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Magical Thinking is not limited to Fundamentalist Christians

I’ve been sick for over a week now with a cold.  Just when I thought I was getting over it, I’ve come down with a sore throat.  It didn’t help that so many of my relatives in Pittsburgh were sick too because I’m sure that some recombination of genetic material has been going on in my respiratory tract.  And wouldn’t you know it, I forgot to get my flu shot this year.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Which brings us to today’s topic: Anti-vaccers.  If you are an anti-vaccer, be forewarned that I do not intend to respect your opinion.  Because it’s stupid.  I’ll go one step further.  If you don’t believe in vaccinating yourself or your children, you are dumber than a box of rocks and twice as arrogant and careless for the well-being of others.  I don’t care who you voted for in the last election and your educational achievements only prove that some people really do not belong in college.  You are entitled to your uninformed, ignorant belief, just like fundamentalist “Christians” are entitled to their uninformed, ignorant belief about evolution but that doesn’t mean I have to respect those beliefs or give them any latitude to put other people in danger.

There is no evidence that vaccinations lead to autism.  None.  The big pharmaceutical companies are not trying to trick you into buying their dangerous product for profit.  Thimerosol doesn’t cause brain damage.  In short, just about every conspiracy theory or cause and effect urban legend has been proven wrong by study after study and retractions of studies by British medical journals.

A vaccination is simply a way of making the body generate antibodies against foreign invaders just as your body would do if it was invaded by the disease causing pathogen itself.  Vaccinations contain proteins of the disease causing pathogens and our immune systems learn to recognize these proteins and store information about them in our B cells.  These pieces of proteins can not cause the disease.  Just like anything you put in your body, there are risks of bad reactions.  But these reactions do not result in the disease  or autism, and they are very rare.

The anti-vacc crowd is getting larger.  In this edition of the podcast Ask an Atheist, Preventable Death in Washington, it is estimated that in some school districts in Washington state, up to 25% of school children are not vaccinated.  This has lead to a resurgence of Pertusis, or Whooping Cough.  An infant recently died of pertusis in Washington.

As one of the guests on the podcast says, in order for “herd immunity” to be effective, greater than 80% of the population has to be vaccinated and in the case of pertusis, it’s more like 90%.  That suggests that pertusis is pretty ubiquitous in our environment so if you’re not vaccinated, you are at risk of getting it or spreading it.

And this message is not limited to children.  Adults also need periodic boosters.  I got my adult DPT booster last year just before I was laid off.  It’s called TDAP and it’s now approved for all ages.  The other components of the booster are diphtheria and tetanus.  Before we all start thinking that tetanus, or lockjaw, is an old disease that no one ever gets anymore, consider the case of Jenny Komenda, design blogger, who contracted tetanus last fall after she constructed a side table out of rusty wire fencing material.  It sent her to the ICU and it took her awhile to recover from after she got home.

Those bugs are still out there.  And if you’re sending your kids to school unvaccinated, you might as well just put a loaded gun in their backpacks.  You never know when that sucker is going to go off or who it’s going to take down.  The rest of us have a right to peace of mind from the threat of disease just like we have the right to walk around without fear of some 2nd amendment nut and his assault rifle gunning us down.  We adults who didn’t know we needed boosters are now at risk from hundreds of thousands of disease carrying rug rats while infants and unvaccinated children are at risk from us.

I know I am not going to persuade any parent who has a emotional reaction to the issue of vaccinations because it’s impossible to reason with an irrational person.   But it’s time we take a zero tolerance approach to the anti-vacc crowd.  Back in the day, there weren’t any exemptions for anti-vaccers in school.  If you wanted your kid educated, he or she needed to have a complete shot record. Your kid couldn’t even get in the door without one.  It’s time to bring that back.  That doesn’t mean you can’t avail yourself of a free public education.  It’s just that you might have to do it from home- remotely.

To learn more about pertusis, check out The Sounds of Pertusis.

Next time in Magical Thinking is Not Limited to Fundamentalist Christians: Acupuncture, Chiropractics and Homeopathy – why should insurance companies pay for any of it?

