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Vaccines are my friend.

Ugh. I had not realized that October had been named "Vaccine Injury Awareness Month" by the Anti-vaxxers until today's Respectful Insolence post. 

(WARNING:  Post contains unvarnished opinions of people who don't vaccinate, in case you couldn't tell.  Be prepared.)

I'm well aware that vaccine injury does exist, but it's not what these anti-science, anti-medicine people claim.  And vaccines do not cause autism.  There have been over ten years of studies showing no link between vaccines and autism, the man who claimed that there was any link at all was exposed as a gross fraud interested in his own profits, and claim after claim of the antis (mercury, anti-freeze, various horrors, including, rather hilariously, "eagle tissue") has been shown to have no effect on autism whatsoever.

Consider that mercury, once held as the reason why vaccines caused autism, was discontinued in all vaccines other than flu shots, yet there has been no downturn in autism diagnoses.  The "explosion" of cases of autism is explained through the wonders of correct evaluation of children who formerly were diagnosed as "retarded", "morons", "idiots", and "that weird kid who never talks to anyone and won't make eye-contact". 

The issue was thrust into the media spotlight again recently when Michele Bachmann claimed a woman told her that the Gardisil vaccine had made her child mentally retarded.  (There's also an extra helping of "oh noes!  The girls will have the sexxors!!" evil around that particular vaccine, which the Republicans are happy to leap on.)

Honestly, I get so tired of people who won't use their brains to research properly.  The upswing in pseudoscience and superstition that happens in many cultures every century, and certainly every millennium, is partially responsible, but there is so much easily available research out there.  We have the Intarwebs!  It's not just for LOLcats

I think there's been such a growth in people who believe all the nonsense people like Jenny McCarthy spew out, because people genuinely want to believe that magic exists.  There really is a silver bullet out there, and the Man[tm] doesn't want you to know about it.  How many spam e-mails have you received that claim to have the one secret that "doctors don't want you to know!"? 

The sad thing is, there really is a silver bullet; one that worked so amazingly, that it almost seemed like magic.  That magical thing is vaccinations.  My mother, born in 1926, remembers when polio was a fact of life, and seeing entire hospital wards of people in iron lungs because they were paralyzed by polio was normal.  When I was a child in the 1980s, there was a really scary kind of virus (HiB) that caused meningitis in young children, and 30% of those infected could end up deaf, brain-damaged, or dead.  I remember the "special" schools; there was one not far from where we lived, and my class would go over there to do things with the kids.  Then, in the 1980s, a vaccine was made, and Hib disappeared.  There are pediatricians today who have never seen a case.  In less than 30 years, a disease that routinely killed was conquered.  Polio?  Pretty much gone in the US.  Smallpox?  Gone. 

Bob, being 19 years older than me, got the polio vaccine, but nothing else.  In a two year span, he got mumps, measles, chicken pox, scarlet fever, and pertussis, also known as whooping cough (CORRECTION:  He tells me he got the first four and also rubella, in a 3 MONTH period in first grade!  He got pertussis several years later), for the sound an infected person makes when they are coughing so hard they almost suffocate because they can't breathe.  He's lucky he's not deaf, sterile, brain-damaged, blind, or scarred.  I got chicken pox, measles, and scarlet fever - they had some more vaccines by the time I was born.  If we had children, they'd be vaccinated for everything.  There are risks associated with vaccines for an unlucky few.  There are also problems with many vaccines for people with allergies, since many of them use egg products.  But we do not live isolated from each other, we are a society, and vaccines help keep our herd immunity so that those who cannot get vaccinated - the immune compromised, the elderly, the very young, and others - are protected.

What the anti-vaxxers want is for all those deadly, scarring, disfiguring diseases to make a comeback, because they're more "natural".  Even though reseach has shown time ad time again that there is no correlation between vaccines and autism, they refuse to listen.  But what really frosts my shorts is the callous disregard they have for the children who die because of their unreasoning fear.  That, and the way they talk about people with autism.  The words "nightmare", "broken", or "soulless" should never be used to describe a child, especially one with a disability.

