Whooping Cough is Now An Epidemic — Thanks to the Anti-Vaccine MovementThursday, September 16th, 2010
Most people who know me know that I don’t sleep. At least I don’t sleep much. And I am not saying that is a good thing; it’s just what is. Since the middle of the night guarantees that my house that is quiet, I do an awful lot of writing then.
I was poking around Face Book this evening (I am finally learning a bit more about how to move around on it) and I saw a post from my friend Allison. It was a link to a Penn & Teller spot and I will qualify (it as she did) by saying it is NOT for children so you may want to turn the volume down.
It is a brief spot about vaccines. The clarity and directness was absolutely refreshingly but did get my heart rate up. The fact that we are coming into flu season brings the topic up again loud and clear.
I don’t think I’ve kept much of a secret as to how I feel about the completely unfounded “pop- medicine” anti-vaccine movement that has gained popular attention in recent years. The claim primarily being that there is a link between autism and vaccinations. I have previously talked about the dangers of celebrities taking on causes, as well as anecdotal “evidence” showing such links. Science – real science, based on authentic, evidence-based studies have proven very clearly that these theories are wrong.
So, now in 2010, we can thank the anti-vaccine movement for bringing back the devastating disease of pertussis, or whooping cough. It is rising this year to epidemic proportions. Why? As a direct result of misinformed people choosing to not vaccinate their children. Is it their right? Sure. But it is also the right to call them on it and to make it very clear that their choice is completely irresponsible and has a direct effect on the world around them.
As we get older our immunity declines and every older child and adult should get a pertussis booster shot this year. If we get whooping cough, we don’t get terribly sick. The most vulnerable are babies under 3 months who have no immunity. And they don’t merely get sick, they die.
In the small rural town a few miles from where I live, a high percentage of residents do not vaccinate their children. Two years ago, there was an outbreak of chicken pox in that town. The feeling amongst the residents was that this was fine due to the belief that the children would have a higher level of immunity if they actually got, and infected one another with the virus.
It was fine until the school system required all the infected children to stay home for the 21-day course of the virus as a public health safety measure to protect others from being exposed. Suddenly the parents were angry – they had jobs, responsibilities. How could they possibly stay home with their children for that length of time? Personal responsibility. There are consequences for our choices.
I am a passionate believer in having one’s own opinion and there is everything right with differing opinions. But… they need to be based in fact. Meaning, because I think it to be true, does not, in fact make it true.
Science is really pretty straightforward. Studies teach us and the world of medicine is embracing evidence-based medicine.
The science on vaccinations has been very clear. Devastating diseases have been eradicated because of them. Diseases kill far more people than any rare reaction to a vaccine would.