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28 Responses

  1. I am so sorry about your on-going cold. And hope you feel better really soon.

    The Antivaccine thing is frightening. What’s next? Not washing hands? Oh, and Anti Pasteurization. There doesn’t seem to be an end to it.

    • Well, I kind of have a weakness for raw milk cheeses so I’m not pleased with FDA restrictions on them. The difference is that no one else is put at risk if you voluntarily consume a cheese plate of raw milk cheeses. Stinky cheese does not cause a childhood illness and if you want to keep your kids totally safe, just give them Kraft singles. In other words, the only guts that will be infected are your own.
      It just seems stupid to me that you can still kill yourself with cigarettes in this country but it’s almost impossible to find a Reblochon cheese.

      • I was thinking more about Milk than Cheese. I know some people who’ve gone way off the deep end.

        • I’ve never had unpasteurized milk in my life. It’s probably safer than you think. This is not the 19th century and most dairy farmers are aware of the health of their herds these days. A cup of unpasteurized milk every now and then probably won’t kill you.

          • The world’s a more dangerous place than most middle class Americans imagine but I believe you can get TB from cows and TB is damn difficult to treat. My primary and I have a running argument on the biggest health menace: I say TB, he says AIDS. TB and AIDS, made for each other, actually.

            Florence was born in 1910, 20 years before the first commercially available antibiotic. Every year from kindergarten thru high school, she lost at least one classmate to a so-called childhood disease. She was appalled at the anti-vaccers, but they have been around since the advent of vaccinations. (And then, of course, there’s the vicious fraud we pulled with vaccinations in Pakistan that has since caused Pakistanis to eschew all vaccination.)

            People used to die at home and they were intimately familiar with the various conveyors of death. Parents knew what diphtheria and whooping cough looked like up close and personal. Bracing, to say the least. Strips away all those sanitized fantasies of modern medicine and its painless miracles. If parents had to care for children who are sickened by preventable diseases, I don’t think most would have the stomach for further vacc resistance.

            I read an account by a pediatrician who wrote that he vaccs his children but not with the full load given today. He thinks the loaded up combinations given today are too much to dump in young immune systems. He’s worked out his own schedule. I was treated by a radiologist who vacced her kids for DPT but not for chickenpox, which I thought odd. Shingles is really debilitating and even tho the pox vacc needs re-up every 20 years or so, it seems worthwhile.

            There are a lot of spaces in the vacc discussion for differing opinions, but not vaccing at all is foolish. I would sue the bejeesus out of parents whose unvacced child impacted my kids.

          • To CB actually . . .

            Yes . . . I was going to say that I remember pertussis and diptheria and whooping cough being three separate vaccinations when I had to get them three separate times. And the issue of over-challenging infant and post-infant immune systems with multi-stacked combo-vaccinations instead of one by one by one is unrelated to any issues or non-issues of thimerosal. It seems that the possible problem of multi-stacked combo-vaccinations has been lost in all the thimerosal screaming and shouting. If/when I ever have children I would seek out the single one-by-ones whenever possible.

            TB versus AIDS? Given what I have read about new TBs evolving immune to EVery drug now existing . . . I would say the TB becomes the bigger long-range threat to us all. It is easier to catch TB than HIV and it is easier to avoid HIV than TB. (Though there may be an element of metabolic health involved in level of susceptibility to TB infection. A very healthy fully nourished humanimal being may (MAY) be able to isolate invading TB microbes within a calcified circular cyst wall and hold them in a dormant state. When my grandfather was chest X-rayed and otherwise tested for lung cancer chances, he was discovered to have a decades-old calcified cystfull of inactive TB . . . which never did become active.

          • The thing about those “stacked” multi-vaccinations: they seem like a big deal of making the body fight lots of awful diseases at once. But that’s not what the immune system is doing. It’s just dealing with foreign antigens, like it does all day, every day. It doesn’t “know” one of them is potentially lethal measles and the other one is a mild cold. So the significant point is that the immune system deals with thousands of antigens a day. An extra ten or twenty, or even fifty, wouldn’t even register as a blip on that background.

