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We are now Past the Point of Pretending that Good Parents Don’t Vaccinate

Three days ago it was announced that a local baseball coach has measles. There are at least 70 confirmed measles cases currently in California and it has spread to other states. Measles had been eradicated in the United States 15 years ago but the anti vaccine movement has brought it back. Maybe next they can bring back Polio. Everything old is new again, right?

Facebook is full of people who, “Had measles and chicken pox as a child and are just fine.” To be fair not a lot of people die from measles only 41 of them died in the Philippines between January 1 and May 23. So I guess if we bring measles back to the US and adjust for our population we can expect 150 Americans to die from measles in a 142 day period. That’s only a little more than one person a day. No big deal. We’ve got like 316,000,000 people living here. The only bummer is that if we follow the Phillipines model we’d have somewhere over 117,000 people sick for several weeks during that 142 day period.

I have a friend Annie who started an interesting discussion on her Facebook page.
Vaccine EmpathyAlthough I know Annie was trying to be nice we don’t do our damnedest to be empathetic to the mothers who hand their children boxcutters and send them to school. We skip empathy and move right on to outrage because part of being a good citizen is caring for the health of the people around you and not endangering them.

Some of the reactions to Annie’s post were encouraging:

I figure they have already made one irrational choice. Why would they then make a rational choice?

Only to be followed by this:

We don’t vaccinate and I take my kids everywhere. Now I wouldn’t as newborns, but now that they are old enough and I know they are healthy and have strong immune systems I don’t worry. Those diseases are really only dangerous when ones immune system is weak. They’ve both had chicken pox and measles and [redacted] has had fifths. It wasn’t a big deal for either of them.
Now, if my kids are sick, even a sniffle, I keep them home and away from other people so as not to spread germs. If more people did that, we’d have a lot less to worry about!!

I was vaccinated as a kid and still got everything… Only much worse than little kids do because I was a teenager. So ridiculous. My brother was also vaccinated and when I got chicken pox as a teen, he got a mild case. He later got shingles. All of this was due to not having had a full case of chicken pox. Had he, his body would have built the immunities needed.

Except that one glance at the CDC‘s website will tell you that this mom has it all wrong:

After you get chickenpox, the virus remains inactive (becomes dormant) in certain nerves in the body. Shingles occurs after the virus becomes active again in these nerves after many years.

The reason the virus suddenly becomes active again is not clear. Often only one attack occurs.

Shingles can develop in any age group. You are more likely to develop the condition if:

You are older than 60
You had chickenpox before age 1
Your immune system is weakened by medications or disease
If an adult or child has direct contact with the shingles rash and did not have chickenpox as a child or the chickenpox vaccine, they can develop chickenpox, not shingles.

Of note: There is a Shingles vaccine available. Unfortunately it is a live vaccine so most immunocompromised adults cannot get it.

I guess the mom who doesn’t vaccinate her kids because she knows everything there is to know about Chickenpox and shingles isn’t actually a clinician.

Just as I was about to scream at the computer, “Don’t listen to Annie’s friends, they’re making things up!” Someone chimed in with:

Yes, I followed what the pediatrician recommended. I’m an accountant, not a doctor, so I listen to those trained in the profession. We have always skipped the flu vaccine, though.

The flu shot? Ladies, the flu kills somewhere between 23,000 and 36,000 Americans a year. No, it’s not a perfect shot, some years are better than others but you put your kids in bike helmets don’t you? The flu shot isn’t the hill I’m prepared to die on but it seems a little silly to skip it.

Reason. Someone injected reason. I love this Mom.

I have tried to be open minded but I’m struggling more and more. These parents are breaking our herd immunity and are responsible for these diseases back.

And then there was some discussion about not taking infants to Disneyland because they can’t remember it anyhow but that’s not really the point. Infants are taken to grocery stores and elementary schools, they’re taken to parks and offices. Infants are part of the world much like the elderly and infirm. They leave the house, they catch things.

Declarations like this are just plain dangerous:

we read a lot of research when we were making the decision for [redacted], and the fact is, the information out there is extremely confusing. There’s some research on the non-vax side that is of concern (not autism…other stuff), and there’s honestly no good research on the vax side that they are safe and effective.

What possible research could this woman have done? I was going to make a list of resources demonstrating that vaccines work but then I remembered that anyone who took this seriously wouldn’t read them anyhow. This person is the reason that we need better science eduction in our schools. It is impossible to have any level of scientific literacy and to state that there is no good research to show vaccines are safe.

I want to hug this mom.

As the parent of a child with autism, who also has older not diagnosed autistic family members, I am so sick of the mumbo jumbo pseudo medicine crap I hear on a daily basis.

Now we’re back to dangerous declarations:

Annie, to address your polio question, 95% of polio cases were asymptomatic. Of the 5% who had symptoms, most were no worse than a mild cold, and a fraction of those were paralytic cases. They were able to link incidences of paralytic cases to diet, as it would often hit an entire household, and other times entire villages avoided even a single case of paralytic polio by modifying their diets during the polio season. Polio was also on the decline before the introduction of the vaccine, and the last cases of Polio recorded (here in Canada) were due to the live oral vaccine they use to use. They had to stop using it because it was spreading Polio, and the dead DTaP does not provide adequate protection against Polio if it were to come back, so they have the live vaccine on back-up to bring back if Polio were to resurface.

