Sunday, April 22, 2012

the vaccine refusal epidemic

I really love our community in so many ways. There is a higher percentage of people who are thoughtful about their food choices and also care enough about the environment to spend actual money on products that are less harmful or even beneficial. This is rare in America, studies have been done showing people will spend more if it has personal health benefits but mother nature just isn't worth much to most Americans even now.

So based on the title of this post, you know that there's a great big BUT coming. One unfortunate thing is that our community is so privileged many people seem to have forgotten the spectre of disease. Since kids aren't rolling around in wheel chairs, and there aren't many babies dying all the time as a result of contracting measles or pertussis, folks seem to think that risks, side effects, and downsides that may be involved with vaccination outweighs the risks, side effects, and downsides of deadly diseases. Unfortunately it seems to me that the uninformed conspiracy theorists are the only voices speaking up on facebook and there's nobody with actual knowledge of fact rebutting the frequent bad-logic/science-free posts I see frequently from these people.

Today I saw a post (from a person I totally respect mind you) on facebook linking to an article who suggested you should "think twice about vaccinating your kids". The article was from a guy who always follows his scary articles with a product offer allowing you to buy a $500 item from him that will protect you. He looked at a very reputable study involving a Kaiser in San Rafael and completely distorted its content and meaning. We logged into UCSF's servers and actually took a look at the study. The point of the study it turns out is that we might need to look at giving boosters more frequently. The 8-12 age group is the most vulnerable, and then contraction of the disease just drops off when these guys finally get their booster. Its only in the past 5-10 years that we started giving boosters, and the point the authors are trying to make is that maybe we need to be giving the booster at age 8. Herd immunity and surrounding babies by vaccinated people is the best solution we have.

But the article was asserting that the study was saying that many of the people who got vaccinated still got pertussis. He's trying to have it both ways. He complains that the vaccine isn't effective enough and somehow wants that to justify a suggestion to not vaccinate at all. He'd like people to misinterpret him and think something even he wouldn't say, that you can get it from taking the vaccine.

Its not just a "personal decision" to not vaccinate your children as some would have you believe. Take the case of measles, which you cannot get your baby vaccinated for until age 1. Not a problem in a place where we have herd immunity, but if we have a community that isn't vaccinating and is affluent and travels the world, we have a real risk of re-importing measles. It kind of makes you want to keep your baby in the house until age 1. Is that fair? In my opinion insurance companies should include a severe penalty for those that do not vaccinate. After all, they are going to cost us all health care dollars and that's what insurance pricing is ultimately all about.

I understand that people are trying to do the best for their kids. But unfortunately they seem a little lacking either in information or in compassion for the rest of the community. The jury is in on the value of vaccines: they work, they are safe, and they are a gazillion times better than the alternative: rampant disease. Herd immunity is great, but herd mentality can be very dangerous. Put on your scientific mind as you look at this issue. Read the actual journal articles rather than the publications of snake-oil salesmen. I'm no fan of corporate influence of big government. Scientists however are still a group that is more committed to learning about their area of interest than getting rich. Turns out the corrupting influence of money attacks a defenseless mind on all parts of political spectrum.

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