            I’m not saying I know for a fact that multi-vaccinations are harmless. Just that from a biological standpoint, it looks logical that they would be.

          • Quixote,

            That seems like a fair point. What I wonder is, of these naturally intruding antigens, how many “moieties” are there apiece of each? As against . . . how many “moieties” are introduced all at one time with a vaccination? And with a double-stacked vaccination? And with a triple-stacked vaccination?

            If the pediatrician CB referrences is an “old near-retirement” pediatrician who has seen a lot over the decades, does this pediatrician actually think he/she has “seen something” since the advent of poly-stacked vaccinations? That would be an anecdotal observation from a well-trained observer.
            One wonders if CB could provide a link to this pediatrician’s observation. There may indeed be nothing to it all . . . or there may be something. And it is entirely unrelated to the “thimerosal” “deal”.

          • No, CB can’t. I read a lot and I don’t bookmark a tenth of it. I happened into an article by a ped about vaccination and he made the point that he doesn’t vacc his children in one loaded shot. If you want an eye opener, rummage the web for combo vaccs and count the number of articles about costs and profits. Bet there are more of those than discussions of efficacy and ill effects. Very illuminating. Together with the concerns for office efficiency and time expenditures, it’s an interesting snapshot of medical concerns. Again, parents have to research and advocate for their children because that may not be, may not be, your pediatrician’s first priority. Shocking, I know.

          • I’m going to agree with Quixote on this one. Your immune system is very efficient at identifying pieces of foreign invaders and taking prophylactic action. And when you’re young, like in your infancy, the immune system is busy sorting self from non-self and destroying cells that express non-self on their surfaces. So, even without a vaccine, a baby’s body is going to be doing its work. Adding a pack of vaccines probably makes little difference. There are some vaccines that babies have to wait for. Pertussis is one of them. Babies have to be 2 months old before they get that one. Not sure why that is. Someone might want to look it up.

          • Disagree, as anyone who has dealt with elementary school herd illnesses knows. I believe it’s well documented that children’s immune systems start to harden around third grade. Before that, they catch everything damn thing going around. Proof, I should say, that even immune systems need to acquire “experience,” i.e., maturity.

            I was born in 1943, when smallpox vaccs were required. The death rate for that vacc was 1 in 2,000 or 2,200, depending on what survey you read. It was finally decided that the risk of smallpox contagion was significantly smaller than the known mortality rate from the vacc and they dropped the requirement. There have not been, that I know of, any smallpox outbreaks in the US since then. I’m pretty certain that the smallpox vacc could have been dropped earlier than it was, but surveys and resistance soak up a lot of time.

            Science should not be reverenced as a religion: it’s fraught with the same human failings as every other human enterprise.

    • A recent report of a basic hygiene survey in a hospital found 70 percent of the staff didn’t wash their hands. Sorry, don’t remember where i read that. Could have been Huffpo. My god, in the last hospital I had surgery, the staff didn’t touch me. I gather they had been rigorously drilled.

      Simple conscientious hand washing is the first and most widely effective defense against contamination. I would think lab work likewise.

  2. Just getting over the worst cold that I’ve had in decades. It started as a head cold and then morphed into bronchitis.
    How can one person manufacture so much mucus?
    If there’s ever a world wide snot shortage, I’m your girl.
    BTW, I highly recommend Mucinex D, it’s over the counter but my husband did have to sign for it. I think it saved me from pneumonia.
    I’m so glad that you’re feeling better, too.

    • Years ago every cold I got started running to bronchitis which got bad enough to need antibiotics and got cured by antibiiotics every time. Based on a pharmacist telling me that the same pneumococcus involved in pneumonia is often the same one involved in bacterio-bronchitis, she suggested I get a pneumoccal vaccination. Based on that I asked my doctor for it and he said I was too young and not sick enough often enough to qualify. Several years and many such bronchitis-antibiotic-cured cycles later, he finally decided I was now “old enough” and sick often enough to deserve the pneumovax. After getting it, none of my colds have run on to that kind of bad bronchitis.

