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Vaccination Madness - Elf M. Sternberg
Vaccination Madness
One of the things that happened this weekend was I got to listen to two people, one a parent of a very small child, discuss the relative merits of vaccination. The parent had joined up a mailing list of local parents in the area, the purpose of which was to alert the entire list if any one child caught a common childhood disease such as chickenpox or the measles, so that all of the children could be assembled into a big party and allowed to catch the disease.

The other man immediately commended him for his decision and started to deride all vaccinations as unnecessary and even dangerous, started ranting about mecury in vaccines, and went on for ten minutes in this vein. It seems the other conversant had stepped on one of his favorite subjects.

I held my tongue. I shouldn't have. There are three reasons why I think the father's decision is madness. First, there's no thimeresol (the mercury formulation used as a preservative) in the chickenpox vaccine. None. Pediatric vaccines are packaged in single-use preloads these days; the only vaccines in the US that contain thimersol are influenza vaccines, and that's mostly a function of the necessitated speed with which they're produced. Secondly, the risk of injury or illness from the chickenpox vaccine is less than one percent the risk of injury or illness from chickenpox itself. Chickenpox has a death rate, and it's surprisingly high for children under the age of 9, over 50 deaths a year. The vaccine, so far as we know, hasn't killed anyone.

More to the point, the anti-vaccination nuts put my kids at risk. At some point, when enough kids aren't immunized, you hit a tipping point where epidemics can rattle through an entire community and the viral impact load can be enough to make even the immunized kids sick.

If you want more of this, go read Respectful Insolence and in his search column type "vaccines". He deals with these people on a pretty frequent basis, and I must say he puts up a better fight than I do.

Current Mood: concerned
Current Music: Belinda Carlisle, Heaven is a Place on Earth

17 comments or Leave a comment
acelightning From: acelightning Date: April 30th, 2007 05:47 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm old enough to remember not only chicken-pox parties, but mumps parties, before there were vaccines for these diseases. And today I have a few friends who suffer from shingles, or herpes zoster, a very painful neurological condition which is a possible after-effect of chicken pox (even 20 or 30 years after the initial disease). Deliberately infecting your children with a disease ought to be classified as child abuse.

And it seems perfectly obvious to me that the steadily increasing number of children diagnosed as autistic has more to do with diagnostic criteria than it does with any real change in the incidence of the condition. Just as with ADD/ADHD before it, autism has become somewhat of a "trendy" diagnosis. A hundred years ago they might just have said "the kid's a little bit 'touched', but he seems smart enough." (And a hyperactive child was "a handful" or "rambunctious".) Early-onset bipolar disease seems likely to become the next "sudden epidemic", as professionals apply more and more screening techniques to children. (Incidentally, just who gets to define what "normal" is?)

ibsulon From: ibsulon Date: April 30th, 2007 06:33 am (UTC) (Link)
You've never heard of what Chicken Pox can do to an adult, I presume...

It was the best advice for people from what we knew at the time. Now, it's incredibly silly.
ibsulon From: ibsulon Date: April 30th, 2007 06:34 am (UTC) (Link)
sorry, that was to acelightning.

and it's silly only because we have the varicella vaccine.
acelightning From: acelightning Date: April 30th, 2007 08:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I know how serious chicken pox, and other "childhood" diseases, can be to adults. That was why they used to have "mumps parties" as well as "chicken-pox parties" - apparently mumps can make an adult male sterile. Then they developed the MMR vaccine. But the varicella vaccine only came along relatively recently - my son, who's 28, caught chicken pox when he was in grade school (well, 18 years or so ago, now). At that time the vaccine existed, but they only recommended giving it to people who would be at risk of serious illness from chicken pox, not routinely to every child. I don't know when or why they changed the recommendation, but it makes sense to me.

On a related subject, I've just recently heard that the "pertussis" (whooping cough) portion of the DPT vaccine only lasts ten years or so, meaning that all of us who had DPT shots when we were kids, but never had booster shots, are now at risk for whooping cough... and people are catching it.

cadetstar From: cadetstar Date: April 30th, 2007 11:10 am (UTC) (Link)

DPT Booster

Yes, you're supposed to get boosters every ten years, so 15, 25, 35, etc...

