrific disease that affected so many children.

    I am deeply sorry that some children are autistic. But I do not believe that there is enough evidence to prove a link between vaccinations and autistic children. And until such time that such a link can be proven, any parent who choses not to vaccinate their children has no guarantee or even likelihood that those children will be immune to autism. But neither will those kids be protected from all the other diseases that can kill kids if they had just gotten the vaccine. It just isn’t a fair trade!

    • I so appreciate you sharing your history and perspective, here. I truly do believe the best way for all of us to make good, solid, informed choices it to better educate ourselves about all sides of the argument… and that includes information like that you’ve shared here. Thank you!

  • Wise and kind words. I vaccinate too and I do understand both sides. Sometimes I wish us moms would just all get along :D.

    • We are each others’ worst enemies. And it’s ridiculous, in my opinion. Until I had children, I had no idea that the people who would judge/criticize me the most would be other mothers. Isn’t that just sad???

  • You rock. As always. Love it that we can always agree to disagree. That is, when we disagree. :)

  • Before I was a parent I really felt like non-vaccinaters were borderline child abusers/neglecters. When I finally had a baby and was seized with fear I realized where they were coming from. My older son got synagis too. For some reason that one was a no brainer for me. It didn’t worry me at all. However the bazillion one year old shots he was supposed to get traumatized me. A few of the 1 year old vaccine’s paperwork said they shouldn’t have it before the first birthday to allow their immune system to strengthen enough to handle it (in so many words). I asked the pediatrician is his immune system strong enough to deal with these or weak enough to require synagis. I feel like we need to pick one stance or the other. So we went with synagis and some of the one year old shots. He got the rest at 15 and 18 months. Our younger son got everything at the scheduled time. In the end I decide I couldn’t live with myself if they died from something I could’ve prevented. If they were harmed/killed by the vaccine then I could at least funnel my rage into making some safer protocol. Honestly I still don’t feel GOOD about either choice.

    • It’s really HARD to feel “good” about either choice because there’s always going to be someone pointing out why you’re wrong and have failed your child. I think you used solid logic to arrive at what works for your family and people should totally respect that… whether or not they agree with it. (For the record, I once had a more vehement stance on vaccinating, too… time has mellowed me. ;))

  • Jennie

    THANK YOU! I’ve never read someone so eloquently defend those who choose to vaccinate. I can’t thank you enough for posting this.

    Just as it is a choice NOT to vaccinate it is equally a choice TO vaccinate.

    We also had a pertussis outbreak. While I didn’t have a preemie, my daughter was diagnosed with pertussis. Thank God she was vaccinated because it was a very mild cold she had instead of ending up in the hospital. It was an inconvenience to be quarantined but other than that, we had no repercussions.

    I stand up and applaud your courage and well spoken post.

    • Thank you so much, Jennie. I am so glad that your daughter had no lasting effects from her bout with pertussis! We are all faced with a whole series of choices to make as parents… and, in so many cases, there’s simply no reason to “villainize” one over another, in my opinion. I appreciate your kindess and encouragement!

  • Traci

    I respect my friends and their decisions to vaccinate or not. As a mom of a child with special needs we do regiment vaccinations to further protect our son. We can’t wait out fevers or illnesses because for him it is far reaching. We do take the high road and follow the dr recommendations. There are two sides. Each parent should do what they know is best for their child.

    • I think the key is that respect, Traci. I, too, respect my friends who make different choices than I. It’s so important to realize that we are all walking our own unique paths and have to make individual (sometimes differing) decisions. Kudos to you for making informed choices for your son!

  • Susie

    It is a complex issue, for sure. But I didn’t hear so much about it when my kids were getting their shots, so I didn’t stress about it, lucky (old) me! When they complained about the injections I reminded them, “Remember, Grandma says every year someone in her class died of diphtheria.” Yikes!

    • I don’t ever remember meeting any kids who didn’t “get their shots” when I was growing up, Susie. It doesn’t mean they weren’t there… maybe we didn’t talk about it as much? Or maybe some of the concerns hadn’t yet arisen? I don’t know for sure. But things have definitely changed!

  • Jamie

    Loved this post.

    While we do not vaccinate our children based on the research we have done and our beliefs, I equally respect parents who do. I ask that same respect from them!

