Just so we’re clear, ok?

If you’re not vaccinating your kids, you’re a fucking idiot — and, worse, you’re not just endangering an innocent for whom you are completely responsible (i.e., your own kid), you’re also creating a public health problem and potentially endangering other people’s kids through your wrongheaded, goofball, crystal-gazing, Jenny-McCarthy-listening crackpot beliefs.

Period. Full stop.

It’s crap like this that points out two things really damning about America today:

  1. Journalism is dead. If there were any still real journalists working, we’d see widespread coverage of just how fundamentally stupid the idea of eschewing vaccinations is, and just how monumentally wrong claims of an autism link are.

  2. People would rather believe some kind of muzzy-headed bullshit than actual science. This isn’t surprising — there’s an astrology column in every major newspaper — but it’s tremendously disappointing.

There’s a real undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in this country that leads people to rely on their own imperfect impressions of complex ideas and concepts that require years of study to actually grasp. Doctors know more than you do. Physicists know more than you do. Your gut feeling that homeopathy probably works is worth precisely squat compared to more than a century of actual science-based, double-blind-tested medicine. From the article:

The rejection of hard-won knowledge is by no means a new phenomenon. In 1905, French mathematician and scientist Henri Poincare said that the willingness to embrace pseudo-science flourished because people “know how cruel the truth often is, and we wonder whether illusion is not more consoling.” […]

Looking back over human history, rationality has been the anomaly. Being rational takes work, education, and a sober determination to avoid making hasty inferences, even when they appear to make perfect sense. Much like infectious diseases themselves — beaten back by decades of effort to vaccinate the populace — the irrational lingers just below the surface, waiting for us to let down our guard.

Before smallpox was eradicated with a vaccine, it killed an estimated 500 million people. And just 60 years ago, polio paralyzed 16,000 Americans every year, while rubella caused birth defects and mental retardation in as many as 20,000 newborns. Measles infected 4 million children, killing 3,000 annually, and a bacterium called Haemophilus influenzae type b caused Hib meningitis in more than 15,000 children, leaving many with permanent brain damage. Infant mortality and abbreviated life spans — now regarded as a third world problem — were a first world reality.

How’d we fix that? VACCINATION.

4 thoughts on “Just so we’re clear, ok?

  1. First, let me say that my kids are vaccinated, and that I agree that children need to be, period. However, reasonable pediatricians tell parents to give their kids ibuprofen or Tylenol ot the equivalent to suppress the possible fevers that accompany such vaccinations. Such reactions are the cause of this unreasonable fear, and justifiably so–the fever that followed McCarthy’s kid’s shot probably caused some of the damage (whether the child was already afflicted and to what degree is not something I want to argue).

    Furthermore, there was an actual risk associated with the preservative, not the vaccines, back in the late 70s/early 80s that caused allergic reactions which led to profound mental retardation in a disproportionately large number of children. The percentage affected was astronomical in comparison to today’s vaccines, and if you would like to meet one of the kids affected, I can arrange that. He lives in Tyler in a group home, and his parents have Super 8mm movies of him as a happy and normal baby prior to the vaccination. His autism is such that he can stuff envelopes with the other residents of the group home, but for a while there was some concern that he would have to be institutionalized. If Tyler isn’t close enough to home for you, he’s about 6 years younger than Frank. It was determined that his reaction (and that of a good number of others) was to the preservative, not the vaccine. That same preservative continued to be used for quite a while in spite of concerns. By the way, thanks to retroactive provisions protecting pharmaceutical companies passed after 9-11, many of the compensation cases have been thrown out.

    That’s the problem with McCarthy’s argument. She wants to do away with vaccination, which is stupid. However, it is equally stupid to dismiss parental fears that “perhaps this batch is the one.” Again, if the vaccines were no big deal at all, why would responsible pediatricians be so concerned about the possibility of fever? It’s a shame that a healthy, rational concern has to be championed by such a fearmongering and polarizing figure as McCarthy, especially when her argument is flawed.

  2. Recently there was a minor measles outbreak at the Berkeley Waldorf school across the street from us, due to families who refused to vaccinate their kids. Ah…

  3. So the case for every vaccine and every child is identical to the case for every other vaccine and every other child, eh?

    My oldest daughter had a severe neurological reaction to the pertussis vaccine when she was 7 months old. Later, I learned that the pertussis vaccine was contraindicated for persons with our family medical history.

    That, and my own severe egg allergy, has made me a lot more selective about vaccines. My younger children certainly didn’t get the old-style pertussis vaccine, and the acellular was too new at the time they were susceptible to pertussis for me to be willing to risk it.

    There’s fairly conclusive evidence that the AIDS epidemic was started by polio vaccination in Africa. It’s difficult to know whether a particular new vaccine is safe and effective until it has an established track record.

    So, the tetanus vaccine, absolutely. Hepatitis B vaccine for my infants? No way. The rabies series after bats colonized our chimney? Absolutely. Rubella vaccine in early childhood when rubella poses no risk at all for children and when the rubella vaccine is liable to wear off exactly when my daughters hit childbearing age? Um no, I think not. Rubella vaccine at puberty when it will be more likely to protect them during their childbearing years? You betcha.

    You have to weigh risks and benefits in every case. Some vaccines carry unacceptably high risks for the general public. Others are only effective for a short period of time. Many are only partially effective. Many vaccines, like smallpox and diphtheria, were vital for a time but are no longer part of the vaccine schedule because the diseases are so rare that the vaccine is no longer warranted.

    There’s also the evolutionary biology perspective. Measles, when it was first introduced to a population, was a devastating killer. Over time, the population adapted to measles and it became pretty much a nuisance disease (it still killed some children, but relatively few).

    Measles is a crowd disease, and it can’t propagate in isolated communities. When formerly exposed populations were isolated for periods of several hundred years, the re-introduction of measles was as devastating as the original measles epidemic.

    So I wonder, especially given the fact that vaccines such as the measles vaccines grow less effective over time, whether we are creating the conditions for measles epidemics in adult populations, where they are much worse.

    So it’s not a simple issue: vaccines RAH-RAH or vaccines BAH-BAH. The cases for some vaccines are quite clear, the cases for others much less so.

  4. I totally agree with you re the vaccination issue (case in point: a daycare across from our house had a mini measles outbreak because most of the families had refrained from vaccinating their kids).

    However, while standard vaccinations are certainly a no-brainer, on the flip side I’m annoyed by the sky-is-falling, desperate mentality surrounding H1N1.