Around 25 years ago, the boosters were thick and painful to receive, but my last one was no different from a regular shot, so they must have improved the shot.

acelightning From: acelightning Date: April 30th, 2007 11:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: DPT Booster

As far as I can remember, my last DPT shot was around the time of my last polio shot. Yes, polio shot. I had a full course of the original Salk vaccine, and then a full course of the Sabin oral vaccine when that came out. I may now be at risk for mumps, whooping cough, and diphtheria, but I doubt that I'll ever catch polio. Oh, and I also have a very faded scar from a smallpox vaccination in infancy.
bldrnrpdx From: bldrnrpdx Date: April 30th, 2007 12:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
What it can do to children, too. When I was twelve, I caught chicken pox, followed immediately by Reye Syndrome. Not something I'd recommend for either kids or adults.
lovingboth From: lovingboth Date: April 30th, 2007 06:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't know of anyone who's had a chicken pox vaccine here - you get it, you're off school / nursery for a week, that's it. JA, now 5, was never offered it.

Measles, on the other hand, has deaths from it publicised and is covered by the joint MMR vaccine.
sirfox From: sirfox Date: April 30th, 2007 01:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
The term you're referring to, which mr. anti-vaccination nut is working against, is called "Herd immunity". That's the point where an outbreak of a disease is self-contained, by the number of already vaccinated or otherwise immune individuals around it. The level varies by disease, because the more contagious, (like chicken pox) the more likely it is to find an unprotected victim.

The anti-vaccination folks scare me.
gromm From: gromm Date: April 30th, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, you shouldn't have said anything to Mr. Conspiracy Theorist. You should know better from years of Internet use that arguing with such idiots is like mud wrestling with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it!

And of course, you wouldn't change his mind.
slfisher From: slfisher Date: May 1st, 2007 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)
I get my daughter and myself vaccinated for everything. I do ask for no-thimiserol.
laplor From: laplor Date: May 1st, 2007 01:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you that vaccination is pretty much a duty to society and that the benefits far outweigh any risks, but I do want to point out that vaccination isn't always foolproof. My children were both vaccinaged against Chickenpox, and I supposedly caught it as a child.
The summer before last, we *ALL* caught it. Nobody ever told me that the immunity they received was so short-lived, nor that my 'light case' in childhood might not have been enough to protect me while spending hours holding a miserable, feverish 10 year old's hands (at his request) so that he wouldn't scratch.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 1st, 2007 05:24 am (UTC) (Link)

Vaccination Madness

After every lie we have seen over the years, why do you so easily accept what the govt tells you about vaccines? Mercury (Thimersol) may not be in the chicken pox vaccine NOW, but it was in many for years; Along with the drug companies insisting it does no harm. Drug companies do not care about how many kids get injured from vaccines as long as long as the profits exceed the lawsuits. Its time for people to wake up and not be so trusting.....How many examples do you need before you see reality?
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 5th, 2007 07:58 am (UTC) (Link)
elfs From: elfs Date: May 5th, 2007 08:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting. So, I did some research into this. So far, Goldman is the only one claiming this; there is no other researcher who's backing up his claims.

More to the point, Goldman has a terrible track record. He's one of the "all vaccinations are bad" quacks who's also in the "flouridation is unnecessary and poisonous" camp. (We can discuss the appropriateness of state-mandated flouridation programs elsewhere; the fact is where they're instituted there is significantly less pain and suffering from dental disease, and thus far epidemiology has yet to find a reason not to flouridate.)

Goldman's also hawking a new book, "An Epidemic of Disease and Corruption," about the dangers of vaccines, the chickenpox vaccine in particular. He has a financial angle to his point of view.

Until another researcher reproduces his results, I have no reason to believe he's anything other than a shill.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 7th, 2007 12:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Vaccination Madness

I find it very strange that you worry so much about unvaccinated kids being a danger to your vaccinatted kids, if they are so wonderfull then your kids are protected and have nothing to fear from these diseases
Very strange comment if you truly believe vaccines work!!!
I have far more fear of people with closed minds who just follow doctors orders at all costs without having a clue about the real facts and yes I have been vaccinated, although never again.
elfs From: elfs Date: May 7th, 2007 08:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Vaccination Madness

You apparently missed the conversation upstream about tipping points, herd immunities, and viral loads. If only some members of a community are vaccinated and the ratio vaccinated to unvaccinated is below a minimal threshold, when an epidemic rages through the community the viral load imposed upon even the vaccinated kids is enough to overwhelm their immunity and they are at a much higher risk for serious illness than they would have been had they not been vaccinated at all. Communities either accept the vaccination and the risk with it, or they don't and they accept the far higher rate of death associated with the disease.

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