    I have also never personally had a vaccination or any type of shot. I have never even taken an antibiotic or any other prescription drug (save for birth control). So we are generally as “natural” as we can be… it works for us.

    Cheers to parents agreeing to disagree, and being respectful of all the different ways there are to raise our kids.

    • I think that mutual respect counts for so much in this world, Jamie! And– wow– I must admit I am super impressed that you’ve made it your whole life with no vaccines/antibiotics. That takes a lot of conviction and commitment! :)

  • Alyssa @ KingdomFirstMom

    Well as you may know, this is a subject near and dear to my heart. I have only become “one of them” within the last year and a half. I appreciate the respect you offer me and I respect you immensely as a fellow mom and sister in Christ.

    I do have to ask, though, if you have ever sat down with a parent who does not vaccinate, looked them in the eye, and asked them WHY? I would welcome a conversation like that. Sadly, I rarely have opportunities to share my reasons to stop vaccinating since I am normally dismissed as “weird”. I think my reasons may surprise you. After I was thrust into seriously researching vaccines, beyond what any doctor ever told me, and far beyond anything printed on the patient information sheet they hand you at every well-visit, I was absolutely SHOCKED by what I learned. While it is not my mission to change your mind, I would like to share with you how vaccines go against my strong Biblical convictions. I also have the rare privilege of observing first-hand the health history of my fully vaccinated older child, and my fully unvaccinated toddler. There has never been any funded “study” comparing the two since the CDC refuses to do one. Yet I see it every day in my own home. I also have numerous friends who have had similar experiences and others who, like me, consider their children to be injured by vaccines. Their stories are compelling, and heart breaking. You won’t hear about them on the evening news, but they are out there and they are living with their regrets like I do every day.

    I think the reason we hear more about parents not vaccinating today is the internet. Google is a powerful tool that I did not have ten years ago when my first child was born. Perhaps I would have made some very different decisions had I had access to package inserts, ingredients, and the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). I am thankful for the ability to investigate vaccines from all angles today and it is a decision I do not take lightly.

    • First of all, sweet Alyssa, I would NEVER refer to or consider you as “one of them”. Rather, I absolutely consider you “one of us”– an informed, concerned, well-researched mother seeking to make the best possible choice for HER children. I, personally, do not think you are “weird” or “wrong” or any of that. And I would, indeed, be willing to have a conversation and hear your story, your experiences, and your convictions. I have never shied away from such conversations or dialogues and, in fact, I love to learn. I truly do. What I do NOT appreciate, however, are dialogues that are not balanced conversations. If I go into a discussion with the other party already dismissing me as an ignorant, under-educated, brain-washed fool, well, than there’s really no point in me showing up, now, is there? Sadly, in some cases, when individuals become passionate about an issue, they can also become demeaning. This is what I’ve grown weary of. All this to say– were you not so very many states away from me, I would be delighted to sit face-to-face, look you in the eye, and discuss vaccinations.

  • I always try to tell my story, give advice, etc. by first saying, “This is what *I* do,” or “This is what works for us…”
    You don’t have to do it the way I do it, you could even come back and say, “Well, what works for us is different. It’s…”

    I delayed vaccines for our boys, once Cade was born. I wasn’t sure. I wanted to know what the right decision for us was. I not 100% sure about what the right decision for us was/is, but I have caught our boys up on vaccines-

    My boys are vaccinated. It’s not something I can take back. All I can do is pray that nothing bad comes from it.

    Same with every other parenting choice we make, right?
    I let him stay up too late.
    I let him run too far away from me at the park.
    I let them eat those cookies off the floor.
    I let him go away to a friend’s sleepover.
    I let him drive a car.
    I let him have a later curfew that one weekend.

    All we can do is pray.
    And love.
    And know that sometimes, it’s not about the actual choice. It’s what’s (the feelings, thought, research, reasoning) behind the choice that matters.

    • Love this, Sidnie. And I agree– it’s not all about the “end result”, but everything that went into and led up to it. (WHAT? You let him eat cookies off the floor? I’d make him leave them there for me to scarf up later. ;))

    • Alyssa @ KingdomFirstMom

      I agree that we must pray over our parenting choices. However comparing vaccines to bedtimes and cookies is rather unrealistic. Those choices do not come with the potential side-effect of permanent neurological damage which cannot ever be undone. You are right, we can’t take back vaccines, but if I could, I would take back every one.

