Vaccinate, Damn It!

Hey everyone.  I know it’s Feedback Friday and all, but something happened this week that I just cannot wait to blog about.  And not in a good way.  This is a public service post.  Also, just a side note, this is an issue that I get very passionate about, and some language in here is not appropriate for small children.

What’s got me all up in arms—and believe me, I’m up in arms—is the fact that pertussis, also known as whooping cough, has reached epidemic levels in California.  In the past two weeks, doctors have diagnosed over 800 cases of pertussis.  That’s 57 a day, or one about every 25 minutes.  So far, two infants have died, but that number could rise easily because pertussis has a very high rate of serious complications.  This is a dangerous, deadly disease that used to kill thousands of children a year.  When my grandfather came down with pertussis in the early 1950’s, he had to take several months off from school, and he nearly died.  The reason you’ve probably never heard of pertussis is a vaccine was developed in 1949.  By 1975, the number of reported cases had fallen from 120,718 in 1950 to 1,738.  Pertussis was now rare and under control.

But then came trouble, and trouble was named the anti-vaccination movement.  In the mid 1980’s, activists began raising concerns about the safety of vaccines.  In 1991, a documentary was released in the US called DPT: Vaccination Roulette, which alleged that adverse reactions to the DTP vaccine for pertussis outweighed the benefits.  Although vaccination rates declined slightly, pertussis didn’t flare up much because of an epidemiological phenomenon called herd immunity.

The idea behind herd immunity is this: if enough people have been vaccinated against a disease, the people who haven’t been vaccinated are so few and far between that the disease can’t spread.  Herd immunity is super super important because there are some people who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons—they may have a weak immune system or an allergy to an ingredient in the vaccine.  For these people’s health and safety, we NEED herd immunity to prevent infectious disease from spreading, and in the mid 1990’s, we still had it.

However, in the late 1990’s, herd immunity was done a harsh blow by a sham named Andrew Wakefield.  In 1998, Mr. Wakefield (he has been stripped of his medical license) published a now widely discredited study that linked the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine to autism.  I’m going to be frank here: this was probably the shittiest study in the history of science.  For one thing, his sample size was 12.  Scientific studies need a large sample size, or the data gets lost in the mix.  For another thing, THERE WAS NO CONTROL GROUP!!!! Wakefield only looked at 12 children who had received the MMR vaccine and none that hadn’t been vaccinated.  Finally, Wakefield had a HUGE vested interest in discrediting the MMR vaccine… because he was pushing his own, new version.  If I haven’t convinced you that this study—which has since been retracted—is total and complete bullshit, head on over to the American Academy of Pediatrics to see their takedown.

Sadly, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, parents began to have doubts about vaccines.  This wasn’t helped when celebrities like Oprah promoted vaccine cranks like Jenny McCarthy.  The anti-vaccine movement grows more powerful every day, with Ms. McCarthy spewing her ignorant, poisoned words about “mommy instincts” from her job at “The View”.  I first truly understood the power of the anti-vaccine movement when I Googled “whooping cough epidemic” and saw the third suggestion.
Google
In case you were wondering, NO THE WHOOPING COUGH VACCINE DOESN’T CAUSE WHOOPING COUGH!

The result for this unscientific idiocy is increased incidence rates of infectious disease.  Remember how I said whooping cough was down to less than 2,000 cases a year in 1975? In 2012 there were over 48,000 cases.  That’s a 2,300% increase!  We are literally undoing the work of decades of doctors and public health advocates.  While some may claim that it’s a parent’s right to choose what they want for their child, I think that in this case this is utter bullshit for two reasons:

  1. Your ability to make decisions for your child is not limitless.  You can’t choose to not feed them or abuse them.  That’s illegal.  I personally believe refusal to vaccinate is a form of reckless endangerment.  It puts your child at risk of death for no real benefit.
  2. It isn’t really about just your child.  Remember how I talked about herd immunity and how incredibly important it is?  When you choose not to vaccinate, you put at risk tons of OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN who couldn’t be vaccinated.

The main argument against mandatory vaccination is usually some crap about how it infringes on the individual freedoms of parents.  Here’s my answer to that: when I was in 6th grade and first studying government, I learned that democracy is about freedom, but within limits.  You can’t do things that would infringe heavily on the freedom of others.  For example, I can’t just start living in a tent on my neighbor’s lawn.  Their freedom to own property overrules my freedom to live where I want.  And in the case of vaccines, your freedom to believe some silly crap that you read on the internet is overruled by someone else’s freedom to raise a happy, healthy child who doesn’t die from pertussis or mumps or some other disease that shouldn’t be around anymore.

So please, in the name of all that is holy, unholy, or just there, VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN!

Also, remember to keep wondering infinitely about the infinite wonder that is life.

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