Yes, I'm being harsh.  But that's because these people don't care if children die from preventable diseases!  There's nothing I can say that's harsh enough to compare with that!  And they use bad research, discredited studies, and folk superstition to put their children through absolute torture to "cure" them. 

Autism is a developmental delay disorder.  Even children who seem completely unreachable improve over time; that's what the "delay" part of the description is about.  One of the things that's been really amazing is how the Internet has allowed people with autism to be able to communicate in ways they never have before.  I've "talked" with people who tell me that if I met them face to face, they'd be unable to talk to me, and that most people who meet them assume they're "retarded".  On line, they get to be their inside selves - the one that isn't overwhelmed with environmental stimuli.  Most "normals" are deeply uncomfortable with people who are different from them, and the internet removes that difference.  To describe any of the people I've had the privilege to meet as "soulless" or "broken" would be as far from the truth as the idea that magic bunnies put my milk in the fridge every morning.

As far as I can tell, the heart of the anti-vaccination movement is built around people who are desperately searching for some reason why their child isn't "normal".  While I really do sympathize with people who have children with special needs (my sister is special needs), their wrong-headed crusade against a non-culprit is dangerous and deadly.  I can only think that it is because they have never seen the results of these diseases, and they have the leaders of their movement telling them that measles is no big deal, and pertussis is "just a bad cough".

Far from needing a month to raise awareness for their "cause", I think they need to spend that month reading about the effects of the diseases they consider "no big deal".  And ask themselves if sacrificing the lives of other people's children is really a price they're comfortable paying.

The really sad thing is, I think they don't care. 


( 44 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
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Oct. 18th, 2011 11:24 pm (UTC)
Because of this anti-vaccine crusade of some (including a friend of mine), whooping cough has returned in my area. It was nearly wiped out, but now kids are getting it again. California allows parents to sign an opt-out waver, so their kids don't get the shots they need.

I am concerned about all of this, as my husband now has a compromised immunity with his RA meds, so if our kids get something, anything, he will more likely get it and it will be harder for him to fight off. And he used to be the one with the super healthy immune system and rarely got sick.

We can prevent these diseases, and that folks who can but chose not to for all the wrong reasons in this day and age is scary.
Oct. 18th, 2011 11:31 pm (UTC)
I am torn between anger and sorrow at the anti-vaccination people. They are scared for their kids, and want to find something/one to blame.
On the other hand? If I had kids they would be soooo vaccinated. My brother died from croup. One of my dearest college friends was in a wheelchair from polio. My younger sister gets shingles (from chicken pox virus still in her body)

It seems that the anti-vaxx people do not realize that the reason that their precious child has not become ill is because other, more responsible parents, *have* vaccinated their children.
Oct. 18th, 2011 11:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this. I'm right there with you (and my children, who are 2 and 5, have had all their vaccinations).

Oct. 19th, 2011 12:33 am (UTC)
These people obviously cannot do math, nor do they understand the difference between data and anecdote. They usually don't care much about peer review, either.

Maybe they should start a "Down With the Scientific Method!" organization.
Oct. 19th, 2011 12:28 pm (UTC)
I will be showing some bias here .....
Maybe they should start a "Down With the Scientific Method!" organization.

Maybe not formally, but they already have. It exists in the greater collective of the religious/conservative right where anything connected with "science" must be bad, since "science" also touts things such as evolution, the big bang theory, etc.

The fact that scientific reasoning requires thought, logic, research, and knowledge beyond just memorizing rote knowledge might have nothing to do with it.
Oct. 19th, 2011 12:40 am (UTC)
My sister is in public health, and anti-vaxxers make her see red. And she does blame it on the fact that none of these people have had to suffer through watching someone die of these things. She's commented on the fact that third world mothers will take the shots in heartbeat, because they KNOW what these diseases do.

What pisses me off the most about it is the implication that these people would rather see their child dead than autistic. It's so sick I can't believe it, and I actually know some of these people. >(
Oct. 19th, 2011 12:54 am (UTC)
Great minds think alike!
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Oct. 19th, 2011 01:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 19th, 2011 12:40 am (UTC)
The thing that makes me all "kill it with fire" about the anti-vaxxers is their position implies that dead children are infinitely preferable to disabled/delayed children. They also don't take into account that exposure to many of these diseases can cause birth defects in developing fetuses (rubella, anyone?) or can cause miscarriage in pregnant women -- many of whom, I assume, want to carry the pregnancy to term.

