All You Need to Read Is…

 

Instapundit, pretty much. Glenn Reynolds is a terrific writer: eloquent, witty, pared down to the word. If you get all of your news from his site, trust me: you’re getting all the news.

He notes today that whooping cough — which was supposed to have been eradicated decades ago, for which there’s a perfectly effective vaccine — is back.

And he also links to an excellent piece from last December’s issue of Popular Mechanics, in which he describes how this kind of thing can happen:

Why would parents refuse to vaccinate their children against dangerous diseases? Many are skeptical of modern science and medicine in general. (And it is true that most vaccines carry exceedingly tiny–but real–risks of serious illness or even death.) But I think most are responding to the widespread belief that vaccines are linked to autism.

Recent studies have soundly disspelled that notion. And a simple glance at health statistics shows that autism cases continued to rise even after thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative widely blamed for the supposed autism link, was largely phased out of U.S. vaccines by 2001.

Nevertheless, these unsubstantiated fears have led some people to say that getting vaccinated should be a matter of individual choice: If you want to be protected, just get yourself and your children vaccinated.

Only it’s not that easy. While the measles vaccine protects virtually everyone who is inoculated, not all vaccines have the same rate of success. But even if a vaccine is effective for only 70, 80 or 90 percent of those who take it, the other 30, 20 or 10 percent who don’t get the full benefit of the vaccine are usually still not at risk. That’s because most of the people around the partially protected are immune, so the disease can’t sustain transmission long enough to spread.

But when people decide to forgo vaccination, they threaten the entire system. They increase their own risk and the risk of those in the community, including babies too young to be vaccinated and people with immune systems impaired by disease or chemotherapy. They are also free-riding on the willingness of others to get vaccinated, which makes a decision to avoid vaccines out of fear or personal belief a lot safer.

Being afraid of vaccinations is junk science. Superstition. Silly, like not believing in dinosaurs. And yet people who don’t believe in dinosaurs are routinely mocked, while people who believe vaccination nonsense are featured on CNN.

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There are 6 comments.

  1. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator
    Rob Long

    Being afraid of vaccinations is junk science.

    Generally, I agree with you. I’ve gotten “all my shots” (the ones I could reasonably expect to need, that is) and intend that my kids get the same.

    But you do have to be careful with generalizations like that. Parents of a child allergic to a common vaccine component like albumin, or parents whose child has had an adverse reaction to vaccination in the past, seem well within their rights to be a bit afraid of vaccinating that kid.

    Also, live-virus vaccines are often contraindicated in patients with disordered immunity.

    Not every reason for avoiding vaccinations is questionable.

    • #1
    • August 17, 2010, at 2:25 AM PDT
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  2. Duane Oyen Member

    The two biggest junk science scams of the last 40 years, after the in-a-class-by-itself global climate change scam, have been dioxin-Agent Orange, and thimerosal/vaccines. The fact is, normally rational people often abandon all actual data and thought when faced with either of those two made-up issues. Even environmental cancer had to pull back a bit when Bruce Ames and Edith Efron got after them, and the DDT ban only hurts the Africans these days (what trust fund baby ever cares about the little people?).

    But Erin Brokovich and Times Beach cost us dearly in lucre, and emotional autism non-links have already cost us almost all US vaccine manufacturers and new unnecessary epidemics of formerly former diseases. We have animal vaccine manufacturers all over the US (e.g., Pfizer, for example), but they are too smart to expose themselves to the trial lawyers and Dateline NBC by saving humans.

    • #2
    • August 17, 2010, at 3:30 AM PDT
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  3. Steven Potter Thatcher
    Instapundit, pretty much. Glenn Reynolds is a terrific writer: eloquent, witty, pared down to the word. If you get all of your news from his site, trust me: you’re getting all the news.

    Instapundit.com is my homepage. It’s a great site for people like me that want quick summaries that tell me what is happening, and if I have time I can drill down further with the links he provides.

    I don’t agree with Prof. Reynolds on every subject (same-sex marriage, abortion, and I’m sure a few others), but he’s even-handed and respectful. I’m more than willing to give his musings a read because I know he won’t be bashing people with opposing viewpoints.

    • #3
    • August 17, 2010, at 4:13 AM PDT
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  4. EJHill Podcaster
    Rob Long And yet people who don’t believe in dinosaurs are routinely mocked, while people who believe vaccination nonsense are featured on CNN. ·

    Maybe if we told them there are no more dinosaurs because they wouldn’t get their baby dinos vaccinated…

    • #4
    • August 17, 2010, at 4:36 AM PDT
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  5. Palaeologus Inactive
    Rob Long

    Being afraid of vaccinations is junk science. Superstition. Silly, like not believing in dinosaurs. And yet people who don’t believe in dinosaurs are routinely mocked, while people who believe vaccination nonsense are featured on CNN. ·

    Not so fast kimosabe. It’s none of those things. Rather, it’s a failure to appropriately weigh competing risks. Sure, there are scruple-free peddlers pushing it, but parents who are afraid of vaccinations aren’t necessarily silly, or superstitious… they’re parents. Concern over unlikely consequences goes with the territory. They should be afraid and they should have their children vaccinated anyway, because the risks of avoidance are greater.

    The fact of the matter is, if someone said to me: “I think it’s a good idea for your kid to do X, but there’s a remote chance she’ll contract a horrible disease” well, X better be awfully important.

    That said, a fear of choking can lead to starvation.

    • #5
    • August 17, 2010, at 8:53 AM PDT
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  6. heathermc Inactive

    Reality. How many of us have actually SEEN a baby suffer and die from whooping cough? In my grandmother’s day, three of her siblings died of diphtheria IN ONE WEEK. My grandmother survived, but was ill for a year afterwards. Her other sister died of TB.

    A very sick child entered our local hospital. One of the doctors was suspicious of his symptoms, and on speculation, put him in isolation, which was a good thing because it turned out he had diphtheria (his parents were alcoholics and had not bothered with vaccination). But NONE OF THE DOCTORS had ever seen a case of diphtheria.

    Ask any medical person outside of the Marin County centers of contagion if they have ever, personally, seen a baby with whooping cough. Ask any of your friends if they have buried a child who has died from whooping cough or diphtheria… and you will find none.

    It’s a question of learning from experience, or from abstractions like statistics.

    • #6
    • August 18, 2010, at 12:20 PM PDT
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