      • I can compare cookies to vaccines because I don’t clean my floors with “green” cleaners.
        But I wasn’t necessarily comparing them; I was just stating that all my parenting choices are made from the heart, prayed over, and made with hope.

        There’s always going to be controversy in this world of parenting. But the beauty is that you and I get to make whatever choice we want in regards to our own children. I think the point of Jessie Leigh’s post was to bring us together- to show that it’s ok to disagree and there’s no need to try to win anyone over.

        Give me all the research you want, tell me over and over that my children could have “permanent neurological damage which cannot ever be undone” because I chose to vaccinate. I did what I think is best for them. I choose the side effects of vaccines over the side effects of not vaccinating my children.
        I don’t regret that. I won’t regret it even if something does happen.
        I’m doing what is best for MY child.
        Just the same as you should do what’s best for yours.

        • Alyssa

          Have you ever googled the ingredients in a vaccine? I highly doubt you have those items on your floor no matter what you use to clean them.

          • Of course we can’t directly compare floor cleaners to vaccines– they have totally different functions and mechanisms. But the fact remains that there are many, many compelling arguments against various cleaning methods, too. In my post, I never set out to argue against the dangers of vaccines. MY argument is against being treated as though I am ignorant and uneducated. I am not. I may make different choices– and I am completely at ease with the fact that there are those who passionately disagree with me– but I resent being diminished as “less” of a mother. Sadly, I fear too many of us make those who come to different conclusions feel awful. I think it shows both compassion and dignity to offer respect along with education.

  • michelle

    I too vaccinate, But I have stipulations. I have a Dr. and there are many out there, that have cleaner vaccines, You have to ask for these, they are mercury free and additive free, These are much safer. I don’t do the chicken pox and I don’t vaccinate past the basic firsts. I do not under any circumstances give my girls guardasil, and I don’t give myself or my children flu shots. My son had and almost died at 3 months old from RSV, and when my preemies came along, although the shot scared me, The dying from RSV scared me more. I think what a few on here are saying, to each his own, 99.999999% are good parents making the loving decision for their children. I would and don’t judge anyone for their parenting beliefs. Michelle

    • Alyssa @ KingdomFirstMom

      Actually, Michelle, additive and mercury-free vaccines are a myth. Mercury was “removed” from most vaccines in 2002, however it was not technically removed, but only filtered out. Trace amounts of mercury still remain in those vaccines but in amounts higher than what is considered safe for drinking water. In addition, aluminum, another known neuro-toxin, was added to replace the mercury. There have been no studies on the potentially long term effects of aluminum in vaccines, and no studies on whether aluminum may be linked to the skyrocketing rates of autism (now 1 in 110 children). Please insist on a package insert from your doctor before accepting a vaccine that they tell you is “additive free”.

      Some reading for further info on aluminum:

      http://theblondepharmacist.com/2008/05/23/aluminum-toxicity/

      • Jamie

        thank you Alyssa, you took the words right out of my mouth! It is a common misconception that parents believe that their kids are getting “mercury free” when in reality is is STILL THERE in what they call “trace amounts”. Who knows what trace amounts are safe for any given child. As we all know all children are unique! :) What may have no ill effect on one could be disasterous for another.

        A great book that I like is “The Vaccine Book” by Dr. Robert Sears.

        The book actually gives you the ingredients to all the vaccines and the amounts of the “filtered out” mercury, and aluminum.

        The book attempts to be unbiased, but it is slanted towards being pro-vaccination and the Dr. gives his “verdict” at the end of every chapter and most of them are “Yes I believe your child should have this vaccine because…” …. so it is a great read for you vaccinators. It won’t try to make you feel wrong for your decisions, but at the very least you will know exactly what is in them.

        (It actually had the opposite affect on me and made me even more steadfast in my convictions when it spelled out all the ingredients and the numbers of occurances for the diseases we are vaccinating against.) :)

        So glad to see all these comments are accepting both ways- now if only moms everywhere adopted the maturity and acceptance demonstrated here. :)

        • I love Dr. Sears’s work, Jamie, and I’m so glad you mentioned it here– I agree that it’s an excellent example of literature that truly seeks to INFORM. I think that’s what is so critical– that we all go into the decisions we make, whatever they may be, truly informed. Thanks for adding that to the conversation!

