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?