Vaccines and Dumb Asses
Because lately this is why everyone reads this blog, here’s your daily perversion link.
After 1.5 all-nighters, I looked in the mirror this morning and realized to my horror that I finally look my age. Sigh. May as well pack it in.
But this is what I really wanted to talk about today: people not getting vaccinated, as in this story about the Amish in Minnesota refusing the polio vaccine in the wake of a local polio epidemic.
Most of you are probably aware of the movement away from vaccination. It was spurred by overblown reports of allergic reactions to some vaccine formulations, notably ones containing thimerosal, an organomercurial compound which is included as a preservative. The reactions fo thimerosal are real, but not very prevalent.
Adding to the flame is the unscientific belief of a link between measles vaccine (MMR) and autism. The causal link between these two was proposed in a couple of small clinical studies with major flaws. But this evidence has been far outstripped by many larger epidemiological studies that failed to show any linkage. In the words of the CDC:
“Current scientific evidence does not support the hypothesis that measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism. The question about a possible link between MMR vaccine and autism has been extensively reviewed by independent groups of experts in the U.S. including the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine. These reviews have concluded that the available epidemiologic evidence does not support a causal link between MMR vaccine and autism.”
Occasionally I come across a parent who refuses to immunize his/her child claiming that, “I never get sick, and no one I know ever gets these diseases, so clearly my child does not need the vaccine.” Well, the reason you don’t see people with polio, rubella and diphtheria is that most people get immunuzed against these diseases, conferring upon the population something called “herd immunity.” It’s not that the vaccine does not work, rather it’s that it works quite well –your peers have taken it and are immune, hence you are less likely to be exposed to it. Herd immunity is what allowed “us” to eradicate small pox. It only works, though, when the majority get vaccinated. So be in the majority, dumbass.
Lastly, every medical procedure or intervention confers some kind of risk. What matters is how much benefit it also confers, relative to that risk. In the early 1980s, 350 people were dying each year in the USA due to accidents in the bathtub (American Journal of Public Health, 75: 630-633, 1985). Does this mean we should eschew taking baths? No, because the benefits of better hygiene are obvious. Similarly, I would encourage vaccine-deniers to think about what life was like 200 years ago, with a majority of children dying before age 4, due to today’s preventable diseases.
So get your heads out of your New Age asses and get vaccinated.