  • I appreciate the original intent of this post, and am sad that the comments are getting off track a bit… and I really don’t know what else to say.

  • Victoria

    I appreciate your writing this. I am a member of a local group for moms and recently at a group I’m hosting, the women began to bash people who choose not to vaccinate. The longer it went the more upset I became internally, but I sat and waited patiently for the discussion to fade, which it did. I do not vaccinate. As I’m sure a lot of people who read this have seen the media coverage of the woman disabled by the flu shot, it started with her.

    See, she is one of my dearest friends and I’ve known her since years before it happened. She was made out to be a fraud and a villain. I won’t go into it too much but what happened with her compelled me to research vaccines. The things I know now make me wonder how I ever thought it could be in my children’s best interest to vaccinate. I wish I could take back my first child’s shots. I’m very dedicated to providing my children with proper nutrition and good hygiene. My 13 month old recently took days to catch a cold from his friend and got over it in half a day. His friend was sick for a week.

    I think it’s very important to begin demanding our doctors teach about prevention instead of intervention. I respect everyone’s decision when it comes to vaccinating and while I very much appreciate this post I have to point out that you are definitely one in a hundred when it comes to being tolerant of other’s choices. I live in a very liberal city and the bashing coming from those who vaccinate is just plain disgusting at times. I’ve heard people say they will punch someone in the face if they put their non-vaccinated child near their vaccinated child.

    • This makes me so sad– and mad, Victoria. And it’s an example of what I simply cannot stand. It’s the JUDGMENT. As a whole, we moms need to stop assuming the “other side” is stupid, ignorant, negligent, ill-informed, etc, etc. I can be confident in my own choice without feeling the need to tear down someone else. To me? That goes beyond passion into the territory of demeaning cruelty. I’m so sorry you’ve dealt with that. :(

  • Michelle

    Thank you for this. Just last night I was telling my children the story of when their grandma (my mom) lost her ability to walk at the age of five. She was standing in line at the outhouse with her siblings and kept falling down. She tried and tried to stay upright but to no avail – she never walked again. That was 1950 and she’d been stricken with polio.

    Since then she’s had a hard but good life. She married a wonderful man (my dad <3) and had us kids. She's an accopmpished artist and my sister-in-Christ. God has given her beauty for her ashed indeed.

    However, when I watch her struggle, watch my dad labor to work his job and take care of her as they've grown older, hear of her near-constant pain due to a nerve condition called postpolio, I want to cry at the thought that just a few years later (1956?) there was a preventative shot developed for her life long, crippling condition.

    I too am informed and educated, and I too vaccinate my children, with no apologies.

  • Carrie

    I too vaccinate. I had an infant (thankfully not ‘much’ of a preemie – born at 36 weeks) that had RSV at 7 weeks. He’s a mostly healthy 4 year old now, but it was *terrifying* to see him in that hospital bed when he was so little. He didn’t qualify for the RSV vaccine, but he has had almost every vaccine he does qualify for since. I’m still waffling on the chicken pox and meningitis ones. I know there is nasty crap in them, I know it, but I also know how dangerous these diseases are if he catches them, and to me, that makes the ‘nasty crap’ worth while. I don’t want to stand beside a hospital bed praying he will survive again. The RSV also caused long term lung damage (he was diagnosed with asthma before the age of 2), so even though he survived, he paid a price.

    • It is a balancing act and a tough decision… like so many others we make as parents. Thank you for sharing your experience, Carrie. I am so glad that your little guy was able to “beat” the RSV, but your story gives credence to what we hear about how damaging this truly can be for small babies. I think you’ve conveyed my feelings here, too… there’s a lot of weighing good and bad that goes on in making a choice one way or the other.