At the risk of the cry of "anecdata!", let me tell you what happened with my youngest aunt back in the 80s, when the chicken pox vaccine was not given (shoot, I'm not sure that it was out of development yet): my youngest aunt had a 1 year old and was pregnant with her second child when her 1 year old came down with chicken pox. So when my pregnant aunt came down with it, surprising everyone in the family, no one considered what was happening to the fetus. My youngest cousin was born severely mentally and physically disabled as a result of chicken pox exposure in utero. She cannot walk, cannot talk, has a rod in her back to keep her scoliosis from bending her in half, has to have Botox injections in her contractured limbs, cannot be toilet-trained, and will require 24/7 care for the rest of her life.

While this occurred before the chicken pox vaccine, it still happens when people do not vaccinate their children. Why risk the health of others, you know?

Edited at 2011-10-19 12:49 am (UTC)
Oct. 19th, 2011 01:13 am (UTC)
That's really awful; I'm sorry. Yeah, I remember a *lot* of kids who had become deaf or blind as a result of Hib or measles or chicken pox, and I was a clueless preteen.

I got scarlet fever when I was 7, and ended up losing almost a month from school - I don't even remember the worst part of the illness, but I was kept in a darkened room, and apparently, I didn't even wake up for a week. I had no strength to walk for two more - I spent most of that time reading and sleeping. That same year, I got bronchitis for three weeks, because my immune system was severely compromised from being so ill. It really doesn't sound like "no big deal", you know?
(no subject) - sorchekyrkby - Oct. 19th, 2011 01:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 19th, 2011 12:42 am (UTC)
I have children and was in that camp, but not any more. I do not like having so many given at one time, especially on newborns. (how do you figure out which one they had a reaction to if they had a reaction)

But the info they give you is well not quite up to my level.

What percentage of people who get vaccinated, later get the disease?
When do you need a booster once you are an adult?
Why are these given at certain stages and others at other ages?

Just questions that I doubt my pediatrician would be able to answer.
Oct. 19th, 2011 01:06 am (UTC)
Have you asked your pediatrician? Or maybe your GP? If they cannot answer specifically themselves, they will be able to direct you to experts who do know.

The percentage of people who are vaccinated that later get the disease is none, if the vaccine has done its job. Some vaccines have a limited life, and you will need to get boosters, like pertussis and tetanus, but others, like chicken pox, should protect you for life.

Most boosters are given every ten years, like tetanus shots. Your GP should be able to review your records and ask you, and recommend whether you need a booster shot.

The vaccines are given at the stages where they will be most effective, and have the greatest chance of protecting the person. For instance, infants get a hepatitis shot at birth, because hepatits is a very nasty disease that can be transmitted by the mother, or from other people who may not know they have been infected. The rest of the shots follow on a schedule that allows the infant to build immunity most effectively.

Go here for more information.

edited to fix borked html.

Edited at 2011-10-19 01:07 am (UTC)
(no subject) - sorchekyrkby - Oct. 19th, 2011 01:36 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 19th, 2011 01:35 am (UTC)
My kids all are up to date on their vaccines (I think - maybe they need a Chicken Pox booster). My oldest daughter was part of the study of the safety of some of the combined vaccines (late 1990s)

We so don't need an awareness month for the anti-vaccine crowd.
Oct. 19th, 2011 01:37 am (UTC)
I am particularly passionate about this subject, it just hits so many buttons for me.

I was a virgin at the time I got married, and so was my mother when she got married, so I came from a pretty sex phobic background. You know what? Emmie is getting the Gardicil vaccine as soon as she is the right age (and birth control too, I don't give a crap about whether or not someone thinks that's going to make her interested in sex, that stuff knocks your period down to 3 days or less, and can be life changing for cramps. But that is a total tangent.) because I believe in her right to live her life as she chooses, and I am going to try to give her ALL the tools to protect herself (hopefully including self respect in her choices no matter what form they may take.)