      • That’s interesting; I didn’t know there was a pneumoccal vac.
        If and when, I get a new doctor, I’ll ask about it. Thanks.

  3. I got the pneumonia shot but not the flu shot. I got the flu shot three years in a row and got seriously sick each and every year. Not so, this year. My doctor says that for about 1 in 1,000 it works that way. I was sick for about three months each time and it would not go away.

    That’s pretty good odds for getting the flu shot.

    The best evidence seems to be that autism is genetically inherited and has nothing to do with vaccines.

    Back in the Civil War, the best hospital was the Confederate hospital in Richmond. They actually had fewer medicines than some of the northern hospitals but the head doctor was a fanatic on cleanliness. He probably did not understand the science behind it, but on a trial and error basis that doctor came to an early understanding of what worked. It still works.

    • I’ve never gotten sick from a flu shot. Are you sure you had the flu? Headache, fever, sore throat, respiratory problems, muscle aches? I’ve had long persistent colds that made me feel lousy, like this one, but flus are usually gone within a week. I had the Russian flu in 1979 and missed a big chemistry test. I couldn’t get out of bed. The professor wouldn’t let me take a make up. I got assigned a 10 page paper on the Bohr atom. Sucked.
      In any case, if you are one of those people who has a weakened immune system, for whatever reason, maybe that’s your problem. I did hear that older people might need a quadruple dose for full protection.

      • I had all the symptoms.

        Never heard of the Russian flu. A relative worked as a civillian mechanic at McGuire Air Force base. His 3 year old daughter dies of swine flu. It struck so quickly that the doctors never had time to identify it. So I do take flu quite seriously.

  4. RD:
    Get well and have lots of chicken soup.

    • I just tough a mild cold out. For a bad multi-day cold/sore throat/ nose/everything . . . I drink several grams of vitamin C powder per day in a gallon or two of water. I suck on a couple oral dissolving zinc lozenges per day. I eat lots of chicken soup with garlic and as much tabasco sauce as I can stand. I turn the heat up to 80 degrees and put on layers of winter clothing to go to sleep overheated in hopes of “burning out the virus”. Does it all work? Well . . . it works to make me feel that I am “doing something”. And I feel confident that “doing nothing” would make it last even longer. So confident that I will not even perform the “do nothing” trial.

  5. I am 66. I have never had a flu shot. I never get a cold and I only had the fly twice – 15 years ago and 40 years ago. Hmmmm.

    • What I want to know is why your immune response, and that of people like you (there are a few) isn’t being studied down to the last gene and protein! Then they could figure out how to help the rest of us. I’d pay megabucks for immunity to flu and rhinoviruses.

      (There is, I hear, a universal flu vaccine coming Any Day Now.)

      • If a Rhinovirus vaccine were ever developed, I would take that one for sure. The problem is, I gather, that Rhinovirus changes its spots so often that no vaccine-production effort could ever keep up.

        I never got flu vaccines because I almost never got flu. I get flu so rarely that I at first don’t know what it is until the full range of symptoms set in and I realize ” oh . . . this must be what flu is like”. Now that it is manadatory at work, I get it and it hasn’t acutely harmed me so far as I can tell. But it hasn’t lessened my colds either. But then . . . why would it?

  6. Got sick at Thanksgiving’ I’m finally feeling better but it took shots a-plenty. I haven’t missed a flu shot since ’66– back then we called them Three Steppers– ambulances were always standing by at the sites of mass vacs. Everyone around here, it seems, is sick or just getting over being sick.

  7. I don’t know about the other two, but I wish my insurance paid for chiropractics, it works for me.

    • Studies show that chiropractics is only effective for lower back pain and that can be done with a physical therapist. Yeah, I know, everyone says that their chiropractor “worked for them”. But if your insurance company is willing to pay for a physical therapist and not a chiropractor, you should go to the physical therapist. I can’t think of a single reason why you might logically prefer the chiropractor.

  8. I always wondered why I, as a chronic nail biter since childhood, am really pretty healthy and rarely sick. If washing hands is so important, and I do agree it is, then why am I not sick more often due to having hands in mouth constantly?

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