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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Philosoraptors Died Out Because Of Antivaxxers

I've already blogged more about (or to) anti-vaxxers than I'd ever anticipated, but this Wall Photo from The Truth [sick] About Vaccines's [sic] really bugged me:


When a sufficiently large propor­tion of individuals in a community is immunized, those persons serve as a protective barrier against the likelihood of transmission of the disease in the community, thus indirectly protecting those who are not immunized and those who received vaccine but are not protected (vaccine failures). One commentator has suggested that a social contract exists among parents to immunize their children not only to provide them individual protection, but also to contribute to the protection of other children who cannot be immunized or for whom the vaccine is not effective. 

Nothing in life is guaranteed or perfect, and that includes vaccines.  Nobody disputes that (nor do we dispute that corpos manufacture them and put additives in them).  Still, we're talking about very effective preventive measures:

A full series of measles vaccine will protect 99 of 100 children from measles, and polio vaccine will protect 99 of 100 children from polio.2 

So what we're concerned with is protecting:

  1. The vanishingly small percentage who don't get effective protection from vaccines.
  2. Children who are too young to get their shots yet.
  3. People who have medical exemptions and cannot be given vaccines.
  4. Destroying the herd immunity that oddly enough protects Nonimmunized Philosophers.
  5. Other vulnerable populations.

#2 and #5 are of particular interest to me.  

More immediately, our family is expecting a newborn this summer, and we will need to go to places like Costco to feed our family.  We'd like to reduce the likelihood that Sadie will contract anything before she can be protected, thank you very much.

And as I've mentioned before, my late mother had a medically suppressed immune system (hers was overeager in destroying her own organs), so if we didn't have a good regime of immunization pretty much anything would have killed her. Instead of dying when I was a toddler (during that crisis I lived with my godfather, Euell Gibbons, FWIW), she survived for more than 3 decades because of medical science that included the protection of other people's vaccinations. From where I sit, refusal to play by society's rules on this is tantamount to arguing you have the right to murder people like my mom.

Anyway, we're first and foremost trying to make sure that everybody is as safe as possible from preventable diseases.  We're not afraid of ineffective vaccines. So that canard can go extinct any time, please.

Further, I see all sorts of bragging about how "my kid didn't get shots and has NEVER gotten sick!"  First of all, I'm not entirely convinced that is true, but whatever.  Please note, as I quoted above, that your child is protected by the rest of us who did get shots.  That would be quite a different story if you lived back before vaccinations existed:

Smallpox was eradicated from the world—onset of the last naturally occurring case was in 1977—and vaccination against smallpox stopped. Poliomyelitis is on the verge of eradication...the last indigenous case in the United States associated with wild virus occurred in 1979...

I'll also note that chicken pox dropped from 4M cases a year to somewhere between 50k (reported) and 600k (estimated), with significantly fewer hospitalizations and deaths.

So, to the Philosopher Parents, you're welcome for the almost universal elimination of preventable deaths.  Seems like those vaccines work pretty fucking well.

One other canard that can go the way of a Diptheria Refusenik is "most of the people who get sick were immunized," which somehow proves that vaccines don't work.  Again, no:

[W]hen there is a disease outbreak, the very small number of people for whom the vaccine did not work may still be able to catch the disease. Because almost all of our children are immunized, and only few are not, it can be the case that during an epidemic the majority of cases occur among children who were immunized. However, the fact remains that those who have not received the vaccine are much more likely to catch the disease.

  • By way of example, consider an actual measles outbreak in Colorado in December 1994.5 Out of 625 children exposed to the disease, 17 got measles. Of those 609 who had previously been vaccinated, only 10 (or 1.6%) developed measles. Of the 16 children who were not immunized, 7 (or 44%) developed measles. Thus, the risk for immunized children was less than 2% while the risk for unimmunized children was 44%.

Not a case of ineffective vaccines, but bad math on the part of the antis.  What's more:

Salmon et al. found that persons with religious or philosophic exemptions were 35 times more likely to contract mea­sles than were vaccinated persons during 1985–1992. They also found that per­sons living in communities with high concentrations of exemptors were them­selves at increased risk for measles because of increased risk for exposure.

So you've got some great bumpersticker and FB meme fodder to make anti-vaxxers feel good and smug being on the fringe whilst we immunizers are mere corpo shills and dupes.  But the bottom line is this:

When a community has a high level of vaccination, an individual might decide to not be vaccinated to avoid the small risk for adverse events while benefitting from the vaccination of others. Of course, if a sufficient number of individuals make this decision, the protection levels in the community decline, the herd immunity effect is lost, and the risk of transmission rises.

In other words, the more successful the anti-vax movement's shills and dupes are at convincing people to avoid their responsibilities to their children and community, the more of them, and us, will get sick and die.  That's some philosophy you've got there: selfish and self-destructive.


PS--Apropos of nothing: an old Far Side.

April 24, 2012 | Permalink


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I have thirty years of kids, and they have all been vaccinated. My concerns NOW arise from the fact that the FDA that inoculated my first born was a reality based medicinally oriented society minded organization. The operation now seems corporate based and the vaccine makers are ever lobbying states to adopt more and more mandatory shots and with Congress enacting the you can never sue a vaccine maker even if they are negligent law, I have a hard time not being paranoid for my someday grandchildren. Peace, but first get off my lawn!

Posted by: Stormysu | Apr 24, 2012 8:40:42 PM

The interesting thing about the lawsuit deal is that the FEDS have taken on the liability. So there's still recourse for people who can show injury.

Posted by: NTodd Pritsky | Apr 24, 2012 9:24:44 PM

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