There is really no response to this other than a scream of incoherent frustration.
There's another reason vaccines are awesome, however: herd immunity. When enough people receive vaccinations pathogens have a hard time spreading and this protects even the unvaccinated in a population. And I don't mean those who choose not to get vaccines because they're idiots, I mean those who are too young (i.e. infants), those who are too old, or those who have compromised immune systems (e.g. people undergoing chemotherapy). Herd immunity is thus a public good that protects not only the vaccinated, but our neighbors, friends, and loved ones who- through no fault of their own- cannot be vaccinated and therefore must go through life at risk from pathogens that the rest of us can be protected from.
I was thinking about this recently as a result of an article on Slate where a woman discusses the hardships of finding daycare for her son, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia:
Last year, while searching for child care for our 2-and-a-half-year-old son, my husband and I thought we had we found the perfect arrangement: an experienced home day care provider whose house was an inviting den of toddler industriousness. Under her magical hand, children drifted calmly and happily from the bubble station to the fairy garden to the bunnies and the trucks, an orchestrated preschool utopia. But when I asked: "Are any of the children here unvaccinated?" the hope of my son's perfect day care experience burnt to a little crisp. As it turned out, one child had a philosophical or religious exemption—a convenient, cover-all exemption that many doctors grant, no questions asked, when a parent requests one. (I still do not understand how the state can allow one to attribute his or her fear of vaccines and their unproven dangers to religion or philosophy. But that's a question for another day.)
Ordinarily I wouldn't question others' parenting choices. But the problem is literally one of live or don't live. While that parent chose not to vaccinate her child for what she likely considers well-founded reasons, she is putting other children at risk. In this instance, the child at risk was my son. He has leukemia.
What does any of this have to do with vaccinations? While the purpose of chemotherapy is to kill the cancer, it also kills the good cells—most notably the infection-fighting white blood cells. That means my son has limited ability to fight off anything. A single unimmunized child in an ordinary child care setting is the equivalent of a toddler time bomb to him.
For now, we will hire an at-home sitter for him. It's more expensive and not what we had wanted, but it's the best, safest option. When he is ready to go off to school, we will have to face this issue again: Public schools are forced to enroll unvaccinated children who have religious or philosophical exemptions—again, whatever that means. Because we want him to have as "normal" a life as possible, we'll likely send him off in the bright yellow school bus and cross our fingers that the kid sitting next to him didn't just attend a "chicken pox party" over the weekend. Because what's "just a case of chicken pox" for that kid could be a matter of life or death for mine.
It's a moving article and worth a read, but nothing particularly out of the ordinary. It raises an important point, explains it well, and makes very clear the risks that anti-vaxxers force the rest of us to take. But it didn't really strike me as chilling until I ran across this little note on craigslist:
Or, in plain text:
Chicken Pox Party (Spokane)
I am trying to put together a chicken pox party and am looking for someone to donate their chickenpox to the event.
I was thinking of having it at McDonald or some place with toys to play on.
if you know anyone who would like to contribute or would like more information on a time and place let me know.
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests [Bolding original, underlining added]
So, we have someone trying to put together a chicken pox party- the very thing that the author on Slate was afraid of- as an alternative to vaccination. Great, fine, I think it's a bad idea, the science says it's a bad idea, but I can't really dictate someone else's choices to them. But that being the case, they're proposing to have it in a public f-ing setting that expressly includes "toys to play on." So, in other words, they're putting other adults and children at risk of an illness that can and does cause serious disease and seem to be doing so without any concern at all. Were they planning on telling anyone about this? Perhaps posting signs at the play area that a pox party was in progress? I doubt it, because I doubt any McDonalds manager would be too keen on hosting such an event. So, instead, we just get a nice, quiet group of anti-vaxxers who exercise their right to not be exposed to safe, effective medical treatment by exposing the rest of us to dangerous pathogens. And do you want to know what the funniest part of the whole thing is? That bit at the end of the post that says "it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests". Yeah, absolutely, it would be a travesty if this poster got tagged with a little spam while planning to spread a dangerous infection in a public place!
There's selfish, there's really selfish, and then there's this. And I honestly can't feel anything but helpless frustration in response. Maybe one of you can do better.