My kids will never even get chicken pox with all the vaccines out there, and I always keep them on schedule for boosters etc, based on trying to up the herd immunity. I have see whooping cough in action, and it's a terrible thing, yes your 12 year old might survive it, but someone else's 2 month old that was born with a hole in their heart so they can't get vaccinated right now needs you to be immuned for them.
Oct. 19th, 2011 12:22 pm (UTC)
To me it was a no-brainer that my girls got the gardicil vaccine. That and the fact that VA makes it necessary for Middle School admission. (Yes, I knwo you can opt out, but really.) To reduce/eliminate the chance that they will develop a specific form of cancer? Of course I was for it, even if it was 3 shots, that hurt, and was a pain.

My children did get chicken pox after getting the vaccine. It is possible. But what you get is a very reduced form of the disease, nothing more serious than a slight flu. Some people never even realize that their children got it -- they just were sick at the right point after being exposed to a known case, and had a pediatrician who recognized the reduced symptoms.

My Father in Law had polio as a youth -- the fact that he has no major carryover symptons know is merely a matter of luck. I never would want to rely on luck when there is medicine to keep you healthy.
Oct. 19th, 2011 01:39 am (UTC)
preach it, sister.

I'm 57, and I had the small pox vaccine and *both* polio vaccines. I did have a DPT, but I *really* think that I need a Pertussis booster. I had a tetanus booster 2 years ago.

I did not have the MMR [although I might get the shingles vaccine. I've had a very mild case, I sure as hell don't want a Real Case (tm).]

Edited at 2011-10-19 01:40 am (UTC)
Oct. 19th, 2011 03:08 am (UTC)
FWIW, CDC recommends a Tdap at least once for adults, and tetanus and diphtheria boosters every 10 years.
(no subject) - florentinescot - Oct. 19th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 19th, 2011 01:41 am (UTC)
I'm a mother of a young child. I have an older sibling who is autistic.

I'll never forget shocked looks from other hippy moms in my play group when I mentioned vaccinating my baby on time (even though she was a preemie and very small).

Although, growing up with someone who has a disability was a challenge I figured it was a better risk than blindness (which happened to my Grandmother when she got the measles in the 2nd grade), or sterility (which happened to my uncle when he got the mumps as a young adolescent).

My husband and I also make a point to be updated ourselves.
Oct. 19th, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
I had chicken pox, mumps, and measles as a child, and none of them were any fun.

My college roomie got chicken box as an adult, and landed in the hospital for several days. Even less fun.

Not vacinating makes absolutely no sense to me at all. What's the point of the miracle of modern medicine if you don't use it?!?!?!
Oct. 19th, 2011 03:16 am (UTC)
Agreeing with what you've said here, and I also beat my head against the wall re: the staggering arrogance of anti-vaxxers in thinking their anecdata trumps real science, and the stupidity of NOT taking advantage of one of the greatest public health advances in the modern world!

I suspect that vaccines are the victims of their own success - we simply never SEE these diseases anymore in the first world (or didn't). I think PBS' RX for Survival series on public health is really illuminating in this regard, as it shows people from third world countries that still suffer these diseases.

Also, if I remember correctly, anti-vaxxers don't doubt the efficacy of vaccines - far from it. They lean on everyone else's herd immunity and use it as an excuse not to expose their own children to the "dangers" of vaccines. Unfortunately once less than 90% of a population is vaccinated it's vulnerable to outbreaks.
Oct. 19th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
Gah. I didn't understand the mindset before the baby, and I understand it even less now. How could any parent even contemplate the idea of watching their child suffer and die when a shot would have stopped it is completely beyond my understanding.

I've got a friend with a hippie sister who's opted out of vaccinating her kids at all (Canada will allow you to opt out of vaccination.) He's a nurse. He's had to explain to her multiple times that he can't be around her children, because he works in Toronto, where he's constantly exposed to disease vectors from immigrants who weren't vaccinated. She doesn't understand, and thinks he's just being a dick.
Oct. 19th, 2011 06:13 am (UTC)
As someone who is hoping to be immunocompromised as a result of a kidney transplant, I'm going to be a real nag with all my friends - for MY health, please have all your shots, and your kids too. :)

And my new boyfriend is getting his flu shot tis weekend - I told him he should if he was haging around me. :)
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