There is a book called Just a Little Prick, and goes into great detail about all of the diseases on the childhood schedule. I research the diseases and make the choice about “am I scared of this disease and how will I handle it if we got it?” the deciding factor on vaccinating or not. Our vaccine schedule is different up here in Canada too, the US has way more on theirs than we do. And we have way more on ours in Canada than Europe does. So all sorts of tourists are visiting the US who are not-vaccinated, as well as a large amount of the adult population in the US who did not have a fraction of the vaccines they now give kids. So why the hate-on for non-vaxxing parents, when most of us are not vaccinated or immune either? Anyone born between 1970-1996 did not get a second dose of the measles vaccine (routinely) to ensure immunity, so why is that not making headlines? It’s always about the non-vaxxing parents.

Everything about this is insane. Don’t listen. Self publishing a book doesn’t make it true.

Now god is invoked. god will save you

vaccinated children are snotty

According to this mom god is kind of an asshole. I mean lots of kids die every day.
god is kind of an assholeNow let me introduce to you two of my favorite healthcare workers on the web. One is Dr. Terry Simpson and the other is Chloe Jeffreys.

  • Terry Simpson There is zero evidence to space out vaccinations. There is zero evidence that vaccinating kids does anything that harms them other than keeping them from having diseases that they should not have to suffer from. I have no empathy for those who do not vaccinate their kids- they are willfully ignorant, they put their children, and others at risk. They are irrational. There is no talking to them because they have no interest in science, or the scientific method – and they should be barred from public places, they should be barred from schools, and they should be accountable for the lives that they risk – not their kids, but also the children of others. There is not a “middle” ground here- this is science, and it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not.
  • Chloe Jeffreys I would love to respond to some of these statements but I’m currently pulling out all of my hair and stabbing myself in the eye.…/undervaccination-by-the-numbers

    If undervaccination is cause for nearly 20% of under five child deaths, where are they? Children who aren’t reached by 3 doses of DTP, which forms the basis of a traditional immunization program, are often unreached by traditional routine immunization systems – making it unlikely that they are immunized with other life saving vaccines.
    Of the 19.3 million children who were not reached by the third dose of the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis in 2010, seventy percent live in ten countries: Afghanistan, DRC, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa and Uganda. (WHO, 2011)

    Undervaccination by the Numbers

At a certain point we have to hold people accountable. The hubris of parents not vaccinating their children is astounding. I have never once had a parent tell me they opted against vaccinating their children who had a modicum of scientific literacy.

Scientific research is not:

  • Books
  • Magazine articles
  • Facebook Updates
  • Newspaper stories
  • Pamphlets
  • Based in religion
  • About a particular person (ie an anecdote about a child with a seizure)
  • Emotional

Scientific research is: 

My friend Terry pulls out the big guns, and I must admit to agreeing with him when he reminds us that the anti vaccine movement has killed more people this year than ISIS.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.49.33 AM

I used to think parents who didn’t vaccinate their children were silly. Then I thought they just weren’t very smart. I knew they weren’t good members of the community but it’s time to stop tiptoeing around them. These parents are making a decision that turns their family into a public health menace. You simply cannot be a good parent and decide to not vaccinate your child.



Cartoon by Ed Hall,

4 thoughts on “We are now Past the Point of Pretending that Good Parents Don’t Vaccinate”

  1. it makes me upset because I considered Annie a friend for about 5 years – I contributed to that conversation of the same mind as you (and any rational thinker). Annie countered with the fact that she thought I was saying that anti-vaxxers are ignorant, and uneducated, and I countered with yes, I may be judgmental, but when it comes to this I DO believe that about parents who choose to not vaccinate when there is real stuff, like science, not anecdote, to back it up. And Annie blocked/unfriended me. Perhaps I was insulting to the anti-vaxxers in saying that, but I simply cannot comprehend what would make someone doubt science and risk their child (and other children’s) life in the name of whatever it is they believe.

    1. I’m sorry that you and Annie had a falling out. I really do hope that can be repaired.

      Anti vaxxers are ignorant. They are uneducated. There is no possible way to be anything but those two things and come to the conclusion that an alternative vaccine schedule or a lack of vaccines is an appropriate risk for society or for your child.

      The sky is also blue on a clear day.

      As for judgmental? These people have children who are biological weapons. All good judgment says STAY AWAY.

  2. I wonder if anti vexers would refuse the Ebola vaccine if we had an Ebola outbreak here in the U.S? I also doubt that they would refuse treatment for their child if he/she contracted measles and were in danger of dying. They probably would try any medication available to “cure” their child from a disease that could have been prevented by the same doctors giving their child a vaccine. Absolutely insane thinking going on here about vaccinations…total irresponsible parenting!

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