It’s no surprise to me that San Diego’s sudden outbreak of measles began with possible infections in a Whole Foods Market. The well-intentioned shoppers at Whole Foods are concerned about buying “organic”, “free-range”, homeopathic, and “all natural” products, and they will clearly pay higher prices for these useless items for the purpose of avoiding chemicals and toxins. Last week’s This American Life podcast sympathetically reported on the measles epidemic in San Diego, and the story shed light on the stubborn mindset of vaccine haters.
The lesson I learned from listening to the episode… that I’m probably wasting my time talking to these folks. But, you know, I’ve got to try, I guess.
The antivaccine crowd have been raving about various “toxins” in the routine shots forced on their children, so it’s no surprise that a subset of crunchy suburban parents have bought into the over-hyped drama concerning vaccine safety. It should be noted, though, that vaccines are not inherently toxic. One example of a “toxic” lie is that vaccine haters claim that there are toxic levels of formaldehyde in vaccines, but they don’t say that formaldehyde is a chemical that is naturally made in the body, that it’s a chemical humans are exposed to daily via auto exhaust and items in the household, and that there are only harmless microquantities of this chemical in vaccines. Still, Hillary on This American Life willfully subjected her child to three weeks of quarantine because she didn’t have the option of buying “organic” vaccines.
Parents are justifiably shell shocked from stories about children falling ill with autism just days after receiving the Measles Mumps and Rubella combination vaccine. The hysteria actually started with a study by Andrew Wakefield that was published in the UK’s Lancet paper. As was mentioned in the episode, Wakefield’s study has since been discredited, reproduced several times without an MMR-autism connection, withdrawn by the Lancet and the paper’s co-authors, and has relegated Wakefield to such a lowly position that he isn’t even considered reputable as a witness in court on the subject.
Even after Wakefield’s disaster of a study, people still think that MMR is harmful. There are also folks who think that MMR has the mercury ingredient thimerosal, even though that particular preservative was never in the MMR vaccine. I honestly don’t blame parents for having mixed emotions about vaccinating their children given the fear mongering going on by vaccine haters.
It might be unfair to say this to parents who truly believe that there children degenerated after shots, but there is no proof that the vaccines trigger autism. It just so happens that the schedule of the MMR vaccine (1 year) coincides with the average age children with autism begin showing signs of degeneration. The law of averages says that a handful of reported cases of autism will be noticed after a routine vaccine, and that is where you get your scary anecdotes.
My personal opinion is that even if the microscopic antigens in vaccines caused autism (which they have not been proven to do in any way), the child would get autism anyway from the millions of antigens encountered in our every day environment.
This American Life covered non-vaccinating parents with a fair amount of empathy. One of them claimed that she was bullied by a doctor to vaccinate. Damn right the doctor bullied her; good for him! This mother thought it was suspicious that a doctor would strongly persuade her to vaccinate her child for tetanus, but he was just doing his job trying to save lives. Her daughter was bit by a dog, and the little girl could have contracted tetanus and had her jaw locked shut by a neurotoxin; you know, the type mom had been trying to avoid in the first place. And these warrior moms, as they are sometimes described, are willfully endangering their grandchildren too. 14% of neonatal deaths in underdeveloped countries are caused when a baby has a wound that is infected by tetanus because she did not inherit immunity from her unvaccinated mother.
Even after this outbreak of measles in San Diego, the vaccine fearing moms who willfully put their quarantined children at risk of a fatal, highly contagious, and disgusting disease, were still adamant against immunization. They would opt against an “inorganic” vaccine that isn’t “all natural” so that they can voluntarily choose a higher risk of having multiple diseases, including measles, in which their offspring could potentially contract an alien-like mutant skin rash, in addition to other ailments such as drastic weight loss, dehydration, and a boiling fever.
I understand that choosing to vaccinate in the face of this controversy is scary, but please consider that vaccines have prevented millions of diseases, saved lives, extended our life expectancy, and are continually monitored for safety. Do you really want to put your child at risk of contracting a deadly disease because you wanted free-range vaccines? The choice is yours, but you also owe it to your child (and your grandchildren) to make the choice that is best for them, and while you are thinking of your next of kin, remember that choosing not to vaccinate lowers the herd immunity and puts everyone at risk.
So, please, antivaxxers all over the world, don’t spoil it for the rest of us. Wise up, and vaccinate your children.