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Friday, August 29, 2008

You have got to be @#%#$ kidding me!

Exactly one week ago I wrote a post addressing- again- the need for proper vaccination of children. As y'all know, this is one of my things. The inspiration for the post was, of course, a recent outbreak of measles that is a result of parents refusing to vaccinate.

Well, guess what, kids? The anti-vaccination "movement" strikes again:

A mumps outbreak sweeping the Fraser Valley has been traced to a Chilliwack community that refuses to immunize its children for religious reasons, but health officials don't think there's a risk the highly infectious disease will spread provincewide.

There have been about 190 cases of the now-rare mumps virus reported since February, and about two dozen people are infected, said Fraser Health Authority medical health officer Elizabeth Brodkin. The agency normally sees only a handful of infections a year.

The outbreak began when people from Alberta who were infected with mumps visited a Chilliwack community - authorities would not reveal its identity - with low immunization rates. The outbreak has spread throughout the Fraser region.

"There are communities who do not believe in immunization. Sometimes it's for religious reasons. ... They choose not to immunize themselves or their children and they're very susceptible to infections when they come around," Dr. Brodkin said. "Normally you're not even aware of who's immunized until there is an outbreak, and then it's very clear where these pockets of unimmunized people are living."


Yes, that's right: one hundred and ninety cases so far of the f-ing mumps. Sure, mumps probably won't kill you, but that whole sterility thing and the hearing loss can be kinda a drag. Not only are almost two hundred people suffering from a disease that we have long had a vaccine for, not only could they have all been protected for little cost and effectively zero risk to their health, these outbreaks are now happening so frequently that I hear about two separate incidents within a goddamn week! This isn't funny anymore, or just a bunch of wingnuts, this is a public-friggin-health issue.

And as if that weren't frustrating enough, we're now being subjected to some sort of half-assed debate over whether or not parents can legitimately demand that unvaccinated kids not be allowed to play with their own kids:

Karey Williams never thought a parenting decision would come between her and a good friend. The two had known one another for a decade, supported each other through infertility treatment and had their first babies around the same time. But when she told the friend that she had stopped vaccinating her daughter at age 1, the relationship abruptly ended.

“She said, ‘Well then, your child can’t come into my house,’” recalls Williams, 47, who lives in the Chicago area.


I admit that I am reassured at the reaction. Vaccination is seriously important and if and when I become a parent I rather expect I would react the same way. If someone doesn't want to vaccinate their child I can't make them, but damn if I'm going to just ignore the risk they're posing to my child. Of course, the anti-vaccine side isn't exactly seeing this as an issue of personal freedom or responsibility:

Sara Michalski, 28, a mother of two unvaccinated children in Colorado Springs, Colo., says most of her friends do not immunize their kids, either. And beyond her close social circle, she's reluctant to talk much about it with others because she doesn't want to get into an argument. "I tend to avoid the subject a little unless I have some reason to think they might believe the same way," she says.

At the same time, Michalski doesn't believe the decision to not vaccinate her kids is other people's business. “This is a private health matter, and not something people are entitled to know about unless I want to tell them,” she says.

...

“Do I think it’s inappropriate to put a mark on people and kick them out from being able to participate in society, yeah I think it’s inappropriate — it’s inappropriate and it’s dangerous,” says Barbara Loe Fisher, cofounder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center, a group in Vienna, Va., that describes itself as “America’s Vaccine Safety Watchdog” and opposes forced vaccinations.


So, apparently, it's an appropriate expression of personal freedom for a person to refuse to vaccinate because of some imaginary danger- thereby putting the entire community at risk- but it's immoral to prevent your child from playing with an unvaccinated child- thereby protecting your child's health as well as the community?

What

The

FUCK?!

Don't even get me started on the absolutely terrifying poll over at MSNBC:



Fortunately for me, I don't have to articulate a response to this because Orac does it very, very well:

First, society is always a balance between competing interests of personal freedom and the good of society as a whole. In the U.S. we tend to value individual freedom over society, which has for many issues (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc.) served us very well indeed, although arguably not as well in others. Unfortunately, all too often advocates for "personal freedom" forget or don't care that the corollary of this balance is that one person's rights do not allow him or her to infringe on the rights of another. It's that whole "balance" thing, admittedly a cause of contention since the republic was founded. Given that schools and day care centers, with their large concentration of children in relatively small spaces, represent perfect incubators for children to pass viruses and bacteria between each other, it makes scientific, medical, public health, and legal sense to require full vaccination according to the currently recommended schedule before a child is permitted to enter school or day care, with the only exceptions being children who for medical reasons cannot be safely vaccinated. Indeed, the push for "religious" and "philosophical" exemptions undermines that protection and is intentionally being exploited by antivaccinationists to get their children into school to endanger the other children there.

Second, a parent has every right to ask about the vaccination status of potential playmates for her child. Parents of said potential playmate, whether they vaccinate or not, have every right to refuse to answer. However, the parent asking also has the right to judge for themselves whether they will accept that answer. Personally, I would not accept a refusal to answer and recommend to pro-vaccination parents out there that they refuse to accept a nonanswer as well.

Finally, and most importantly, what this conflict shows is that antivaccinationists seem to think they have some God-given right to inflict their pseudoscience on society as a whole. They don't want to vaccinate their child because of fears of autism or various other "complications" of vaccines based on fearmongering, pseudoscience, or religion? Fine, but there will be consequences, and I don't care if they don't like those consequences. Their choice based on fear is endangering the rest of society by making the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases more likely. If a parent makes the choice not to vaccinate, that parent should not whine when parents of vaccinated children decide that they do not want to risk their children's health by letting them play with unvaccinated children.

After all, if antivaccinationists claim have the right not to vaccinate, they should not be disturbed if the parents of vaccinated children also claim the right to take action to protect their child from the risks introduced into society by antivaccinationists "exercising their rights."


I couldn't agree more.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Marf said...

I figured you'd enjoy this, it looks like they've finally left vaccines behind. Now they're blaming the rain for autism.

Hum, what next?

Monday, November 03, 2008 10:30:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Oh... my. This strongly resembles one of those classic correlation not equaling causation examples I bring up with my undergrads...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008 7:33:00 AM  

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