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Anti-Vaccination Idiots Endanger Us All
From a Felicia D. Stoler story at ABC.com:

It started as a self-sacrificing trip to Romania to perform missionary work at an orphanage.

But when a rural Indiana family returned home in 2005, the voyage ended in a horrible twist: Thirty-four people in the West Lafayette area came down with measles, a highly infectious disease brought home from Romania by the family's teenage daughter, who hadn't been vaccinated against it.

Although she wasn't feeling well, the girl attended a church function, where several unvaccinated members of the community became exposed to her germs. (Her family has asked that its name be withheld for privacy reasons.)

The family's story highlights a growing concern, according to a report published in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Although vaccines are designed to protect those most vulnerable to infections — children — an increasing fear of vaccines could make more towns ripe for the spread of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, such as mumps and whooping cough, also known as pertussis.

Why do some people choose not to vaccinate their kids? In 1998, the Lancet, a British medical journal, published an article that claimed that the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine caused autism in children. The article has since been retracted, but the worry has remained.

As a result, even though vaccines are required for school attendance, many parents have opted out, claiming that vaccination violates their personal or religious beliefs. It appears this view is especially prevalent among parents who home-school their children. And this, in turn, puts children and their communities at a growing risk of spreading preventable epidemics.

"Most parents today have never seen the physical and emotional devastation caused by vaccine-preventable diseases and have a skewed view of the perceived risks associated with vaccines versus the actual risks of the diseases the vaccines are designed to prevent," said Dr. Gary L. Freed, chairman of the U.S. National Vaccine Advisory Committee and director of the Pediatrics and Child Health Evaluation and Research unit at the University of Michigan Healthcare System.

via Respectful Insolence

Posted by aalkon at August 10, 2006 8:21 AM

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Comments

While I'm in full agreement with you regarding vaccines, hyperbole like this story don't help. A measles epidemic in a small community is not necessarily "horrible." In otherwise healthy people, the fatality rate from measles complications is about 1 per thousand. You're a year or three younger than I am, Amy, but I can remember when the measles vaccine was first formulated, and before that, the big three of childhood contagions -- mumps, measles and chickenpox -- were as common as headcolds.

The anti-vaccine movement cuts across the political spectrum, and encompasses everyone from alt-medicine/vegan/macrobiotic lefty types to right-wing back-to-the-land "natalists" who live to breed. Ever hear of a chickenpox party? Now you have.

Posted by: Nance at August 10, 2006 7:39 AM

Um, hyperbole "doesn't" help. Sorry.

Posted by: Nance at August 10, 2006 7:42 AM

Measles or mumps can be deadly to older people or people with compromised immune systems, though. Chicken pox can recur in adults as shingles, which is extremely painful and debilitating. I'm also old enough to remember having all of these as a kid. When I was about 4 or 5, the Polio vaccine had just come out, and people of my parents' generation who had lost friends to polio as kids were gung ho to get everyone in the family immunized.

When my son was in for his annual checkup last week, our pediatrician actually recommended a Hep A vaccine for him. Apparently it's on the rise in LA.

Posted by: deja pseu at August 10, 2006 10:08 AM

There's no reason for anyone to get measles or the ensuing complications. As fast as we go forward, the anti-science/pro mumbo-jumbo sorts are dragging us backward.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 10, 2006 10:11 AM

You're right, d.p., and this is why the MMR vaccine is such a boon -- while measles is a relatively benign disease, it can lead to terrible complications, and so if you can take a safe shot, why not?

I was probably unclear this morning because I was undercaffeinated and distracted by events at Heathrow, but what I meant to say was this: We need to be precise in our language when we talk about these things. One of the reasons we laughed at the anti-drug films we had to watch in high-school health class was that they so oversold the dangers of drugs like marijuana. If you tell a kid it's one short step from pot to heroin, and he sees evidence all around him that it's not, who's he going to believe?

Similarly, vaccine resisters coast along on the fact that measles is mostly benign, and when reporters call an outbreak "horrible," it only leads them to believe the medical establishment and their mouthpieces are lying about everything else, too.

Back to CNN.

Oh, and P.S. I'm one of those parents of a 9-year-old girl who will be asking about the HPV vaccine at our next doctor's appointment.

Posted by: Nance at August 10, 2006 11:20 AM

You're right, d.p., and this is why the MMR vaccine is such a boon -- while measles is a relatively benign disease, it can lead to terrible complications, and so if you can take a safe shot, why not?

I was probably unclear this morning because I was undercaffeinated and distracted by events at Heathrow, but what I meant to say was this: We need to be precise in our language when we talk about these things. One of the reasons we laughed at the anti-drug films we had to watch in high-school health class was that they so oversold the dangers of drugs like marijuana. If you tell a kid it's one short step from pot to heroin, and he sees evidence all around him that it's not, who's he going to believe?

Similarly, vaccine resisters coast along on the fact that measles is mostly benign, and when reporters call an outbreak "horrible," it only leads them to believe the medical establishment and their mouthpieces are lying about everything else, too.

Back to CNN.

Oh, and P.S. I'm one of those parents of a 9-year-old girl who will be asking about the HPV vaccine at our next doctor's appointment.

Posted by: Nance at August 10, 2006 11:21 AM

Oh, and P.S. I'm one of those parents of a 9-year-old girl who will be asking about the HPV vaccine at our next doctor's appointment.

Bravo!

Posted by: deja pseu at August 10, 2006 1:41 PM

Thanks for clarifying, Nance. I usually agree with you on things, or often, anyway, so I was a little surprised. Now I see what you mean.

And great about your daughter. Now, if only the rest of the country was as sensible...

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 10, 2006 4:09 PM

Good for you, Nance! When we asked my wife's GYN about the HPV vaccine for our soon-to-be 16-year-old daughter, we were told the protocol for older girls hasn't been decided yet. Evidently the thinking is that it may be "too late" for her, even though she swears she hasn't been sexually active yet, and we believe her, given her dating history (scant) and our general communication and relationship with her. Is the vaccine delay for her for medical reasons, or because of "fundanutters"/anti-scientists/etc.? I can't say. I just wish she could be protected from HPV.....and soon, before her status changes.....

Posted by: mbm at August 10, 2006 8:32 PM

I hope you can get the HPV vaccine, and as soon as possible. If it has been proven to work (always want to check that first, seeing as how so many pharmaceutical companies are being sued these days), it would be a great way to keep your daughter same from that nightmare.

I actually got venereal warts (HPV) from my first sexual experience, a married surgeon. Now, if doctors actually took care of their own health, that would be a nice change, and would protect the health of their spouses as well. I didn't know he was married at the time of my 'deflowering', and it instilled a great dislike in me for horny married guys that come on to me, as well as for dating doctors. Haven't dated either since then (that I know of!). And I did get rid of the HPV after a number of painful treatments, and after years of being told that I now was a prime candidate for cervical cancer because of the HPV. I am now being told that the strain that I had caught may not make me more likely to get it. Who can tell?

Anyways, don't let the fundanutters keep you from protecting yourself & your kids.

Posted by: Canada at August 18, 2006 10:34 AM

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