  • I enjoyed reading your words. I unfortunately know people that don’t vaccinate their children. And I believe that is their choice to a point, the point stops when the un-vaccinated start to endanger my children because they thought their child will become Autistic. I think Autism is a horrible disease and I don’t wish it on anyone, but I like so many others would not be able to live with myself if one of my children was to acquire something and I could have prevented it. When my son was a baby he got RSV at 3 months, he was not a preemie but it scared me to death. To hear my little innocent child coughing so hard he was hyperventilating (and later as an 8 year old getting bronchitis) was a scary feeling. My daughter had the MMR vaccine and had a reaction where she broke out in some sort of huge welts, I choose not to get her second dose because I don’t want to put her through that again or at least not in the same dosage. But that was a choice I made after her receiving the dose to begin with. I admire people for being able to make those choices for their children but I wish it didn’t endanger mine so much in that decision.

    • Oh, Leah, I can only imagine how scary that was. I’ve only ever been through croup with my children, and that was frightening enough for me! *I* had RSV as an adult and it was miserable. It had to be terrifying to watch your baby son deal with that. :(

    • Delia

      Leah, you’re sorely mistaken if you think that the only reason some parents choose to vaccinate is because of autism risk.

      Autism isn’t even on my radar as far as why I didn’t vaccinate: I happened to read on the official CDC website where 100-some cases (I’ll get the link again, can’t right this minute) of the polio cases in the US in 93 were DUE TO LIVE DOSES OF THE VACCINATION itself!

      With whooping cough: It doesn’t protect against the virus, it’s supposed to lessen the symptoms.

      If your child is vaccinated, then why do you fear children who are not? Shouldn’t you have full faith that it’s working? “I admire people for being able to make those choices for their children but I wish it didn’t endanger mine so much in that decision”

      • Please do leave that link when you’re able to find it, Delia– as I wrote in the post, I do appreciate reading all sides and consider myself an “ever-learner.” So I would truly appreciate it. :)

        I don’t want to speak for Leah (I’ll let her respond on her own, should she choose to), but I will say that it has been my personal experience that many of the most vocal opponents of vaccination are parents of children affected by autism. I am well aware that this is not the sole reason people choose not to vaccinate– but I do think this is one of the most frequently cited reasons that the general public hears.

      • My fear Delia is for when my children weren’t old enough to be vaccinated. When my children were infants and had no one to speak for them but me. When I refused to live in a bubble for fear of something happening to them. When it should be safe to walk into my children’s daycare or my older son’s school and not fear my daughter might catch something because some other kid had it. (excluding the common cold or flu).
        Yes I do have faith that my children are fine now. I have a really good friend who is a pediatrician. She loves my children like her own and every time one of my kids needs a new medication or something I run it by her first. I have complete faith that she would never have me give my children anything or get a vaccine if it would truly hurt them.
        I have refused medication before for my children. I think antibiotics are actually too readily handed out and refuse to give them to my daughter unless it is absolutely necessary. But when it comes to getting them vaccines I feel I must do those. Would I hate myself if something was to happen because of one? Yes. Would I hate myself if something was to happen if I didn’t? Yes.
        Regarding your comment about reason’s not only being because of Autism, I am aware of that. However, I am also aware that a lot more people (celebrities and the sort) started speaking up about not vaccinating after Jenny McCarthy’s son turned out to be Autistic.
        I read the paperwork I received with each vaccine I ask my questions and I ask my friend to see what she thinks. There is always going to be a chance of the live virus being in the vaccine from what I understand their usually is a small one so that the immune system can get used to it and over it should they get the real virus.

  • Sue

    My lovely niece was a walking babbling beautiful 13 month old baby, when she got her 12 month shots. She is now 18 and fully relies on her mom for all of her daily needs. She woke up hours after her shot as a completely different baby. She could not walk, she didn’t talk any longer, she wouldn’t even look at my sister at all. It was heartbreaking. If this happens so close to you would you think twice about these vaccinations of poison that we trustingly allow doctors to inject our tiny babies with. And what guilt she carries because her choice as a mother took away any chance of a typical life her daughter had. Looking at the ingredients in shots as well as the real common side effects is just the start of your responsibility as a parent. Fitting in the cool box is no where as important as learning the facts.

    • I’m truly sorry to hear about your niece’s situation, Sue. That is a devastating result and I think it’s important that those who have these experiences have the platform to share them. That said, I fear you misunderstood the entire gist of the post if you think that those of us who vaccinate do so as a means of fitting in a “cool box”– this is the type of dismissive attitude of which I’ve grown weary.

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